Stake logo

by Megan Stals
Share

Are these the best ETFs in Australia? [2024]

Investing in exchange traded funds is a popular way to access various markets and sectors on the Australian Securities Exchange. They range from passive ETFs that track whole stock market indexes, single industry products to actively managed ETFs created by fund managers.

Which ETF in Australia has the highest return?

The BetaShares NASDAQ 100 ETF ($NDQ) had a total five-year annualised return of 22.77% as of the end of February 2024. This ASX ETF tracks the NASDAQ index, which contains the 100 largest non-financial companies listed in the U.S. The top holdings are well-known tech giants like Microsoft ($MSFT), Apple ($AAPL), Nvidia ($NVDA) and Amazon ($AMZN).

Investors gain exposure to the technology sector, which accounts for 50.7% of its holdings. Another 17.2% is in communications firms and 14.5% in consumer discretionary businesses. While the industry saw a significant downturn in 2022, it had a rapid recovery in 2023 and is performing well to start 2024.

Best performing ETFs over the last 5 years

*The list of ETFs mentioned is sorted by best 5-year total return (ann.).

The U.S. tech industry emerges ahead of other asset classes when considering five-year returns.

On average, international shares performed better than Australian stocks over this period and ETFs are a simple way to access various markets through a single trade on the ASX. Some standouts include index funds like $SPY and $IVV, off the back of the S&P 500 hitting all-time highs in March 2024.

Companies that have placed importance on sustainability and those covering specific trends like cybersecurity and tech have also done well.

💡Learn more here: Investing in the S&P 500 from Australia

ETF Name

Ticker

Price

Expense Ratio

5-Year Return

3-Year Return

1-Year Return

BetaShares NASDAQ 100 ETF

NDQ

$41.77

0.48%

22.77%

16.98%

52.94%

Betashares Global Sustainability Leaders ETF

ETHI

$14.87

0.59%

19.00%

14.63%

32.91%

BetaShares Global Cybersecurity ETF

HACK

$11.98

0.67%

17.81%

15.52%

43.80%

VanEck MSCI International Quality ETF

QUAL

$54.18

0.40%

17.68%

18.12%

42.75%

iShares Global 100 ETF

IOO

$131.90

0.40%

16.92%

18.12%

35.19%

SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust

SPY

$781.55

0.09%

16.62%

17.93%

33.19%

Global X Battery Tech & Lithium ETF

ACDC

$91.10

0.69%

16.55%

3.80%

-1.65%

iShares S&P 500 ETF

IVV

$52.20

0.04%

16.37%

17.74%

33.08%

VanEck Morningstar Wide Moat ETF

MOAT

$126.80

0.49%

16.32%

17.01%

27.40%

Global X Morningstar Global Technology ETF

TECH

$109.60

0.45%

16.21%

7.09%

33.35%

Price data as of 13 March 2024, rest of data as of 29 February 2024. Source: ASX Monthly Investment Products - February 2024

*Managed funds, hedge funds and geared products have not been included.

explore-12000-stocks-etfs-banner.png

Best performing ETFs over the last 3 years

*The list of ETFs mentioned is sorted by best 3-year total return (ann.).

The commodity sector performed particularly well in 2021 and 2022. Prices slowly came back from the 2020s lows of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine Conflict added further demand pressures for energy stocks last year.

Global diversification, tech and the S&P 500 also dominate the best ETFs in Australia over the last 3 years.

ETF Name

Ticker

Price

Expense Ratio

3-Year Return

5-Year Return

1-Year Return

Betashares Global Energy Companies ETF-Currency Hedged

FUEL

$6.39

0.57%

18.64%

4.15%

1.31%

iShares Global 100 ETF

IOO

$131.90

0.40%

18.12%

16.92%

35.19%

VanEck MSCI International Quality ETF

QUAL

$54.18

0.40%

18.12%

17.68%

42.75%

SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust

SPY

$781.55

0.09%

17.93%

16.62%

33.19%

iShares S&P 500 ETF

IVV

$52.20

0.04%

17.74%

16.37%

33.08%

Global X FANG+ ETF

FANG

$24.44

0.35%

17.41%

n/a

83.49%

BetaShares Crude Oil Index ETF-Currency Hedged (Synthetic)

OOO

$5.71

1.29%

17.21%

-8.52%

8.70%

VanEck Morningstar Wide Moat ETF

MOAT

$126.80

0.49%

17.01%

16.32%

27.40%

BetaShares NASDAQ 100 ETF

NDQ

$41.77

0.48%

16.98%

22.77%

52.94%

iShares Core MSCI World Ex Australia ESG Leaders ETF

IWLD

$53.55

0.10%

16.74%

14.53%

33.85%

Price data as of 13 March 2024, rest of data as of 29 February 2024. Source: ASX Monthly Investment Products - February 2024

*Managed funds, hedge funds and geared products have not been included.

fuel-vs-ioo-best-etf-comparison-3-years-chart.png

🆚 Compare the two top-performing ETFs over the last 3 years: FUEL vs IOO stock comparison

Best performing ETFs over the last year

*The list of ETFs mentioned is sorted by best 1-year total return (ann.).

