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

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