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How Inflation ETFs Work

Wednesday’s CPI print of 9.1% of inflation year-over-year in June is the highest since 1981 and marks the second month in a row where prices rose faster than forecasters expected.

Stubborn and strong inflation figures have gripped the global economy in the past several months, inevitably drawing attention to a small set of ETFs specifically aiming to profit off runaway prices. The 15 U.S.-listed ETFs with the word “inflation” in their names have brought in a net $356 million in assets in the first half of the year. Those figures exclude TIPS-only funds with inflation in their names but don’t specifically aim to generate returns in an inflationary environment.

Inflation has also emerged as a theme for fund issuers, with five ETFs targeting the phenomenon having been launched since December 2021.

Yet these funds take different approaches toward the same problem, whether they’ve been around for years or launched in the past year and a half in response to inflation’s surge in the U.S. and abroad.

But just one ETF, the Harbor All-Weather Inflation Focus ETF (HGER), has a positive return in the first half of a year dominated by decades-inflation. Let’s look at how these funds have performed in 2022.


TickerFund NameLaunch DateYTD ReturnsAUM1H FlowsAsset Style
FCPIFidelity Stocks for Inflation ETF11/5/2019-13.99%$254.5M$189.66MFollows an equity index.
INFLHorizon Kinetics Inflation Beneficiaries ETF1/11/2021-7.46%$1.3B$592.14MTargets equities that produce inflation-linked commodities.
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Inflation, in theory, can support returns in certain sectors if firms can pass the additional cost of doing business to consumers without much backlash. These ETFs follow that line of thinking by gaining exposure to stocks poised to retain cash flow by selling necessities.

However, fears of a recession have swept every sector other than energy into negative territory in the year. That includes the Fidelity Stocks For Inflation ETF (FCPI), which combines an 11.5% allocation to technology stocks like Apple and Microsoft with 11% allocations to energy and consumer staples stocks, and the Horizon Kinetics Inflation Beneficiaries ETF (INFL), which leans toward energy producers, miners, and financial institutions.

Bonds & Swaps

TickerFund NameLaunch Date1H ReturnsAUM1H FlowsAsset Style
RINFProShares Inflation Expectations ETF1/10/2012-0.02%$49.8M$26.93MHolds 30-Year TIPS and swaps to track the movement of inflation breakevens.
IVOLQuadratic Interest Rate Volatility & Inflation Hedge ETF5/13/2019-4.19%$1.7B-$698.09MHolds exposure to TIPS and options on interest rate swaps.
FLTNRareview Inflation/Deflation ETF1/5/2022-0.03%$8.7M$8.13MHolds TIPs or regular Treasuries based on movement of CPI, and uses interest rate swaps and options on inflation benchmarks.
CPIIIonic Inflation Protection ETF6/28/2022N/A$6M$5.99MA blend of TIPS, swaps & options.
IRVHGlobal X Rate Volatility & Inflation Hedge ETF7/6/2022N/A$2.47MN/AActively holds TIPs and options on yield curve spread options.
JCPIJPMorgan Inflation Managed Bonds ETF4/8/2022*-2.85%$1.06B*N/AActively holds a blend of primarily investment-grade bonds and options. *Fund converted from a mutual fund earlier this year.
AGIHiShares Inflation Hedged U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF6/22/2022N/A$5.07MN/AFollows an index tracking AGG and inflation swaps along the yield curve.
HYGIiShares Inflation Hedged High Yield Bond ETF6/22/2022N/A$2.49MN/AFollows an index tracking HYG and inflation swaps along the yield curve.
LQDIiShares Inflation Hedged Corporate Bond ETF05/05/18-13.47%$97.4M-13.08%Follows an index tracking LQD and inflation swaps along the yield curve.

Performance and flows figures are not listed for funds launched in the last 30 days.

These funds tend to hold a combination of inflation-sensitive TIPS bonds and swaps to either generate returns greater than the inflation rate or provide fixed income payments while hedging against inflation and rate moves.

However, their relative outperformance to the 6% loss in the iShares TIPS Bond ETF (TIP) or the 10.59% drop in the iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) can come at a steep fee. Multiple funds in this list charge more than 1% in fees after waivers due to the cost of buying options or entering swap agreements. RINF’s current waiver expires at the end of September when its expense ratio will jump from 0.30% to a massive 1.7%.

The recently-launched Global X Rate Volatility & Inflation Hedge ETF (IRVH) is the lowest cost at 45 basis points.

The funds could also take on greater portfolio turnover risk as their managers exercise options or rebalance ahead of expiring contracts.

Blended & Commodity Strategies

TickerFund NameLaunch DateYTD ReturnsAUM1H FlowsAsset Style
RAAXVanEck Inflation Allocation ETF4/9/2018-0.4%$154.8M137.02MActive, primarily holds ETPs tracking stocks, commodities and currencies.
PPIAXS Astoria Inflation Sensitive ETF12/30/2021-6.96%$67.6M$76.13MActive, holds a blend of equities and ETFs tracking commodities, short-maturity TIPS and agriculture companies.
IWINAmplify Inflation Fighter ETF2/2/2022-17.37%$14.7M$18.47MActive, holds a blend of equities and ETFs tracking commodities and rate-linked securities.
HGERHarbor All-Weather Inflation ETF2/9/202210.96%$64.52M$63.09MTracks an index of commodities based on open interest on futures contracts, inflation sensitivity and roll yield.

The last category of inflation funds chase inflation-adjusted absolute returns across multiple asset classes, with commodities and commodity-connected equities among the top holdings.

As noted before, HGER is the only inflation-focused ETF with positive returns this year. The fund provides exposure to an index of commodity futures contracts through a Cayman Islands subsidiary that’s largely tilted toward multiple forms of oil and gas.

The VanEck Inflation Allocation ETF (RAAX) only holds other ETFs, with more than half of its assets invested in three funds tracking diversified commodities, gold, and global infrastructure companies. The Amplify Inflation Fighter ETF (IWIN) is the most diverse of holdings among asset classes, holding stocks, ETFs, and direct futures contracts on soybeans, bitcoin, and a 10% allocation to gold futures, the largest in its portfolio.

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