2013 has been a solid year for both
and equity markets so far. Many equity funds have experienced a
huge amount of asset inflows, suggesting that investors are back
to riskier assets for higher returns.
However, while many funds have produced double-digit gains in
the first four months, there are a few that failed to garner
investor interest and are down more than 40% in the same
These products have been crushed by sluggish conditions in
some key emerging markets like China, and more broadly, the
decline of the 'risk-off' trade (read:
Three Country ETFs Struggling in 2013
This has made more volatile bets on sluggish conditions the
wrong place to be for many investors, and below we highlight five
of the worst performers-in the unleveraged ETF world-so far in
Volatility level is best represented by the CBOE Volatility
Index or the VIX. This fear gauge tends to do well when markets
are sliding or fear levels ride high, neither of which have
happened of late.
Instead, the VIX has been dropping while the futures curve has
been unfavorable as well. In fact the VIX futures market
currently trades in a condition known as 'contango', a situation
where contracts further along the futures curve are more
expensive than front month contracts. This trend has an enormous
impact on volatility products, as it can eat away returns over
longer time periods.
This has obviously kept the pressure on various volatility
ETNs like VXX, VIIX and CVOL, which we have profiled in greater
detail below (read:
Why I Hate Volatility ETFs (And Why You Should
C-Tracks ETN Citi Volatility Index Total Return (
Launched in November 2010, this ETN was the worst performer,
losing about 60% so far in 2013. The note, linked to the Citi
Volatility Index Total Return, provides investors direct exposure
to the implied volatility of large-cap U.S. stocks.
The Index methodology combines a daily rolling long exposure
to the third and fourth month futures contracts on the VIX with
short exposure to the S&P 500 Total Return Index. The VIX
futures contracts exposure is constantly maintained, but the
weighting of the S&P 500 Total Return Index is variable and
determined monthly via a backward-looking linear regression.
The product has attracted just $1.8 million in assets while
charging 1.15% in annual fees from investors. It trades in small
volume of 4,400 shares per day, thereby increasing the total cost
of the ETN in the form of wide bid/ask spread.
VelocityShares Daily Long VIX Short-Term ETN (
This product targets the short-term volatility and seeks to
deliver the daily performance of the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term
Futures Index. The index provides investors with exposure to one
or more maturities of futures contracts on the VIX, which
reflects implied volatility of the S&P 500 Index at various
points along the volatility forward curve (see more in the
Launched in November 2010, the product has little $18.2
million in AUM but a pretty solid volume of roughly 560,000
shares per day. The note is down about 40% in the first four
months of the year, while its expenses are at the low end for
volatility products at 89 bps a year.
iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (
This is the most popular volatility ETN on the market focusing
on the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index. The Index offers
exposure to a daily rolling long position in the first and second
month VIX futures contracts.
VXX was debuted in January 2009 and has over $1.1 billion in
assets under management. The note sees a truly impressive volume
level of over 41 million shares a day. Still, the product is a
bit pricey compared to some low cost index funds in the market,
charging investors 89 bps a year in fees. The ETN lost 40% in the
same time frame.
iPath Global Carbon ETN (
This ETN tracks the Barclays Capital Global Carbon Total
Return Index, which measures the performance of the most highly
traded carbon related credit plans and serves as an industry
benchmark for carbon investors.
The product holds around 94% of its total assets in future
contracts of EXC Emission Reduction Units (ERUs) and the
remaining 6% in future contracts of EXC Certified Emission
Reductions (CERs). The product is facing tough times losing about
53%, basically due to a recessionary environment in the Euro zone
- the largest buyers of carbon credits-and premium/discount
issues in the note (read:
Has the Euro ETF Bottomed Out?
Moreover, the political turmoil in many parts of the continent
also was responsible for such dismal performance, as prices of
such products are very much dependent on political decisions and
reforms as they relate to the number of credits outstanding in
Beyond this, investors should also be concerned about the
volume and tradability of the note. Currently, there is just $0.6
million in assets invested in the product while daily average
volume is below 2,000 shares. The note was launched in June 2008
and charges investors 75 bps in fees and expenses.
Gold Mining ETFs
Global X Gold Explorers ETF (
This is by far one of the most volatile ETFs in the mining
space. The fund seeks to match the performance and yield of the
Solactive Global Gold Explorers index, before fees and expenses,
focusing on stocks involved in the gold exploration market.
GLDX produced negative returns of nearly 46% in the first four
months of the year. This is because the gold mining industry has
been underperforming for quite some time.
Rising production cost, pressured margins, over-budget
projects and money-losing multibillion-dollar takeovers led to
the dreadful situation in the industry (read:
Is the Gold Mining ETF Slump Over?
The ETF has managed assets worth $29.4 million since its
launch in Nov 2010. It is widely spread across 20 small cap
securities with none of them holding more than 6.73% of assets.
Lyndian International, Torex Gold Resources and Seabridge Gold
occupy the top three positions in the basket.
In terms of country exposure, Canada takes the top spot with
89.7% share, followed by United States (6.2%) and Australia
(4.1%). The product has a relatively tight bid/ask spread given
volumes of more than 113,000 shares per day, charging 65 bps in
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C-TRAC VOLAT IX (CVOL): ETF Research Reports
GLBL-X GOLD EXP (GLDX): ETF Research Reports
IPATH-GLBL CRBN (GRN): ETF Research Reports
VEL-VIX ST (VIIX): ETF Research Reports
IPATH-SP5 VX ST (VXX): ETF Research Reports
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