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United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) - Get United States Natural Gas Fund Report 7.8%

The futures-based UNG managed to score gains nearly every day this week, regaining a good portion of the previous week's losses. The fuel's strength stems from both a cold forecast and a strong report from the Energy Information Administration.

Fellow natural gas futures-tracking

iPath Dow Jones UBS Natural Gas Total Return Subindex ETN


did not fare as well, however. During the past week the fund took a nosedive, losing 7%. The heavy loss from this fund highlights the dangers of playing with a product so heavily influenced by a premium. While it has been pared back considerably from its high of 26%, I continue to urge investors to steer clear of this product.

iShares Silver Trust (SLV) - Get iShares Silver Trust Report 4.8%

Industry-linked precious metals had a good week, leading SLV and ETFS

Physical Palladium Shares

(PALL) - Get abrdn Physical Palladium Shares ETF Report

to strong returns. Although investors were reminded of the debt issues facing the European Union, they were also shown signs that the U.S. economy remains well on the road to recovery. This week's Philly Fed survey on manufacturing data came in at 22.5 for November, handedly beating last month's 1.0.

Both SLV and PALL still have ground to cover before revisiting previous November highs. It will be interesting to see if they can tread higher during the shortened week ahead.

iShares MSCI Israel Capped Investable Market Index Fund (EIS) - Get iShares MSCI Israel ETF Report 3.3%

With Europe's debt issues taking center stage and the Chinese government taking steps to rein in inflation, many regions of the globe saw shaky performance throughout the week.

Two international ETFs which proved particularly strong, however, were EIS and

iShares MSCI Japan Index Fund

(EWJ) - Get iShares MSCI Japan ETF Report

. Much of the Japanese market's strength over the past week could be attributed to the nation's optimistic GDP numbers.


iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXX) - Get Barclays Bank PLC ZC SP ETN REDEEM 23/01/2048 USD 27.193879 - Ser A ShortTerm Futu Report -7.0%

Despite the slew of economic headwinds facing the market last week, the volatility tracking VXX ETNs managed to end on a low note. VXX managed to undo most of the gains seen throughout the start of November and appears to be on the verge of revisiting previous all-time lows.

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As I've urged in the past, conservative, long-term investors should avoid VXX and the

iPath S&P 500 VIX Mid-Term Futures ETN (VXZ) - Get Barclays Bank PLC ZC SP ETN REDEEM 23/01/2043 USD 16.855272 - Ser B MidTerm Future Report


Guggenheim Solar Energy ETF (TAN) - Get Invesco Solar ETF Report -6.5%

Although it managed to recover some ground during the second half of the week, concerns about the debt situation in Europe were too much for the solar energy industry, as TAN took a heavy shot across the bow.

Macroeconomic headwinds stand in the way for TAN. However, there is still a chance that this fund could see some upward action. At the close of the week, industry representative

Yingli Green Energy


reported strong profits in the third quarter of 2010 and raised guidance.

iShares Dow Jones U.S. Home Construction Index Fund (ITB) - Get iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF Report -4.5%

Pressure could be felt across the real estate industry this week, leading both residential real estate homebuilder funds such as ITB and

SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF

(XHB) - Get SPDR Homebuilders ETF Report

, and REIT-focused

iShares Cohen & Steers Realty Majors Index Fund

(ICF) - Get iShares Cohen & Steers REIT ETF Report


Vanguard REIT ETF

(VNQ) - Get Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund ETF Report


Real estate remains a questionable sector within the broader improving marketplace. Going forward, investors desperate for exposure to this industry would be best off opting for REIT exposure over homebuilders. Aside from being a more solid subsector, funds such as ICF and VNQ offer comforting dividend yields.

At the time of publication, Dion Money Management owned EWJ and ICF.

Don Dion is president and founder of

Dion Money Management

, a fee-based investment advisory firm to affluent individuals, families and nonprofit organizations, where he is responsible for setting investment policy, creating custom portfolios and overseeing the performance of client accounts. Founded in 1996 and based in Williamstown, Mass., Dion Money Management manages assets for clients in 49 states and 11 countries. Dion is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts and Maine and has more than 25 years' experience working in the financial markets, having founded and run two publicly traded companies before establishing Dion Money Management.

Dion also is publisher of the Fidelity Independent Adviser family of newsletters, which provides to a broad range of investors his commentary on the financial markets, with a specific emphasis on mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. With more than 100,000 subscribers in the U.S. and 29 other countries, Fidelity Independent Adviser publishes six monthly newsletters and three weekly newsletters. Its flagship publication, Fidelity Independent Adviser, has been published monthly for 11 years and reaches 40,000 subscribers.