Exchange traded funds focused on equities have had a decent run in 2012 despite uncertainty over the strength of the economic recovery, Europe’s debt crisis and the U.S. fiscal cliff. Assets in ETFs have grown over the past 10 months of the year, with sector such as biotech, technology and volatility-focused plays leading the way.

“While US equities may be somewhat expensive, they surely offer tremendous value compared to the main alternative. The 10-year Treasury note currently yields a pitiful 1.69%. The last time long-term government bonds were this expensive was in the mid-1940s, just as a highly-indebted Federal government embarked upon the long process of inflating away its obligations,” Dominic Picarda wrote for Financial Times. [5 Things That Drive Biotech ETFs]

Even as investors pulled out around $3.77 billion from U.S. equities the past week, the 22.8% addition of assets in domestic equities remains solid. There are currently about 1,400 ETFs trading. Minyanville reports that the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short Term ETN (NYSEArca: XIV) has gained 113.36% year-to-date. This ETN has an expense ratio of 1.35% and a net asset value of $285.52 million. Its current market cap is $285.27 million. This note has provided returns that far outweigh trading the related indices. [ETF Chart of the Day: VIX]

When looking at the best-performing ETFs of the year, it’s important to note that some of the funds on the list are leveraged and inverse portfolios. These products in general are designed as trading vehicles, rather than buy-and hold investments.

ProShares Short VIX Short Term Futures ETF (NYSEArca: SVXY) has gained 111.42% year-to-date. Michael Johnston of reports that the sharp gains registered by the top two ETFs can be attributed in part to the decline in stock market volatility (the “fear index”) and “to the steep and consistent contango in VIX futures markets — the phenomenon whereby futures contracts are upwards sloping, with those expiring in the future being considerably more expensive than the spot VIX.”