The tech sector has been a standout performer in 2023 and performing extremely well to start 2024. There has been a notable rise related to companies involved with artificial intelligence and the cryptocurrency space.

Investors quickly identified ways to capture this potential growth in closely related sub-industries like semiconductors and robotics, which helped bolster the share prices of several businesses in these ETFs.

ETF Name

Ticker

Price

Expense Ratio

1-Year Return

3-Year Return

5-Year Return

BetaShares Crypto Innovators ETF

CRYP

$5.00

0.67%

147.03%

n/a

n/a

Global X FANG+ ETF

FANG

$24.44

0.35%

83.49%

17.41%

n/a

Global X Semiconductor ETF

SEMI

$16.93

0.57%

74.03%

n/a

n/a

BetaShares Global Uranium ETF

URNM

$9.07

0.69%

57.30%

n/a

n/a

BetaShares NASDAQ 100 ETF

NDQ

$41.77

0.48%

52.94%

16.98%

22.77%

BetaShares Metaverse ETF

MTAV

$14.81

0.69%

52.56%

n/a

n/a

Betashares Japan ETF-Currency Hedged

HJPN

$19.97

0.56%

48.88%

14.91%

15.26%

BetaShares NASDAQ 100 ETF - Currency Hedged

HNDQ

$37.68

0.51%

45.40%

7.38%

n/a

BetaShares Global Cybersecurity ETF

HACK

$11.98

0.67%

43.80%

15.52%

17.81%

VanEck MSCI International Quality ETF

QUAL

$54.18

0.40%

42.75%

18.12%

17.68%

Price data as of 13 March 2024, rest of data as of 29 February 2024. Source: ASX Monthly Investment Products - February 2024

*Managed funds, hedge funds and geared products have not been included.

cryp-vs-fang-best-etf-comparison-1-years-chart.png

🆚 Compare the two top-performing ETFs over the last 1 years: CRYP vs FANG stock comparison

What to look for in ASX ETFs?

ETFs usually function like ASX shares and retail investors can find information about each online. ETF providers range from firms like Vanguard and iShares, who generally create products that are traditional index funds. These tend to mirror the companies by the size of their market cap on a stock market index like the S&P/ASX200. They could also just include businesses from a specific sector of the market, like healthcare companies.

There are also active ETF products, which don't strictly follow a major stock market index. Their holdings can be selected based on certain qualities. These can be financial factors such as a high dividend yield or other criteria like ESG standards. Some firms have listed their managed funds as ETFs, which tend to contain a number of specifically chosen businesses based on the team's discretion.

On average passive ETFs tend to have lower fees. There's extra work going into selecting holdings, more rebalancing costs and sometimes even performance fees for actively managed ETFs. Those with greater funds under management (FUM) have higher liquidity. It can be faster to buy or sell out of an ETF at a specific price if there are lots of other investors also interested in the same product. ETFs with very limited FUM can be unprofitable for the providers and investors would need to sell if the product is no longer offered on the ASX.

The major companies held by an ETF should be available on the provider's website. Similarly, investors could check which sectors the product provides exposure to in the same place. Information about past performances is also there. The usual warning about previous returns being no indication of future gains remains, but investors should also check if these results have been generated based only on data rather than supporting a long-standing investment product.

💡Related: Watch these Dividend ETFs in Australia

What are the risks of investing in ETFs?

Like any investment, ETFs do come with some risks. The ASX offers a significant number of ETF products and there are differences between various types. Index fund instruments do present a level of instant diversification through a single trade that cannot be replicated by a single stock, but the whole stock market does still have periods of going up and down.

Certain sectors might outperform or underperform the index for some time, which means that the returns for single-sector ETFs are usually more volatile than for those covering whole stock markets. Similarly, a good performance from one or a handful of stocks might not translate into the same level of returns for an ETF focused on the sector.

Some stock markets might have relatively high exposures to an industry and these could affect overall returns, such as the ASX having a large number of commodity businesses. Investors also can't invest in a specific firm or type of business if it's part of an ETF, whether in an index fund or as part of a fund manager's decision. Those wanting to strictly avoid some investments, such as fossil fuels, might consider ESG-related ETFs as another option.

ETFs do provide retail investors with a simple and cost effective way of investing in some of the world's largest companies. These are often international shares and do come with currency risk. For example, changes in the Australian Dollar and U.S. Dollar exchange rates could affect the returns of a Nasdaq or S&P 500 ETF. There are currency-hedged ETFs available for those with specific views on this area.

There are a number of geared products, which magnify the returns provided by the stock market. Together with inverse ETF instruments, these are considered higher-risk options as investors' losses can exceed those from general index funds. Those interested in these could be well served with further research before making any investment decisions.

Synthetic ETFs are constructed with various financial instruments and are created when there's no equivalent like a listed company for the specific investment. Their prices and returns may not directly reflect those of the original product. They are often used in the case of single commodity ETF products and for some fixed-income securities, such as bonds ETFs.

More resources:

✅ Looking for high interest cash ETFs in Australia?

✅ Find the best emerging markets ETFs on the ASX

Frequently asked questions about ETFs


The expense ratios is the annual fee charged by the ETF issuer to cover the costs of operating the product. These include factors like administration, management, marketing and distribution. It's usually shown as a percentage of the ETF's net average assets. For ETFs on the ASX, it's also often referred to as the managed expense ratio (MER).

The fee is deducted from the ETF's FUM and does affect the overall returns received by investors. This means that investors can benefit from lower expense ratios, when considering similar ETFs. On the ASX, these fees range from 0.03% and 2.27%. More specialised and actively managed ETFs tend to have higher fees as they usually require additional work by the ETF providers.

As ETFs have become very popular amongst retail investors, a number of general index funds have received significant inflows of funds. This has helped these products and their large ETF providers gain economies of scale. Together with increased competition in the industry, these trends have seen fees for popular ETFs tracking the S&P 500 and S&P/ASX200 indexes become among the lowest on offer.

💡Related: How to invest in S&P 500


ETFs are often characterised as long-term investing products as they provide a relative degree of diversification and come with low costs. As general index funds don't see the same highs and lows as single stocks, investors might not have the same incentive to frequently trade these products.

However, there are now various kinds of ETFs and some have very different characteristics when compared to an ETF tracking the S&P/ASX200. There can be multiple reasons why people invest in one product.

There is no specific period to hold an ETF, rather consider how the product fits into your investment goals. These are shaped by your individual financial situation and risk appetite. Like investing in shares, buying or selling ETFs usually comes with fees, as well as potential capital gains tax implications. Dollar-cost averaging into ETFs remains an attractive investment strategy for many and a simple way to access a diversified portfolio. Looking into the basics of what's in these ETFs and their expense ratios could give an extra degree of comfort ahead of your investment decisions.

Find out which ETFs are the best to buy and hold based on what Stake investors are holding.


This does not constitute financial product advice nor a recommendation to invest in the securities listed. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. As always, do your own research and consider seeking appropriate financial or taxation advice before investing.


Portrait photo of Megan Stals, Market Analyst at Stake.

Megan Stals

Market Analyst

Megan is a markets analyst at Stake, with 7 years of experience in the world of investing and a Master’s degree in Business and Economics from The University of Sydney Business School. Megan has extensive knowledge of the UK markets, working as an analyst at ARCH Emerging Markets - a UK investment advisory platform focused on private equity. Previously she also worked as an analyst at Australian robo advisor Stockspot, where she researched ASX listed equities and helped construct the company's portfolios.


Related


Want more?

You know what to do

Insights, trends and company deep dives delivered straight to your inbox.


Stake logo
Over 7,000 5-star reviews
App Store logoGoogle Play logo

Subscribe to our free newsletters

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy.

Stakeshop Pty Ltd, trading as Stake, ACN 610105505, is an authorised representative (Authorised Representative No. 1241398) of Sanlam Private Wealth Pty Ltd (Australian Financial Services Licence No. 337927) ('Sanlam') and an authorised representative (Authorised Representative No. 1241398) of Airwallex Pty Ltd (Australian Financial Services Licence No. 487221) ('Airwallex'). Stake is not authorised by Airwallex under Airwallex’s AFSL to arrange for clients to be issued with securities as Airwallex is not authorised under its AFSL for this purpose. Stake is not authorised by Sanlam under Sanlam’s AFSL to arrange for clients to be issued with a non-cash payment facility as Sanlam is not authorised under its AFSL for this purpose. Stake SMSF Pty Ltd (‘Stake Super’) is not licensed to provide financial product advice under the Corporations Act. This specifically applies to any financial products which are established if you instruct Stake Super to set up a self managed super fund (‘SMSF’). When you sign up to Stake Super, you are contracting with Stake SMSF Pty Ltd who will assist in the establishment of a SMSF under a ‘no advice model’. You will also be referred to Stakeshop Pty Ltd to enable your trading account and bank account to be set up in order to use the Stake Website and/or App. Stakeshop Pty Ltd will also run marketing and promotions to you under. For more information about SMSFs, see our SMSF Risks page.The information on our website or our mobile application is not intended to be an inducement, offer or solicitation to anyone in any jurisdiction in which Stake is not regulated or able to market its services. At Stake and Stake Super, we’re focused on giving you a better investing experience but we don’t take into account your personal objectives, circumstances or financial needs. Any advice given by Stake is of a general nature only. As investments carry risk, before making any investment decision, please consider if it’s right for you and seek appropriate taxation and legal advice. Please view our Financial Services GuideTerms & ConditionsPrivacy Policy and Disclaimers  before deciding to invest on or use Stake or Stake Super. By using our website or service in any way, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions. All financial products involve risk and you should ensure you understand the risks involved as certain financial products may not be suitable to everyone. Past performance of any product described on this website is not a reliable indication of future performance. Stake and Stake Super are registered trademarks in Australia.

Copyright © 2024 Stake. All rights reserved.