U.S. equities and stock exchange traded funds experienced their roughest start to a new year but ended the month on a lighter note after the Bank of Japan surprised markets with an aggressive policy move.

Year-to-date, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 5.7%, the Nasdaq Composite dropped 6.0% and the S&P 500 retreated 4.9%.

The best performing non-leveraged exchange traded products so far this year include the C-Tracks on Citi Volatility Index ETN (NYSEArca: CVOL) up 45.1%, AccuShares Spot CBOE VIX Up Shares (NasdaqGM: VXUP) up 29.3% and ProShares VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (NYSEArca: VIXY) up 25.4%.

The CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, is a widely observed indicator for investor sentiment in the stock market and measures the expected or implied volatility of large-cap stock options traded on the S&P 500 index. Exchange traded products that track VIX futures allow investors to profit during rising volatility or hedge against short-term turns.

The VIX surged above 30 in January as the market sell-off deepened. However, investors grew calmer toward the end of the month, and the VIX hovered around 20 on the last day. The volatility index has historically traded within the 15 to 20 range.

The worst performing non-leveraged ETPs over the past month include the BioShares Biotechnology Clinical Trials Fund (NasdaqGM: BBC) down 35.5%, iPath Bloomberg Natural Gas Subindex Total Return ETN (NYSEArca: GAZ) down 31.9% and iPath Global Carbon ETN (NYSEArca: GRN) down 31.4%.

The equities market stumbled at the start of the year after a huge sell-off in China, which reflected growing concerns over the emerging economy.

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