Top Performing Commodities ETFs of 2012

CNBC.com

Top Performing Commodities ETFs of 2012

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There may be no better way to appreciate the diversity of exchange traded funds than by looking at the commodities sector of the asset class. There are several hundred 100 ETFs and their close cousin, ETNs, or exchange traded notes. The group covers everything from energy to metals to agriculture to livestock. There are broad and narrow funds, ones based on an index or futures trading and still others that hold the actual commodity. There are precious and industrial metals, foodstuffs and livest
Photo: Getty Images

There may be no better way to appreciate the diversity of exchange traded fundsthan by looking at the commodities sector. 

There are several hundred ETFs,and their close cousin, ETNs, or exchange traded notes — covering everything from energy to metals to crops to livestock. 

“Over the last three years there’s been an upward tear in commodities,” says Morningstar analyst Abraham Bailin, which partly explains the proliferation of ETFs covering the asset class.

Picking winners and losers in this group is more difficult than with stocks. 

Morningstar’s ratings system, for instance, doesn’t apply here, because ETFs cannot be measured by future or forward performance projections.

What's more, commodities are speculative in nature, and thus volatile; trading volume and price are vulnerable to momentum. Thus, ETFs usually mirror the peroramnce of futures markets contracts. 

“Most of these products track their benchmarks with razor-sharp precision,” says Bailin.

Such a dynamic is what makes commodities so attractive and yet risky.

Investors looking for big moves are likely to find them in single-commodity funds (copper, tin, corn, cocoa), and to a lesser extent, smaller subsectors (industrial, base or precious metals ) and not the big, diversified ones.

That’s not to say, however, that they should take the bait.

“If you’re looking to speculate in the space, for the retail investor looking to build a well-diversified portfolio we would absolutely not recommend taking single-commodity positions,” Bailin says.

Caution and common sense aside, we decided to take a look at the best-performing funds in the first 11 weeks of the year, when virtually all of of them outperformed the hot stock market.

Our list is based on Morningstar data. Though we include asset size and trading volume, they are not criteria in determining rankings, and vary widely.

One thing the funds have in common is impressive double-digit gains. In some cases, we awarded “honorable-mention” status to runner-up funds because their gains were very close to the winner’s.

(All core data from Morningstar; rankings are CNBC’s based on March 20 closing prices; descriptions are from the funds’ websites.)

Posted 21 March 2012

15. PowerShares DB Energy (DBE)

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Price: $ 30.79 YTD % Chg.: 11.5 12-Mos % Chg.: -2.1 100-Day Avg. Volume: 116,887Market Cap: 203,214,000 Fund Description: "The Index is a rules-based index composed of futures contracts on some of the most heavily traded energy commodities in the world—Light Sweet Crude Oil (WTI), Heating Oil, Brent Crude Oil, RBOB Gasoline and Natural Gas. The Index is intended to reflect the performance of the energy sector."
Photo: Roger Milley | Vetta | Getty Images

YTD change: 11.48%
Price: $30.79
12 month change: -2.10%
100-day avg. volume: 116,887
Market Cap: 203.2 million                             

Fund Description: "The Index is a rules-based index composed of futures contracts on some of the most heavily traded energy commodities in the world—Light Sweet Crude Oil (WTI), Heating Oil, Brent Crude Oil, RBOB Gasoline and Natural Gas. The Index is intended to reflect the performance of the energy sector."

14. iPath DJ-UBS Cocoa TR Sub-Idx ETN (NIB)

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Price: $ 32.11 YTD % Chg.: 11.7 12-Mos % Chg.: -23.8100-Day Avg. Volume: 22,986 Market Cap: 20,579,946 Fund Description: "The Dow Jones-UBS Cocoa Subindex Total ReturnSM is a single-commodity sub-index currently consisting of one futures contract on the commodity of cocoa, which is included in the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total ReturnSM."
Photo: Jeremy Horner | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

YTD change: 11.67%
Price: $32.11
12 month change: -23.81%
100-day avg. volume: 22,986
Market Cap: 20.6 million

Fund Description: "The Dow Jones-UBS Cocoa Subindex Total ReturnSM is a single-commodity sub-index currently consisting of one futures contract on the commodity of cocoa, which is included in the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total ReturnSM."

