January's Top 5 ETFs and ETNs | ETF Trends

January was one of the best months for the markets in awhile. So good, in fact, that some of the top-performing exchange traded funds (ETFs) and exchange traded notes (ETNs) at the top of the charts might not be the ones you’d expect.

Spain. Recent stress tests imposed on the Spanish banks apparently assured investors that there are no nasty surprises sitting on balance sheets. Another basis for confidence is the fact that 95% of Spanish banks went through last July’s stress tests, whereas other countries subjected 50% of their banks to such tests. Spain’s banking sector is 41% of the Spain ETF, so its performance and overall health are key to how this ETF weathers the storm. [Spain ETF: Why the Banks Matter.]

  • iShares MSCI Spain (NYSEArca: EWP): up 15.2% in January

Italy. Italy has some of the highest levels of savers in Europe, banks are holding their own and most of its high public debt is from Italian loaners. The largest problems facing Italy are political stagnation, a slow growth economy, a strong euro and a high number of unemployed young people ages 15 to 34. For years now, Italy has been losing its traditional export market and GNP is steadily diminishing. European stocks markets kicked off the first trading day of 2011 on a stronger footing, as optimism over global growth provided a boost for eurozone exporters.

  • Shares MSCI Italy (NYSEArca: EWI): up 12% in January

Vietnam. Vietnam’s 11th National Party Congress met starting last week, and already some reshuffling has taken place, but some wonder if it’s enough to jump-start the struggling economy. One huge issue is that of inflation – it rose by another set of double digits just before the Lunar New Year. That puts more pressure on the government to raise interest rates in order to slow growth. Still, the Vietnam ETF has largely ignored it of late and is above its long-term trend line. If Vietnam’s fiscal and government struggles continue, it could ultimately be painful for this ETF. [Vietnam ETF: Can It Stay In the Black?]

  • Market Vectors Vietnam (NYSEArca: VNM): up 11.8% in January

Cocoa and Sugar. A deluge in Queensland, Australia disrupted the local economy, damaged a host of commodities and curtailed the production of others. A sugar industry group estimates that as much as 18% of last year’s cane harvest and the early plantings for this year’s crop were under water. [Australia Flooding Sinks Some ETFs, Lifts Others.]

  • iPath Dow Jones AIG Cocoa ETN (NYSEArca: NIB): up 11.5% in January
  • iPath Dow Jones UBS Sugar TR sub-Index (NYSEArca: SGG): up 10.6% in January

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.