It paid to be in real estate and gold in December, notably via the

PowerShares Active Real Estate Fund

(PSR) - Get Report

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) - Get Report

.

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) - Get Report

.

Others include the

PowerShares Dynamic Leisure & Entertainment Portfolio

(PEJ) - Get Report

, which invests in companies including

McDonald's

(MCD) - Get Report

,

International Game Technology

(IGT) - Get Report

,

Carnival

(CCL) - Get Report

,

Starbucks

(SBUX) - Get Report

and

Walt Disney

(DIS) - Get Report

.

Add to this a large-cap value fund,

Elements

(BVL)

; an ETF that is bullish on the euro,

Market Vectors Double Long Euro

(URR) - Get Report

; an extended duration government Treasury fund,

Vanguard Extended

(EDV) - Get Report

; 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.

Sam Patel, CFA, is the manager of mutual fund research for the TheStreet.com Ratings.

In keeping with TSC's Investment Policy, employees of TheStreet.com Ratings with access to pre-publication ratings data must pre-clear any potential trade through the legal department, and are prohibited from trading any security that is the subject of an unpublished rating revision until the second business day after the rating is published.

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