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October was a solid month for equities overall with the S&P 500 gaining 7%. While small-caps and international stocks didn't do quite as well, there were gains to be had across a wide spectrum of risk assets.

Not all of them though.

With the major indexes advancing, the big losers for the month were mostly sector, niche or country focused ETFs. There are a few that stand out. Pot stocks, in particular, were a big loser, not necessarily because of anything that happened or didn't happen during the month, but because that's just what they do. The sector is incredibly volatile and it's not unusual to see this sector land on the top performer or bottom performer list in any given month.

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From an economic standpoint, it's easy to see that countries struggling with high energy prices, high inflation, slowing growth, COVID disruptions or supply chain issues tend to find themselves more likely to land on this list. Equities in general are performing well, but investors are favoring a more conservative positioning within that group. That means developed markets (mostly the U.S.) over emerging markets and large-caps over small-caps. If you don't fall into one of those two favored groups, odds are good that you underperformed.

Here's the list of the worst performing dividend ETFs for October 2021.

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Every one of the ETFs on this list lost more than 5% during October, but none performed as poorly as the Cabot Growth ETF (CBTG), a fund which focuses on research and development, next wave technologies, burgeoning consumer and business trends. Think of it as similar to the ARK ETFs. The disruptive technology theme has been out of favor for most of 2021, so this 1-year fund, unfortunately, debuted at a bad time. The performance of this fund is a little strange because all of the month's losses are concentrated on just one huge volume day (it traded 166,000 shares on a day that it would typically trade a few hundred). I think this is more of an anomaly than anything and wouldn't call it bad stock picking.

The Breakwave Dry Bulk Shipping ETF (BDRY) is next up and it shouldn't be surprising. This wildly volatile fund seems to be on either the top performer or bottom performer list every month. Shipping costs are still elevated but appear to be coming back down finally. Supply chains are (very) slowly starting to loosen up and that could be contributing to the pullback here. Either way, always expect a wild ride with this one.

The biggest loser in terms of sector performance for October is marijuana. The AdvisorShares Pure U.S. Cannabis ETF (MSOS), ETFMG U.S. Alternative Harvest ETF (MJUS), the Cannabis Growth ETF (BUDX), the Amplify Seymour Cannabis ETF (CNBS), the AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETF (YOLO), the Cannabis ETF (THCX), the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ) and the Global X Cannabis ETF (POTX) are all among October's bottom 30. Congratulations to the Cambria Cannabis ETF (TOKE) for being the only major pot-focused ETF to miss the cut!

Brazil (and, by extension, Latin America) is the other big loser. The country is being crippled right now by 10% inflation, zero growth and a central bank that's raising rates at a rapid pace in order to try to stifle soaring prices. It's made progress on COVID, but the energy crisis has simply replaced it as the country's biggest risk factor. The iShares MSCI Brazil ETF (EWZ) is down around 9% for the month and 20% year-to-date. 8 different ETFs targeting either Brazil or Latin America are on this list.

Other ETFs worth noting:

Healthcare and biotech, more specifically, had a rough month. The Loncar China BioPharma ETF (CHNA), the ETFMG Treatments, Testing & Advancements ETF (GERM), the Global X MSCI China Healthcare ETF (CHIH), the Loncar Cancer Immunotherapy ETF (CNCR) and the KraneShares Emerging Markets Healthcare ETF (KMED) all lost 5-10%. Biotech has been a steady underperformer throughout 2021 and October was particularly ugly despite no major economic or political catalyst. Weakness in China thanks to the Evergrande default didn't help.

Speaking of which, the KraneShares Asia Pacific High Yield Bond ETF (KHYB) marks the first time in several months that a bond fund makes it on the list (I think the PIMCO 25+ Year Zero Coupon U.S. Treasury Bond ETF (ZROZ) made it one time). KHYB has a heavy allocation to China junk bonds, specifically in the real estate space, so it's pretty clear what dragged this ETF so far down.

The United States Natural Gas ETF (UNG) was one of the best performers in September, but natural gas prices have come down a fair amount from their recent highs.

The U.S. Global Jets ETF (JETS) has been falling in line with a general consolidation in the leisure & entertainment space. This is exactly the type of sector that underperforms in a period of economic slowing, so we may see this trend grow over time.

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