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Alternative Energy, Asia Funds Rebound

While a late rally elevated November from being another disaster to just one more bad memory, a few surprising pockets of strength emerged among exchange- traded funds.

Only 139 of the 801 ETFs tracked by TheStreet.com Ratings rose last month. Most of the gainers were fixed-income and "inverse" ETFs, with some gold funds and a few other specialized commodity offerings included.

But among the more conventional ETFs, some Eastern European, Asian and alternative-energy funds ended the month with advances, as can be seen in the accompanying table. Since all remain down 20% to 70% for the year, it remains to be seen whether the November increases were first steps in recoveries or merely dead-cat bounces.

Alternative energy continued to draw investor attention, as the Elements MLCX Biofuels Total Return (FUE) achieved an 11.15% gain, while the PowerShares Global Wind Energy Portfolio (PWND) moved fractionally higher.

PWND, like many alt-energy plays, is globally diversified, with just 12% of its holdings in the U.S. and much of its remaining investments in Spain, Switzerland, Japan, France, Denmark, Germany and China. Its biggest holdings include Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, ABB (ABB) and Gamesa of Spain.

In Asia, a quartet of China-focused ETFs were joined by a pair of small-cap Japanese funds in bucking the November downtrend. WisdomTree Japan Small Cap Dividend (DFJ) leads the funds in the table for the latest three months -- down only 12.62% -- and for the year to date, where it is off by 20.65%.

Despite heavy investments in energy companies, a pair of Eastern European funds achieved double-digit percentage jumps during the month. The Market Vectors TR Russia ETF (RSX), spurted 16.19%, while the SPDR S&P Emerging Europe ETF (FUR) vaulted 25.44%. Both include energy giants Gazprom and Lukoil among their biggest portfolio holdings. FUR is 60% invested in Russian securities, with other positions in Poland, Turkey, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

SURPRISING ETF REBOUNDS IN NOVEMBER
NAME, TICKER & TheStreet.com RATINGS GRADE
1-MO. TOTAL
RET'N (%)
3-MO. TOTAL RET'N (%)
YR.-TO-DATE TOTAL RET'N (%)
NOV. AVG. DOLLAR VOL. ($MIL.)
TOTAL EXPENSE RATIO (%)
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY
ELEMENTS MLCX Biofuels Tot Ret (FUE) U
11.15
-32.73
N/A
0.02
0.75
PowerShares Global Wind Energy Port (PWND) U
0.96
-52.61
N/A
0.36
0.75
ASIA
iShares FTSE China Index Fd (FCHI) U
4.45
-35.37
N/A
0.27
0.74
iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 (FXI) C
5.68
-36.86
-52.61
1,525.79
0.74
iShares MSCI Japan Sm Cap Idx Fd (SCJ) U
1.90
-16.12
-27.86
1.16
0.59
NETS Hang Seng China Ent Idx Fd (SNO) U
7.98
-36.72
N/A
0.03
0.51
SPDR S&P China ETF (GXC) E-
2.62
-37.00
-54.59
2.81
0.59
WisdomTree Japan Small Cap Div (DFJ) C
3.92
-12.62
-20.65
2.16
0.56
EASTERN EUROPE
Market Vectors TR Russia ETF (RSX) E-
16.19
-59.71
-70.69
34.16
0.69
SPDR S&P Emerging Europe ETF (GUR) E-
25.44
-49.75
-63.90
1.91
0.60
Source: TheStreet.com Ratings - Data as of 11/30/2008
For an explanation of our ratings, click here.

Stock quotes in this article: ABB, FXI 
Richard Widows is a senior financial analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in California, his career included development of investment information systems at data firms, including the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes assignments in the U.K. and East Asia.

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