There may not yet be a bitcoin ETF available to investors, but the influence of cryptocurrencies was all over the list of August's top performing ETFs. The S&P 500 as a whole was up for the 7th straight month, gaining 2.9%, but it was tech again that helped lead the way. The Nasdaq Composite was up 4%, propelled by gains in cybersecurity. cloud computing and fintech. August finished with a strong rally thanks to the Fed's investor-approved message regarding gentle tapering and zero interest rates, but the month as a whole belonged to more defensive sectors. Utilities and real estate were the top two performers gaining roughly 5%, respectively.

Small-caps trailed again with the Russell 2000 adding just 2%. Long-term Treasuries were relatively unchanged. Gold continued its comeback during the 2nd half of the month, but also finished the entire month little changed. The overall theme of August might that investors were positioned cautiously ahead of the Jackson Hole meeting worried that the Fed might deliver a hawkish surprise. It didn't and traders pivoted back into riskier assets as a result.

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China finally managed to stop the bleeding and ended up down less than 1% in August. It's a victory of sorts considering that Chinese equities are still more than 25% off of their 2021 highs. Certain sector funds have done even worse. The KraneShares CSI China Internet ETF (KWEB), for example, is still down nearly 50% (although it did gain 1% in August). As you'll see shortly, several individual countries, particularly those in Asia, performed quite well last month.

Here's the list of the top performing ETFs for the month of August 2021.

Top Performing ETFs for August 2021

Top Performing ETFs for August 2021

The biggest sector winner for August has to be the blockchain & crypto space. The Viridi Cleaner Energy Crypto Mining & Semiconductor ETF (RIGZ) was the top performer and talk about debuting at the right time! RIGZ launched on July 20th and during its brief 7-month life has gained more than 50%. Crypto, of course, has enjoyed a strong run lately as bitcoin has pushed back above the $50,000 level. ETFs heavily exposed to the crypto industry also posted double digit gains. The Bitwise Crypto Industry Innovators (BITQ), which invests in companies that generate the majority of their revenues from crypto business activities, gained more than 13%.

Blockchain ETFs are also well-represented in the top 30 list. The Global X Blockchain ETF (BKCH), ironically another fund that debuted just over a month ago, was the best of the bunch gaining 18%. Other similar ETFs, including the VanEck Vectors Digital Transformation ETF (DAPP) and the Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (BLOK), which has been a regular on the top performer list, both returned more than 10%.

Next-gen tech ETFs targeting cybersecurity, fintech, AI and 5G development were all over the bigger winner list. The Global X Fintech ETF (FINX), the TrueShares Tech, AI and Deep Learning ETF (LRNZ), the Global X Cybersecurity ETF (BUG), the Esoterica NextG Economy ETF (WUGI) and the WisdomTree Cybersecurity ETF (WCBR) also gained at least 8%. The catalysts were pretty easy to identify. TMobile's data breach (as is the case with just about any major data breach) spiked the shares of cybersecurity companies, while the big infrastructure bill provided support for 5G-related businesses.

Other ETFs worth noting:

The Breakwave Dry Bulk Shipping ETF (BDRY) was among the top performers yet again this year. That's not surprising for a fund that is up around 270% year-to-date, but it's worth wondering if the ride is finally about to be over. Shipping costs have soared, which has helped these companies' bottom line, but ongoing supply chain issues, COVID-related shutdowns and long delays in delivery times, could result in a reversal. BDRY is currently 8% off of its highs.

Argentina has had its share of financial, political and COVID issues, but investors scooped up shares in August. The Global X MSCI Argentina ETF (ARGT) and the iShares MSCI Argentina & Global Exposure ETF (AGT) gained 17% and 16%, respectively. The market has approved of COVID recovery plays recently. After remaining virtually unchanged for most of the year, the country has now gained around 20% year-to-date.

China equities have recovered in recent weeks, but it's been relatively narrow leadership that's helped stop the bleeding. A trio of China sector ETF from Global X - the Global X MSCI China Energy ETF (CHIE), the Global X MSCI China Utilities ETF (CHIU) and the Global X MSCI China Materials ETF (CHIM) - all led the way as investors place bets on the economy's uncertain recovery.

Other country ETFs performing well: the iShares India 50 ETF (INDY), the Global X MSCI Colombia ETF (GXG), the Invesco India ETF (PIN), the Nifty India Financials ETF (INDF), the iShares MSCI Thailand ETF (THD), the iShares MSCI India ETF (INDA) and the iShares MSCI Colombia ETF (ICOL).

Finally, the Roundhill Sports Betting & iGaming ETF (BETZ) has been one of the industry's more fun success stories. The company's lineup includes funds targeting esports, streaming, pro sports and even the metaverse, has gone from ground floor to more than $600 million in assets, led by BETZ, which gained 14% last month.

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