Other examples of materials and mining ETFs that sank last year but are on the mend this year include the Market Vectors Rare Earth/Strategic Metals ETF (NYSEArca: REMX) and the Global X Uranium ETF (NYSEArca: URA). Those ETFs lost an average of 26% last year, but both are in the green this year. In fact, URA gained almost 4.2% Tuesday on volume that was more than eight times the daily average. [Uranium ETF Looks Hot]

The caveat is that not all of last year’s laggards have morphed into 2014’s winners. Take the example of the Market Vectors Coal ETF (NYSEArca: KOL). KOL lost almost 21% last year and is already off 6.3% to start 2014.

Another point worth noting is that some of 2013’s star performers are burning bright again this year. For example, five of this year’s top-11 ETFs are either biotech or solar funds. At the end of last year, both solar ETFs and four biotech ETFs were found among the top-10 non-leveraged ETFs.

Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF