Best Performing ETFs Can Bite You

The best-performing ETFs can offer plenty of risk.

Reviewed by: Allan Roth
Edited by: Allan Roth

I admit it: I wish I’d bought the Direxion Daily Gold Miners Index Bear 3x Shares (DUST), which is up 72.63% so far this year. The fund is the top-performing ETF year-to-date as of Sept. 17 in the top 100 performing ETFs [see below].

DUST seeks daily investment results, before fees and expenses, of 300% of the inverse (or opposite) of the performance of the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index. In a horrible year for precious metals and mining funds, borrowing heavily to bet against precious metals and mining stocks won big.

Had I invested $100,000in the beginning of the year, I’d have made more than $72,000. The Monday-morning quarterback voice in my head is saying “buy” but I know it’s the emotional part of my brain speaking. It’s coming from the same place that tells me gold is dead, as bitcoin is the new gold. I could probably even convince myself I was being rational.

Analyzing The Top 100

In looking at this “top performing” list, I see many things in common. First, the ETFs take on a ton of risk. Rather than investing in broad holdings such as a total stock index fund, they’re all quite narrow. Many magnify the risk by borrowing to buy more and going short against the market. This isn’t investing, it’s merely speculation.

Next, the fund families with the most listings tend to be small, gathering very little in the way of investor assets. ProShares had the most funds in the top 100, at 17, with Direxion in second place, with 12.

ProShares has about $30 billion in assets, while Direxion had about $12.5 billion. Combined, they make up about 1% of the total fund assets at Vanguard (mutual funds and ETFs combined).

The reason they represent such a small percentage is because the strategy of maximizing risk doesn’t work. If you look at the 100 worst-performing ETFs [see below], both fund families score even “better” on this list, with ProShares at 23 and Direxion at 25.

In fact, the Direxion Daily Gold Miners Index Bull 3x Shares (NUGT) is No. 3, losing 60.23%. This means you’d need a 151% return just to break even. These fund families tend to be small because people are generally pretty wise.

Finally, funds on the list tend to be very expensive. DUST, for example, has a 1.08% annual expense ratio, and that doesn’t include the cost of leverage. That’s dozens of times more expensive than broader ETFs that don’t follow these gambling strategies.

Math Here Not Your Friend

Between the extreme volatility and the fees, the math is heavily against you. Consider that if you lose 90% of your money (as the REX VolMAXX Short VIX Futures Strategy ETF (VMIN) has so far this year), you need a 1,000% return to get back to even.

A much better approach than picking from a top-performing fund list is to select a broad, ultra-low-cost ETF such as the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) that will never make a top-performing ETF list in any given year. That’s because they don’t take uncompensated risk.

But a funny thing happens over many years; they rise to the top. According to Morningstar, VTI has bested 90% of ETFs over the past 15 years. And that top-decile performance would be even better if the hundreds of ETFs that went defunct were included in the comparison. I think it’s safe to say those funds that closed weren’t the best performers.

My advice is to separate gambling and investing. In the long run, choosing an investment based on past performance is bad, but choosing based on top performance is even worse. You’d probably have better odds in Las Vegas and have more fun. These funds don't even give you comp drinks or show tickets.

Allan Roth is the founder of Wealth Logic LLC, an hourly based financial planning firm. He is required by law to note that his columns are not meant as specific investment advice. Roth also writes for the Wall Street Journal, AARP and Financial Planning magazine. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at Allan Roth (@Dull_Investing) · Twitter.


