UPDATED: The 20 best and worst performing ETFs of 2019

Posted: 10 January 2020 12:59 pm

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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 name ASX code Type Fee (% p.a) 1 year total return
BetaShares Geared US Equity Fund Currency Hedged (Hedge Fund) GGUS MF 0.80 70.50%
BetaShares Geared Australian Equity Fund (Hedge Fund) GEAR ETF 0.80 55.25%
ETFS Physical Palladium ETPMPD SP 0.49 51.42%
BetaShares Global Gold Miners ETF - Currency Hedged MNRS ETF 0.57 50.99%
VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF GDX ETF 0.53 45.58%
VanEck Vectors China New Economy ETF CNEW ETF 0.95 40.02%
BetaShares NASDAQ 100 ETF NDQ ETF 0.48 39.66%
ETFS Morningstar Global Technology ETF TECH ETF 0.45 39.15%
AMP Capital Global Infrastructure Securities Fund (Unhedged) (Managed Fund) GLIN MF 0.85 38.64%
UBS IQ Morningstar Australia Dividend Yield ETF DIV ETF 0.30 37.59%
UBS IQ MSCI USA Ethical ETF UBU ETF 0.20 37.48%
BetaShares Global Sustainability Leaders ETF ETHI ETF 0.59 36.94%
VanEck Vectors MSCI World Ex-Australia Quality ETF QUAL ETF 0.40 36.91%
VanEck Vectors Morningstar Wide Moat ETF MOAT ETF 0.49 36.84%
BetaShares Asia Technology Tigers ETF ASIA ETF 0.67 36.05%
ETFS S&P Biotech ETF CURE ETF 0.45 35.55%
BetaShares Global Quality Leaders ETF QLTY ETF 0.35 35.12%
VanEck Vectors ChinaAMC A-Share ETF CETF ETF 0.72 34.03%
iShares MSCI Taiwan ETF ITW ETF 0.59 33.75%
WCM Quality Global Growth Fund (Quoted Managed Fund) WCMQ MF 1.35 33.63%
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 Name ASX Code Type Fees (% p.a) 1 Year Total Return
BetaShares US Equities Strong Bear Currency Hedged (Hedge Fund) BBUS MF 1.38 -47.76%
BetaShares Australian Strong Bear (Hedge Fund) BBOZ MF 1.38 -40.20%
BetaShares Australian Equities Bear (Hedge Fund) BEAR MF 1.38 -18.30%
BetaShares Agriculture ETF-Currency Hedged (Synthetic) QAG ETF 0.69 -6.22%
BetaShares Strong Australian Dollar Fund (Hedge Fund) AUDS MF 1.38 -4.87%
BetaShares Euro ETF EEU ETF 0.45 -0.57%
UBS IQ Cash ETF MONY ETF 0.18 1.46%
iShares Core Cash ETF BILL ETF 0.07 1.52%
Betashares Australian High Interest Cash ETF AAA ETF 0.18 1.69%
iShares Enhanced Cash ETF ISEC ETF 0.12 1.77%
VanEck Vectors Australian Floating Rate ETF FLOT ETF 0.22 2.58%
BetaShares U.S Dollar ETF USD ETF 0.45 2.75%
ETFS Enhanced USD Cash ETF ZUSD ETF 0.30 3.35%
BetaShares Commodities Basket ETF-Currency Hedged (Synthetic) QCB ETF 0.69 3.65%
BetaShares Australian Bank Senior Floating Rate Bond ETF QPON ETF 0.22 3.70%
BetaShares Strong US Dollar Fund (Hedge Fund) YANK MF 1.38 4.08%
BetaShares British Pound ETF POU ETF 0.45 4.20%
Russell Australian Semi-Government Bond ETF RSM ETF 0.26 5.33%
Vanguard International Fixed Interest Index (Hedged) ETF VIF ETF 0.20 6.19%
Russell Australian Select Corporate Bond ETF RCB ETF 0.28 6.52%
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.

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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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