India exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are comprised of securities traded in India. This is an emerging market play, meaning it carries higher risk than more mature markets carry. (See also: The Risks Of Investing In Emerging Markets.)
India’s economy is growing, but is not entirely stable and could be subject to volatility. The higher risk can mean higher returns, as each of the ETFs on our list shows. We have selected India ETFs that have the highest year-to-date returns of all India ETFs. Note, however, that all but one of these has negative returns since inception.
An India ETF is not a buy-and-hold investment. You must consistently monitor not only each ETF’s performance, but also the condition of the economy in India. (See also: Citizens Scramble for Cash After India’s Currency Ban.)
Here are the top 5 India ETFs by year-to-date returns as of February 7, 2017.
1. Direxion Daily MSCI India Bull 3x ETF (INDL)
INDL uses the MSCI India Index as its benchmark. While it aims to invest 80% of its assets in securities from the index, the other 20% may be invested in leveraged financial instruments. The goal is to achieve a 300% return. That is, the fund tries to grow at three times the rate of the index.
This adds a great deal of risk because losses can be accelerated the same way gains can when holdings are leveraged. The focus on large-cap and mid-cap stocks helps offset some of the risk because they are more stable than micro-cap stocks.
- Avg. Volume: 47,891
- Net Assets: $67.5 million
- Yield: 0.00%
- YTD Return: 21.48%
- Beta (3y): 2.44
- Expense Ratio (net): 0.95%
- Inception Date: March 11, 2010
- Since Inception: -13.99%
2. Columbia India Infrastructure ETF (INXX)
This ETF follows the Indxx India Infrastructure Index as its benchmark. At least 80% of assets go into companies that are listed on the index. The focus is on companies involved in infrastructure, so this would be an investment for those who think India is likely to grow its infrastructure to meet the needs of the world’s second-largest population (behind China). This focus gives investors the opportunity to invest in a narrow slice of the Indian economy, albeit a vital one.
- Avg. Volume: 42,382
- Net Assets: $34.24 million
- Yield: 2.97%
- YTD Return: 14.99%
- Expense Ratio (net): 0.88%
- Inception Date: August 11, 2010
- Since Inception: -4.77%
3. VanEck Vectors India Small-Cap ETF (SCIF)
For investors who like both small-cap stocks and Indian stocks, SCIF is an opportunity to invest in this specialized basket of stocks: the MVISä India Small-Cap Index. The fund may use depositary receipts in addition to investing directly in securities from the index. Note that micro-cap companies are included in the index, so this investment can carry higher risk than other India ETFs.
- Avg. Volume: 55,017
- Net Assets: $183.63 million
- Yield: 1.38%
- YTD Return: 13.00%
- Expense Ratio (net): 0.75%
- Inception Date: August 24, 2010
- Since Inception: -6.72%
4. Columbia India Small Cap ETF (SCIN)
This is another small-cap India ETF benchmarked to the MVISä India Small-Cap Index. The stocks in the index are weighted by capitalization, so the ETF may weight the stocks similarly. The fund aims to keep 80% of its assets in securities from the index, but may have as much as 95% of assets invested in the index at any given time.
- Avg. Volume: 6,866
- Net Assets: $17.73 million
- Yield: 0.91%
- YTD Return: 12.07%
- Expense Ratio (net:) 0.86%
- Inception Date: July 7, 2010
- Since Inception: -2.25%
5. iShares MSCI India Small-Cap (SMIN)
SMIN attempts to achieve the same performance as the MSCI India Small Cap Index. It may, from time to time, invest in securities that are not in the index but that are expected to behave similar to securities that are in the index. Note that the companies represented are in the bottom 14% of all Indian companies in terms of market capitalization.
- Avg. Volume: 38,372
- Net Assets: $73.99 million
- Yield: 2.29%
- YTD Return: 10.10%
- Beta (3y): 0.96
- Expense Ratio (net): 0.80%
- Inception Date: February 8, 2012
- Since Inception: 8.91%
The Bottom Line
For those willing to take on more risk to achieve higher returns, the five ETFs offer exposure to the emerging market of India. But an investment in these ETFs should be monitored closely. Because ETFs trade like stocks, a wary investor can sell shares anytime returns are no longer attractive.