The agriculture sector has performed well in the beginning of 2017. Demand for commodities has picked up. This includes corn, wheat, sugar and soy beans.

Agriculture exchange-traded-funds (ETFs) have turned in some positive returns. However, the current performance should be put in context. Since June 2016, commodities have dropped. The rise at the beginning of 2017 has not taken commodity ETFs back to their highs of last June.

The following three agriculture ETFs are worth watching this year. They were selected based on assets under management, so these are the three biggest. All of these ETFs showed steep declines in the last half of 2016, but they have started to recover and could do well through the remainder of 2017.

It would be wise to watch global demand for commodities, as this is the driver not only for these ETFs, but for the agricultural sector in general. (See also: A Primer For Investing In Agriculture.)

It should be pointed out that these funds may invest in exchange-traded notes (ETNs ), which are debt issued by banks based on the performance of an index. The price of an ETN depends on the performance of the index that is being tracked. In other words, these ETFs carry risk based on how commodities are doing worldwide.

These are not good candidates for buy-and-hold investors. Commodities can be volatile, and of course, the ETFs that make their living off of commodities can be equally volatile. Still, the returns for these ETFs have been decent so far this year, so investors who want commodity exposure may want to look at the top three by assets under management. All figures are current as of February 15, 2017.

1. PowerShares DB Agriculture ETF (DBA)

This ETF is tied to the DBIQ Diversified Agriculture Index Excess Return index. Note that the ETF will track changes in the index whether they are positive or negative. This means an investor will have no protection against declining commodities performance in the event there is a downturn. If you invest in this ETF, you should watch the performance of commodities themselves to get an idea of how the fund will perform.

With net assets of over $775 million, DBA is very liquid. You should be able to buy and sell shares of this ETF fairly easily.

  • Avg. Volume: 702,235
  • Net Assets: $775.89 million
  • Yield: 0.00%
  • YTD Return: 2.15%
  • Expense Ratio (net): 0.93%
  • Inception Date: January 5, 2007
  • Since Inception: -1.56%

2. ELEMENTS Rogers Intl Cmdty Agri TR ETN (RJA)

RJA uses the Rogers International Commodity Index – Agriculture Total Return Index as its benchmark. It tries to replicate the performance of that index. It does this by investing in a basket of 20 futures contracts that are based on agricultural commodities.

Investing in this fund is the equivalent of investing in those 20 contracts. You should understand how futures contracts work if you are going to buy shares in this ETF. (See also: Futures Fundamentals: How The Market Works.)

  • Avg. Volume: 63,937
  • Net Assets: $130.08 million
  • Yield: 0.00%
  • YTD Return: 3.33%
  • Expense Ratio (net): 0.75%
  • Inception Date: October 17, 2007
  • Since Inception: -4.24%

3. iPath Bloomberg Grains SubTR ETN (JJG)

This ETF will give you exposure to the Dow Jones-UBS Grains Subindex Total Return Service Mark. This index is based on futures contracts in grains. As of this writing, the index contains three futures contracts. An investment here is a play on those three contracts. You should understand the contracts involved if you are going to invest in JJG. Ask for a prospectus and familiarize yourself with how those contracts work.

  • Avg. Volume: 58,933
  • Net Assets: $108.46 million
  • Yield: 0.00%
  • YTD Return: 2.65%
  • Expense Ratio (net): 0.75%
  • Inception Date: October 23, 2007
  • Since Inception: -5.26%

The Bottom Line

Commodities are always a risky investment. Everything from the weather to political upheaval can affect how commodities perform. The economic environment for commodities can turn on a dime. Your investment in any of these ETFs should be accompanied by a commitment to do continued due diligence on the ETFs and to monitor commodities prices on a regular basis.

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