100 Top-Performing ETFs

TickerFundIssuerAUM ($M)YTD TRR
DUSTDirexion Daily Gold Miners Bear 3x SharesDirexion115.2472.63
DSLVVelocityShares 3x Inverse Silver ETNCredit Suisse15.4559.36
JDSTDirexion Daily Junior Gold Miners Index Bear 3X SharesDirexion52.4153.71
USOUUnited States 3x Oil FundUS Commodity Funds9.8953.31
UWTVelocityShares 3x Long Crude Oil ETNCitiGroup180.0447.65
GDXSProShares UltraShort Gold MinersProShares3.4446.46
WTIUUBS ETRACS - ProShares Daily 3x Long Crude ETNUBS13.5944.90
OILUProShares UltraPro 3x Crude Oil ETFProShares34.6243.65
TQQQProShares UltraPro QQQProShares4,156.8142.95
XWEBSPDR S&P Internet ETFState Street Global Advisors59.6142.43
PSCHInvesco S&P SmallCap Health Care ETFInvesco 1,358.4342.42
ZSLProShares UltraShort SilverProShares22.7641.17
TECLDirexion Daily Technology Bull 3x SharesDirexion779.9840.83
DFENDirexion Daily Aerospace & Defense Bull 3X SharesDirexion69.8636.75
PSJInvesco Dynamic Software ETFInvesco 291.6235.76
ARKGARK Genomic Revolution Multi-Sector ETFARK315.9235.36
RETLDirexion Daily Retail Bull 3x SharesDirexion41.8533.85
UCOProShares Ultra Bloomberg Crude OilProShares386.0033.75
CUREDirexion Daily Healthcare Bull 3x SharesDirexion171.2233.70
XHESPDR S&P Health Care Equipment ETFState Street Global Advisors780.8033.52
XITKSPDR FactSet Innovative Technology ETFState Street Global Advisors73.4932.17
PTHInvesco DWA Healthcare Momentum ETFInvesco 335.6731.55
ROMProShares Ultra TechnologyProShares439.9331.54
UCCProShares Ultra Consumer ServicesProShares32.5730.58
XSWSPDR S&P Software & Services ETFState Street Global Advisors138.1630.58
QLDProShares Ultra QQQProShares2,124.1930.51
DGLDVelocityShares 3x Inverse Gold ETNCredit Suisse19.9430.03
IGViShares North American Tech-Software ETFBlackRock2,136.8430.03
FINXGlobal X FinTech ETFMirae Asset Global Investments401.4629.79
URTYProShares UltraPro Russell2000ProShares168.4929.38
TNADirexion Daily Small Cap Bull 3x SharesDirexion739.2528.87
DTYSiPath US Treasury 10-Year Bear ETNBarclays Bank PLC67.6628.74
IBUYAmplify Online Retail ETFAmplify561.9628.56
PXMGInvesco Russell MidCap Pure Growth ETFInvesco 313.1128.05
TAPRBarclays Inverse US Treasury Composite ETNBarclays Bank PLC17.5427.88
DLBSiPath US Treasury Long Bond Bear ETNBarclays Bank PLC18.9527.72
SAAProShares Ultra SmallCap600ProShares35.6427.71
ARKKARK Innovation ETFARK1,390.1327.51
FDNFirst Trust Dow Jones Internet Index FundFirst Trust9,691.5327.23
PILLDirexion Daily Pharmaceutical & Medical Bull 3X SharesDirexion5.3226.82
OLODB Crude Oil Long Exchange Traded NotesDeutsche Bank7.2526.69
FBGXUBS AG FI Enhanced Large Cap Growth ETNUBS1,759.6226.63
BZQProShares UltraShort MSCI Brazil CappedProShares32.4126.59
FLGECredit Suisse FI Large Cap Growth Enhanced ETNCredit Suisse2,409.8026.57
IHIiShares U.S. Medical Devices ETFBlackRock3,008.6626.54
RXLProShares Ultra Health CareProShares160.3025.68
IHFiShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETFBlackRock936.0325.43
HACKETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETFETF Managers Group1,830.0725.28
PXQInvesco Dynamic Networking ETFInvesco 79.3125.07
PTFInvesco DWA Technology Momentum ETFInvesco 162.1824.79