13. United States Heating Oil (UHN)

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Price: $36.72 YTD % Chg.: 11.7 12-Mos % Chg.: 1.7 100-Day Avg. Volume: 9,105Market Cap: 11,016,000 Fund Description: “The United States Heating Oil Fund  (UHN)  is an exchange traded security that is designed to track in percentage terms the movements of heating oil prices. UHN issues units that may be purchased and sold on the NYSE Arca.”
Photo: Michael Fein | Bloomberg | Getty Images

YTD change: 11.71%
Price: $36.72
12 month change: 1.66%
100-day avg. volume: 9,105
Market Cap: 11 million

Fund Description: “The United States Heating Oil Fund  (UHN)  is an exchange traded security that is designed to track in percentage terms the movements of heating oil prices. UHN issues units that may be purchased and sold on the NYSE Arca.”

12. iPath DJ-UBS Copper TR Sub-Idx ETN (JJC)

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Price: $49.27 YTD % Chg.: 11.9 12-Mos % Chg.: -13.4 100-Day Avg. Volume: 208,334 Market Cap: 241,669,350 Fund Description: "The index includes the contract in the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total ReturnService Mark that relates to a single commodity, copper (currently the Copper High Grade futures contract traded on the COMEX). "
Photo: Comstock Images | Getty Images

YTD change: 11.88%
Price: $49.27
12 month change: -13.41%
100-day avg. volume: 208,334
Market Cap:  241.7 million

Fund Description: "The index includes the contract in the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total ReturnService Mark that relates to a single commodity, copper (currently the Copper High Grade futures contract traded on the COMEX)."

11. iPath DJ-UBS Sugar TR Sub-Idx ETN (SGG)

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Photo: Michael Rosenfeld | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

YTD change: 13.11%
Price: $92.52
12 month change: 10.27%
100-day avg. volume: 30,108
Market Cap: 40.2 million

Fund Description: "The Dow Jones-UBS Sugar Subindex Total ReturnSM is a single-commodity sub-index currently consisting of one futures contract on the commodity of sugar, which is included in the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total Return."

10. PowerShares DB Commodity Long ETN (DPU)

Photo: Diana Miller | Stone | Getty Images

YTD change: 13.85%
Price: $19.81
12 month change: -0.70 %
100-day avg. volume: 1,016
Market Cap: 6.5 million

Fund Description: "All of the PowerShares DB Commodity ETNs are based on a total return version of the DeutscheBank Liquid Commodity Index™. All of the PowerShares DB Commodity ETNs are based on a total return version of the Deutsche Bank Liquid Commodity Index™."

9. ETFS Physical White Metals Basket Shares (WITE)

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Price: $ 53.64 YTD % Chg.:  14.9 12-Mos % Chg.: -12.8 100-Day Avg. Volume: 7,739 Market Cap: 42,913,600 Fund Description: “ETFS Physical White Metals Basket Shares are issued by ETFS White Metals Basket Trust . The investment objective of the Trust (WITE) is for the Shares to reflect the performance of the prices of silver, platinum and palladium bullion, less Sponsor’s Fee.”
Photo: Joel Arem | Photo Researchers | Getty Images

YTD change: 14.89%
Price: $53.64
12 month change: -12.75 %
100-day avg. volume: 7,739
Market Cap: 42.9 million

Fund Description: “ETFS Physical White Metals Basket Shares are issued by ETFS White Metals Basket Trust. The investment objective of the Trust (WITE) is for the Shares to reflect the performance of the prices of silver, platinum and palladium bullion, less Sponsor’s Fee.”

8. PowerShares DB Silver (DBS)

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Price: $ 55.76 YTD % Chg.: 16.2 12-Mos % Chg.: -15.7 100-Day Avg. Volume: 24,468 Market Cap: 78,064,000 Fund Description:
Photo: Thomas Northcut | Photodisc | Getty Images

YTD change: 16.19%
Price: $ 55.76
12 month change: -15.71%
100-day avg. volume: 24,468
Market Cap: 78 million

Fund Description: "The Index is a rules-based index composed of futures contracts on silver and is intended to reflect the performance of silver."

7. United States Brent Oil (BNO)

Alexander Korolkov | AFP | Getty Images

YTD change: 16.88%
Price: $87.24
12 month change: 12.10%
100-day avg. volume: 69,238
Market Cap: 65.4 million

Fund Description: “The United States Brent Oil Fund, LP (BNO) is a domestic exchange traded security designed to track the movements of Brent crude oil. BNO issues units that may be purchased and sold on the NYSE Arca.”

6. iPath DJ-UBS Platinum TR Sub-Idx ETN (PGM)

YTD change: 18.72%
Price: $38.02
12 month change: -10.31%
100-day avg. volume: 7,488
Market Cap: 36.4 million

Fund Description: “The Dow Jones-UBS Platinum Subindex Total Return is a single-commodity sub-index currently consisting of one futures contract on the commodity of platinum, which is included in the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total Return. It is intended to reflect the returns that are potentially available through an unleveraged investment in the futures contracts on physical commodities comprising the index as well as the rate of interest that could be earned on cash collateral invested in specified Treasury Bills.”

