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The best and worst performing funds and sectors of 2023

Crypto, semiconductor and technology funds were the top performers last year.
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Exchange-traded-funds (ETFs) tracking crypto and blockchain-related equities were the best performing funds available for distribution in Hong Kong and Singapore last year, according to data compiled from FE fundinfo*.

The VanEck Crypto and Blockchain Innovators ETF and Mirae Asset Global X Blockchain ETF were up 276% and 267% respectively in 2023, well ahead of the other top-10 performing funds.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies rallied last year on the back of slowing interest rate hikes from the US Federal Reserve and an upcoming bitcoin halving slated for May 2024.

Elsewhere in the list of top-10 performing funds were several ETFs tracking semiconductor indices.

Semiconductor stocks performed exceptionally well in 2023 on the back of a boom in demand for high-end computing chips needed to run artificial intelligence (AI) applications, which accelerated last year after the release of ChatGPT.

One notable fund was the Samsung Bloomberg Global Semiconductor ETF, which was up 77.79% during 2023. The underlying index that this ETF tracks is more concentrated than other semiconductor indices with just 20 holdings.

This helped drive its outperformance relative to similar ETFs such as BlackRock’s iShares Semiconductor ETF and the HSBC Nasdaq Global Semiconductor ETF, both of which track a larger, more diversified basket of semiconductor stocks.

On a similar note, the Xtrackers Artificial Intelligence and Big Data ETF was another top performer in the list, returning 68.22% in 2023, buoyed by investor enthusiasm for AI stocks.

Top 10 performing funds of 2023Performance (%)Bottom 10 performing funds of 2023Performance (%)
VanEck Crypto and Blockchain Innovators UCITS ETF276.09Premia China USD Property Bond ETF-51.86
Mirae Asset Global X Blockchain UCITS ETF267.34Zeal Property-46.02
Samsung Bloomberg Global Semiconductor ETF77.79SDPR MSCI Emerging Markets Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF-45.77
VanEck Semiconductor UCITS ETF73.15Ashmore Investment Management (Ireland) Ltd Emerging Markets Asian High Yield Debt-42.23
iShares Semiconductor ETF71.56CSOP Huatai-PineBridge CSI Photovoltaic Industry-37.6
HSBC Nasdaq Global Semiconductor UCITS ETF69.52UBS ETF (CH) Palladium-36.22
iShares US Home Construction ETF68.83UOB United China A-Shares Innovation-35.78
Xtrackers Artificial Intelligence and Big Data UCITS ETF68.22Shenyin Wanguo RQFII A Share Strategy-33.21
Nikko AM ARK Disruptive Innovation67.24Global X China Electric Vehicle ETF-32.99
JPM US Technology65.71Global X China Clean Energy ETF-32.9
Source: FE fundinfo

Elsewhere in the list, the iShares US Home Construction ETF also stands out as a notable top-performer, with returns of 68.83%.

Stocks in the home-building industry surged during the end of 2023 as the prospect of lower interest rates is widely expected to help new home sales and drive-up profits of the major US construction companies.

When it comes to the best performing sectors in the Singapore mutual fund market, the Emerging Europe and Technology equity sectors stand out with average returns of 35.72% and 35.03% respectively.

The Technology sector benefitted from the performance of the Magnificent Seven stocks which also helped propel the broader US indices higher last year.

Meanwhile, the Emerging Europe sector was driven by the strong performance of Polish, Turkish and Greek stocks, as well as some other European markets.

Over 40% of the Emerging Europe index is made up of financial stocks, which did well last year thanks to higher interest rates across the region, which typically increases profit margins for banks lending money. In December, Turkey raised interest rates to 42.5% to combat spiraling inflation in the country.

Top 5 performing sectorsPerformance (%)Bottom 5 performing sectorsPerformance (%)
Sgp Mt Equity Emerging Europe35.72Sgp Mt Equity China-16.58
Sgp Mt Equity Technology35.03Sgp Mt Equity Greater China-13.22
Sgp Mt Equity Taiwan31.87Sgp Mt Equity Hong Kong-12.19
Sgp Mt Equity Latin America30.16Sgp Mt Equity Thailand-11.87
Sgp Mt Equity North America22.85Sgp Mt Fixed Int Asia Pacific High Yield-2.02
Source: FE fundinfo

China and Hong Kong stocks were the worst performing sectors of last year.

Chinese stocks finished 2023 on a disappointing note as China’s post-Covid recovery failed to meet investor expectations after it emerged from its extended lockdowns.

China’s blue-chip CSI 300 index was down 11.95% in 2023, which marked its third year in a row of losses for Chinese stocks.

The worst performing funds of last year were two property funds linked to investments in the struggling Chinese property market. One of the funds in the list, Zeal Property, is set to be terminated on 4 January 2024.

*The data was measured in US dollar terms and excluded exchange traded products (ETPs) and leveraged/inverse products.

Part of the Mark Allen Group.