Most Actively Traded ETFs 1Q 2019

ETFs are among the most actively traded securities on U.S. exchanges.

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

If there’s one thing traders love, it’s volatility. Large price swings create opportunities for nimble traders to time the market by buying low and selling high.

Take the precipitous drop in the U.S. stock market during the second half of 2018—down 20% at one point. And then the equally impressive rebound so far in 2019—up 13% year-to-date. Those are the types of moves that traders dream of.

It’s not a surprise then that as the market has swung around excitedly in the past several months, traders have swung into action.

The increased trading activity is reflected in the market’s volume levels. Volume—a measure of how many shares trade hands on a given day—is averaging 7.2 billion shares per day across the major U.S. exchanges, over the past year. That compares with an average of 6.7 billion shares in the year prior.

Much of that volume is showing up in ETFs. The most actively traded securities on U.S. exchanges are often ETFs, with tens of millions of shares exchanging hands each day in some popular names.

Trader Favorites

Take the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY). It traded an average of 74.9 million shares per day on average during the last 30 days. For comparison, General Electric—the most actively traded stock within the S&P 500—traded an average of 107 million shares in that same time frame.

SPY isn’t the only ETF traders love. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM), the Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF), the Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ) and the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) are a few heavyweights that routinely trade more than 20 million shares per day.

In many cases, these heavily traded funds aren’t the cheapest ETFs in their category, nor do they have the most assets under management. Instead, they’re often old, established funds with liquid options markets underlying them—characteristics that appeal to traders.

Indeed, there are several cases where ETFs that are small in terms of assets have huge amounts of volume. For instance, the iPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXXB) only has $620 million in AUM, but it trades a whopping 23 million shares per day, making it the tenth-most-traded ETF on the market.

 

Top 15 Volume Leaders 

TickerFund30-Day Avg Volume
SPY SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust74,871,984
EEM iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF71,596,048
XLF Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund47,027,444
GDXVanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF46,239,404
QQQInvesco QQQ Trust30,084,172
FXI iShares China Large-Cap ETF29,091,036
EWZ iShares MSCI Brazil ETF27,403,532
SQQQ ProShares UltraPro Short QQQ27,289,482
EFA iShares MSCI EAFE ETF23,929,592
VXXB iPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN23,022,948
USO United States Oil Fund LP20,856,726
IWMiShares Russell 2000 ETF19,639,092
HYG iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF19,237,354
XOPSPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF17,921,012
TQQQProShares UltraPro QQQ17,063,434

 

Likewise, the ProShares UltraPro QQQ (TQQQ) and the ProShares UltraPro Short QQQ (SQQQ) only have a few billion dollars in assets between them, but they each trade more than 17 million shares per day.

Those aren’t the only ones punching above their weight. The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX), the iShares China Large-Cap ETF (FXI), the United States Oil Fund LP (USO) and the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (XOP) all have outsized volumes compared with assets.

Dollar Volume

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.

At the top of the list, the picture doesn’t change with this new measure. SPY is still top dog, with $20.8 billion worth of shares trading hands each day. QQQ, IWM, EEM are also close to the top, with more than $3 billion worth of shares traded daily.

Impressively, FXI also makes the cut for this list, with almost $1.3 billion worth of shares trading each day despite only having $6.3 billion in assets.

The iShares MSCI Brazil ETF (EWZ) and the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX), with dollar volumes of more than $1 billion each, are also punching far above their weight, thanks to strong popularity with traders.

 

Top 15 Dollar-Volume Leaders

TickerFund30-Day Avg Dollar Volume
SPYSPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust20,706,721,382
QQQ Invesco QQQ Trust5,188,346,343
EEM iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF3,049,347,252
IWM iShares Russell 2000 ETF3,029,539,409
HYG iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF1,641,843,996
EFAiShares MSCI EAFE ETF1,523,756,644
FXI iShares China Large-Cap ETF1,266,633,389
XLF Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund1,236,069,357
EWZ iShares MSCI Brazil ETF1,190,254,156
IVV iShares Core S&P 500 ETF1,120,904,372
GDX VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF1,034,360,072
LQD iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF975,545,502
GLD SPDR Gold Trust964,040,193
XLI Industrial Select Sector SPDR Fund929,890,771
DIASPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF Trust928,141,695

 

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.