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If an ETF investor believes a) the March surge was the start of a new bull market; and b) the first ones out of the starting gate are likely to lead the pack later on, he or she ought to consider the
iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25
Financial Select Sector SPDR
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets
Those China, financial and emerging-markets ETFs, along with the
, rang up double-digit percentage gains last month to lead the non-leveraged funds on the accompanying tabulation of the 20 most popular ETFs, as measured by daily average dollar volume of trading.
The popularity of leveraged ETFs appears to have waned. Only seven of the top 20 ETFs are leveraged, one fewer than a
. Only five of the geared ETFs are "inverse" funds, down from six "short" ETFs in February.
Moreover, the buoyant stock market seems to have dampened enthusiasm for super-leveraged ETFs. Three Direxion "3x" (tripled leveraged) funds that made the top 20 in February are absent from this month's roster.
As has been the case in recent months, the
SPDR S&P 500 ETF
tops the list of the 20 most popular ETFs. The fund's top holdings include blue chips
Retaining its hold on the second position on the list, the PowerShares QQQ, which gained 10% during the month, was traded at an average daily pace of $5 billion in March.
The fund holds the 100 largest Nasdaq-listed stocks, which, in addition to Microsoft, include
Disclosure: The writer holds long-term positions in QQQQ, FXI and XLF in a retirement account.
Richard Widows is a senior financial analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in California, his career included development of investment information systems at data firms, including the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes assignments in the U.K. and East Asia.