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By Michael Johnston

The first half of 2011 is officially in the books, and many investors find their portfolios in approximately the same place as they were to start the year (though a furious rally in the final week of the quarter gave a nice boost at an opportune moment). Most major equity indexes are up slightly on the year, while fixed income benchmarks have similarly hovered around breakeven. Beyond these broad generalizations, there are some significant performance discrepancies among exchange-traded products that may seem to offer up similar risk/return profiles.

The following tables highlight the top performers from every ETFdb Category during the first six months of the year, shedding some light on the asset classes that have struggled and thrived so far in 2011–and reinforcing that the seemingly minor distinctions between ETPs can lead to big differences in performance:

Equity ETFs

The top performer in this list isn’t a true ETF; the hyper-concentrated BHH enjoyed a stellar first half of the year thanks to a jump in the stock that makes up about 90% of the portfolio [see The Curious Case of the B2B Internet HOLDR]:

Ticker Name ETFdb Category YTD
BHH HOLDRS B2B Internet Technology Equities 33.3%
IHF iShares Dow Jones U.S. Health Care Providers Index Health & Biotech Equities 21.0%
FXG First Trust Cons. Staples AlphaDEX Consumer Staples Equities 18.8%
IFEU iShares FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Europe Index Fund Global Real Estate 17.4%
EWP iShares MSCI Spain Index Fund Europe Equities 16.9%
PSCE S&P SmallCap Energy Portfolio Energy Equities 15.4%
GWO ELEMENTS CS Global Warming ETN Industrials Equities 13.2%
RFG Rydex S&P Midcap 400 Pure Growth Mid Cap Growth Equities 13.2%
SKOR IQ South Korea Small Cap ETF Asia Pacific Equities 12.5%
PUI PowerShares Dynamic Utilities Utilities Equities 12.3%
ICF iShares Cohen & Steers Realty Major Real Estate 11.9%
PXSG RAFI Fundamental Pure Small Growth Portfolio Small Cap Growth Equities 11.7%
QQXT First Trust NASDAQ-100 Ex-Technology Sector Index Large Cap Growth Equities 11.5%
FXD First Trust Cons. Discretionary AlphaDEX Consumer Discretionary Equities 10.9%
PKW PowerShares Buyback Achievers All Cap Equities 10.9%
PYZ PowerShares Dynamic Basic Materials Materials 10.9%
CZA Guggenheim Mid-Cap Core ETF Mid Cap Blend Equities 10.6%
EIDO MSCI Indonesia Investable Market Index Fund Emerging Markets Equities 10.6%
SPGH UBS E-TRACS S&P 500 Gold Hedged ETN Large Cap Blend Equities 10.3%
CVY Guggenheim Multi-Asset Income ETF Large Cap Value Equities 9.9%
DEW Global Equity Income Fund Global Equities 9.6%
PFA PowerShares Dynamic Developed International Opportunities Portfolio Foreign Large Cap Equities 9.2%
IST SPDR S&P International Telecommunications Sector ETF Communications Equities 9.2%
EZM WisdomTree MidCap Earnings Fund Mid Cap Value Equities 9.1%
PXSV RAFI Fundamental Pure Small Value Portfolio Small Cap Value Equities 9.1%
GNAT Global Natural Resources Fund Commodity Producers Equities 8.4%
JKJ iShares Morningstar Small Core Index Fund Small Cap Blend Equities 7.9%
PZD Po[werShares Cleantech Portfolio Alternative Energy Equities 7.7%
DIM WsdomTree International MidCap Dividend Fund Foreign Small & Mid Cap Equities 6.8%
IYT iShares Dow Jones Transportation Average Index Fund Transportation Equities 6.8%
EUFN MSCI Europe Financials Sector Index Fund Financials Equities 6.0%
MLPG E-TRACS Alerian Natural Gas MLP Index MLPs 5.8%
CGW Guggenheim S&P Global Water Index ETF Water Equities 4.7%
XHB SPDR Homebuilders ETF Building & Construction 4.3%
GXC SPDR S&P China ETF China Equities 4.1%
JSC SPDR Russell/Nomura Small Cap Japan Japan Equities 2.0%
EWZS MSCI Brazil Small Cap Index Fund Latin America Equities 1.8%

Bond ETFs

One bond ETF stood apart from the crowd in the first half of 2011; DTYL gained more than any other bond fund during the first six months of the year, and eclipsed many equity products as well:

Ticker Name ETFdb Category YTD
DTYL US Treasury 10-year Bull Exchange Traded Note Government Bonds 15.4%
IBND SPDR Barclays Capital International Corporate Bond ETF Corporate Bonds 8.7%
CMF iShares S&P Cali Muni Bond California Munis 8.3%
BABS SPDR Nuveen Barclays Capital Build America Bond ETF National Munis 8.0%
WIP SPDR DB International Government Inflation-Protected Bond ETF Inflation-Protected Bonds 7.3%
BWZ SPDR Barclays Capital Short Term International Treasury Bond ETF International Government Bonds 6.9%
PCEF CEF Income Composite Portfolio Total Bond Market 6.7%
NYF iShares S&P NY Muni Bond Fund New York Munis 6.7%
PGF PowerShares Financial Preferred Preferred Stock/Convertible Bonds 5.8%
EMLC Market Vectors Emerging Markets Local Currency Bond ETF Emerging Markets Bonds 5.4%
MBG SPDR Barclays Capital Mortgage Backed Bond ETF Mortgage Backed Securities 4.2%
HYLD Peritus High Yield ETF High Yield Bonds 3.3%
MINT PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Strategy Fund Money Market 0.8%

Commodity & Currency ETFs

The great commodity rally of 2010 carried over to 2011 in many categories; the stellar performance of BNO is attributable in large part to the inversion of the historical discount relative to WTI crude (BNO beat USO by a wide margin during the first half):

Ticker Name ETFdb Category YTD
BNO United States Brent Oil Fund Oil & Gas 19.7%
SIVR ETFS Silver Trust Precious Metals 12.3%
FXF Rydex CurrencyShares Swiss Franc Trust Currency 10.8%
JO iPath Dow Jones-UBS Coffee ETN Agricultural Commodities 7.1%
DBC PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund Commodities 5.1%
LD iPath Dow Jones-UBS Lead Total Return Sub-Index Metals 4.3%

Leverage & Inverse ETFs

Several leveraged and inverse ETFs turned in impressive performances so far in 2011, once again highlighting that these products won’t necessarily crumble when held for an extended period of time:

Ticker Name ETFdb Category YTD
BIB Ultra Nasdaq Biotechnology Leveraged Equities 27.9%
DRN Daily Real Estate Bull 3x Shares Leveraged Real Estate 27.2%
URR Market Vectors-Double Long Euro ETN Leveraged Currency 17.1%
LBND 3x Long 25+ Year Treasury Bond ETN Leveraged Bonds 17.0%
AGA DB Agriculture Double Short ETN Leveraged Commodities 9.4%
FLAT US Treasury Flattener Exchange Traded Note Inverse Bonds 2.5%
ADZ DB Agriculture Short ETN Inverse Commodities 1.8%
KRS Short KBW Regional Banking Inverse Equities 1.5%

Best Of The Rest

The best performance of the first half of 2011 belonged to XIV, which thrived thanks to consistent contango in VIX futures markets and a precipitous decline in the “fear index” over the last week of the quarter [see VZZ Bites The Dust]:

Ticker Name ETFdb Category YTD
XIV Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term ETN Volatility 53.1%
TDN db-X 2030 Target Date Fund Target Retirement Date 7.6%
CSM ProShares Credit Suisse 130/30 Long-Short 6.7%
ONEF Russell Equity ETF Diversified Portfolio 5.6%
CSLS Credit Suisse Long/Short Liquid Index (Net) ETN Hedge Fund 4.6%

Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.

Disclaimer: ETF Database is not an investment advisor, and any content published by ETF Database does not constitute individual investment advice. The opinions offered herein are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities. From time to time, issuers of exchange-traded products mentioned herein may place paid advertisements with ETF Database. All content on ETF Database is produced independently of any advertising relationships.

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Source: ETF Kings: Best Performers From First Half of 2011