The year began with a free-falling market, but once we hit March, the markets made a fast about-face. Commodities and emerging markets lead the markets in the 2009, and it’s no surprise that their related exchange traded funds (ETFs) experienced some of the most gains. Which ETFs made the 2009 leaderboard?

It should be noted that the funds listed are some of the top long-only ETFs, since one can’t really judge leveraged funds by their long-term performance.

Coal. A poor economy, very low natural gas prices and lower export demand have all contributed to the diminished total demand for coal. [Coal at a crossroads.] Nevertheless, coal equities have done quite well for the year, with coal companies doubling or tripling off spring lows. The industry is currently trying to salvage revenue by drastically cutting production and an optimistic forecast puts the resolution of the glut by mid-2010. [More on coal.]

  • Market Vectors Coal (NYSEArca: KOL): up 142.6% year-to-date

  • PowerShares Global Coal (NYSEArca: PKOL): up 133.6% year-to-date

Russia. Russia has been making gains off the rise in oil prices. Direct investment is up and the economy saw decent growth in the fourth quarter. [Why Russian may extend gains into 2010.] The S&P Ratings firm might even upgrade Russia’s sovereign debt rating if the government demonstrates a greater commitment to economic reforms that could stimulate investment inflows. [More on Russia.]

  • Market Vectors Russia (NYSEArca: RSX): up 138.6% year-to-date

Copper. Copper prices rallied to a 14-month high, thanks to a weakening dollar and economic expansion in both emerging and developed markets. [Will copper ETN be a hit?] The price of copper is on pace to have its biggest annual gain since 1978. However, some worry that the supply has outstripped demand for copper in the markets. [More on copper.]

  • iPath Dow Jones AIG Copper TR Sub-Index ETN (NYSEArca: JJC): up 133.8% year-to-date

Brazil. Retail sales have been sustained by the population’s improved spending power fostered by economic stability and steady growth over the past six years. [How Brazilian leaders are stoking growth.] Brazil looks attractive when one considers aspects of the country such as a young population, blossoming middle class, stable democratic nation, small reliance on exports and natural resource reserves that could make Brazil self-sufficient. [More on Brazil.]

  • Shares MSCI Brazil Index (NYSEArca: EWZ): up 113.3% year-to-date

Steel. Steel benefited from improved industrial demand in 2009. In 2010, as big industries continue to build up and auto sales climb, steel could be in even more demand than before. Analysts are predicting that steel prices could rise by as much as 30% next year. [Coal and steel ready for 2010.]

  • Market Vectors Steel (NYSEArca: SLX): up 109.6% year-to-date


Latin America. Latin America’s growing economy has been overshadowed by that of Brazil. The region has plenty to offer besides. Latin America boasts resource-rich economies: Peru has copper, zinc and silver; Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper; and Colombia exports coal, oil and coffee. [Latin America ETF Opportunities.]

  • SPDR S&P Emerging Latin America (NYSEArca: GML): up 104.1% year-to-date

Turkey. The World Bank Group stated that Turkey’s economy will be the first amongst Eastern European economies to emerge out of the global crisis. [Turkey’s tenuous recovery.] Fitch Ratings upgraded Turkey’s sovereign debt to BB+, the highest speculative-grade rating. [Why Turkey’s ETF is ahead.] The Ratings firm also noted that Turkey’s “credit fundamentals and debt tolerance are stronger than previously thought.” [More on Turkey.]

  • iShares MSCI Turkey Invest Mkt Index (NYSEArca: TUR): up 99.8% year-to-date


Indonesia. Although it wasn’t around all year, this fund has been a standout. Indonesia boasts a young population and a growing workforce in the next decade. GDP per-capita growth in recent years has been strong. The country is also the world’s largest exporter of palm oil and should profit when the demand for the oil from India and China doubles as projected by 2014. [Why Indonesia ETF is an emerging market leader.]

  • Market Vectors Indonesia ETF (NYSEArca: IDX): up 164.7% since inception

Max Chen contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.