5 Best Performing ETFs of Last 10 Years [With Charts]

The 2008 financial crisis has been followed by one of the biggest and longest-lasting bull markets in history. The decade from 2010 to 2020 saw the S&P 500 index catapult from 1.123 to 3.793, just short of a 400% increase. The overall US stock market boom has been accompanied by a boom in the popularity of exchange traded funds (ETFs) as an investment vehicle. This rise in investor preference for ETFs is reflected in the fact that several of the largest asset management firms have converted former mutual funds into ETFs.

This article will highlight for you five of the best performing ETFs from various market sectors over the last 10 years. Several specific exchange traded funds have enjoyed investment returns that have even outperformed the overall stock market’s impressive gains.

What is an Exchange Traded Fund?

An exchanged traded fund, more commonly known as an ETF, has a very similar investment structure relative to a mutual fund. It combines the money of many investors into a fund that invests in several financial securities from the broad market. ETFs provide investors with access to create an investment portfolio in virtually any asset class, including stocks, bonds, and commodities.

For example, precious metals focused ETFs might be invested in 20 to 50 different mining company stocks, or hold physical gold or gold futures, or be comprised of a combination of all three investments.

The growing trend of ETFs replacing mutual funds as an investor preference is due to six main factors:

  1. ETFs provide exposure to more types of investments
  2. They are typically a low cost investment vehicle, offering lower expense ratios and low expenses overall
  3. ETFs are a more liquid investment, as ETFs trade throughout the day just like stocks
  4. They usually require a lower minimum initial investment
  5. Because of the way an ETF investment portfolio is managed, ETFs usually produce a lower tax liability for investors
  6. Passive investing in index funds has become more commonplace, and ETFs offer access to hundreds of different indexes

Benchmark

An exchange traded fund that makes it to the list of the best performing ETFs last 10 years has to be an outperformer relative to the market average. The SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) grew from its lows in October 2011 at $107.43 to its highs at $454.05 in September 2021. That’s an increase of 323%.

spy sp500 benchmark

Best Performing Exchange Traded Funds of the Last Decade

Now, let’s get started with five of the best performing non-leveraged ETFs of the last decade in different market sectors.

1. Best Technology Sector ETF – iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (SOXX)

soxx ishares semiconductor etf

It should be no surprise that a technology sector ETF heads this list of top performing ETFs. This semiconductor ETF from BlackRock’s iShares, one of the largest creators of ETFs, was up nearly 1.000% from its lows in 2011 to its highs in 2021, making it the best performing ETF over the last 10 years. The semiconductor industry is vital to virtually every piece of modern technology.

The SOXX fund is widely diversified, holding investments in more than 100 different US and foreign market tech stocks – primarily mid-cap and large-cap. Its top holdings include Broadcom Inc., Intel Corp., and NXP Semiconductors NV. SOXX is both a top performer over the past 10 years and over the past 5 years. It’s also the largest ETF in its sector, with more than $2.6 billion in assets under management (AUM).

One notable thing is that another ETF in the technology sector performed pretty well too. The ARK Next Generation Internet ETF (ARKW) grew by over 850% since inception to its swing highs in 2021. However, the ETF does not have a track record of 10 years yet, since it was traded first time in 2014. Nonetheless, this is a remarkable result.

arkw next generation internet etf

2. Best Health Care Sector ETF – Invesco S&P SmallCap Health Care ETF (PSCH)

psch health care sector etf

The health care and technology sectors have battled for first place in the equities market over the past 10 years, as both have enjoyed exponential growth. At the top of the health care heap is this small-cap fund from Invesco. The performance for investors is remarkable, with cumulative gains for the decade of about 700% between the swing low in 2011 and the all-time high in February 2021.

PSCH, which aims to mirror the performance of the S&P SmallCap 600 Health Care Index, invests in a broad range of pharma, biotechnology, and health care facility companies. The top holdings among approximately 70 small-cap US health care stocks include Omnicell Inc., NeoGenomics Inc., and CONMED Corporation.


