Mimicking President-elect Donald Trump — who has called himself “the king of debt” — risk-loving millennials used exchange-traded funds that employed leverage to juice their returns in the wake of the real-estate mogul’s election victory. That didn’t work out so well for them.
With preferences for gold and volatility, however, they were largely in line with what the consensus called for in the event of a Trump victory— in other words, far off the mark.
“From triple X leveraged products to Vanguard, Millennials have shown they favor the extremes in terms of their growing ETF usage,” said Bloomberg Intelligence ETF Analyst Eric Balchunas. “However, when it comes to calling the Trump rally, they weren’t alone in getting it wrong — every generation thought gold would rally.”
By and large, young Americans betrayed dim expectations of Trump’s economic impact, flooding into a pair of triple-levered ETFs that own gold miners (NUGT, JNUG) and therefore benefit when the safe-haven asset gains in value. They also plunged into the ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures, which tends to benefit from increases in stock market volatility.
The two other ETFs that have attracted the top-five biggest inflows from millennials after Nov. 8, according to TD Ameritrade data, are the iShares Russell 2000 ETF and Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF. That takes the average performance of the five ETFs most favored by millennials since the election to minus 27 percent.
The Direxion Daily Junior Gold Miners Index Bull 3x Shares (JNUG) has been the worst-performing ETF since Nov. 8, notes Balchunas.
Despite their penchant for triple-levered products, millennials do have some redeeming qualities.
“When picking investments, millennials with TD Ameritrade accounts prefer a collection of low-cost Vanguard funds,” notes Balchunas — exactly what you’d expect from investors with long time horizons and decent risk appetite.
But when millennials try to time the market with tactical trades, they turn into adrenaline junkies, choosing triple-levered oil ETFs and other products that have up to 14 times the volatility of the S&P 500 index as their preferred trading vehicles.