ETF Trends
ETF Trends

We’re just a few weeks into a new year, and it’s gotten off to a decent start. Along with a new year comes new investment trends, and for the next 11 months, you’ll want to have these exchange traded funds (ETFs) on your radar.

These are asset classes and sectors that have been showing signs of life. If the economic recovery continues, these areas could continue to do well.


If you haven’t noticed already, the price of goods is rising. Commodities are a great way to hedge rising prices. They tend to benefit on the diminished strength of the U.S. dollar – since commodities are denominated in dollars, a depreciation in the dollar usually means that foreign investors may buy more commodities.

Here’s how crazy food prices are getting: an index of 55 food commodities tracked by the Food and Agriculture Organization gained for a sixth month to a record in December, surpassing the previous all-time high reached in June 2008.

Record fuel prices, weather- related crop problems, increasing demand from the growing Indian and Chinese middle classes, and the push to grow corn for ethanol fuel all contributed to the crisis in 2008. Those issues continue to impact food prices today.

The United Nations has sounded the alarm, too: the world will face a food price shock, and agricultural commodity prices are likely to rise further. There is nothing indicating this is the peak, and prices should stage their rise well into the new year. Agricultural products such as wheat, corn, vegetable oil, dairy products, sugar and meat are all at risk.

  • PowerShares DB Agriculture (NYSEArca: DBA): Tracks a basket of futures that includes corn, soybeans, sugar, cattle, cocoa, coffee, cotton lean hogs and wheat.
  • Market Vectors Agribusiness (NYSEArca: MOO): Tracks an index of global agricultural commodity producers.


Energy prices are something everyone can relate to. Fuel touches nearly every corner of our lives, from the cars we drive to the plastic bottles from which we drink our water. That demand has been threatening to push prices sharply higher.

There are two common questions regarding the price of oil: “Why is the price so high?” and “Why is the price so low?” Generally, supply and demand dictates the answer to those questions.

Many investment banks and commodity analysts have a bullish outlook on oil prices for 2011 as a result of the U.S. economic recovery, loose monetary policy and strong demand from the emerging markets. If oil continues to get more expensive, you can play those high prices with these funds:

  • Futures. PowerShares DB Oil (NYSEArca: DBO), United States Oil (NYSEArca: USO) and United States 12-Month Oil Fund (NYSEArca: USL) all track a basket of futures contracts. Before you dive in, though, be sure to understand contango, how it could affect these funds and how their various strategies mitigate it.
  • Equities. If you’d rather not deal with the complexities of futures-based funds, try equity funds that track oil producers, such as iShares Dow Jones U.S. Oil Equipment & Services Index Fund (NYAR: IEZ), PowerShares Dynamic Oil Services (NYSEArca: PXJ) and SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Equipment & Services (NYSEArca: XES).
  • Leverage. For the more intrepid of you, there are leveraged and inverse oil funds, such as ProShares Ultra Oil & Gas (NYSEArca: DIG), Direxion Energy Bull 3x Shares (NYSEArca: ERX) and ProSharesUltraShort SJ-UBS Crude Oil (NYSEArca: SCO).

Precious Metals

Growing on safe-haven demand, precious metals have been attracting more conservative investors, despite a short-term pullback. Gold prices have also been gaining as governments maintain low rates to aid their economies. An influx of cash that has gone toward supporting flagging economies could eventually lead to inflation, and investors are positioning themselves early with precious metals. Investment demand, whether it’s just because, the need for a safe-haven or diversification, is strong and getting stronger.

Owning physical metals is easier than ever, thanks to ETFs. All you have to do is call your brokerage to buy the fund; storage and security are handled for you.

This space is expected to grow in the coming months and years. For now, the physically-backed options you have include:

  • ETFS Silver Trust (NYSEArca: SIVR) and iShares Silver Trust (NYSEArca: SLV)
  • SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD), iShares COMEX Gold Trust (NYSEArca: IAU) and ETFS Physical Swiss Gold Shares (NYSEArca: SGOL)

Short-Term Bonds

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