Honorable Mention:
ETFS Physical Platinum Shares (PPLT)
YTD change: 18.38%

5. United States Gasoline (UGA)

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Price: $57.61 YTD % Chg.: 19.2 12-Mos % Chg.: 14.4 100-Day Avg. Volume: 75,328 Market Cap: 169,949,500 Fund Description: “The United States Gasoline Fund, LP (UGA) is an exchange traded security that is designed to track in percentage terms the movements of gasoline prices. UGA issues units that may be purchased and sold on the NYSE Arca.”

YTD change: 19.23%
Price: $57.61
12 month change: 14.40%
100-day avg. volume: 75,328
Market Cap: 169.9 million

Fund Description: “The United States Gasoline Fund, LP (UGA) is an exchange traded security that is designed to track in percentage terms the movements of gasoline prices. UGA issues units that may be purchased and sold on the NYSE Arca.”

4. UBS E-TRACS CMCI Silver TR ETN (USV)

Stockbyte | Getty Images

YTD change: 20.25%
Price: $46.92
12 month change: 12.69%
100-day avg. volume: 5,055
Market Cap: 7.3 million

Fund Description: "The Index measures the collateralized returns from a basket of silver futures contracts. The commodity futures contracts are diversified across five constant maturities from three months up to three years."

3. iPath DJ-UBS Tin TR Sub-Idx ETN (JJT)

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Price: $54.02 YTD % Chg.: 23.6 12-Mos % Chg.: 27.5 100-Day Avg. Volume: 20,380 Market Cap: 75,033,780 Fund Description: “The Dow Jones-UBS Tin Subindex Total Return is a sub-index of the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total Return and is intended to reflect the returns that are potentially available through an unleveraged investment in the futures contracts on physical commodities comprising the index as well as the rate of interest that could be earned on cash collateral invested in specified Tr
Photo: Shekhardesign | Flickr Open | Getty Images

YTD change: 23.59%
Price: $54.02
12 month change: 27.50 %
100-day avg. volume: 20,380
Market Cap: 75 million

Fund Description: “The Dow Jones-UBS Tin Subindex Total Return is a sub-index of the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total Return and is intended to reflect the returns that are potentially available through an unleveraged investment in the futures contracts on physical commodities comprising the index as well as the rate of interest that could be earned on cash collateral invested in specified Treasury Bills.”

2. UBS E-TRACS Long Platinum TR ETN (PTM)

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Price: $20.68 YTD % Change: 28.3 12-Mos percentage Change: -0.3 100-Day Avg. Volume: 37,042 Market Cap: 41,360,000 Fund Description: "The Index measures the collateralized returns from a basket of platinum futures contracts. The commodity futures contracts are targeted for a constant maturity of three months."
Photo: Harry Taylor | Dorling Kindersley | Getty Images

YTD % Change: 28.29%
Price: $20.68
12-Mos percentage Change: -0.34%
100-day avg. volume: 37,042
Market Cap: 41.3 million

Fund Description: "The Index measures the collateralized returns from a basket of platinum futures contracts. The commodity futures contracts are targeted for a constant maturity of three months."

1. iPath DJ-UBS Natural Gas TR Sub-Idx ETN (GAZ)

Top-performing-commodities-ETF-natural-gas.jpg
Price: $5.09 YTD % Chg.: 35. 12-Mos % Chg.:  -41.2 100-Day Avg. Volume: 439,809 Market Cap: 78,095,870 Fund Description: "The Dow Jones-UBS Natural Gas Subindex Total ReturnService Mark is a sub-index of the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total ReturnService Mark and reflects the returns that are potentially available through an unleveraged investment in the futures contracts on physical commodities comprising the index plus the rate of interest that could be earned on cash collateral invested in
Photo: Cameron Davidson | Workbook Stock | Getty Images

YTD change: 35.01%
Price: $5.09
12 month change:  -41.16%
100-day avg. volume: 439,809
Market Cap: 78.1 million

Fund Description: "The Dow Jones-UBS Natural Gas Subindex Total ReturnService Mark is a sub-index of the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total ReturnService Mark and reflects the returns that are potentially available through an unleveraged investment in the futures contracts on physical commodities comprising the index plus the rate of interest that could be earned on cash collateral invested in specified Treasury Bills."