It paid to be in real estate and gold in December, notably via the PowerShares Active Real Estate Fund (PSR) and PowerShares Global Gold and Precious Metals Portfolio (PSAU). You also would have made money shorting oil using the PowerShares DB Crude Oil Double Short ETN (DTO).
But what made last month different was the various fund types that generated returns. (See the table at the end of this story.) There were country-focused funds such as the Nets S&P/ASX 200 Index Fund (AUS) and the Claymore China Small Cap ETF (HAO).
Others include the PowerShares Dynamic Leisure & Entertainment Portfolio (PEJ), which invests in companies including McDonald's (MCD), International Game Technology (IGT), Carnival (CCL), Starbucks (SBUX) and Walt Disney (DIS).
Add to this a large-cap value fund, Elements (BVL); an ETF that is bullish on the euro, Market Vectors Double Long Euro (URR); an extended duration government Treasury fund, Vanguard Extended (EDV); and a balanced fund TDX Independence (TDN), and you have one of the more diverse lists of top performers I have seen in a while.Such an eclectic group of funds signifies volatility across the board and suggests a lack of a sustainable trend. Investors unwilling and unable to take substantial risk should not play this market. They would be better served to wait until mid-2009 before making an assessment of whether to invest. Note that at some point, after all the bad news keeps coming, an appetite for risk will return to those who have capital left, and we may see a gradual movement of investment dollars back into the markets. But for now, there are too many problems, not the least of which is that the full effect of the crisis has not yet been felt in overseas economies.