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The best-performing ETFs for 2021

Invest for the short or long term with a high-performing ETF.

Regardless of your financial goals, you may occasionally want to make some changes to which ETFs you invest in. Diversifying your securities and stocks can give you exposure to areas in the market you might otherwise miss.

We update this page monthly to keep it accurate as the market shifts. Because the stock market is naturally volatile, some of these may have shifted since we last updated this page at the beginning of the month. The ETFs on this page are all US ETFs, and we ranked them based solely on their returns.

Best performing ETFs so far this year

As of May 2021, the top performing ETFs so far this year are:

SymbolETF nameYTD returnsAnnual dividend yield
RETLDirexion Daily Retail Bull 3X Shares140.19%0.01%
NRGUMicroSectors U.S. Big Oil Index 3X Leveraged ETN115.29%0.00%
DPSTDirexion Daily Regional Banks Bull 3X Shares108.05%0.42%
NAILDirexion Daily Homebuilders & Supplies Bull 3X Shares107.02%0.00%
BNKUMicroSectors U.S. Big Banks Index 3x Leveraged ETN99.06%0.00%
HIBLDirexion Daily S&P 500 High Beta Bull 3X Shares97.29%0.01%
TPORDirexion Daily Transportation Bull 3X Shares78.24%0.03%
FASDirexion Daily Financial Bull 3X Shares78.16%0.26%
GUSHDirexion Daily S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production Bull 2x Shares76.87%0.11%
ERXDirexion Daily Energy Bull 2X Shares66.07%1.83%

Source: ETF Database

Best performing ETFs over 1 year

As of May 2021, the top performing ETFs over the last year are:

SymbolETF name1-year returnsAnnual dividend yield
RETLDirexion Daily Retail Bull 3X Shares1027.85%0.01%
HIBLDirexion Daily S&P 500 High Beta Bull 3X Shares504.45%0.01%
NAILDirexion Daily Homebuilders & Supplies Bull 3X Shares452.69%0.00%
TPORDirexion Daily Transportation Bull 3X Shares416.08%0.03%
FNGUMicroSectors FANG+™ Index 3X Leveraged ETN404.56%0.00%
SOXLDirexion Daily Semiconductor Bull 3x Shares322.77%0.28%
URTYProShares UltraPro Russell2000320.40%0.15%
TNADirexion Daily Small Cap Bull 3X Shares317.54%0.02%
UMDDProShares UltraPro MidCap400289.44%0.01%
MIDUDirexion Daily Mid Cap Bull 3X Shares288.44%0.03%

Source: ETF Database

Best performing ETFs over 5 years

As of May 2021, the top performing ETFs over the last five years are:

SymbolETF name5-year returnsAnnual dividend yield
SOXLDirexion Daily Semiconductor Bull 3x Shares2323.45%0.28%
TECLDirexion Daily Technology Bull 3X Shares1337.18%0.38%
TQQQProShares UltraPro QQQ1297.44%0.00%
USDProShares Ultra Semiconductors879.13%0.06%
ROMProShares Ultra Technology865.85%0.00%
ARKWARK Next Generation Internet ETF711.98%1.26%
QLDProShares Ultra QQQ663.03%0.00%
ARKKARK Innovation ETF556.18%1.68%
ARKGARK Genomic Revolution ETF451.06%0.88%
FBGXUBS AG FI Enhanced Large Cap Growth ETN421.77%0.00%

Source: ETF Database

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Picking the best ETFs for your situation

With thousands of ETFs in the US exchange to choose from, finding the best ones that fit your portfolio and investing strategy can help protect you from loss. Some points to consider when deciding which ETFs are best for you.

  • Timeframe. Decide your investment timeframe and under what circumstances you’d consider selling.
  • Have a strategy. Think about if you can afford to take on a riskier short-term investment or if you prefer to be more conservative. If you prefer lower risk, you could also consider index funds.
  • Understand the product. Do your research of the listed fund. Download its prospectus and read through the details.
  • Check the returns. Look at the returns, including all fees over different periods of time. How has it performed over a one-year period? How has it performed over several years?
  • Understand the fees. Fees strongly influence your return on investment. Make sure the returns outshine the ETF’s management fees and pick a broker with fees that match your trading habits.
  • Talk to a financial adviser. If you’re not clear about an investment, how it works or its returns, contact a licensed professional to help you learn more.

(Want to know more about ETFs in general? Read this guide.)

Understanding an ETF’s fees

There’s a direct correlation between high fees and an ETF’s overall performance. When fees are higher, returns tend to be lower and vice versa. There are two main costs involved when investing in listed funds: brokerage and management fees.

  • Brokerage fees. Like with stocks, your broker may charge a transaction fee every time you invest money into an ETF. This fee comes down to which trading platform or brokerage you use.
  • Management fee. This is often displayed as the management expense ratio (MER), which is the percentage of your return charged as fees by the ETF’s fund managers. Normally, the more work a fund manager has to do to keep the ETF profitable, the higher the fee – though this won’t always be the case. This is why many active ETFs charge higher fees than index ETFs, which passively track an index.

To find a platform that offers the lowest fees, you’ll first need to decide how much you want to invest in the fund and how many lump sums you’ll be investing over a year. If it’s just one lump sum, a platform that doesn’t charge an inactivity fee will be key. If you plan on frequently adding small amounts, the brokerage fee itself will be more important.

Brokerage fees range from around $0 to $5 per transaction and ETF fees range from about 0.05% to 2.5%.

How to invest in an ETF

Once you’ve considered the risks of investing in ETFs and worked out your financial goals, you can buy and sell units in an ETF like any stock on the stock market through a fund manager or an online trading platform.

To invest in ETFs through an online trading platform, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Search for a trading platform that suits your investment needs.
  2. Sign up by providing personal details, proof of citizenship and proof of ID.
  3. Log in to your trading account.
  4. Move money into your trading account through a bank transfer.
  5. Search for the ETF on your platform and place an order.
Disclaimer: The value of any investment can go up or down depending on news, trends and market conditions. We are not investment advisers, so do your own due diligence to understand the risks before you invest.

Bottom line

Business cycles, demographic trends and bull or bear markets can often last for years, so ETFs with strong momentum sometimes continue to perform strongly — and vice versa.

Comparing recent performance of ETFs can help inform your investment planning and provide you with ideas for where to invest your money. From there, continue to research your investment choices and be as thorough with the trading platforms and services you consider.

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