While the equities market is still positive so far this year, U.S. stocks and exchange traded funds retreated over March as concerns over the U.S. dollar strength and energy sector weakness weighed on the earnings outlook ahead.
The Nasdaq Composite gained 3.0% and the S&P 500 rose 4.4% so far this year. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.2%.
The top non-leveraged ETF performers over Q1 include Market Vectors ChinaAMC SME-ChiNext ETF (NYSEArca: CNXT) up 50.5%, Deutsche X-trackers Harvest CSI 500 China A-Shares Small Cap ETF (NYSEArca: ASHS) up 39.4% and Guggenheim Solar ETF (NYSEArca: TAN) up 31.6%.
Chinese stocks and mainland A-shares ETFs are surging on hints of further easing and Beijing’s planned infrastructure projects to link its markets with Europe and Africa. The central bank signaled it could ease its monetary policy to stimulate the slowing economy and the government announced a massive infrastructure project to build a modern Silk Road to Europe and Africa. [China ETFs Stimulated by Stimulus, Infrastructure Spending]
Solar ETFs have powered ahead and are among the leading sectors over the first quarter after underperforming the equities market last year. Solar stocks have been steadily strengthening in response to the growing discussion over China’s severe pollution problem, which was recently highlighted in a 104-minute documentary video over the weekend titled “Under the Dome.” China has also raised its solar capacity target in an attempt to rein in its pollution problems. For 2015, Beijing has promised to add almost two-and-a-half times as much capacity as the U.S. added last year. [Solar ETFs Perform Radiantly in Q1]
At the bottom end, the worst performing non-leveraged funds so far this year include the iPath Dow Jones-UBS Natural Gas Total Return Sub-Index ETN (NYSEArca: GAZ) down 37.3%, C-Tracks on Citi Volatility Index ETN (NYSEArca: CVOL) down 28.2% and iShares MSCI Brazil Small-Cap ETF (NYSEArca: EWZS) down 24.8%.
Over the past month, the Dow was down 2.0%, the Nasdaq declined 1.7% and the S&P 500 was 1.8% lower.
The U.S. equities market started out fine enough, rebounding off the February sell-off, as improving economic data and rising employment numbers helped support gains. Additionally, increased merger activity helped raise demand for risk.