ETF Trends
ETF Trends

The new year is still young, but even with Friday’s declines, Russia exchange traded funds, among the most battered ETFs in 2014, are off to a decent start in 2015.

For example, the Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSEArca: RSX), one of last year’s worst performing non-leveraged ETFs, entered Friday with a 2015 gain of nearly 8%. Among non-leveraged ETFs, only the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (NYSEArca: GDXJ) has been better. Short covering could be and likely is one catalyst lifting Russian stocks.

“The deep hammer candle in mid-December was a sign of panic and likely offered some fuel to the recent rally,” reports Andrew Nyquist for See It Market. “Note that it also posted a near 20 RSI on the weekly chart below which highlights this deep stress. The breakdown occurred from around the $20 per share area – although that may be a stretch near-term, it does highlight how much room RSX has to rally if it sees follow through buying (and/or short covering) over the coming weeks.”

Chart Courtesy: Andrew Nyquist, See It Market

RSX has not longed for inflows, but whether those inflows are coming by way of longs or shorts is another story. The largest and most heavily traded Russia ETF added $1.34 billion in new assets last year even as it plunged 47.2%. Inflows to RSX were more than double those to the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWZ) last year. [Holiday Inflows to Russia ETFs]

Still, some of those inflows could have come courtesy of short sellers. A valuable lesson taught by the United States Oil Fund (NYSEArca: USO) is that ETF’s often expanding shares outstanding counts when oil prices plunge. That was the case late last year, but much of USO’s asset expansion was attributable to traders shorting the ETF, which creates the appearance of new money flowing into the ETF because shares must go out on loan to the short sellers. [Bottom Fishing With Oil ETFs]

There is evidence to suggest traders are still more comfortable with a bearish view of Russian stocks. Over the past month, over $20 million has been pulled from the Direxion Daily Russia Bull 3x Shares (NYSE: RUSL), but the Direxion Daily Russia Bear 3x Shares (NYSEArca: RUSS) has seen modest inflows. [Cash Rush to Leveraged Russia ETFs]

RUSL is the third-best of Direxion’s bullish leveraged ETFs this month while over the past 30 days RUSL and RUSS have been the firm’s most volatile leveraged ETFs, according to issuer data.