In 2020, one of the most trusted asset classes has possibly been gold, with the shiny metal up about 13%. One way to play the recent gold rush is a leveraged exchange traded fund, such the Direxion Daily Jr. Gold Miners Bull 2X ETF (NYSEARCA:JNUG). Year-to-date, JNUG stock is down about 87%.
JNUG tracks the MVIS Global Junior Gold Miners Index (MVGDXJ). And it seeks a 200% or -200%, i.e., 2X, of the return of this benchmark index for a single day. This daily leverage gives JNUG certain characteristics that may make it a rather inappropriate long-term holding for most retail investors.
Let’s see why.
JNUG Stock is a Leveraged ETF (LTEF)
Many investors are familiar with a wide range of exchange traded funds that enable them to track the price of the commodity. Examples include the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEARCA:GLD) or SPDR Gold MiniShares SPDR Gold MiniShares (NYSEARCA:GLDM). Year-to-date, they are up 14% each.
There are also investment funds that invest in various miners, such as the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEARCA:GDX) or the VanEck Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (NYSEARCA:GDXJ). In 2020, they are up 23% and 12% respectively.
It is important to remember that JNUG stock is a leveraged exchange traded fund (LTEF). Two of the most popular LTEFs include JNUG and the Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bull 2X ETF (NYSEARCA:NUGT). And leverage makes the long-term performance of both JNUG and NUGT differ than the performance of the underlying assets. Similar to JNUG stock, NUGT is also down 55% so far in the year.
Put another way, although GLD, GLDM, GDX and GDXY are up considerably so far in 2020, the same is not true for either JNUG or NUGT. Similarly, MVGDXJ, the index that JNUG tracks is up 13% in 2020.
Over the past five months, these leveraged exchange-traded funds have not at all performed like the ETFs that track either the commodity of various gold miners.
This discrepancy in long-term returns is due to the daily leverage used.
How Leveraged ETFs Work
A 2X leveraged ETF like JNUG stock is structured to be constantly 2X leveraged on a daily basis. This 2X long LTEF needs to buy every day underlying asset prices go up, and sell when they go down.
The leverage is achieved through the use of rather sophisticated financial instruments, such as swaps, futures, and options. However, the daily resetting involved in JNUG stock is rather complex and makes it a no-go as a long-term holding. The compounding effects of daily returns work against long-term investors.
Let’s compare the performance of both indices as of March 31, 2020:
- 5-year return: JNUG -52.90% and JDST -80.37% (i.e., both returns are negative)
- 3-year return: JNUG -68.8% and JDST -63.7% (i.e., both returns are negative)
- 1-year return: JNUG -92.0% and JDST down -92.8% (i.e., both returns are negative)
In theory, short-term (possibly day) traders could consider JNUG stock to go long smaller gold miners and JDST to go short.
But looking at the performance over time, long-term traders should not consider JNUG stock to go long. Instead it looks as a vehicle of wealth destruction. How is that possible?
Let’s see an example. For example, if the underlying index MVGDXJ moves down 5% on a given day, then JNUG stock should move down 10%. If we assume a stock price of $10, JNUG should be down to about $9 after the first day.
On the second day, if the MVGDXJ moves up 5%, over the two days the MVGDXJ return will be -0.25%. A long-term retail investor may think JNUG should be down 0.5%. Yet, the 10% increase on day two will bring shares up from $9 to $9.90, and the JNUG stock would, in reality, be down by 1%.
And any investor who holds these leveraged ETFs for a long-period will find out that his or her capital would eventually be eaten up by this volatility and daily re-balancing. Thus JNUG stock can only be appropriate for experienced short-term traders looking for leverage and volatility.
The Bottom Line on JNUG Stock
Before you decide to buy leveraged ETFs, such as JNUG stock, it’d be extremely important to understand how they work, with an emphasis on their drawbacks. The use of leverage as well as volatility give their unique properties to these funds. Gold is quite a volatile commodity, and gold miners are a leveraged play on gold prices.
Therefore, the long run returns of a 2X ETF like JNUG stock are rather dangerous and unpredictable. Even if the underlying index moves in favor of the LTEF, JNUG stock might still lose considerable value over the long term.
As you increase your knowledge base on these leveraged exchange-traded funds, you may quickly realize that LETFs are likely to be more appropriate for professional traders for hedging purposes than buy-and-hold retail investors.
Tezcan Gecgil has worked in investment management for over two decades in the U.S. and U.K. In addition to formal higher education in the field, she has also completed all 3 levels of the Chartered Market Technician (CMT) examination. Her passion is for options trading based on technical analysis of fundamentally strong companies. She especially enjoys setting up weekly covered calls for income generation. As of this writing, Tezcan Gecgil did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.