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 - Get Report) 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 - Get Report), 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.