Over the last 10 years, the use of exchange-traded funds has rapidly grown in popularity. Now there is a vast selection of ETFs available to choose from.
Traders and investors can find an ETF related to just about any sector or industry. This has caused many millennials and veteran investors alike to dump stocks and switch to ETFs.
When it comes to exchange-traded funds, it’s important to have liquidity, low fees, and broad coverage. They can be used for short-term trades, options trading, and long-term investing.
If you’re looking to find some ETFs to trade or invest in, look no further. Here are 25 of the best ETFs that deliver a widespread menu of trading and investing opportunities. (The list is not in any particular order.)
SPDR S&P 500 Trust ETF
Ticker Symbol: SPY
This ETF is designed to track the S&P 500 stock market index. It is the largest ETF fund in the world and has the highest volume of any ETF. This makes it highly liquid and easy to find a buyer or seller.
SPY is great for options and swing traders that want to trade market movements. It’s also a simple way to invest in large-cap U.S. Stocks. The expense ratio is 0.0945% which is considered very low. For more information on SPY, here is a link to the fund overview.
Invesco QQQ ETF
Ticker Symbol: QQQ
QQQ tracks the Nasdaq. It includes 100 of the largest nonfinancial companies listed on the Nasdaq and is based on market cap. It has a large allocation to technology companies and is widely used for short-term trades.
An investor may also include it to their long-term portfolio for tech exposure. However, due to the volatility of tech stocks and high trading volume QQQ is also perfect for swing trades and option plays. The expense ratio is 0.20% which is below average.
iShares Russell 2000 ETF
Ticker Symbol: IWM
IWM provides exposure to the Russell 2000 Index, which follows small-cap U.S. stocks. It’s useful for many investment and trading strategies. IWM is balanced well and has a below-average expense ratio of 0.19%.
This makes it an appealing choice for long-term investors. It also has a high average trading volume. Due to the liquidity, the ETF is great for short-term trades as well.
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF
Ticker Symbol: EEM
If you are looking to make short-term trades on foreign market movements EEM is a great choice. EEM is one of the most popular and highly traded ETFs in the world. It’s usually one of the top highest volume ETFs. EEM offers exposure to large-cap emerging markets.
It is also used by many long-term investors to add foreign exposure to their portfolio. Its expense ratio is 0.67% which is higher than average.
Vanguard Total International Stock ETF
Ticker Symbol: VXUS
VXUS offers a broad portfolio of foreign stocks. It has exposure to developed and emerging non-U.S. markets. It consists of small-, mid- and large-cap companies. With VXUS you can diversify a portfolio with both developed and emerging markets outside of the U.S.
Some of its top holdings include Tencent, Samsung Electronics and Royal Dutch Shell. This ETF is better for a long-term buy and hold approach. The expense ratio for VXUS is a low 0.09%.
VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF
Ticker Symbol: GDX
This ETF is designed to replicate the price and yield performance of the gold miners index. If you are looking to add gold miners or indirect gold exposure to your portfolio GDX is a good choice. Gold miners’ stocks generally follow the movements in spot gold prices.
GDX is a great vehicle for short-term trades and option plays because it is highly liquid. Unlike physical gold, GDX pays a dividend. This helps to provide gold investors with some cash-flow. The expense ratio is a tad above average at 0.53%.
Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF
Ticker Symbol: XLF
XLF is a popular SPDR product that offers exposure to the financial industry. It includes companies/industries involved in insurance, banks, real estate investment trusts, consumer finance, and other financial services. It can be used for long-term investing and short-term trading.
Some of the top holdings include JPMorgan Chase & Co., Berkshire Hathaway, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. It has a low expense ratio of just 0.13%.
United States Oil Fund
Symbol Ticker: USO
The United States Oil Fund is designed to follow the price of WTI (West Texas Intermediate) crude oil. It is not intended to be held long-term. The ETF or “ETP” is prone to contango and backwardation. This is because USO holds futures contracts that can experience negative roll yield.
This product is best for day trades or options trading. (XOP is a better choice for long-term/swing trades.) USO offers exposure to commodity trading without having a futures account. It has an above average expense ratio of 0.73%. For more information on USO, here is a link to the fund overview.
iShares Gold Trust
Symbol Ticker: IAU
This ETF offers exposure to the most desired precious metal and is designed to track the spot price of gold bullion. The fund holds gold bars in COMEX approved vaults around the world.
