By Michael Venuto

The US markets have experienced some surprising volatility in the first month of 2021 driven by crowdsourced euphoria and vigilantism from a Reddit investment group. Stories about GameStop, AMC, and Altcoins have consumed financial media while the S&P 500 printed a negative return for January. Despite all the 1999-like focus on astronomical and unsustainable returns from individual stocks, we note that 42 unlevered equity ETFs returned 10% or more in the first month of 2021. Since the number 42 is the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything,” we thought we would revisit this light-hearted nerdy number and look at these 42 ETFs outperforming in 2021 and review the list of top-performers from 2020.

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A Few Surprises

Below is the list of the top 42 equity ETFs that have returned 10% or more in January of 2021. At the top, we have two funds that benefited from the rise in GameStop: SPDR® S&P Retail ETF (XRT) and ETFMG Video Game Tech ETF (GAMR). Followed then by a resurgence in Cannabis-related funds, which are recovering from a difficult 2020. In that same boat, small caps and energy have started 2021 with relatively good returns. Finally, some of the clean technology, biotech, and innovation ETFs that dominated the performance leader boards in 2020 have continued to perform well in January.

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What Have You Done for Me, Lately?

Now let’s look at the 42-top performing unlevered equity ETFs from 2020. First off, it is amazing to see that 18 ETFs returned over 100%! The leader board was dominated by clean energy, innovation, and mega-trend themes that experienced accelerated adoption due the pandemic response. There were seven ETFs that made the list in both years:

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Obviously, this is all hindsight, but the data does suggest that despite erratic and volatile markets, ETF investors still have the opportunity to participate in great relative returns. And to paraphrase the Redditor’s last week, let’s continue to drive ETFs “to the moon!”

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