It's a quick journey from top to bottom.
The worst-performing exchange-traded funds of 2008 were those that could do no wrong in previous years: Those that invest in financial services, commodities and real estate.
Bottom of the barrel: The absolute worst-performing ETF of 2008 was the ProShares Ultra Financial Fund (UYG). With top holdings that include JPMorgan (JPM - Get Report), Wells Fargo (WFC - Get Report), Bank of America (BAC - Get Report) and Citigroup (C - Get Report), the fund is down 86.9% this year.
One analyst said that train wreck had been a long time in the making. "The excesses of loose credit from the '90s are still being felt today, in part, because of so-called recovery, which began in '03, was fueled by massive borrowing from other net creditor nations," said Stephen Oakes, a senior equity analyst for Oxbury Publishing. "The finance industry cut corners and invested in crafty schemes, such as subprime lending, to produce returns for stakeholders that were unsustainable in the long-run."This macroeconomic trend has now trickled down to individuals. "To stop the bleeding, lending has dried up to such an extreme that even creditworthy applicants find it difficult to locate sources of much needed capital," Oakes said. "And we all know it takes newly created loans and additional monetary tools for businesses to support and expand an economy." Oakes said 2009 will continue to be a struggle for this ETF. "Technically, financials are stuck in a downtrend channel that has been difficult to break," he said. "Unless upper resistance is broken, there will be more pain to come." Real estate on the ropes: A real estate industry that faced unprecedented turmoil in 2008 led the ProShares Ultra Real Estate Fund (URE) lower -- much lower. This ETF turned in a minus 82.6% showing. Its largest holdings include REITs such as Simon Property Group (SPG), Boston Properties (BXP) and AvalonBay Communities (AVB).