The top 10 ETFs for the month of February show that the places to be were in precious metals, inverse (short) funds, short-term Treasuries or overseas, especially in Europe.

All those funds, which are listed in the table below, are rated A-plus.

The Elite ETFs
These exchange-traded funds rated A-plus ratings for February
Name Ticker 1 Month Return 3 Month Return 6 Month Return Category
PowerShares DB Gold Fund DGL 5.62 20.72 35.67 Sector - Precious Metals
PowerShares DB Precious Metals Fund DBP 8.42 23.78 39.52 Sector - Precious Metals
ProShares Short Russell 2000 RWM 5.63 18.4 17.6 Growth - Domestic
ProShares Short S&P Small Cap 600 SBB 4.83 15.64 16.35 Growth - Domestic
iShares Lehman 3-7 Year Treasury Bd IEI 1.53 5.65 9.17 Government Bond
PowerShares DB US Dollar Bearish Fd UDN 5.33 5.18 10.17 Equity Income
CurrencyShares Euro Trust FXE 6.03 5.65 13.3 Non-US Equity
CurrencyShares Swiss Franc Trust FXF 7.52 10.48 16.54 Non-US Equity
CurrencyShares Swedish Krona Trust FXS 6.24 5.52 12.9 Non-US Equity
CurrencyShares Australian Dollar Tr FXA 4.12 7.4 15.43 Non-US Equity

Another interesting feature of the list is the number of ETFs from the Powershares stable. Our lists in the past were dominated by iShares ETFs by Barclays Global Advisors.

The iShares Lehman 3-7 Year Treasury fund is the only one in the top 10 from Barclays this time. Although its return in comparison to the other funds is noticeably lower (especially for the one-month period) and it's in a very low risk category, its three- and six-month returns have been competitive.

The Federal Reserve's penchant for lower rates and other credit-crisis-saving measures have inflated demand for these securities with banks borrowing at the lower Fed rates and investing these funds into Treasuries and profiting on the spread.

One gets the feeling, however, that at the current low yields generated by high prices of these securities, walking in at these price levels may not be such a good idea.

Precious metals did very well during the month and over the past six months, however of late there has been a pullback in the prices of these commodities, so the outlook for this sector remains a little uncertain.

This is related to the recent strengthening of the U.S. dollar, to the detriment of the price of gold. This relationship between precious metals and the dollar is likely to remain fluid, depending on what news comes out this year.

The precious-metals funds and the CurrencyShares foreign currency ETFs or the PowerShares DB US Dollar Bearish fund are for those investors who take a negative view of the dollar going forward, despite its recent strengthening.

Inverse funds offer an opportunity for investors who see further stock market weakness. The best inverse funds in February focused on the small-cap arena, with shorts on the S&P Small Cap 600 and the Russell 2000 performing the best.

Outside of the top 10, but also carrying a TSC A-plus rating, are the funds listed in the chart below. These give investors a few more options in the above described categories, and they include one other top performer -- PowerShares DB Agriculture Fund -- although over the last month that fund has not performed as well.

The Best of the Rest
These funds also scored high
Name Ticker 1 Month Return 3 Month Return 6 Month Return Category
ProShares Ult Sht Russell 2000 Val SJH 10.6 30.08 31.44 Equity Income
iShares Lehman Intrm Govt/Crdt Bond GVI 0.24 3.61 5.98 General Bd - Investment Grade
iShares Lehman Govt/Credit Bond GBF 0.17 3.34 5.52 Government Bond
iShares Lehman 10-20 Yr Treasury Bd TLH -0.14 -0.14 6.46 Government Bond
ProShares Ultra Short SmallCap 600 SDD 9 30.11 28.87 Growth - Domestic
iShares Lehman 1-3 Year Credit Bond CSJ 0.43 3.1 4.97 Corporate - Investment Grade
CurrencyShares Japanese Yen Trust FXY 4.45 8.71 10.23 Non-US Equity
PowerShares DB Commodity Idx Track DBC 11.34 23.34 45.98 Equity Income
PowerShares DB Agriculture Fund DBA 1.87 25.67 49.27 Equity Income
ProShares Ultra Short Russell 2000 TWM 10.86 37.21 31 Growth - Domestic

Sam Patel, CFA, is the manager of mutual fund research for the Ratings.

In keeping with TSC's Investment Policy, employees of Ratings with access to pre-publication ratings data must pre-clear any potential trade through the legal department, and are prohibited from trading any security that is the subject of an unpublished rating revision until the second business day after the rating is published.

While Patel cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.