With the holiday season upon us, it is important to recognize those people trying to make this world a better place. In honor of that goal, today's article continues my annual holiday tradition of reviewing the best- and worst-performing socially, religiously and environmentally friendly funds.
The best performer for the five trading days ending Dec. 20 is
Powershares WilderHill Clean Energy Portfolio
. The exchange-traded fund added another 3.13% this week to an already phenomenal year.
Nearly half the fund is invested in alternative energy sources. The largest holdings include
Suntech Power Holdings
Some of the biggest contributors to the fund's performance this week were two ethanol producing companies. As President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 into law, these companies' stock prices rebounded from what has been an abysmal year. The bill requires the quadrupling of alternative biofuel usage over the next 15 years. The fund's holdings of
bounced 51.33% and 18.76%, respectively.
The second-best performer this past week was the
First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge US Liquid Series Index Fund
, which rose 1.95%. This fund also benefited from its holdings of Pacific Ethanol and Verenium. Two additional winning positions include
Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings
, rising 26.24%, and China's
Yingli Green Energy
, up 15.14%.
While most of the funds on the best-performing list select stocks based on environmentally friendly criteria, the worst performer list is littered with funds that screen out socially irresponsible equities. The worst performer was the brand-new
DFA CSTG&E International Social Core Equity Portfolio (DFCCX), which lost 4.17% for the week.
Losing slightly less, the
Domini European Social Equity Portfolio (DEUFX) shed 3.68% investing in 25.5% U.K., 14.4% French and 12.3% German stocks. Among its holdings that were hardest hit are Turkish Ihlas Holding, down 12.61% on reports implying that it would be difficult to get a new banking license after its Islamic bank failed, and Poland's gas monopoly, Polskie Gornictwo Naftowe I Gazownictwo SA, which leaked 9.48% of its value after a price hike was rejected.
The third-worst performer, down 3.68% for the period, is the
Valic Social Awareness Fund (VCSOX). This fund excludes companies in the nuclear energy, military weapons, alcohol, tobacco and gambling casino industries. The worst offender in its portfolio is
. The retailer's 8.94% decline could be blamed on global climate change, as bad weather contributes to a weak holiday season already suffering from high gasoline prices eroding discretionary spending.
National Oilwell Varco
, sank 8.25% after announcing the acquisition of
For an explanation of our ratings, click
For an explanation of our ratings, click
A special environmentally friendly "thank you" goes to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who continues to fight the good fight for the reduction of greenhouse gasses. The U.S. Environment Protection Agency rejected California's waiver request to set tougher standards than those in the Clean Air Act.
This temporarily scuttles plans of 12 states hoping to adopt the California standard while Schwarzenegger brings the action back to the federal court that forced the EPA to proceed on the waiver in the first place. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California called EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson "the Grinch who steals California's emission standards."
I used two weeks of my vacation time, earlier this month, to volunteer for what I consider a worthy cause. The holiday season is a great time to reach out and help those in need. Have a safe and joyful holiday.
Kevin Baker became the senior financial analyst for TSC Ratings upon the August 2006 acquisition of Weiss Ratings by TheStreet.com, covering mutual funds. He joined the Weiss Group in 1997 as a banking and brokerage analyst. In 1999, he created the Weiss Group's first ratings to gauge the level of risk in U.S. equities. Baker received a B.S. degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.B.A. with a finance specialization from Nova Southeastern University.