The more recent "hits" of investment fashion -- water and "Chindia" -- are mixed with some "misses" of the past year in the latest crop of 36 exchange-traded funds to receive grades from TheStreet.com Ratings.
Mixed in with the new class of rated ETFs in the accompanying table are some that achieved success by betting against the beleaguered U.S. dollar and others that have been capitalizing on the flight to safety for which many wounded investors have been opting.
Water, described as "the next oil" by many investors, helped the
Claymore S&P Global Water ETF
achieve a nine-digit asset value in little more than a year. But CGW's anemic total return of barely more than a single percentage point over the past year, coupled with a fractional slide in 2008 through the end of May, is surpassed by the
First Trust ISE Water Index Fund
. The latter has rewarded its holders with a total return of 13.55% for the past year and 6.20% for 2008's first five months.
Another ETF hit from First Trust is in the fashionable "Chindia" genre -- portfolios combining investments from populous China and India -- the
First Trust ISE Chindia Index Fund
. Although up by 14.79% over the past 12 months, it is off by almost a similar percentage for the first five months of this year.
Investors can bet against the U.S. dollar with the
iPath EUR Exchange Rate ETN
iPath GBP/USD Exchange Rate ETN
iPath JPY/USD Exchange Rate ETN
All three are ahead for the past 12 months and the year to date, with the euro and the yen ETNs enjoying gains in the double digits over that period. (ETNs are similar in structure to ETFs, but they base their values on notes rather than equities or bonds.)
For investors wishing to avoid the nervous stock market, the SPDR series of ETFs has a number of fixed-income entries that are now graded by TheStreet.com Ratings. They range from the shortest term Treasuries, the
SPDR Lehman 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF
, to the extended maturity
SPRD Lehman Long Term Treasury ETF
. Investors opting for safety with these have been rewarded with positive returns over the past year, with the inflation-protected
SPRD Barclays Capital TIPS ETF
up 12.86% for the period.
In the lowest possible "E" range of grades are five real estate ETFs from iShares kept company by the
First Trust S&P REIT Index Fund
. All six have suffered double-digit setbacks in the last year, with the subprime mortgage crunch helping to drive down the
iShares FTSE NAREIT Mortgage REIT
, which has crumbled 44.19% over the past 12 months.
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.