JSMLJanus Henderson Small Cap Growth Alpha ETFJanus Henderson44.0324.46
DBOInvesco DB Oil FundInvesco 375.3324.43
EDZDirexion Daily MSCI Emerging Markets Bear 3X SharesDirexion84.3824.32
CHADDirexion Daily CSI 300 China A Share Bear 1X SharesDirexion124.3224.32
PXSGInvesco Russell 2000 Pure Growth ETFInvesco 106.9523.84
ARKWARK Web x.0 ETFARK683.2623.51
FXLFirst Trust Technology AlphaDEX FundFirst Trust2,337.8622.99
SLIMObesity ETFJanus Henderson11.6422.94
FYCFirst Trust Small Cap Growth AlphaDEX FundFirst Trust476.8422.70
XHSSPDR S&P Health Care Services ETFState Street Global Advisors98.3122.40
CIBRFirst Trust NASDAQ Cybersecurity ETFFirst Trust827.9422.15
OLEMiPath Pure Beta Crude Oil ETNBarclays Bank PLC2.8321.80
SKYYFirst Trust Cloud Computing ETFFirst Trust2,038.2821.71
IGMiShares North American Tech ETFBlackRock1,686.5921.70
DZZDB Gold Double Short Exchange Traded NotesDeutsche Bank26.0821.64
USLUnited States 12 Month Oil Fund LPUS Commodity Funds78.7721.56
VGTVanguard Information Technology ETFVanguard22,527.4021.56
MILNGlobal X Millennials Thematic ETFMirae Asset Global Investments31.9921.39
IPAYETFMG Prime Mobile Payments ETFETF Managers Group495.7121.35
SMLLDirexion Daily Small Cap Bull 2X Shares ETFDirexion4.1321.26
SLYGSPDR S&P 600 Small Cap Growth ETFState Street Global Advisors2,469.7321.05
IJTiShares S&P Small-Cap 600 Growth ETFBlackRock7,306.7320.97
PBEInvesco Dynamic Biotechnology & Genome ETFInvesco 282.5020.96
VIOGVanguard S&P Small-Cap 600 Growth ETFVanguard551.9720.84
UWMProShares Ultra Russell2000ProShares259.0520.64
USOUnited States Oil Fund LPUS Commodity Funds1,631.5720.48
BNOUnited States Brent Oil Fund LPUS Commodity Funds98.3420.44
XKFSSPDR Kensho Future Security ETFState Street Global Advisors9.0120.40
JSMDJanus Henderson Small/Mid Cap Growth Alpha ETFJanus Henderson54.1820.29
OILBiPath Series B S&P GSCI Crude Oil ETNBarclays Bank PLC102.5019.99
PPSCPortfolioPlus S&P Small Cap ETFDirexion8.5519.96
UPROProShares UltraPro S&P500ProShares1,577.0319.96
FBTFirst Trust NYSE Arca Biotechnology Index FundFirst Trust2,245.3219.83
SPXLDirexion Daily S&P 500 Bull 3x SharesDirexion947.2719.80
RTHVanEck Vectors Retail ETFVanEck119.0019.79
CLIXProShares Long Online/Short Stores ETFProShares64.9919.64
XARSPDR S&P Aerospace & Defense ETFState Street Global Advisors1,552.2719.60
ENTRERShares Entrepreneur 30 ETFEntrepreneurShares, LLC82.6919.42
OILKProShares K-1 Free Crude Oil Strategy ETFProShares9.0119.35
GLLProShares UltraShort GoldProShares28.1719.30
BUZBuzz US Sentiment Leaders ETFALPS11.4819.23
BEMOAptus Behavioral Momentum ETFAptus Capital Advisors84.0918.95
BOSSGlobal X Founder-Run Companies ETFMirae Asset Global Investments4.1518.88
FTECFidelity MSCI Information Technology Index ETFFidelity2,337.9618.80
ALFAAlphaClone Alternative Alpha ETFExchange Traded Concepts25.5218.47
JKKiShares Morningstar Small-Cap Growth ETFBlackRock215.0218.39
PXLGInvesco Russell Top 200 Pure Growth ETFInvesco 256.7718.37
RZGInvesco S&P Smallcap 600 Pure Growth ETFInvesco 374.4618.23
DWASInvesco DWA SmallCap Momentum ETFInvesco 456.8118.02
FXHFirst Trust Health Care AlphaDEX FundFirst Trust1,247.9817.97




