Investors in exchange-traded funds focusing on Latin America were celebrating like it was still Carnival throughout the month of May.

Five of the top 10 ETF performers for the month were Latin American funds, and another, the


(EEB) - Get Report

, is also significantly invested in the region.

The remaining ETF leaders for the month represent an eclectic mix, including the

HOLDRs B2B Internet Fund


, the

Market Vectors Steel Index

(SLX) - Get Report

ETF, the

PowerShares Golden Dragon Halter USX China Portfolio

(PGJ) - Get Report

and the

PowerShares Dynamic Oil & Gas Services Portfolio

(PXJ) - Get Report


Some investor uneasiness about new investments in oil producers has led some toward tangential approaches to energy investing. The appearance of the PowerShares Dynamic Oil & Gas Services Portfolio on the leaders list would seem a confirmation of that strategy. On the other hand, that the laggards list includes the

United States Oil Fund

(USO) - Get Report

and the

iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return Index ETN

(OIL) - Get Report

would indicate investor caution regarding crude oil investments.

The above-mentioned iPath fund represents an emerging subset of ETFs. It is one of a growing class of investments known as "ETNs" -- for "exchange-traded notes" -- that track unsecured debt securities.

Investments in OIL reflect the returns that are potentially available through unleveraged investments in West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures contracts, plus the Treasury bill rate of interest that could be earned on funds committed to the trading of the underlying contracts.

While Latin America and China populate the leaders list, Europe holds three positions on the ETF laggards list for May. Two European equity funds, the

HOLDRs Europe 2001 Fund


and the

SPDR S&P Emerging Europe


ETF keep company with the

CurrencyShares Swedish Krona Trust

(FXS) - Get Report

on the laggards list.

A gold fund and a quartet of health ETFs round out the May laggards. The ETF leaders and laggards in the table below omit leveraged and "inverse" funds.

The author holds a long-term position in PowerShares Golden Dragon Halter USX China Portfolio.

Richard Widows is a 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.