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UPDATED: The 20 best and worst performing ETFs of 2019


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The top performing fund delivered returns of more than 70% after fees.

Editor's note: The original figures published by the ASX and subsequently in this article on December 24, 2019 were incorrect. This article was updated 10 January to reflect the latest correct figures.

It has been a stellar year for the share market and one of the biggest beneficiaries has undoubtedly been the exchange traded fund (ETF) market.

Of all 191 funds listed on the ASX for a year or more, 97% saw positive returns in 2019, with 59% of funds delivering returns of over 20% and 79% returning more than 10% (to December 29).

ETFs have boomed in popularity in Australia in the last couple of years as a low-cost, less risky alternative to buying shares. Instead of buying shares in one company, you can invest in hundreds through a single ETF.

In 2019, that strategy paid off. Here's a snapshot of Australia's ETF market performance over the last 12 months (to Dec 29):

  • ETF average 1-year return: 20.54%*
  • Australia's most popular ETF: Vanguard Australian Shares Index ETF (by FUM)
  • Best performing ETF: BetaShares Geared US Equity Currency Hedge Fund (70.5%)
  • Worst performing ETF: BetaShares US Equities Strong Bear Currency Hedge Fund (-47.76%)

*Includes all ETPs, including commodity and actively managed funds.

The top performers

Global funds dominated the top 20 list in 2019, with 4 Asian equity funds and 3 US specific funds making the cut, while technology stocks and commodities was also a prominent theme.

20 best performing exchange traded products in 2019
Fund nameASX codeTypeFee (% p.a)1 year total return
BetaShares Geared US Equity Fund Currency Hedged (Hedge Fund)GGUSMF0.8070.50%
BetaShares Geared Australian Equity Fund (Hedge Fund)GEARETF0.8055.25%
ETFS Physical PalladiumETPMPDSP0.4951.42%
BetaShares Global Gold Miners ETF - Currency HedgedMNRSETF0.5750.99%
VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETFGDXETF0.5345.58%
VanEck Vectors China New Economy ETFCNEWETF0.9540.02%
BetaShares NASDAQ 100 ETFNDQETF0.4839.66%
ETFS Morningstar Global Technology ETFTECHETF0.4539.15%
AMP Capital Global Infrastructure Securities Fund (Unhedged) (Managed Fund)GLINMF0.8538.64%
UBS IQ Morningstar Australia Dividend Yield ETFDIVETF0.3037.59%
BetaShares Global Sustainability Leaders ETFETHIETF0.5936.94%
VanEck Vectors MSCI World Ex-Australia Quality ETFQUALETF0.4036.91%
VanEck Vectors Morningstar Wide Moat ETFMOATETF0.4936.84%
BetaShares Asia Technology Tigers ETFASIAETF0.6736.05%
ETFS S&P Biotech ETFCUREETF0.4535.55%
BetaShares Global Quality Leaders ETFQLTYETF0.3535.12%
VanEck Vectors ChinaAMC A-Share ETFCETFETF0.7234.03%
iShares MSCI Taiwan ETFITWETF0.5933.75%
WCM Quality Global Growth Fund (Quoted Managed Fund)WCMQMF1.3533.63%
Source: ASX | Period ending: 29 December 2019 | SP = Structured Product, MF = Managed Fund / Active ETF, MER = Management Expense Ratio (aka fees).

The top performer of the year was BetaShares' Geared US Equity Fund Currency Hedged (GGUS), an actively managed fund that combines both debt and equity into a portfolio of the biggest listed US companies. It's worth noting that unlike typical index fund ETFs, geared funds such as GGUS use borrowed money. This means they can be extremely volatile and prone to big losses along with the big gains.

Second and third on the list was the BetaShares Geared Australian Equity Hedge Fund (GEAR) and ETFS Physical Palladium (ETPMPD), a commodity fund that tracks the price movements of the rare metal palladium.

Of the top 20 performing funds, 16 were index fund ETFs, three were actively managed funds and one was an exchange traded commodity.

The bottom performers

The worst performing ETFs this year were broadly cash funds (an underperforming asset in 2019) and bear market hedge funds. Bear funds allow investors to bet against the market by delivering returns when the market falls.

Since Australian and global stock markets outperformed beyond what most analysts expected, we can expect that these funds went in the opposite direction.

20 worst performing exchange traded products in 2019
Fund NameASX CodeTypeFees (% p.a)1 Year Total Return
BetaShares US Equities Strong Bear Currency Hedged (Hedge Fund)BBUSMF1.38-47.76%
BetaShares Australian Strong Bear (Hedge Fund)BBOZMF1.38-40.20%
BetaShares Australian Equities Bear (Hedge Fund)BEARMF1.38-18.30%
BetaShares Agriculture ETF-Currency Hedged (Synthetic)QAGETF0.69-6.22%
BetaShares Strong Australian Dollar Fund (Hedge Fund)AUDSMF1.38-4.87%
BetaShares Euro ETFEEUETF0.45-0.57%
iShares Core Cash ETFBILLETF0.071.52%
Betashares Australian High Interest Cash ETFAAAETF0.181.69%
iShares Enhanced Cash ETFISECETF0.121.77%
VanEck Vectors Australian Floating Rate ETFFLOTETF0.222.58%
BetaShares U.S Dollar ETFUSDETF0.452.75%
ETFS Enhanced USD Cash ETFZUSDETF0.303.35%
BetaShares Commodities Basket ETF-Currency Hedged (Synthetic)QCBETF0.693.65%
BetaShares Australian Bank Senior Floating Rate Bond ETFQPONETF0.223.70%
BetaShares Strong US Dollar Fund (Hedge Fund)YANKMF1.384.08%
BetaShares British Pound ETFPOUETF0.454.20%
Russell Australian Semi-Government Bond ETFRSMETF0.265.33%
Vanguard International Fixed Interest Index (Hedged) ETFVIFETF0.206.19%
Russell Australian Select Corporate Bond ETFRCBETF0.286.52%
Source: ASX | Period ending: 29 December 2019 | SP = Structured Product, MF = Managed Fund / Active ETF, MER = Management Expense Ratio (aka fees).

The worst performer on the ASX in 2019 was the actively managed BetaShares US Equities Strong Bear Currency Hedged (BBUS) – the mirror opposite of the top performing fund GGUS – which saw losses of more than 47% in the last 12 months. That was followed by the BetaShares Australian Strong Bear (Hedge Fund) and the BetaShares Australian Equities Bear (Hedge Fund).

Australia's ETF market

By the end of November this year, ASX-listed ETFs surpassed $60 billion in funds under management for the first time – a 48% jump from the same time last year. The average returns of all exchange traded products in 2019 was enormous at 21%, according to the latest ASX data.

Since ETFs typically track the performance of stock market indices, these returns aren't unexpected. This year so far, Australia's ASX200 index has delivered returns of over 23.4% and global stock markets have seen similar success.

Of all 191 exchange traded products listed for more than a year, including all actively managed funds (ETMFs) and commodity funds (ETCs), 83 were able to beat the market.

To find out more about how traditional ETFs differ from structured products and managed funds, you can read our guide on the best performing ETFs of FY18/19.

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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