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Top Performing ETF Areas of 1H

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Despite a long list of concerns, 2015 has so far been a great year for some corners of the investment universe. Though a harsh winter, a soaring greenback and the Fed rate hike worries took the shine away from the U.S. market in Q1, we saw strength in some country ETFs and specific U.S. sectors.

Several country ETFs were among the winners in the first half of the 2015 scoreboard on policy easing, with China topping the list. Below, we discuss five of the best performing ETF areas of 1H15. All five have beaten out the S&P 500 (flat till date).

China

China was a stupendous performer this year on hopes of aggressive policy easing. The more the economy revealed dull data, the case for further monetary easing became stronger. In fact, the Chinese government cut interest rates four times in the first half of 2015. While almost all Chinese equity ETFs stood out this year, A-shares were the winners (read: 2 China ETFs Hitting All-Time Highs).

Though the space succumbed to a hard correction this month on overvaluation concerns, the space is still remains the winner of the first half.  Among the toppers, Market Vectors ChinaAMC SME-ChiNext ETF (CNXT) and db X-trackers Harvest CSI 500 China-A Shares Small Cap Fund (ASHS) deserve special mention, having returned over 50%. Moreover, iShares MSCI China Small-Cap ETF (ECNS) and Global X NASDAQ China Technology ETF (QQQC) added over 25% and 21%, respectively.

Biotech

Biotech was the shining star among the U.S. sectors in the first half. The space soared on favorable industry dynamics, escalating mergers as well as successful drug trials, the last being the most important criterion.

As a result, ALPS Medical Breakthroughs ETF (SBIO), SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI), BioShares Biotechnology Products Fund (BBP) and BioShares Biotechnology Clinical Trials Fund (BBC) made places in the top-20 performers list of the first half of the year. These products were up 38%, 30%, 30.5% and 24.4%, respectively (read: 5 Healthy Stocks in the Top Biotech ETF).

Hedged Japan

Stepped-up economic stimulus took Japanese stocks to multi-year highs in recent times. However, with the surging greenback and accommodative policies devaluing yen, currency-hedged investing became popular in the first half. WisdomTree Japan Hedged Financials Fund (DXJF) and WisdomTree Japan Hedged Health Care Fund (DXJH) were the toppers in the Japan equities ETFs space, having returned over 24% and 20% respectively.

Russia

The year 2014 was disastrous for Russian equities thanks to the ban imposed on the nation by the West following its Crimea (erstwhile Ukrainian territory) annexation and a massive oil price crash. However, things have changed in the first half of 2015 (read: Russia ETFs Making a Strong Comeback).

A spate of rate cuts to avert an impending recession, an upward movement in the local currency, cooling inflation and some stabilization in oil prices brought back investors to this undervalued and oil-rich market.  Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX), iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF (ERUS) and SPDR S&P Russia ETF (RBL) have all returned in the range of 19–21% year to date.

Europe

Thanks to the steep monetary easing and the launch of the QE measure, the hedged Euro zone stocks staged a great show in the first half. Though the rising risks of the Greek debt default and the ‘Grexit’ worries wrecked havoc on Europe investing in June, the space still appears to have been a winner in the first half (read: 2 Top-Ranked Eurozone ETFs to Buy Now).

db X-trackers MSCI EMU Hedged Equity ETF (DBEZ),  iShares Currency Hedged MSCI EMU ETF (HEZU) and WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity Index (HEDJ) have added about 10–12%  so far this year.

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