Each share represents approximately 1/100th of an ounce of gold. Gold ETFs are a bit controversial, many investors state “if you don’t hold it you don’t own it.” However, the convenience of Gold ETFs can’t be beaten.
IAU has one of the lowest expense ratios for a gold ETF at 0.25%. This makes it an appealing candidate for a long-term hold. It’s fine for short-term trades too. However, GLDs higher liquidity may be a better choice for short-term trading.
Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF
Symbol Ticker: BND
“Bond, Vanguard bond.” BND is a great way to gain exposure to the entire bond market with just a single ETF. It has holdings in agency bonds, MBS, corporate bonds and T-bills.
The goal of this fund is to keep pace with U.S Bond Market returns. With the Vanguard name and low expense ratio of 0.035%, it’s the most popular bond ETF for a reason.
Schwab U.S. Dividend Equity ETF
Symbol Ticker: SCHD
SCHD is weighted by market cap and tracks 100 dividend-paying US equities. The funds’ goal is to track the Dow Jones Dividend 100 Index. The ETF requires its holdings to have a long track record of distributions.
SCHD is a solid choice for investors seeking to gain a stable dividend ETF.
Some of its top holdings are Intel, Home Depot, Coca Cola, Pfizer, and Exxon Mobil. It has a below average expense ratio (0.06%) and has a dividend yield of around 3%.
Utilities Select Sector SPDR Fund
Ticker Symbol: XLU
XLU, like the other sector ETFs, are often used for sector rotation strategies. This ETF is one of the most popular tools for gaining exposure to the U.S. utilities sector. Utilities are known for their high yields and reasonably low volatility.
XLU has very high liquidity, a low expense ratio (0.13%) and pays a divided. This makes it an appealing candidate for both short-term trades and long-term investing.
iShares Silver Trust
Ticker Symbol: SLV
Similar to IAU this ETF uses physically-backed silver. It allows investors the convenience to trade the popular precious metal. Like gold, silver is commonly used as an inflationary hedge or as a safe haven during volatile times.
SLV is great for anyone looking to trade the price of silver without dealing with futures contracts.
It can also be used for a long-term play for investors seeking to add more precious metals to their portfolio. The expense ratio is a bit above average at 0.50%.
Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF
Ticker Symbol: VTI
This ETF is a favorite for gaining exposure to the entire U.S. total market index. It holds thousands of diverse equities across all sectors. It includes large-cap, mid-cap, and small-cap securities. However, most of its holdings are allocated in large-caps.
VTI can easily be used as a core holding for long-term portfolios. When mixed with BND and VXUS and you get a simple and well-diversified portfolio, made up of only 3 ETFs.
This ETF is suitable for a modest investment strategy. The 0.03% expense ratio is fantastic and well below average. For more information on VTI, here is a link to the fund overview.
iShares Global REIT ETF
Ticker Symbol: REET
REET tracks a market-cap-weighted index of companies involved in real estate. About 65% of the fund’s holdings are in the U.S. The other 35% of its holdings target developed and emerging markets outside of the U.S.
This makes REET a fine choice for an investor seeking a more diverse and balanced REIT ETF. The expense ratio is below average 0.14% despite the international holdings.
Schwab U.S. Small-Cap ETF
Ticker Symbol: SCHA
Looking for some small-cap exposure? SCHA is a favorite for investors seeking a low expense ratio (0.04%) small-cap ETF. Small-caps provide stronger growth than mid/large-cap stocks but are also more volatile.
You will usually see larger gains and losses with small-cap stocks. SCHA does a good job balancing the fund across 1,750 different securities. It’s well diversified in small-caps and has a focus on value and growth companies.
Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF
Ticker Symbol: VEA
This ETF provides exposure to developed markets outside the U.S. You’ll gain exposure to companies located in Europe, the Pacific region and Canada. It shares some of the same top holdings as VXUS and holds close to 1,000 different securities.
The expense ratio is a nice and low 0.05%. VEA has a decent average volume so it can be used for short term trading but is mostly used as a long-term investment.
ProShares Short S&P 500 ETF
Ticker Symbol: SH
SH is an inverse ETF of the S&P 500. It gains as the market loses; the return is -1x that of the S&P index. It is unique when compared to the other inverse ETFs because it isn’t double or triple leveraged.
