By The ETF Professor
Only 14 new ETFs debuted in March, a dramatic decline from January and February, but the pace looks like it's picking back up in April.
As is always the case with new ETFs, some will thrive, attracting strong average daily volume and high assets under management. Some will survive with just enough cash flowing in to sustain themselves. Others will end up in the ETF graveyard.
To be sure, some new ETFs will be wacky ideas. We've seen plenty in the past and there plenty on the market today, just take a look at the now notorious VelocityShares Daily 2x VIX Short-Term ETN (TVIX).
That said, "wacky" doesn't mean bad. It can mean, crazy, eccentric, or silly, but it does not mean bad. Here's the Benzinga list of 10 wackiest ETF ideas, past, present and future. In terms of the future wacky ideas, we only looked at those funds issuers have filed for. In no particular order with no favoritism for and nothing against any particular ETF issuer...
Oklahoma Exchange-Traded Fund (OOK). The Oklahoma Exchange-Traded Fund traded on the NYSE under the ticker "OOK" and a Texas cousin, the Texas Exchange-Traded Fund (TXF). The two ETFs debuted in late 2009, but by September 2010 Geary Advisors, the funds' issuer, had liquidated them because of low volume and assets.
That's a shame because both OOK and TXF were performing well in the weeks leading up to their liquidation and because given how heavy on energy names these state funds were, they might have ended up attracting assets and delivering more solid returns had they stuck around.
ETRACS Fisher-Gartman Risk On ETN (ONN). It's hard to argue with the fact that the ETRACS Fisher-Gartman Risk On ETN is up over 10% year-to-date, The ETN uses a basket of ETFs, bond and currency futures to get long and short weightings of 150% and 50%, respectively, according to the UBS ETRACS Web site. ONN also has a risk off cousin the form of the ETRACS Fisher-Gartman Risk Off ETN (OFF).
ONN charges 0.85% and OFF charges 1.15%, so not only are these niche products, they're not cheap, either, indicating it's cheaper for an investor to use a more traditional approach for risk on/risk off market settings.
Global X Pakistan ETF. This one was filed for in early 2010. More than two years after Global X filed for it, the fund still hasn't debuted. After Seal Team 6 took out Osama bin Laden last year, we speculated that might doom the Pakistan ETF. Per regulatory guidelines, Global X cannot comment on plans for its Pakistan ETF, so we'll just have to wait and see if this one ever debuts.
It should be noted that Deutsche Bank has a Pakistan ETF trading in Singapore, so let's not rule out a U.S.-listed Pakistan ETF just yet.
iPath DJ-UBS Natural Gas TR Sub-Index ETN (GAZ) If GAZ isn't wacky, it's certainly controversial. Judging by its chart, it's also a favorite target of short-sellers. GAZ trades over 774,000 shares per day so it's unlikely the ETN is going anywhere, but this is arguably an example of an ETN idea that could have been left on the shelf.
ETRACS Monthly 2xLeveraged ISE Solid State Drive Index ETN (SSDL) It's fine that there's an unleveraged product for solid state drive makers, the ETRACS ISE Solid State Drive Index ETN (SSDD), but there is just no need for a leveraged fund for this technology sub-sector.
FactorShares 2X: Gold Bull/S&P500 Bear (FSG) Short stocks and double leveraged long gold in one exchange-traded product. Let's just say this idea is unique and leave it at that. Anyone that opts to trade FSG needs to trade it NOT invest in it. It's a daily product as the FactorShares' Web site notes: "FSG seeks to track approximately +200% of the daily return of the S&P Gold - Equity Spread Total Return Index."
Global X Kazakhstan ETF The "-stan" countries don't get a lot of ETF love, but that could change if Global X gets around to introducing the Kazakhstan and Pakistan funds. Given Kazakhstan's abundant oil reserves, we could move this one out of the wacky category rather quickly. If it comes to market that is.
FaithShares Catholic Values ETF There were Baptist, Christian, Lutheran and Methodist values ETFs in addition to the Catholic values ETF. Their inclusion on this list is not a commentary on religion at all. Rather, it's a commentary on the ideas that ETF issuers wrongfully think will be appealing and then proceed to attach high expense ratios to. All of these funds charged 0.87% and they basically had the same holdings, indicating they were not much more than marketing ploys.
Market Vectors Mongolia ETF It has been nearly a year since Van Eck Global, parent company of Market Vectors, filed for a Mongolia ETF and it still isn't out yet. We're just speculating, but maybe slumping coal prices have kept this fund on the shelf. There might be other countries that warrant an ETF before Mongolia, but there are to give this one a look if it comes to market.
IndexIQ Physical Diamond Trust Sure, maybe it can be argued that the IndexIQ Physical Diamond Trust is taking the precious metals investment theme a little too far, but diamonds are an investable, if not illiquid asset class and there are only a few ways to get any type of exposure to the precious gems via ETFs today. Don't knock it until it debuts.
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Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.