2013 was largely dominated by a relentless bull market that saw the S&P 500 notch a gain of more than 30%, its best year in over a decade. But while many were focused on the gains of broad benchmarks, a number of funds and securities were having quite an interesting year – some good, some bad. Below, we take a look back at the 13 of the most interesting and unpredictable ETF charts from 2013 with some astonishing results that investors may have missed throughout the year [for more ETF news and analysis subscribe to our free newsletter].1. GDX
The Market Vectors TR Gold Miners (GDX, B+) had a rough go in 2013, as gold and gold miners were among the worst performing securities. Other than a short-lived rebound in August, GDX almost never broke out of its downward momentum as it lost 54.5% on the year. In fact, Newmont Mining (NEM), one of GDX’s largest holdings, was the worst performing S&P 500 stock of the year, surrendering 51%.
The SPECTRUM Lg Cap U.S. Sector ETN (EEH, C) had one of the most unique charts you will ever see. The fund is thinly traded (sometimes going a number of sessions without ever trading a share, hence the wacky chart), leaving it flat for the first part of the year. However, the ETF went haywire in September and October as the fund jumped over 750% in just a matter of weeks. The movement was the result of the fund seeing some unusually high volume that caused it to trade at a massive premium. Within a matter of days the fund gave up all of its gains and settled back around where it started the year.
China has been a major focus for investors as the massive emerging market has slowed its rate of growth (though it is still growing quite nicely) in recent years. Enter the Golden Dragon Halter USX China Portfolio (PGJ, A) and the iShares China Large-Cap ETF (FXI, B), two ETFs that take a very different approach to measuring Chinese equities. The performance results are jaw-dropping, as PGJ gained a massive 58% on the year while its much larger predecessor, FXI, lost 5.1%.
The 2013 performance of the FTSE Greece 20 ETF (GREK, C) is without a doubt one of the most unique charts from this past year. After a pullback in the first quarter, the fund saw a swift spike, only to give up all of the gains shortly thereafter. Still, the fund overcame its mid-year sell-off and was able to charge higher for the majority of the final two quarters on the year.
After suffering through three straight losing years, the Solar ETF (TAN, B+) was able to turn in its best-ever annual performance in 2013, jumping nearly 125%. With favorable news of solar energy developments around the world, TAN took off in April and refused to be slowed down for the rest of the year. In fact, TAN was the best performing non-leveraged ETF on the year.
No fear here. The S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX, A-) tracks the VIX, AKA the fear index. Typically used by speculative traders, VXX tends to prosper in bear markets but is hung out to dry when bull runs consume the financial world. As the chart displays, the impressive run for equities in 2013 wreaked havoc on this ETN that lost 66.5% on the year and is down approximately 99% since inception.
Social media was one of the hottest investing sectors in 2013 as Twitter (TWTR) made its long-awaited debut and Facebook’s stock (FB) was able to nearly double in price. As a result, the Social Media Index ETF (SOCL, C+) jumped a handsome 64% on the year.
As mentioned above, China has been under the microscope for many investors over the last few years and while its performance as a whole was lackluster in 2013, there were still parts that shined through. The China Technology ETF (CQQQ, B-) proves the power of sector investing, as the fund jumped 57% versus broad equities that lost just over 5%.
The following chart documents the difference between aggressive and conservative approaches and how they fare during bull runs. The S&P 500 Low Volatility Portfolio (SPLV, A-) picks out a handful of stocks with historically low volatility while the S&P 500 High Beta Portfolio (SPHB, B) picks those with high betas in regards to the S&P 500. The latter is a riskier strategy and is one that paid off in 2013 as it outperformed not only its low volatility counterpart, but also broad markets as a whole.
Silver came out of 2013 as the worst performing commodity, dragging down a number of funds and securities that depend on the white metal. The iShares Silver Trust (SLV, C+) is the most popular silver ETF, commanding more than 8 million shares traded on a daily basis. Silver’s demise sent SLV down 36.3% on the year. As equities charged forward, precious metals took it on the chin for the majority of the year. By far, the worst stretch came in April when SLV lost more than 17% in just two trading sessions.
To say it was a volatile year for the dollar would be an understatement. The greenback jostled back and forth, taking the DB USD Index Bullish (UUP, A) for quite a ride. After seeing massive run-ups and sell-offs the fund ended the year nearly where it started, losing just 1.3% when all was said and done.
So much for that World Cup bump. Investors had high hopes for the emerging economy, as many expected it to pick up the pace given that it will be hosting the 2014 World Cup in Rio De Janeiro. The iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (EWZ, A-), the largest Brazil ETF, had a rough 12 month stretch, especially in late May and June, which saw the fund endure a sell-off of approximately 25%. Emerging markets as a whole had a pretty miserable 2013, as this BRIC nation was just one of many that struggled on the year.
The Daily Small Cap Bull 3X Shares (TNA, B+) is one of the most popular leveraged products on the market. With a 300% leverage on small caps, this ETF comes with a heavy risk/reward trade-off. Luckily for TNA, 2013′s massive gain allowed this ETF to prey on the market, gaining more than 140% and a 2-for-1 split in May as the fund’s price began to spike.
Follow me on Twitter @JaredCummans.
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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.
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