3. Best New US Stocks ETF – First Trust US Equity Opportunities ETF (FPX)

fpx us stocks etf first trust

This offering from First Trust has a different sort of investment focus: Its holdings are entirely comprised of the stocks of companies that have only been publicly traded for less than three years. A number of extremely successful initial public offerings (IPOs) over the past decade, such as Alibaba, Snap, and Kinder Morgan, have put FPX among the top-performing exchange traded funds.

The 10-year return is approximately 580% between the lows of 2011 and the highs in 2021. The fund invests across the whole market capitalization spectrum, holding a variety of US small-cap, mid-cap, and large-cap equities that fit its investment strategy of seeking relatively new, high-growth stocks. The top holdings in FPX currently include Marvell Technology Inc., Snap Inc., and DocuSign Inc.


4. Best Asia Pacific Region ETF – Invesco China Technology ETF (CQQQ)

cqqq invesco china technology etf

International equity funds have generally fared less well than US equity funds, due at least in part to a strong US dollar over the past decade. Nonetheless, for investors seeking to invest directly in large-cap China technology stocks, this fund has done well, with a 10-year cumulative gain of nearly 500% from it’s lows in 2011 at $18.26 to its highs at $108.61 in 2021. The top fund investments include Tencent Holdings Ltd., Baidu Inc., and Kingdee International Software Group Co., Ltd.


Best Alternative Investments ETF – Invesco Global Listed Private Equity ETF (PSP)

psp invesco global listed private equity etf

This exchange traded fund that holds private equity investments, an investment category that was formerly only available to high net worth individuals, is a prime example of how ETFs have opened up retail investor exposure to many more asset classes. This ETF tracks the Red Rocks Global Listed Private Equity Index.

The fund’s holdings are comprised of global investments in the stocks of 50 to 70 private equity firms, and include American depository receipts (ADRs) and global depository receipts (GDRs) that are part of the Red Rocks index. Among the top holdings are KKR & Co. Inc., Partners Group Holding AG, and The Carlyle Group Inc. One notable drawback of the fund is its higher than average expense ratio of 1.44%.

While the alternative investments sector has underperformed compared to the overall stock market over the past 10 years, investors in PSP have a cumulative return of only 130%.

By looking at the chart, you will notice that the volatility of this ETF is enormous. Between 2007 and 2009, the ETF lost over 80% of its value, between February and March 2020 it lost 50%. But the volatility continued even after that and the price just reverted back in a couple of months. So, while it is the best performing ETF in this specific industry, it is the low-performer compared to the other sector specific ETFs, and also relative to the S&P 500 performance.

Performance Table

ETF Symbol ETF Name Low 2011 High 2021 Performance
SOXX iShares Trust – iShares Semiconductor ETF $44.17 $478.19 983%
PSCH Invesco P SmallCap Health Care ETF $24.87 $199.88 704%
FPX First Trust ETF – First Trust US Equity Opportunities ETF $20.21 $137.06 578%
CQQQ Invesco China Technology ETF $18.26 $108.61 495%
SPY Performance Benchmark: SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust $107.43 $454.05 323%
PSP Invesco Global Listed Private Equity ETF $7.09 $16.57 134%

The performance is measured from the swing low 10 years ago to the swing high in 2021.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review of some of the top ETFs of the last 10 years. While an oft-quoted warning to investors is “past performance is no guarantee of future success,” most investors still prefer investments that have a highly profitable track record of some sort.

ETFs offer investors an easy to understand investment vehicle and allow them to create a diversified portfolio of investments. At the same time, as the exchange traded funds listed above demonstrate, ETF investors also have the opportunity to concentrate investments in specific sectors or asset classes within the financial markets.

With more than $4 trillion in investor funds added to ETFs over the past decade, the popularity of exchange traded funds investing is likely to continue growing over the next decade as well.

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About the author: Alexander is the founder of daytradingz.com and has 20 years of experience in the financial markets. He aims to make trading and investing easy to understand for everybody and has been quoted on Benzinga, Business Insider, Investors Business Daily, Newsweek, GOBankingRates, capital.com, investing.com and other top financial publications.