U.S. equities and stock exchange traded funds slipped on the last day of March, ending the month on a muted note after a wild quarter that pushed the markets into a correction before clawing back the losses on swift rebound.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.5% over the first quarter of 2016. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite dipped 2.8% and the S&P 500 was 0.8% higher.
The top performing non-leveraged ETFs of the first quarter include the PureFunds ISE Junior Silver ETF (NYSEArca: SILJ) up 71.0%, iShares MSCI Global Gold Miners ETF (NYSEArca: RING) up 57.9% and Sprott Junior Gold Miners ETF (NYSEArca: SGDJ) up 50.4%.
Precious metals miners have been the standout performers of the first quarter as gold bullion strengthened on safe-haven demand and a more dovish Federal Reserve outlook. During the start of the year when equities markets registered two-digit percentage point declines, investors piled into gold hard asset as a safe store of wealth. Once equities started rebounding, traders maintained their gold positions on the depreciating U.S. dollar and smaller interest rate hike outlook from the Fed, betting that precious metals will help hedge against a a more volatile outlook. Meanwhile, gold miners, which have been among the worst performing assets over recent years, staged a rally on the improved gold prices.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 4.0% over the past month. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite increased 3.2% and the S&P 500 gained 3.0%.
The best performing non-leveraged exchange traded products of March include the iPath Bloomberg Natural Gas Subindex Total Return ETN (NYSEArca: GAZ) up 38.9%, DB Commodity Long ETN (NYSEArca: DPU) up 31.6% and iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWZ) up 31.1%.
Natural gas prices have been rebounding off 17-year lows as traders look to rising summer electricity demand for air conditioning, with more power plants shifting over to cheaper natural gas from coal.
The broader commodity market is also seeing a prices recover, with energy and gold leading the charge, as the U.S. dollar depreciates and the Fed signals an extended low-rate environment.
Brazilian markets also experienced a huge surge in early March on a crackdown on government corruption and on speculation that support will grow to impeach President Dilma Rousseff. [Brazil ETFs Roar Back as Government Incompetence Ends]
The worst performing non-leveraged ETPs of the month include the C-Tracks on Citi Volatility Index ETN (NYSEArca: CVOL) down 38.9%, iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (NYSEArca: VXX) down 29.6% and ProShares VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (NYSEArca: VIXY) down 29.6%.