Best & Worst Performing China ETFs

Only five China ETFs managed to rise this year. The rest tumbled on the back of trade war fears.

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

[Editor's Note: Join us Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018 for our free 'Is 2019 the Year for Emerging Markets and China?' webinar.]

 

What a dismal year it’s been for Chinese stocks. After briefly rallying in January, it’s been a steady drip lower for the nation’s equities, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index last trading near a four-year low.

Not even the inclusion of mainland China stocks into the highly popular MSCI Emerging Markets Index earlier this year could stem the decline. A more powerful force was at play.

That force is, of course, the U.S.-China trade war, which kicked off in earnest in 2018. So far this year, $250 billion worth of Chinese goods have been targeted with tariffs as punishment for the country’s alleged unfair trade practices.

At the same time, China has fired back with its own tariffs on $110 billion worth of U.S. goods.

A 90-day truce in the trade war began on Dec. 1, but no one is confident any sort of deal can be struck before March, when U.S. tariffs will automatically become more severe without an accord.

This week’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese telecom giant Huawei and daughter of its founder, has further muddied the waters. Huawei is one of the companies at the forefront of China’s push to become a global technology powerhouse, and Wanzhou’s arrest on possible Iranian sanctions violations is likely to inflame U.S.-China tensions, making a deal harder to come by.

Slowest Growth In 28 Years

Regardless of how the trade war shakes out, it’s already having an impact on China’s economic growth. The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the world’s second-largest economy may slow from 6.9% in 2017 to 6.6% in 2018—the slowest rate since 1990—according to the International Monetary Fund.

The drag from tariffs may push growth down even lower in 2019, to 6.2%, the IMF forecasts.

With so much uncertainty in the outlook for China and very little good news to latch on to, China ETFs have mostly tumbled this year. Out of the 52 ETFs listed on ETF.com’s China channel, a mere five of them are in the green for the year as of Dec. 5. The rest are down, with year-to-date losses as high as 53%.

Any ETF betting on mainland China A-shares, in particular, has been hit hard, including the Xtrackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares ETF (ASHR), down 23%.

Tech-focused China ETFs, such as the Invesco China Technology ETF (CQQQ) and the leveraged Direxion Daily CSI China Internet Index Bull 2X Shares (CWEB), are also among the worst performers.

 

Worst-Performing China ETFs Of 2018

TickerFundYTD Return (%)
CWEB Direxion Daily CSI China Internet Index Bull 2X Shares-53.06
CHAU Direxion Daily CSI 300 China A Share Bull 2X Shares-43.42
YINNDirexion Daily FTSE China Bull 3X Shares-37.19
CNXT VanEck Vectors ChinaAMC SME-ChiNext ETF-32.66
ASHS Xtrackers Harvest CSI 500 China-A Shares Small Cap ETF-31.37
CQQQ Invesco China Technology ETF-27.33
KWEBKraneShares CSI China Internet ETF-25.9
XINA SPDR MSCI China A Shares IMI ETF-25.04
PEK VanEck Vectors ChinaAMC CSI 300 ETF-23.28
ASHR Xtrackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares ETF-23.01

Note: Data measures total return for the year-to-date period through Dec. 5.

 

Handful Of Winners

On the other side of the ledger are a handful of China-focused ETFs that somehow find themselves with gains for this year.

Two of those aren’t surprising; the Direxion Daily CSI 300 China A Shares Bear 1X Shares (CHAD) and the ProShares Short FTSE China 50 (YXI) are inverse ETFs. They are supposed to rise when Chinese stocks fall, and that’s exactly what they’ve done.

The only long China equity ETF to scrounge up a positive return this year is the Global X China Energy ETF (CHIE). Its focus on Chinese energy companies netted it a near-double-digit return in 2018. CHIE holds everything from oil producers to natural gas producers to coal producers to refiners.

Another China fund to see gains this year is the VanEck Vectors ChinaAMC China Bond ETF (CBON), which gained 2% year-to-date. China government bonds are the best-performing sovereign bonds this year, according to Bloomberg, thanks to safe-haven inflows and incremental demand from foreign investors.

Finally, the Market Vectors Chinese Renminbi/USD ETN (CNY), which tracks China’s currency, rounds out the list of top-performing China ETFs—but its positive return is only an illusion. The illiquid ETN eked out a gain of 0.8% this year on a price basis, but actually shed 2.9% in terms of net asset value as the yuan slipped versus the U.S. dollar.

 

Top-Performing China ETFs Of 2018

TickerFundYTD Return (%)
CHAD Direxion Daily CSI 300 China A Share Bear 1X Shares20.06
CHIE Global X China Energy ETF9.56
YXI ProShares Short FTSE China 503.12
CBONVanEck Vectors ChinaAMC China Bond ETF2.02
CNY Market Vectors Chinese Renminbi/USD ETN0.77

Note: Data measures total return for the year-to-date period through Dec. 5.

 

 

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.