Best Performing Tech ETFs Of The Year

The tech sector is on track for its best return in 10 years, trouncing the performance of all other sectors.

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

No matter how you slice it, 2019 is shaping up to be a banner year for stocks. As of the end of November, the S&P 500 had returned 27.6%, putting it on track for the second-best return of the past two decades (2013’s 32.4% return was the best).

As one would expect in such a phenomenal year for the market, most sectors within the S&P 500 are up nicely this year. Returns for the 11 sectors under the Global Industry Classification Standard are mostly in the 20-30% range. Only energy and health care have done worse than that, with returns of 5.4% and 16.4%, respectively, for the Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLE) and the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV).

Meanwhile, only one sector has exceeded that range of returns, leapfrogging way ahead of the pack. The technology sector, as measured by the Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLK), is up an eye-popping 43.7% this year, its best annual return since 2009, when stocks were recovering from the depths of the financial crisis.

In that year, XLK jumped 51.3%, but that was after a 41.5% drubbing in 2008. Other than that post-recession snapback, the only other time XLK rallied so much was in 1999, at the height of the dot-com bubble. That was the first full year of trading for XLK, which surged an astonishing 65.1% as the mania for internet-related tech stocks reached fever pitch.

Sector ETF Performance

TickerFundYTD Returns (%)
XLKTechnology Select Sector SPDR Fund43.7
XLIIndustrials Select Sector SPDR Fund29.4
XLFFinancial Select Sector SPDR Fund28.5
XLCCommunication Services Select Sector SPDR Fund28.2
XLREReal Estate Select Sector SPDR Fund27.2
XLYConsumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund24.9
XLPConsumer Staples Select Sector SPDR Fund24.4
XLUUtilities Select Sector SPDR Fund21.9
XLBMaterials Select Sector SPDR Fund20.7
XLVHealth Care Select Sector SPDR Fund16.4
XLEEnergy Select Sector SPDR Fund5.4

Data measures total returns for the year-to-date period through Nov. 29.

 

Everything In Tech Is Working

The fact that XLK has only risen as much as it has this year on two other extraordinary occasions puts into perspective how impressive the current move is.  

Pretty much everything in tech has worked this year, from software firms to smartphone manufacturers to semiconductor companies.

Size hasn’t been a deterrent to lofty returns. The two biggest companies in the world based on market capitalization, Apple and Microsoft, are respectively up 72% and 51.3% this year, and each has a market value in excess of $1 trillion.

By design, the market-cap-weighted XLK holds oversized positions in these stocks—in fact, nearly 39% of its portfolio in those two companies alone.

Semis Outperforming

XLK, with its mega-cap tilt, turns out to be not only the best-performing ETF among SPDR’s suite of sector funds, but one of the best-performing tech ETFs of all.

It’s the sixth-best-performing fund on the list of unleveraged tech ETFs, outdone only by a handful of semiconductor ETFs and one momentum ETF.

The VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH), the SPDR S&P Semiconductor ETF (XSD), the iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (SOXX) and the First Trust Nasdaq Semiconductor ETF (FTXL) have each returned 50-53% this year—a bit better than the broader XLK.

Each of those ETFs holds a concentrated basket of semiconductor stocks, including Intel, Nvidia, Applied Materials, Lam Research, Texas Instruments and others.

 

(Use our stock finder tool to find an ETF’s allocation to a certain stock.)

 

The Invesco DWA Technology Momentum ETF (PTF)—the only unleveraged tech ETF that doesn’t exclusively focus on semis to outperform XLK this year—gained 44.2% on a year-to-date basis.

As its name suggests, PTF holds tech stocks with price momentum. It picks and chooses these stocks based on a Dorsey-Wright relatively strength index. Top holdings currently include RingCentral, Coupa Software, Cadence Design Systems, Broadcom and Adobe.

For a full list of this year’s 10 best-performing technology ETFs, see the table below:

Best-Performing Technology ETFs Of The Year (ex leveraged/inverse)

TickerFundYTD Returns (%)
SMH VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF52.3
XSD SPDR S&P Semiconductor ETF51.9
SOXXiShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF50.5
FTXL First Trust Nasdaq Semiconductor ETF49.7
PTF Invesco DWA Technology Momentum ETF44.2
XLK Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund43.7
FTEC Fidelity MSCI Information Technology Index ETF43.2
VGT Vanguard Information Technology ETF42.9
PSI Invesco Dynamic Semiconductors ETF41.3
IXN iShares Global Tech ETF41.0

Data measures total returns for the year-to-date period through Nov. 29.

  

Email Sumit Roy at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter sumitroy2

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.