Best & Worst Performing ETF Zones Of 2021

Stocks across the globe saw a spectacular run in 2021 buoyed by the wider rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, a huge stimulus, upbeat earnings and reopening trade. However, the tightening policies of the central banks, inflationary pressures, Chinese regulatory crackdown, and slowing growth in China continued to weigh on investors’ sentiment.

Central banks across swaths of the globe such as Russia, Brazil, Norway, Hungary and Chile raised interest rates to tame inflation, while some are in the process of tightening. The Federal Reserve signaled a more aggressive unwinding of its pandemic-era monthly bond buying, setting the stage for three interest rates hikes in 2022 to fight inflation. The European Central Bank held on to its accommodative policy stance in October while continuing with asset purchases at a moderately lower pace in Q4 than Q2 and Q3.

In the commodity world, while the sheen for gold and silver has faded, industrial metals and energy have become red hot. Industrial metals like copper, platinum and tin surged on optimism over economic recovery. Agricultural commodities are also not behind, with corn seeing strength on China’s buying binge. Oil price has returned to the pre-COVID levels on rising demand and tightening supplies.

Given this, we have highlighted the best and worst-performing zones of 2021 and their ETFs:

Best Zones


Breakwave Dry Bulk Shipping ETF BDRY, which is the only freight futures ETF exclusively focused on dry bulk shipping, is the biggest winner, having gained about 267%. The spectacular rally has been driven by the ongoing supply chain issues around the world caused by the pandemic. This has bolstered the demand for dry bulk shipping, pushing the rates higher (read: Shipping ETF Tops in 2021: What's Behind the Surge?).

Breakwave Dry Bulk Shipping ETF provides exposure to the dry bulk shipping market through a portfolio of near-dated freight futures contracts on dry bulk indices. It holds freight futures with a weighted average of approximately three months to expiration, using a mix of one-to-six-month freight futures, based on the prevailing calendar schedule.

Breakwave Dry Bulk Shipping ETF has accumulated about $63.8 million in AUM and trades in a good volume of about 324,000 shares per day on average. It charges a higher annual fee of 3.47%.


Supply issues coupled with acceleration in demand led to higher prices for tin. iPath Bloomberg Tin Subindex Total Return ETN JJT is up 121.4%. The product follows the Bloomberg Tin Subindex Total Return, which delivers returns through an unleveraged investment in the futures contracts on tin.

iPath Bloomberg Tin Subindex Total Return ETN has been able to manage $18.5 million in AUM and trades in a moderate volume of roughly 3,000 shares per day. The expense ratio comes in at 0.45%. iPath Bloomberg Tin Subindex Total Return ETN has a Zacks ETF Rank #5 (Strong Sell) with a High risk outlook (read: Industrial Metal ETFs Win in 2021: What Next in 2022?).

Natural Gas

Natural gas is surging on tightening supplies and low inventories, providing an upside to the natural gas stocks and ETFs. First Trust ISE-Revere Natural Gas Index Fund FCG offers exposure to U.S. companies involved in the exploration and production of natural gas. It follows the ISE-REVERE Natural Gas Index and holds 43 stocks in its basket.

First Trust ISE-Revere Natural Gas Index Fund has amassed $433.9 million in its asset base while charging 60 bps in annual fees. Volume is good, with 1.3 million shares exchanged per day on average. The product has jumped 98.5% and has a Zacks ETF Rank #2 (Buy) with a High risk outlook (read: 5 Market-Beating, Top-Ranked ETFs of 2021).

Worst Zones


Although stock market volatility increased in recent months, it was in the back seat for most of 2021. As such, volatility products have been the biggest losers. In particular, ProShares VIX Short-Term Futures ETF VIXY has plunged 72.2%. It provides long exposure to the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index, which measures the returns of a portfolio of monthly VIX futures contracts with a weighted average of one month to expiration.

ProShares VIX Short-Term Futures ETF has amassed $265.7 million in AUM and charges 85 bps in fees per year. The fund trades in an average daily volume of around 4.4 million shares.


The Chinese authorities have introduced a slew of legislation this year, largely aimed at the tech sector. The crackdown has wiped out billions of dollars in value from the country’s Internet giants. While many China ETFs have been experiencing losses, KraneShares CSI China Internet Fund KWEB has lost 51.7%. This product provides exposure to the China-based companies whose primary business or businesses are in the Internet and Internet-related sectors. It tracks the CSI China Overseas Internet Index. KraneShares CSI China Internet Fund holds 55 securities in its basket and charges 70 bps in annual fees from investors.

KraneShares CSI China Internet Fund has amassed $6.8 billion in its asset base and trades in an average daily volume of 14.6 million shares. The product has a Zacks ETF Rank #5 (Strong Sell) with a High risk outlook.


China's regulatory crackdown has also hit education sector with Global X Education ETF EDUT plunging 50.3%. It seeks to invest in companies providing products and services that facilitate education, including online learning and publishing educational content, as well as those involved in early childhood education, higher education and professional education (read: Bet On COVID-Themed ETFs as New Cases Rise Globally).

Global X Education ETF follows the Indxx Global Education Thematic Index and holds 39 stocks in its basket. With AUM of $6.2 million, it charges 50 bps in annual fees and trades in an average daily volume of 4,000 shares.

Disclosure: contains statements and statistics that have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but are not guaranteed as to accuracy or completeness. References to any ...

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