February was a volatile month for the S&P 500. Leveraged and inverse ETFs that track the S&P 500 saw volatility commensurate with their leverage. However, compared to their un-leveraged peers, the major leveraged and inverse ETFs did not track the market closely.
Because of the constant leverage trap, we know that leveraged and inverse ETFs are forced to buy high and sell low on a daily basis. This, plus the management fees of the funds, essentially lock in losses.
On a day to day basis, these factors are de minimis. Over time, they are fatal.
Table 1: Leveraged and Inverse ETF Performance - February 2018
As can be seen in Table 1, all the ETFs underperformed. The underperformance increased with leverage and being directionally wrong.
As with all investments, volatility hurts returns. For investors in leveraged and inverse ETFs, volatility leads to significant underperformance even over short holding periods.
Because of this complexity risk, these products are only suitable for sophisticated investors wishing to speculate by day trading or for one-day holding periods.For information about securities expert Jack Duval, click here.