Here are the ETFs that are working during this brutal year

The sharp market decline in 2022 has been broad, taking out nearly every stock sector, but there are some exchange traded funds that have reaped huge returns. Unsurprisingly, many of the best performers are those that bet against the broader market, which are known as inverse ETFs. ProShares, for example, has a suite of these ETFs that target different indexes. Through Wednesday’s close, the ProShares Short S & P 500 ETF (SH) is up 17% year to date, while the ProShares Short QQQ (PSQ) is up 30%. The latter fund is a short bet against the Invesco QQQ Trust , a popular ETF focused on large tech stocks. There are also leveraged versions of these inverse funds that have performed well. The ProShares Ultra Short QQQ ETF (SQQQ) has gained more than 90% year to date. Investment firm Direxion also runs some large inverse ETFs, including funds than focus more specifically on certain sectors. For example, the Daily Semiconductor Bear 3x Shares (SOXS) has gained more than 47% year to date. There is even a fund that bets directly against Cathie Wood’s Ark Innovation ETF — the Tuttle Capital Short Innovation ETF (SARK) , which has gained more than 80% in 2022. To be sure, investors should use caution when using inverse ETFs. For one, stocks typically rise over time, making a short bet against the broad markets a risky long-term bet. Another area of concern is that many of these funds use leverage to achieve their returns. In the case of a rapid upward move for the market, such as a so-called bear market rally, the fund’s can take a dramatic hit. Inverse ETFs also tend to charge higher expense ratios than simpler long-only ETFs. Commodity ETFs The sharp rise in commodities, this year has contributed to the highest inflation in decades, but investors in those spaces are at least getting rewarded with huge gains. There are ETFs that allow investors to bet on the price of energy commodities and their futures contracts. For example, the massive United States Oil Fund LP (USO) has jumped nearly 46% year to date. Stock funds focused on the energy sector have similarly performed well. The Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLE) is up nearly 57%, and the First Trust Natural Gas ETF (FCG) has gained 44.5%. For investors willing to shoulder some more risk, there are leveraged energy funds. The ProShares Ultra Oil & Gas ETF (DIG) has doubled this year. But they bring the same risks as detailed above. Funds outside of oil have outperformed as well. In the agriculture space, for example, the Teucrium Wheat Fund (WEAT) is up more than 62% in 2022. Defensive funds Some funds that are built to protect portfolios have done their jobs this year, even if they have not produced double-digit returns. The SPDR SSGA U.S. Large Cap Low Volatility Index ETF (LGLV) , for example, has dropped about 11% year to date. While that decline is certainly painful for investors, it is also significantly better than the S & P 500. Dividend-focused funds have had a little more success. The Invesco S & P 500 High Dividend Low Volatility ETF (SPHD) is up more than 2% for the year. Finally, the market’s oldest defensive investment, gold, has held its own. The SPDR Gold Shares ETF (GLD) is down less than 1% for the year.

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