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The best performing US ETFs of 2021

We track the best performing ETFs on US stock exchanges.

If you’re invested diversifying your portfolio, investing in an US-based exchange traded fund (ETF) could be a good option for you.

With several local trading platforms offering access to NYSE, NASDAQ and beyond, there are plenty of options to consider if you want to invest in US companies from here in New Zealand.

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 rank them based solely on their returns.

Best performing ETFs so far this year

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

SymbolETF nameYTD returnsAnnual dividend yield
NRGUMicroSectors U.S. Big Oil Index 3X Leveraged ETN184.80%0.00%
RETLDirexion Daily Retail Bull 3X Shares167.26%0.01%
GUSHDirexion Daily S&P Oil & Gas Exp. & Prod. Bull 2X Shares152.08%0.08%
HIBLDirexion Daily S&P 500 High Beta Bull 3X Shares116.96%0.06%
BNKUMicroSectors U.S. Big Banks Index 3X Leveraged ETNs105.56%0.00%
DIGProShares Ultra Oil & Gas100.07%2.70%
ERXDirexion Daily Energy Bull 2X Shares99.00%1.68%
FCGFirst Trust Natural Gas ETF86.90%1.87%
PSCEInvesco S&P SmallCap Energy ETF82.97%0.30%
PXEInvesco Dynamic Energy Exploration & Production ETF82.36%1.93%

Source: ETF Database

Best performing ETFs over 1 year

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

SymbolETF name1-year returnsAnnual dividend yield
RETLDirexion Daily Retail Bull 3X Shares734.19%0.01%
HIBLDirexion Daily S&P 500 High Beta Bull 3X Shares427.74%0.06%
BNKUMicroSectors U.S. Big Banks Index 3X Leveraged ETNs334.96%0.00%
FNGUMicroSectors FANG+™ Index 3X Leveraged ETN306.94%0.00%
TPORDirexion Daily Transportation Bull 3X Shares287.69%0.03%
URTYProShares UltraPro Russell2000257.75%0.15%
TNADirexion Daily Small Cap Bull 3X Shares257.42%0.02%
DPSTDirexion Daily Regional Banks Bull 3X Shares254.52%0.60%
FASDirexion Daily Financial Bull 3X Shares251.25%0.37%
UMDDProShares UltraPro MidCap400215.67%0.07%

Source: ETF Database

Best performing ETFs over 1 year

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

SymbolETF name5-year returnsAnnual dividend yield
TECLDirexion Daily Technology Bull 3X Shares1491.57%0.34%
TQQQProShares UltraPro QQQ1484.42%0.00%
ROMProShares Ultra Technology968.88%0.00%
USDProShares Ultra Semiconductors942.19%0.21%
QLDProShares Ultra QQQ728.41%0.00%
ARKWARK Next Generation Internet ETF685.26%1.21%
ARKKARK Innovation ETF600.18%1.56%
ARKGARK Genomic Revolution ETF496.45%0.85%
FBGXUBS AG FI Enhanced Large Cap Growth ETN464.96%0.00%
FLGECredit Suisse FI Large Cap Growth Enhanced ETN459.42%0.00%

Source: ETF Database

Best performing ETFs over 5 years

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

SymbolETF name5-year returnsAnnual dividend yield
SOXLDirexion Daily Semiconductor Bull 3x Shares1885.68%0.29%
TECLDirexion Daily Technology Bull 3X Shares1084.72%0.42%
TQQQProShares UltraPro QQQ1068.66%0.00%
USDProShares Ultra Semiconductors773.54%0.24%
ROMProShares Ultra Technology749.47%0.00%
ARKWARK Next Generation Internet ETF612.90%1.38%
QLDProShares Ultra QQQ578.11%0.00%
ARKKARK Innovation ETF485.54%1.83%
IBUYAmplify Online Retail ETF392.05%0.51%
ARKGARK Genomic Revolution ETF390.90%0.97%

Source: ETF Database

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Picking the best US 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 of the best performing ETFs to invest in:

  • 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.

Understanding fees for US ETFs

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.
  • Exchange fee. Your trading platform may change you a fee to transfer from US to New Zealand dollars.

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.

You’ll also need to take into account exchange fees to convert NZD to USD when you buy US ETFs on the US stock market. The fee also applies to convert USD back to NZD when you make a withdrawal to your bank account. Exchange fees range from .5% to 1%. There may also be subscription fees and transaction fees depending on the trading platform you use.

How to buy US ETFs from New Zealand

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

To invest in US ETFs through a New Zealand online trading platform, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Compare online share trading platforms with access to US stocks.
  2. Open an account 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.

Bottom line

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

Comparing recent performance of US 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.

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment 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. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. 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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