These remain go-go days for the global exchange traded funds (ETFs) industry. As of the end of October, there were nearly 2,100 ETFs with more than $4 trillion in combined assets under management (AUM) trading in the U.S. The European ETF business is closing in on $1 trillion in assets.
Plus, issuers continue bringing new products to market, confirming that the overall state of the ETF market is healthy. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the rising number of closures in ETF Land are also a sign of health.
Forecasting the next funds to hit the ETF graveyard can be tricky, as the decision to hit the “off” switch lies with the issuer, but a combination of low assets and weak volume is widely viewed as a tell that a fund may not be long for the world.
What’s important to note is that many of the funds that close aren’t the “worst ETFs” in terms of performance. They simply don’t gain traction with investors even when the performance is good, and become financial burdens to the issuers.
With that in mind, here’s some speculation (emphasis on “speculation”) on some ETFs that could be shuttered in 2020.
iShares Currency Hedged MSCI Mexico ETF (HEWW)
Expense ratio: 0.50%, or $50 on a $10,000 investment.
The iShares Currency Hedged MSCI Mexico ETF (NYSEARCA:HEWW) isn’t one of the worst ETFs in terms of performance, but even though the U.S. dollar has been mostly strong this year despite three interest rate reductions by the Federal Reserve, investors’ appetite for currency hedged funds has diminished, although there are some great products in this category.
BlackRock (NYSE:BLK), the parent company of iShares, is often patient with its ETFs, but it is a public company, meaning profits matter. HEWW turns five years old at the end of June 2020, indicating the issuer has been patient with this fund. Patient or not, HEWW had just $817,000 in AUM as of Nov. 21.
That’s a tiny sum considering this fund’s age. No guarantees, but HEWW could be a credible candidate for closure at some point in the near future.
SPDR Solactive United Kingdom ETF (ZGBR)
Expense ratio: 0.14%
The SPDR Solactive United Kingdom ETF‘s (NYSEARCA:ZBGR) does not mean it’s a “worst ETF.” Far from it. ZBGR is up an admirable 14% this year, a solid performance considering the spate of headline risk related to Brexit.
Plus, this fund yields a tempting 4.84%, well above what investors find on domestic equity benchmarks.
Thing is, nearly all the U.S.-listed U.K. ETFs, with the exception of the iShares MSCI United Kingdom ETF (NYSEARCA:EWU), have struggled to lure investors. And that’s true of ZBGR. The fund is almost five-and-a-half years old and has just $11.64 million in AUM, meaning it’s unlikely it’s making money for its issuer.
Direxion Daily Pharmaceutical & Medical Bull 3X Shares (PILL)
Expense ratio: 0.99%
The Direxion Daily Pharmaceutical & Medical Bull 3X Shares (NYSE:PILL) isn’t necessarily a worst ETF, but it can be argued that it’s as solution in search of a problem. When it comes to leveraged healthcare ETFs, traders are usually content to focus on broader healthcare plays or exciting biotechnology fare, often leaving pharmaceuticals out in the cold.
Direxion, PILL’s issuer, has an extensive lineup of leveraged ETFs, many of which are the go-to geared funds in their respective category. Many of those funds are healthy and far from worst ETFs status because the issuer is not only willing to introduce new products, but also pull the plug on old funds that aren’t gaining much attention.
PILL is now two years old. That doesn’t mean its closure is imminent, but it does mean the issuer probably has a good sense for the fund’s viability.
iPath Global Carbon ETN (GRN)Expense ratio: 0.75%
Not to bash the iPath Global Carbon ETN (NYSEARCA:GRN), but it’s one of the worst ETFs (it’s an ETN) for investors looking for tight spreads, liquidity, and moreover, those that don’t understand carbon markets. GRN tracks the Barclays Global Carbon II TR USD Index.
“The Index is designed to measure the performance of the most liquid carbon-related credit plans. Each carbon-related credit plan included in the Index is represented by the most liquid instrument available in the marketplace. The Index expects to incorporate new carbon-related credit plans as they develop around the world,” according to Barclays.
While GRN is a weird product, it’s probably not in danger of being closed because it’s over 11 years old and has just $7.81 million in assets under management.
Breakwave Dry Bulk Shipping ETF (BDRY)
Expense ratio: 1.85%
With that hefty annual, the Breakwave Dry Bulk Shipping ETF (NYSEARCA:BDRY) would be a money maker for its issuer if it could attract more assets. From the perspectives of unique access and transparency, BDRY is far from being a worst ETF. The dilemma is how many investors need the access BDRY provides.
“The Fund will hold 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,” according to the issuer.
Dry bulk shipping futures aren’t for everyone, which limits the prospective audience for BDRY.
“BDRY is structured as a commodities pool, so expect a K-1 at tax time. Long-term holders will be taxed on any gains even if they didn’t sell shares. The fund’s expenses are a bit high, but it buys access to a niche market,” according to ETF.com.
Market Vectors-Chinese Renminbi/USD ETN (CNY)
Expense ratio: 0.55%
The Market Vectors-Chinese Renminbi/USD ETN (NYSEARCA:CNY), like many of the products mentioned here, isn’t one of the worst ETFs out there. It’s merely overlooked and addresses a niche many regular investors aren’t rushing to get into.
The relationship between the U.S. and China has its ups and downs and remains vital to both countries, but for many investors, currency isn’t the way to play that theme.
Admittedly, CNY’s inclusion on this list is sort of “cheating” because as an ETN, the product has an expiration, which is March 2020. Whether or not the issuer renews CNY in a new product remains to be seen.
Invesco International Ultra Dividend Revenue ETF (RIDV)Expense ratio: 0.42%
Sometimes international sequels to domestic successes work in the ETF world. Sometimes the magic is hard to recreate.
RDIV’s underlying “index is constructed using a rule-based methodology that starts with the FTSE Developed ex US Index and (1) excludes the top 5% of securities within each country by dividend yield, (2) excludes the top 5% of securities within each sector by dividend payout ratio, (3) selects the top 200 securities by dividend yield and (4) re-weights those securities according to the revenue earned by the companies, with a maximum 5% per company weighting and 10% country weighting,” according to Invesco.
In other words, this is a unique strategy with an above-average dividend yield (3.71%) and it’s definitely not in worst ETF territory.
However, RIDV came into the Invesco fold via that company’s acquisition of Oppenheimer ETFs. Plus. RIDV has just $2.4 million in assets. Its age (it debuted just 15 months ago) could be what keeps it off the 2020 closure block.
As of this writing, Todd Shriber did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.