15 Most Actively Traded ETFs Of 2017

Volume may be down from last year, but there are still plenty of ETFs trading tens of millions of shares per day.

sumit
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Senior ETF Analyst
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Reviewed by: Sumit Roy
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Edited by: Sumit Roy

While it's still early in the year, one thing is clear: 2017 has so far been a "buy and hold" market rather than a "trading" market. With stocks on a one-way trip higher through January and February, there's been little reason for investors to do anything but sit tight and count their gains.

In that context, it's little wonder that trading activity has slipped from last year's boisterous levels. Volume—a measure of how many shares trade hands on a given day—is averaging 6.6 billion across the major exchanges , year-to-date. That compares with 7.3 billion for all of 2016, which was a six-year high.

For some ETFs, the volume decline has been even worse than the aggregate numbers suggest. For example, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) traded 72.3 million shares on average over the past 30 days. That may seem like a lot, but at this same time last year, the fund was trading well over 150 million shares per day. Even for 2016 as a whole, it traded north of 100 million shares per day.

Nipping On Heels Of 'SPY'

With the S&P 500 hitting fresh record highs seemingly daily, investors have sat patiently on their SPY positions. But even with its volume decline, the ETF is still the most actively traded ETF of all—but not by much.

In terms of total volume, there are a few ETFs nipping at the heels of SPY as investors chase hot market segments, hoping they can outperform the broader market. The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) and the Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF) are two of those funds, each providing exposure to very different areas of the market.

GDX has been a winner this year as gold prices jumped 7%. At the same time, XLF found favor among investors thanks to the widely held belief that financials will do well under a Trump administration. Both funds have a 30-day average volume of about 61.5 million shares traded per day.

 

Heavy Trading In Gold, Oil & Volatility ETFs

VanEck's GDX isn't the only gold ETF to see heavy trading action so far this year. A pair of triple-leveraged products, the Direxion Daily Gold Miners Index Bull 3x Shares (NUGT) and the Direxion Daily Junior Gold Miners Index Bull 3x Shares (JNUG), have traded more than 51 million shares on average a day so far this year.

GDX's sister fund, the VanEck Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (GDXJ), has also seen heavy trading volume, with an average of 18.8 million shares per day.

Other notable volume leaders include the United States Oil Fund (USO) and the VelocityShares 3X Inverse Natural Gas ETN (DGAZ). USO is the largest ETF tracking oil futures, and it’s averaged 21.4 million shares traded per day year-to-date. Meanwhile, DGAZ provides inverse exposure to natural gas futures—a bet that picked up steam after prices for the commodity plunged almost 10% on Tuesday alone. DGAZ has averaged 31.6 million shares traded per day.

As is typical, volatility products have also seen heavy volume. The iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX) and the ProShares Ultra VIX-Short-Term Futures ETF (UVXY) have averaged 43.1 million and 17.8 million shares traded per day, respectively, so far in 2017. VXX and UVXY remain popular as tools for hedging and speculation despite this year's sliding volatility levels.

Dollar Volume Paints A Different Picture

Of course, simply measuring the volume of shares that trade hands for a particular ETF doesn't tell the whole story. All else equal, cheaper-priced funds tend to have more shares traded because investors can simply buy more for a given amount of money.

Dollar volume, which measures the number of shares traded multiplied by the share price, gives a more complete view of how much money is exchanging hands in a security.

By this measure, SPY leads the pack by a much larger measure—$16.6 billion worth of shares traded daily so far this year. GDX and XLF are far behind, with only $1.5 billion worth of shares trading daily so far this year. That's still enough to put them in the top 15, though.

Other notable dollar-volume leaders include the iShares Russell 2000 (IWM), the PowerShares QQQ Trust (QQQ), the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM), the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT), the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term ETN (XIV) and the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG).

See the complete list of top 15 volume and dollar-volume leaders in the tables below:

 

Top 15 Volume Leaders

TickerFund30-Day Average Volume
SPY SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust72,336,024
GDXVanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF61,738,164
XLF Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund61,529,616
NUGT Direxion Daily Gold Miners Index Bull 3x Shares51,319,236
JNUG Direxion Daily Junior Gold Miners Index Bull 3X Shares51,270,552
EEM iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF44,211,496
VXX iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN43,051,944
DGAZ VelocityShares 3X Inverse Natural Gas ETN31,697,628
IWM iShares Russell 2000 ETF26,865,440
USO United States Oil Fund LP21,432,276
EFA iShares MSCI EAFE ETF19,115,470
GDXJ VanEck Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF18,824,984
UVXY ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures ETF17,826,482
QQQ PowerShares QQQ Trust16,776,224
TVIX VelocityShares Daily 2x VIX Short-Term ETN15,879,434

 

Top 15 Dollar-Volume Leaders

TickerFund30-Day Average Dollar Volume
SPY SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust16,606,928,805
IWM iShares Russell 2000 ETF3,665,601,046
QQQ PowerShares QQQ Trust2,109,621,303
EEM iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF1,657,724,837
GDX VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF1,481,983,478
XLF Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund1,455,565,142
TLT iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF1,220,976,443
EFA iShares MSCI EAFE ETF1,144,303,017
GLD SPDR Gold Trust888,385,660
XIV VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term ETN872,504,137
HYG iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF854,484,326
XLE Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund833,488,006
VXX iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN832,954,624
DIA SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF Trust767,625,703
IVV iShares Core S&P 500 ETF751,772,609

Contact Sumit Roy at [email protected]

 

Sumit Roy is the senior ETF analyst for etf.com, where he has worked for 13 years. He creates a variety of content for the platform, including news articles, analysis pieces, videos and podcasts.

Before joining etf.com, Sumit was the managing editor and commodities analyst for Hard Assets Investor. In those roles, he was responsible for most of the operations of HAI, a website dedicated to education about commodities investing.

Though he still closely follows the commodities beat, Sumit covers a much broader assortment of topics for etf.com, with a particular focus on stock and bond exchange-traded funds.

He is the host of etf.com’s Talk ETFs, a popular video series that features weekly interviews with thought leaders in the ETF industry. Sumit is also co-host of Exchange Traded Fridays, etf.com’s weekly podcast series.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he enjoys climbing the city’s steep hills, playing chess and snowboarding in Lake Tahoe.