The BetaShares Australian Equities Bear Hedge Fund ETF (ASX: BEAR) is an ETF that might be used to partly protect share portfolios or profit in a declining market. Will the BetaShares BEAR ETF save you in a downturn?

About ETFs

ETFs are investment funds that are listed on a securities exchange. They can be ‘managed funds’ or ‘index funds’, or in other words, active or passive.

Typically, ETFs give an investor exposure to many different shares or assets with a single purchase, offering one of the quickest and easiest methods of achieving diversification. The Best ETFs website has a list of Australian ETFs.

How Does The Bear ETF Work?

The Bear ETF seeks to generate returns that are negatively correlated to the Australian share market, in particular, the S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index, which is the S&P/ASX 200 Index (INDEXASX: XJO) with dividends reinvested.

In other words, when the market goes down, the fund should go up. The current portfolio exposure is -101.7%, meaning if the market falls 1% the fund should appreciate roughly 1.01%.

This is achieved by selling equity index futures contracts. While this fund may help your portfolio performance in a downturn, there are a few key risks to be aware of.

Fees And Risks

The Bear ETF is actively managed, so fees are higher than a typical index ETF. Current management costs are 1.38% which is a significant fee compared to most other ETFs.

In a bull market, this ETF will weigh on your portfolio’s performance because of the negative correlation and the fees. In a downturn, it could boost your returns, but the fees will eat away at some of that return.

My main concern with this ETF is that it uses futures and derivatives which are complex instruments not typically recommended to retail investors. While the ETF structure provides protection from some of the downsides such as margin calls, I would be cautious with this ETF unless you fully understand how it works and what the risks are.

As far as strategies go, I wouldn’t use this ETF to seek positive returns in a falling market. I would rather invest in high-quality companies with sustainable competitive advantages.

While the BEAR ETF may provide value as a hedging strategy, I think the average investor would be better off holding a diversified portfolio of great businesses, as well as some bonds and cash.

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Disclaimer: Any information contained in this article is limited to general financial/investment advice only. The information has not taken into account your specific needs, goals or objectives, so please consider consulting a licenced and trusted adviser before acting on the information. Please read The Rask Group’s Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information. This article is authorised by Owen Raszkiewicz of The Rask Group, which is a corporate authorised representative No. 1264179 of Strawman Pty Ltd (ACN: 610 908 211) (AFSL: 501 223).

Disclosure: At the time of writing, Max does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned.