Trading stocks and broad market indices is boring.
Nowadays, you can gain exposure to hundreds of asset classes around the world through exchange traded notes and funds.
We’ve rounded up the oddest of the 1,100 plus ETFs you can currently trade. Some of these funds are pretty obscure. But if you’re really pressing to get into the South African Rand, we won’t stop you.
Concept: Consider it the closest thing to a vice index. The gaming industry attracts patrons even during economic downturns (experts consider it an addiction) and this ETF captures that upside.
YTD Performance: -11.77%
Top Holdings: Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, Genting Berhad, Sands China, International Game Tech.
Concept: Peter Luger might need to take stock in the Livestock Subindex. Though it doesn't act as a hedge for costly cattle, the exchange traded notes track prices on beef and pork.
YTD Performance: +1.4%
Top Holdings: Live Cattle, Lean Hogs
Concept: As other investors stay risk-off, ProShares is embracing increased volatility. The UVXY ETF hopes to return twice the S&P 500 Short-Term VIX index by tracking that very volatility. If that sounds risky, it's because it is.
YTD Performance: -11.87%*
*ETF launched this week
Concept: Think of it as a hedge fund. The Ibbotson Alternative Completion plays in an index of ETFs that PowerShares offers, meaning you have little idea what is actually inside the fund. You could unpack the many different indexes it holds, but weights change frequently.
YTD Performance: -8.32%
Top Holdings: PowerShares Emerging Markets Sovereign Debt, PowerShares MENA Frontier Countries, PowerShares Preferred, PowerShares DB Energy, PowerShares DB G10 Currency Harvest
Concept: This ETN trades in European Union Allowances and Certified Emission Reduction Credits. Recent delays of implementing a cap-and-trade system in the U.S., along with challenges by U.S. airlines to E.U. plans, has jolted the note.
YTD Performance: -32.34%
Concept: If you're looking for leverage, ProShares has something for you. Earn three times the return on the S&P 500 through the UltraPro ETF. But, if the market goes sour the ETF can lose three times as much as the S&P. It seems the latter was the case this year as it plummeted +30%.
YTD Performance: -32.78%
Top Holdings: Exxon Mobil, Apple, Inc., IBM, Chevron, General Electric
Concept: J.Crew and Ralph Lauren produce millions of sweaters made of the commodity each year, and they're not alone. The cotton tracker moves on the price of future deliverable prices, which surged in 2010 (sending this ETF up 96%).
YTD Performance: -15.8%
Concept: Parched? Grab a Brita and this ETF. The Global Water Index tracks the global water industry and invests in both water utilities and water equipment and material manufacturers.
YTD Performance: -11.8%
Top Holdings: Geberit AG, United Utilities Group, Severn Trent, Nalco Holding, American Water Works
Concept: PowerShares offers a way for U.S. consumers to go long on the dollar. Well, another way. Instead of simply holding the bills in a money market or bank account, this fund trades in the underlying currency to generate returns.
YTD Performance: -1.78%
Concept: The Global X Lithium ETF tracks lithium miners and producers of lithium batteries. The segment has grown with the advance of hybrid automobiles, netbooks and smartphones that demand the product.
YTD Performance: -40.71%
Top Holdings: Sociedad Quimica Y Minera De Chile, FMC Corp., Rockwood Holdings, Saft Groupe, GS Yuasa Corp.
Concept: One step farther than currency trading, the WisdomTree fund invests in money market portfolios in South Africa available to foreign investors and provides exposure to movements in the South African Rand.
YTD Performance: -15.93%
Concept: The notes track only one thing: futures prices of cocoa. Hershey and Mars should consider tracking the index, especially after trader Anthony Ward cornered nearly all of the European market in 2010 -- enough to make 5 billion chocolate bars.
YTD Performance: -16.23%
Concept: Trying to find some zen in your life? iShares would like you to invest in XEN. The ETF places money in companies with strong corporate social responsibility programs. Take note, many are Canadian banking giants.
YTD Performance: -11.96%
Top Holdings: Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Suncor Energy, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan