Amid plenty of challenges, the third quarter was still a decent one for U.S. stocks. The S&P 500 gained about 4.7% while the S&P 500 Equal-Weight Index was even better with a gain of 6.2%. Those are not bad numbers, but some ETFs that are considered “market-based” funds trounced the benchmark U.S. index in the third quarter. For some, last quarter’s performances kept with trends that have been ongoing since the start of the year.

The out-performance of traditional benchmarks by market-based in the third quarter was particularly pronounced in the small-cap arena. The iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWM) gained an impressive 8.2%, but that paled in comparison to the returns offered by more focused rival ETFs. [Small-Caps ETFs Power Stocks to Record Highs]

In the second quarter “Small Caps effectively doubled the return of their Large Cap counterparts, showing that this performance trend is quite healthy. This quarter we did see that relationship hit a new all-time extreme as Small Caps continue to exploit the market environment and attract new investments at a faster rate than large caps,” according to Dorsey Wright & Associates.

Among the small-cap ETFs that outpaced IWM last quarter was the PowerShares DWA SmallCap Momentum Portfolio (NYSEArca: DWAS), which gained 13.3% last quarter.