Exchange-traded funds tracking financial stocks were among the worst performers this week as uncertainty abounded regarding impending first-quarter writedowns at the sector's biggest names.
At the end of the week, Ultra Financials ProShares (UYG) had tanked 11.1%. The Financial Select SPDR (XLF), Vanguard Financials (VFH) and iShares Dow Jones U.S. Financial Sector (IYF) lost 6.1% or more.
The week saw Oppenheimer predicting that Citigroup (C - Get Report), Merrill Lynch (MER) and UBS (UBS) will probably write off another large batch of soured assets and post losses for the first quarter. Further, speculation resurfaced that Lehman Brothers (LEH) is suffering from liquidity troubles -- a suggestion the firm has fought back against.
ETFs tracking retail shares also lost ground as J.C. Penney (JCP - Get Report) ended the week by slashing its first-quarter earnings forecast, blaming soft consumer spending. Another blow came earlier this week when the Conference Board released dismal consumer-confidence numbers.Over the past five sessions, Retail HOLDRs (RTH) lost 2.7%, SPDR S&P Retail (XRT) shed 4.6% and PowerShares Dynamic Retail (PMR) surrendered 3%. Bundled securities tracking energy and gold were among the week's few winners, however, as investors bulked up on crude and gold futures amid a weakening U.S. dollar. Oil Services HOLDRs (OIH) was one of the best performers, spiking 5.9% for the week. Ultra Oil & Gas ProShares (DIG) added 2.6%, United States Oil (USO) rose 3.5%, and Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) tacked on 3.8%. As for gold-related ETFs, since Monday the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX), PowerShares DB Gold (DGL), iShares COMEX Gold Trust (IAU) and streetTRACKS Gold Shares (GLD) all climbed 2% or more.