Leveraged Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) Disclaimer
Leveraged ETFs designed to achieve their investment objective on a daily basis are not designed to, and will not necessarily, track the underlying index or benchmark over a longer period of time.
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that offer leverage or that are designed to perform inversely to the index or benchmark they track are growing in number and popularity. While such products may be useful in some sophisticated trading strategies, they are highly complex financial instruments that are typically designed to achieve their stated objectives on a daily basis. Due to the effects of compounding, their performance over longer periods of time can differ significantly from their stated daily objective. Therefore, inverse and leveraged ETFs that are reset daily typically are unsuitable for investors who plan to hold them for longer than one trading session, particularly in volatile markets.
ETFs are typically registered unit investment trusts (UITs) or open-end investment companies whose shares represent an interest in a portfolio of securities that track an underlying benchmark or index. However, some ETFs that invest in commodities, currencies, or commodity- or currency-based instruments are not registered as investment companies. Unlike traditional UITs or mutual funds, shares of ETFs typically trade throughout the day on an exchange at prices established by the market. Leveraged ETFs seek to deliver multiples of the performance of the index or benchmark they track. Some leveraged ETFs are "inverse" or "short" funds, meaning that they seek to deliver the opposite of the performance of the index or benchmark they track. Like traditional ETFs, some inverse ETFs track broad indices, some are sector-specific, and still others are linked to commodities or currencies. Inverse ETFs are often marketed as a way for investors to profit from, or at least hedge their exposure to, downward- moving markets. Some funds are both short and leveraged, meaning that they seek to achieve a return that is a multiple of the inverse performance of the underlying index. An inverse ETF that tracks the S&P 500, for example, seeks to deliver the inverse of the performance of the S&P 500, while a 2x leveraged inverse S&P 500 ETF seeks to deliver twice the opposite of that index's performance. To accomplish their objectives, leveraged and inverse ETFs pursue a range of investment strategies through the use of swaps, futures contracts and other derivative instruments.
Most leveraged and inverse ETFs "reset" daily, meaning that they are designed to achieve their stated objectives on a daily basis. Due to the effect of compounding, their performance over longer periods of time can differ significantly from the performance (or inverse of the performance) of their underlying index or benchmark during the same period of time. For example, between December 1, 2008, and April 30, 2009: The Dow Jones U.S. Oil & Gas Index gained 2 percent, while an ETF seeking to deliver twice the index's daily return fell 6 percent and the related ETF seeking to deliver twice the inverse of the index's daily return fell 26 percent. An ETF seeking to deliver three times the daily return of the Russell 1000 Financial Services Index fell 53 percent while the index actually gained around 8 percent. The related ETF seeking to deliver three times the inverse of the index's daily return declined by 90 percent over the same period.
This effect can be magnified in volatile markets. Using a two-day example, if the index goes from 100 to close at 101 on the first day and back down to close at 100 on the next day, the two-day return of an inverse ETF will be different than if the index had moved up to close at 110 the first day but then back down to close at 100 on the next day. In the first case with low volatility, the inverse ETF loses 0.02 percent; but in the more volatile scenario the inverse ETF loses 1.82 percent. The effects of mathematical compounding can grow significantly over time, leading to scenarios such as those noted above.
The text above was in part obtained from FINRA Regulatory Notice 09-31. A full copy of the Notice can be found at http://www.finra.org/Industry/Regulation/Notices/2009/P118953
On 08/18/2009 the SEC and FINRA jointly published this alert on Leveraged and Inverse ETF.
08/25/2009 Leverage ETF Disclosure Version 002