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Metal ETFs Open Window to Economic Horizon

Whether you're an economic Pollyanna expecting a recovery this year, or an economic pessimist forecasting a decade lost to rampant inflation, realists will be watching for early signs of a recovery in the prices of industrial metals and betting accordingly.

Of the 13 exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, that track industrial or base metals, seven have posted gains this year. The iPath Dow Jones-AIG Lead Total Return Sub-Index ETN (LD) has jumped 23% this year, taking the top spot. The iPath Dow Jones AIG Copper Total Return Sub Index ETN (JJC) is second, rising 19%.

TheStreet.com Ratings scores five of the 13 funds in the "sell" range of D-plus or lower. Over the 12 months ending Feb. 27, the declines ranged from as low as 51% in ELEMENTS Linked to the Rogers International Commodity Index -- Metals Total Return (RJZ) to as much as 72% in iPath Dow Jones AIG Nickel Total Return Sub Index ETN (JJN).

The remaining eight ETFs, including the top-performing iPath Dow Jones-AIG Lead Total Return Sub-Index ETN, are unrated by our risk-adjusted performance model. To qualify for a rating, an ETF must have at least a one-year history of total return and price volatility. Only then can there be sufficient data to compute "reward" and "risk" grades to reflect a fund's performance and volatility.

As the unrated funds have inception dates in April and June 2008, by mid-July, when we review the June 2009 data, the outlook for these funds should be clearer. Until then, the interim performance shows us that lead, copper and tin funds are outperforming aluminum and nickel funds since the end of 2008.

Worst Rated Exchange Traded Funds
Fund (Ticker) Overall Grade Reward Grade Risk Grade Total Return Year-To-Date Inception
iPath Dow Jones-AIG Lead Total Return Sub-Index ETN (LD) U U U 22.94% 6/24/2008
iPath Dow Jones AIG Copper Total Return Sub Index ETN (JJC) D- D D- 19.07% 10/23/2007
E-TRACS UBS Bloomberg CMCI Industrial Metals ETN (UBM) U U U 6.16% 4/1/2008
ELEMENTS Linked to the Rogers Intl Comdty Index - Metals (RJZ) D- D+ D- 5.37% 10/17/2007
iPath Dow Jones-AIG Tin Total Return Sub-Index ETN (JJT) U U U 5.04% 6/24/2008
PowerShares DB Base Metals Fund (DBB) D- D+ D- 2.10% 1/5/2007
PowerShares DB Base Metals Long ETN (BDG) U U U 1.65% 6/16/2008
PowerShares DB Base Metals Double Long ETN (BDD) U U U -0.37% 6/16/2008
PowerShares DB Base Metals Short ETN (BOS) U U U -2.50% 6/16/2008
iPath Dow Jones-AIG Industrial Metals Total Return Sub-Index ETN (JJM) E D- D- -3.02% 10/23/2007
PowerShares DB Base Metals Double Short ETN (BOM) U U U -4.81% 6/16/2008
iPath Dow Jones-AIG Aluminum Total Return Sub-Index ETN (JJU) U U U -16.21% 6/24/2008
IPATH Dow Jones AIG Nickel Total Return Sub Index ETN (JJN) E D- D- -19.04% 10/23/2007
Source: TheStreet.com Ratings (Data as of most recent monthend).

Kevin Baker became the senior financial analyst for TSC Ratings upon the August 2006 acquisition of Weiss Ratings by TheStreet.com, covering mutual funds. He joined the Weiss Group in 1997 as a banking and brokerage analyst. In 1999, he created the Weiss Group's first ratings to gauge the level of risk in U.S. equities. Baker received a B.S. degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.B.A. with a finance specialization from Nova Southeastern University.

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