2016's Worst ETFs: International Illness And Healthcare Sickness

Markets Benzinga

Looking at the bad can, at times, underscore the good. For example, domestic equities have been solid this year to the point that just 70 exchange traded funds sport year-to-date losses of 30 percent or more.

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Exclude leveraged exchange traded funds and volatility products, and the list dwindles further.

As has been widely noted, the healthcare sector, the third-larges sector weight in the S&P 500, is cruising toward its first annual loss since 2008. So it's not surprising that a focused healthcare ETF such as the BioShares Biotechnology Clinical Trials ETF (BBC) has been punished. Plenty of healthcare ETFs have been drubbed this year, thanks in large part to election year campaign rhetoric, but BBC is down almost 37 percent.

It has also been a brutal year for solar stocks and ETFs.

The VanEck Vectors Solar Energy ETF (KWT) and the Guggenheim Solar ETF (TAN) are both down more than 42 percent year-to-date. Making matters for solar stocks is that the group slumped against the backdrop of higher oil prices. The energy sector is this year's best-performing sector, a catalyst that would normally lift solar equities.

TAN has been stymied on multiple fronts this year. In previous periods of rising oil prices, solar stocks and TAN have participated in some of that upside, but that's not the case this year. Second, short sellers have been voraciously attacking some TAN constituents, a frequent occurrence with this exchange-traded fund, and winning.

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Some international ETFs have been drubbed as well. Political volatility and concerns over the fragility of Italian banks have sent the iShares Currency Hedged MSCI Italy (HEWI) lower by nearly 31 percent, a staggering decline given the euro's recent weakness. To be fair, HEWI has shown some signs of life this month.

The VanEck Vectors Egypt ETF (EGPT) is also down more than 31 percent this year with nearly all of that decline being accrued in the current quarter.

The Global X MSCI Nigeria ETF (NGE) is down 39.3 percent this year. On its own, that's a bad statistic, but it's a true indictment of NGE when considering oil prices are higher and major frontier markets benchmarks have not declined nearly as much. NGE is Africa's largest oil producer and a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

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