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TheStreet Open House

Energy ETFs Gain Ground on Nuclear

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In the aftermath of Japan's devastating earthquake, investors, market commentators and analysts have begun to debate and discuss which industries will come out winners and which will become losers in the days, weeks, and months ahead. When it comes to energy, there are a number of sectors to keep a close watch on.

Using ETFs investors can keep a watch on sections of the energy spectrum that appear primed for stability or even strength.

Nuclear energy has become one of the most closely watched components of the energy spectrum as workers work diligently to defend against nuclear mishaps. Although we have seen some signs that progress has been made, many international leaders have begun to question the general safety and long term outlook for this sector.

In Europe, some nations have already taken steps to pare back their exposure to nuclear energy. At the start of the week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered the shutting of seven nuclear reactors in the nation. Meanwhile, in Switzerland the approval process for three new plants has been suspended.

Given the raised alarm surrounding this industry, I would advise conservative investors against jumping into nuclear-related ETFs. Alternative energy industries tend to be inherently volatile, but this has been magnified in response to the Japanese devastation. ETFs such as the Global X Uranium ETF (URA) and the Market Vectors Nuclear Energy + Uranium ETF (NLR) have taken a nosedive at the start of the week. On Monday alone, the two funds tumbled 17% and 12% respectively.

With sentiment souring towards nuclear energy, other aspects of the energy spectrum will be relied upon to power the Japanese recovery effort. Coal, natural gas, and solar energy, in particular, could prove to be major beneficiaries. Investors may want to consider keeping ETFs aimed at these three industries on their radars when looking at a short and mid-term timeframe.

Investors can access coal through the Market Vectors Coal ETF (KOL). This fund is designed to capture the performance of a diversified basket of coal-related equities.

Although coal producers command the largest percentage of the fund's index, KOL's goes beyond this facet of the industry, providing investors with exposure to companies involved in supplying equipment, power generation, and coal transportation. The fund's index is commanded by firms including Consol Energy (CNX), China Shenhua Energy, Peabody (BTU) and Joy Global (JOYG).

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