Should you still invest in ARK ETFs?

(Source: Portfolio Visualizer)

I last wrote about ARK ETFs late last year and didn't focus much on them in the regular blog posts with the exception of introducing ARKX here.

It has been almost a year and it's probably timely to do a review to see how these ARK ETFs stand this year and relook into the topic to determine if they are investible.

Here is the YTD performance (till end September) for all the ARK ETFs with the exception of ARKX (as it was only incepted in Q2 this year).

(Source: Portfolio Visualizer)

At first glance, it's pretty disappointing. Most of the ARK ETFs are in the red zone with the exception of ARKQ. Among all the ARK ETFs, ARKG suffers the worst decline of -19.88%. Coincidentally, it is also the best performing ARK ETF in 2020. Hence, the volatility for ARKG is probably the highest here. So if you have only begun investing in ARK ETFs this year, it's likely that you are not getting any good returns so far.

If we go back deeper into the history to 2015 where most of these ETFs are incepted with the exception of ARKF which is only incepted in 2019, this is the performance.

(Source: Portfolio Visualizer)

The returns for all the ARK ETFs come in a wide range as you can see from the table. It could be a large drawdown for a particular year before a strong rebound the next year (this is especially true for ARKG). With the exception of 2018 where ARKG returns are almost flat, ARKG returns are almost always in the double digits in either territory. The one which is probably more consistent is ARKW which has been regularly providing positive returns with the only exception being this year. Even so, it's still a wide range of returns. Hence, there is very little predictability on how ARK ETF will perform in any given year. This is especially so when there is only 6 to 7 years of data till date.

If we were to focus on their CAGR, this is what you will get.

(Source: Portfolio Visualizer)

As expected, ARKW has the best CAGR. With nearly half of the years in red, ARKG has the worst performing CAGR. During the same period of time, the CAGR for Invesco QQQ trust is 21.23%. This means that all 4 ARK ETFs have outperformed the NASDAQ 100 index despite their poor performance YTD.

If we take a look at the annual returns of the ARK ETFs again, we do notice that last year is clearly an outlier in terms of returns as all 4 ARK ETFs have triple digits returns. So what if we only measure ARK ETFs performance till the end of 2019? Could we still be seeing the same outperformance of ARK ETFs against NASDAQ 100 index?

Here is what we have.

(Source: Portfolio Visualizer)

ARKW remains to be the ARK ETF with the highest CAGR. In fact, the order remains the same. All of them have a CAGR value above 10%. In the same time period, Invesco QQQ trust returns a CAGR value of 16.63%. Hence, it's no longer a case of all ARK ETFs outperforming the NASDAQ 100 index. Only ARKK and ARKW outperform the NASDAQ 100 index. However, this also means that the performances of ARKK and ARKW are not solely due to the fantastic returns last year. Even before 2020, ARKK and ARKW have already outperformed the NASDAQ 100 index.

So what conclusions can we draw from these comparisons?

Despite the fact that many claim the ARK ETFs to be one hit wonder due to COVID-19, the data clearly do not show so. Yes, the ETFs have had tremendous growth last year. But even after discounting 2020 and 2021 (YTD), you can see that the ARK ETFs have pretty decent CAGR value with two of them even outpacing the NASDAQ 100 index. The nature of the companies which ARK ETFs invest in generally have high volatility and are inherently high-risk. They are not the stable blue-chip companies which will constantly give you a range of +10 and -10 returns annually as you can see. You will need to be able to stomach the volatilities to eventually reap the benefits. Take ARKG ETF for example, if you have given up on the ETF after two straight negative returns in 2015 and 2016, you will not enjoy the double digit or even triple digits in returns for the years that follow. To invest in ARK ETFs, you need to have a longer term horizon of at least three years and more.

In a recent event, Cathie Wood shares this.

If our research is correct, no promises, we believe our portfolios will more than triple over the next five years, so that's more than a 25% ann rate of return. These innovation platforms have hit escape velocity. There is no turning back." - Cathie Wood rn via @BW event

Source: Eric Balchunas Twitter, May 19 2021

Given the track record of the past 6-7 years, you could see that all of the 4 ETFs (ARKK, ARKG, ARKW and ARKQ) generally have annual rates of returns which hover around 25%. Hence, I don't think Cathie Wood is overestimating here and this annual rate of return is probably very realistic.

I have included some ARK ETFs in my portfolio. This portfolio is available to patrons.

I also do share some useful content or articles I have read in my Telegram channel. Do join the channel if you are interested.

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