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ETF Specialist

ETFs by the Numbers in 2009

The highs, lows, successes, and failures of ETFs in 2009.

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One of the things I love most about the ETF universe is its incredible coverage of global capital markets and the cornucopia of index products that seem to fill nearly every niche. This variety not only provides a tool for nearly every investment thesis but also allows us to take the pulse of nearly every market through the performance and asset flows of ETFs. In the crazy year of 2009, that pulse had plenty of palpitations and even a few arrests. We wanted to take this chance to highlight some of the oddball statistics and interesting patterns that showed up in a year for the record books.

Let's start this review out with the highest-returning non-leveraged ETF of 2009: Market Vectors Coal ETF (KOL), with a whopping 145% return for the year. Didn't see that one coming? It's OK, neither did anyone else. The fund had only $168 million in assets at the end of December 2008 and even experienced small net outflows through the first four months of 2009. Raw industrial materials were the great returners this year after 2008's incredible beating, with some of the other top returns coming from  Market Vectors Steel ETF (SLX) and iPath DJ-UBS Lead Sub-Index ETN (LD). Even among contrarians searching for bargains at the beginning of the year, few were willing to place bets on these extraordinarily risky concentrated funds for fear that we had not yet seen bottom.

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Bradley Kay does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.