TickerFundIssuerAUM ($M)YTD TRR
VMINREX VolMAXX Short VIX Futures Strategy ETFExchange Traded Concepts10.21-90.22
SVXYProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETFProShares398.73-88.79
NUGTDirexion Daily Gold Miners Index Bull 3x SharesDirexion1,109.45-60.23
BRZUDirexion Daily MSCI Brazil Bull 3X SharesDirexion298.15-59.53
JNUGDirexion Daily Junior Gold Miners Index Bull 3X SharesDirexion736.92-57.32
USODUnited States 3x Short Oil FundUS Commodity Funds1.03-54.58
DWTVelocityShares 3x Inverse Crude Oil ETNCitiGroup176.57-53.74
WTIDUBS ETRACS - ProShares Daily 3x Inverse Crude ETNUBS2.91-52.97
OILDProShares UltraPro 3x Short Crude Oil ETFProShares25.89-52.94
SHNYDirexion Daily Silver Miners Index Bull 2X SharesDirexion3.74-49.90
TURiShares MSCI Turkey ETFBlackRock412.90-49.04
USLVVelocityShares 3x Long Silver ETNCredit Suisse284.62-48.79
TVIXVelocityShares Daily 2x VIX Short-Term ETNCredit Suisse478.63-47.09
DRIPDirexion Daily S&P Oil & Gas Exp. & Prod. Bear 3X SharesDirexion48.07-46.07
NAILDirexion Daily Homebuilders & Supplies Bull 3X SharesDirexion46.77-45.09
LABDDirexion Daily S&P Biotech Bear 3X SharesDirexion69.47-43.60
CHAUDirexion Daily CSI 300 China A Share Bull 2X SharesDirexion66.80-43.43
TECSDirexion Daily Technology Bear 3X SharesDirexion29.12-43.41
SQQQProShares UltraPro Short QQQProShares566.70-43.40
KORUDirexion MSCI Daily South Korea Bull 3X SharesDirexion16.53-42.61
CWEBDirexion Daily CSI China Internet Index Bull 2x SharesDirexion59.36-41.94
UBRProShares Ultra MSCI Brazil CappedProShares6.99-41.66
GDXXProShares Ultra Gold MinersProShares7.17-41.66
LBJDirexion Daily Latin America Bull 3X SharesDirexion12.08-40.21
SOXSDirexion Daily Semiconductor Bear 3x SharesDirexion73.99-39.15
EDCDirexion Daily MSCI Emerging Markets Bull 3x SharesDirexion242.23-38.17
REMXVanEck Vectors Rare Earth/Strategic Metals ETFVanEck128.82-37.56
YINNDirexion Daily FTSE China Bull 3X SharesDirexion305.62-37.51
DTODB Crude Oil Double Short Exchange Traded NotesDeutsche Bank18.57-37.40
BDDDB Base Metals Double Long Exchange Traded NotesDeutsche Bank1.97-36.94
SCOProShares UltraShort Bloomberg Crude OilProShares157.82-36.56
ZBIOProShares UltraPro Short Nasdaq BiotechnologyProShares2.80-34.89
AGQProShares Ultra SilverProShares181.32-33.03
SRTYProShares UltraPro Short Russell2000ProShares59.10-32.39
TZADirexion Daily Small Cap Bear 3x SharesDirexion315.24-31.77
HOMLETRACS Monthly Reset 2xLeveraged ISE Exclusively Homebuilders ETNUBS4.11-31.24
REWProShares UltraShort TechnologyProShares2.50-31.11
CNXTVanEck Vectors ChinaAMC SME-ChiNext ETFVanEck18.25-31.04
BRFVanEck Vectors Brazil Small-Cap ETFVanEck68.10-30.32
SCIFVanEck Vectors India Small-Cap Index ETFVanEck204.29-29.99
QIDProShares UltraShort QQQProShares261.59-29.91
RUSLDirexion Daily Russia Bull 3x SharesDirexion181.47-29.58
ASHSXtrackers Harvest CSI 500 China A-Shares Small Cap ETFDeutsche Bank21.25-29.54
SCCProShares UltraShort Consumer ServicesProShares1.06-29.48
EWZSiShares MSCI Brazil Small-Cap ETFBlackRock45.06-28.89
UGLDVelocityShares 3x Long Gold ETNCredit Suisse126.61-27.65
SCINColumbia India Small Cap ETFColumbia18.41-27.57
AGTiShares MSCI Argentina & Global Exposure ETFBlackRock21.35-27.40
EVIXVelocityShares 1x Long VSTOXX Futures ETNUBS3.53-27.36
EUFLDirexion Daily MSCI European Financials Bull 2X SharesDirexion8.64-27.26
ARGTGlobal X MSCI Argentina ETFMirae Asset Global Investments86.40-27.16
SGDJSprott Junior Gold Miners ETFALPS94.64-27.08
DYYDB Commodity Double Long Exchange Traded NotesDeutsche Bank1.54-26.84
KGRNKraneShares MSCI China Environment Index ETFKraneShares5.56-26.75
SPXSDirexion Daily S&P 500 Bear 3x SharesDirexion277.09-26.49
SPXUProShares UltraPro Short S&P500ProShares464.72-26.48
SDDProShares UltraShort SmallCap600ProShares1.97-26.31
SILGlobal X Silver Miners ETFMirae Asset Global Investments340.48-26.19
INDLDirexion Daily MSCI India Bull 3X SharesDirexion89.19-26.04
EZAiShares MSCI South Africa ETFBlackRock354.38-25.76
XINASPDR MSCI China A Shares IMI ETFState Street Global Advisors3.61-25.75
EETProShares Ultra MSCI Emerging MarketsProShares26.89-25.31
DAGDB Agriculture Double Long ETNDeutsche Bank5.05-25.20
EXIVVelocityShares 1x Daily Inverse VSTOXX Futures ETNUBS14.22-25.10
SGDMSprott Gold Miners ETFALPS130.49-25.01
RXDProShares UltraShort Health CareProShares0.80-24.80
SLVPiShares MSCI Global Silver Miners ETFBlackRock48.05-24.52
RINGiShares MSCI Global Gold Miners ETFBlackRock226.28-24.16
CQQQInvesco China Technology ETFInvesco 379.32-24.07
GASLDirexion Daily Natural Gas Related Bull 3x SharesDirexion31.63-23.91
XPPProShares Ultra FTSE China 50ProShares29.61-23.83
COPXGlobal X Copper Miners ETFMirae Asset Global Investments69.55-23.80
ASHRXtrackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares ETFDeutsche Bank735.94-23.72
PEKVanEck Vectors ChinaAMC CSI 300 ETF USDVanEck53.85-23.68
RSXJVanEck Vectors Russia Small-Cap ETFVanEck38.69-23.59
WDRWDirexion Daily Regional Banks Bear 3X SharesDirexion2.38-23.51
SMDDProShares UltraPro Short MidCap400ProShares1.70-23.33
MIDZDirexion Daily Mid Cap Bear 3X SharesDirexion3.22-23.16
ASHXXtrackers MSCI China A Inclusion Equity ETFDeutsche Bank11.06-22.97
PSAUInvesco Global Gold & Precious Metals ETFInvesco 23.07-22.88
SDOWProShares UltraPro Short Dow30ProShares191.75-22.55
UGAZVelocityShares 3x Long Natural Gas ETNCredit Suisse361.08-22.49
SILJETFMG Prime Junior Silver ETFETF Managers Group45.57-22.47
ERYDirexion Daily Energy Bear 3X SharesDirexion35.86-22.29
KBAKraneShares Bosera MSCI China A Share ETFKraneShares321.13-22.27
FBZFirst Trust Brazil AlphaDEX FundFirst Trust6.82-21.95
CNYAiShares MSCI China A ETFBlackRock13.66-21.92
BISProShares UltraShort Nasdaq BiotechnologyProShares29.63-21.90
TWMProShares UltraShort Russell2000ProShares95.55-21.76
UVXYProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures ETFProShares564.45-21.74
EUXLDirexion Daily EURO STOXX 50 Bull 3X SharesDirexion3.04-21.74
ECONColumbia Emerging Markets Consumer ETFColumbia478.85-21.65
CHIQGlobal X China Consumer ETFMirae Asset Global Investments146.86-21.59
SSGProshares Ultrashort SemiconductorsProShares3.42-21.46
CPERUnited States Copper Index FundUS Commodity Funds10.10-21.27
GDXVanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETFVanEck7,989.71-21.17
NGEGlobal X MSCI Nigeria ETFMirae Asset Global Investments40.03-21.10
EMCGWisdomTree Emerging Markets Consumer Growth FundWisdomTree34.04-20.98
GOEXGlobal X Gold Explorers ETFMirae Asset Global Investments32.48-20.74
EIDOiShares MSCI Indonesia ETFBlackRock368.57-20.67


100 Bottom-Performing ETFs

Allan Roth is founder of Wealth Logic, an hourly based financial planning and investment advisory firm. He also benchmarks portfolio performance for foundations and other business concerns. Roth's website is You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at Allan Roth (@Dull_Investing) · Twitter