Top Performing ETFs Of The Year

Top Performing ETFs Of The Year

The top-performing ETFs of Q1 2019 had gains ranging from 28% all the way up to 103%.

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

A tumultuous end to 2018 didn’t carry over into 2019. So far this year, it’s been smooth sailing for global stocks, as the MSCI ACWI Index surged by 12.3% during the first quarter.

It was the best quarter for the index—which tracks developed and emerging market stocks—since the third quarter of 2010. U.S. stocks, as measured by the S&P 500, did even better, rising 13.6% for their best quarterly showing since 2009’s third quarter.Granted, global stock markets are still off their highs from last year, but investors are no doubt reassured by the fact that equities have climbed so strongly in the face of ongoing concerns about sliding earnings, slowing economic growth, trade wars and Brexit.

Pot On Top

The best showing for global stocks in nearly a decade boded well for exchange-traded funds. Many ETFs registered sizzling gains during the first three months of the year, including four leveraged products that more than doubled.

We’ll get to those later, but first we’ll run down the top-performing ETFs of the year that delivered their gains without using leverage of any kind. Inverse products are also excluded from this list.

Top Performing ETFs Of The Year (excluding leveraged/inverse)

TickerFundYTD Return (%)
MJETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF46.30
CNXTVanEck Vectors ChinaAMC SME-ChiNext ETF38.48
ARKGARK Genomic Revolution Multi-Sector ETF37.11
ASHS Xtrackers Harvest CSI 500 China A-Shares Small Cap ETF35.02
BCNA Reality Shares Nasdaq Nexgen Economy China ETF33.44
PEK VanEck Vectors ChinaAMC CSI 300 ETF USD31.71
USOI Credit Suisse X-Links Crude Oil Shares Covered Call ETN31.53
IPO Renaissance IPO ETF31.42
CHIK Global X MSCI China Information Technology ETF31.24
ASHR Xtrackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares ETF31.01
KBA KraneShares Bosera MSCI China A Share ETF30.38
CNYA iShares MSCI China A ETF30.05
CHIS Global X MSCI China Consumer Staples ETF30.01
ASHX Xtrackers MSCI China A Inclusion Equity ETF29.85
USO United States Oil Fund LP29.40
OILX ETRACS S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return Index ETN29.26
PTFInvesco DWA Technology Momentum ETF28.73
SBIO ALPS Medical Breakthroughs ETF28.57
CHIQGlobal X MSCI China Consumer Discretionary ETF28.53

Note: Data measures total returns for the year-to-date period through March 29.


Easily taking the No. 1 position is the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ). The only U.S.-listed ETF focused on cannabis stocks, investors holding the fund in Q1 were rewarded with a whopping 46.3% gain.

The marijuana ETF is notoriously volatile. The Q1 surge only puts it back to where it was trading last October.

China ETFs Dominate

MJ may have been the top-performing ETF of the first quarter, but another group of funds was arguably more dominant. Consider this: Of the top 20 funds of the year, 12 are China-related, and each has gains of more than 28.5%.

It’s no secret 2018 was a horrible year for Chinese stocks. Down nearly a third from peak to trough, all seemed dire for the country’s equities as recently as December. Economic growth was rapidly slowing and a full-blown trade war with the U.S. was raging.

But just as quickly as they fell, Chinese stocks rebounded. During the first quarter of 2019, investors grew increasingly confident that the U.S. and China would strike a deal to end their trade war. That deal has yet to be finalized, but most people remain optimistic that it’s coming soon.

Stimulus measures from the Chinese government also raised hopes that the slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy could be managed.

Of course, China isn’t out of the woods yet and risks remain. But at least for now, investors are choosing to see the glass as half full for the country and its stock market. Funds like the VanEck Vectors ChinaAMC SME-ChiNext ETF (CNXT), the Xtrackers Harvest CSI 500 China A-Shares Small Cap ETF (ASHS) and the Reality Shares Nasdaq NexGen Economy China ETF (BCNA) are among the top-performing China ETFs so far this year.

Biotech & Oil ETFs

Outside of marijuana and China, other ETFs working well this year are a pair of health care funds, a trio of crude oil ETPs and one IPO product.

The ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (ARKG) and the ALPS Medical Breakthroughs ETF (SBIO) are the outperforming health care funds. Both products are heavily weighted in biotech stocks, which have outperformed this year, even as the broader health care sector has lagged the S&P 500.

Meanwhile, the United States Oil Fund (USO), the ETRACS S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return Index ETN (OILX) and the Credit Suisse X-Links Crude Oil Shares Covered Call ETN (USOI) are oil-tracking products that have delivered handsome gains this year as crude oil prices rallied.

Starting in January, the oil cartel OPEC cut production to tighten the market and lift oil prices. So far, the move has paid off.

Leveraged Oil ETPs Double

As promised, we’ll now take a look at the list of top-performing ETFs of the year that includes leveraged and inverse funds. Including the more volatile leveraged and inverse products results in a completely different set of names, headlined by the VelocityShares 3x Long Crude Oil ETN (UWT) and its 103.2% return.

Several other crude oil products joins that ETN among the top 20. See the table below for the full list:


Top-Performing ETFs Of The Year (all-encompassing)

TickerFundYTD Return (%)
UWT VelocityShares 3x Long Crude Oil ETN103.15
USOU United States 3x Oil Fund102.20
WTIU UBS ETRACS - ProShares Daily 3x Long Crude ETN100.90
OILUProShares UltraPro 3x Crude Oil ETF100.22
LABU Direxion Daily S&P Biotech Bull 3X Shares82.55
CHAU Direxion Daily CSI 300 China A Share Bull 2X Shares67.05
SOXL Direxion Daily Semiconductor Bull 3x Shares65.36
UBOTDirexion Daily Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Auto Bull 3X63.63
TECL Direxion Daily Technology Bull 3x Shares63.61
UCO ProShares Ultra Bloomberg Crude Oil61.88
DUSLDirexion Daily Industrials Bull 3X Shares57.30
NAIL Direxion Daily Homebuilders & Supplies Bull 3X Shares56.13
FNGU MicroSectors FANG+ Index 3X Leveraged ETN54.96
DRN Direxion Daily Real Estate Bull 3x Shares53.40
TQQQProShares UltraPro QQQ53.02
GASL Direxion Daily Natural Gas Related Bull 3x Shares52.63
CWEB Direxion Daily CSI China Internet Index Bull 2x Shares52.49
WANT Direxion Daily Consumer Discretionary Bull 3x Shares50.71
ERX Direxion Daily Energy Bull 3x Shares50.67
DFEN Direxion Daily Aerospace & Defense Bull 3X Shares49.82

Note: Data measures total returns for the year-to-date period through March 29.


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

Sumit Roy is the senior ETF analyst for, 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, 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, with a particular focus on stock and bond exchange-traded funds.

He is the host of’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,’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.