SH is not meant to be held long-term, but it can be used to hedge during market downturns. The ETF even pays a small dividend! The expense ratio is above average at 0.89%. For more information on SH, here is a link to the fund overview.
VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF
Ticker Symbol: SMH
Don’t shake your head at this ETF. It’s hard to find a better vehicle for trading semiconductors than SMH. It’s highly liquid and tracks the 25 largest U.S. listed companies that produce semiconductors.
Semiconductors are the vital components for computers, smartphones, and a plethora of other electronics.
The demand for semiconductors can spike as technology improves. SMH can be used for short-term trades and long-term investing. The expense ratio is below average at 0.35%.
Invesco Senior Loan ETF
Ticker Symbol: BKLN
This Invesco ETF utilizes leveraged loans to provide higher yields. The fund tracks the S&P Leveraged Loan 100 Index. So, if you are looking to take on more risk for the return of high yields then BKLN is an appealing option.
The average volume is decent, so it could be used for short-term trades or option plays. Most likely though, it will be a pick for long-term investors. The expense ratio is above average at 0.65%.
iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF
Symbol Ticker: TLT
The most popular ETF when it comes to long-dated Treasuries. Due to its high trading volume, the liquidity is great and makes it a common vehicle for traders as well.
An investor may add it to a long-term portfolio to gain exposure to long-dated Treasuries. The expense ratio is below average at 0.15%.
SPDR S&P Global Dividend ETF
Symbol Ticker: WDIV
This ETF seeks to track the performance of the S&P Global Dividend Aristocrats Index. Its holdings are spread across the globe. With most of it being allocated in the United States, UK, and Canadian securities.
WDIV is a unique choice for investors looking for something that provides a high yield. The expense ratio is a bit below average at 0.40% and the dividend yield is around 4.19%.
IQ Hedge Multi-Strategy Tracker ETF
Symbol Ticker: QAI
QAI is not your typical exchange-traded fund. The ETF attempts to replicate risk-adjusted returns that are similar to hedge funds. It uses a quant-based methodology to deliver returns.
Its methods include long/short equities, fixed income arbitrage, and other hedge fund investment styles.
Unlike other hedge funds, you won’t see massive gains with this ETF. It attempts to be more of a stable holding. QAI allows easy access to investment strategies similar to hedge funds. The expense ratio is above average at 0.79%.
Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund
Symbol Ticker: VNQ
This REIT ETF trades at a higher average volume than REET and doesn’t have holdings outside the U.S. Thanks to its superior liquidity, it can be used for bearish or bullish short-term trades and options plays. Of course, since it’s a Vanguard product, it is also excellent for buying and holding long-term.
The expense ratio is below average at 0.12%. So, whether you’re looking to add REIT exposure to your portfolio or make a short play on REITs, VNQ will do the trick.
SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF
Symbol Ticker: DIA
With the popularity of SPY and the S&P 500, its sometimes easy for traders and investors to leave out the DOW. The market movements are similar, but can also be moderately apart.
DIA is the best ETF when it comes to tracking the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It’s highly liquid and appealing for both short-term traders and long-term investors. The expense ratio below average at 0.17% and it pays also pays a dividend.
Here is the list of 25 of the Best ETFs:
- SPDR S&P 500 Trust ETF (SPY)
- Invesco QQQ ETF (QQQ)
- iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM)
- iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM)
- Vanguard Total International Stock ETF (VXUS)
- VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX)
- Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF)
- United States Oil Fund (USO)
- iShares Gold Trust (IAU)
- Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND)
- Schwab U.S. Dividend Equity ETF (SCHD)
- Utilities Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLU)
- iShares Silver Trust (SLV)
- Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI)
- iShares Global REIT ETF (REET)
- Schwab U.S. Small-Cap ETF (SCHA)
- Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF (VEA)
- ProShares Short S&P 500 (SH)
- VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH)
- Invesco Senior Loan ETF (BKLN)
- iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT)
- SPDR S&P Global Dividend ETF (WDIV)
- IQ Hedge Multi-Strategy Tracker ETF (QAI)
- Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund (VNQ)
- SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA)
Some others worth mentioning
- iShares China Large-Cap ETF (FXI)
- iShares MSCI Brazil ETF (EWZ)
- SPDR S&P Oil &Gas Exploration & Production ETF (XOP)
- iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG)
Disclosure: I wrote this article myself and the views expressed are of my own opinion. This article should not be considered financial advice. I have no relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.