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The Top ETFs for a Harried October

Our list of the 20 most popular ETFs for the month reveal investor attraction to international and leveraged funds in October.

For more coverage from Ratings team, check out Ratings section.

In the world of exchange-traded funds, October 2008 could be described as "Stock Market X-Games Month." It seems investors didn't get enough action with ETFs that merely track the market indices during the historically

volatile month

. Many of them apparently opted to ride the waves with leveraged funds, some of which advanced several positions in Ratings monthly compilation of the 20 most popular ETFs.

In addition, a trio of internationally focused ETFs enjoyed jumps in average daily dollar volume sufficient to propel them onto the list of October's top 20 ETFs, as ranked by average daily dollar volume of trading.

Daily turnover in the leveraged and "inverse"

ProShares Ultra Short S&P 500

(SDS) - Get ProShares UltraShort S&P500 Report

averaged $4.8 billion in October, nearly double September's $2.5 billion. That increase in volume pushed the fund up four positions to fourth place in the top 20.

Taking the opposite side of the market as SDS, the leveraged

ProShares Ultra S&P 500

(SSP) - Get E.W. Scripps Company (The) Report

advanced six spots to 10th place as its average daily volume rose to $3.1 billion, up from its September pace of $1.3 billion.

Speculators looking for even livelier action are advised that Direxion Funds just announced the addition of eight new "triple leveraged" ETFs. Four of the offerings will track popular market indices but will fluctuate at three times the amplitude. The other four are "3X inverse" ETFs linked to the same benchmarks but moving in the opposite directions.

Four ETFs not on the September roster climbed aboard the ETF top 20 list in October. The foreign-focused

iShares MSCI Brazil

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TheStreet Recommends

(EWZ) - Get iShares MSCI Brazil ETF Report

jumped seven spots to 19th place; the internationally broad-based


(EFA) - Get iShares MSCI EAFE ETF Report

moved up six positions to 17th on the list; and the

iShares FTSE/Xinua China 25

(FXI) - Get iShares China Large-Cap ETF Report

advanced from 22nd most popular ETF in September to 18th place in October.

September favorites that dropped off the October list include the

ProShares Ultra Short Real Estate

(SRS) - Get ProShares UltraShort Real Estate Report

, which tumbled from 20th in September to 30th place in October. As the price of crude oil tumbled, the

United States Oil Fund

(USO) - Get United States Oil Fund LP Report

skidded from 15th most popular ETF to 26th place. The

ProShares Ultra Short Oil & Gas

(DUG) - Get ProShares UltraShort Oil & Gas Report

, which moved opposite an index of energy stocks such as


(CVX) - Get Chevron Corporation Report


Anadarko Petroleum

(APC) - Get Anadarko Petroleum Corporation Report



(SLB) - Get Schlumberger N.V. Report

, fell from 19th most widely traded ETF in September to 23rd place in October.

And as shoppers began to take the recession seriously,


(RTH) - Get VanEck Retail ETF Report

became less popular, falling from 18th place in September to the 25th position in October.



(SPY) - Get SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust Report

easily retained title of most popular ETF. It changed hands in October at a daily average pace of $53.4 billion. Its top holdings include blue chips

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Exxon Mobil Corporation Report


General Electric

(GE) - Get General Electric Company Report



(T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report



(MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report


SPY tumbled 16.52% in October and now carries a year-to-date loss of 32.74%.

The second most popular ETF in September and October was the

PowerShares QQQ


, whose top holdings, in addition to Mircrosoft, include


(AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report



(QCOM) - Get QUALCOMM Incorporated Report



(GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Report


For the previous month's list of the 20 most popular ETFs, check out

Investors Swarm 'Short,' Leveraged ETFs


Richard Widows is a senior financial analyst for Ratings. Prior to joining, 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.