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If the stock market is a bellwether for the economy, expect a revival in industrial production, Asia, the "green" movement and financial services.

Those are the messages from March's top-performing exchange traded funds, used by investors as trading tools to bet on entire industries or regions.

Assuming the stock-market turnaround in early March was more than an ephemeral bounce in a continuing bear market, lessons can be gleaned from the makeup of the adjoining list of the 25 best non-leveraged ETF performers for the month.

TheStreet.com Ratings

Lesson 1: Industrial production will pick up. Six metals ETFs are among the best performers, suggesting companies are ramping up manufacturing. Because basic metals are usually several levels below final product consumption, the strength of this sector indicates confidence in a broad recovery for manufacturing. However, one of the metals plays is ELEMENTS MLCX Gold ( GOE), with the interest in gold reflecting concern about inflation.

With 24% of its portfolio in metals and mining, PowerShares FTSE RAFI Basic Materials Sector Portfolio ( PRFM) was included with the metals. Its primary holdings of chemicals also play a crucial raw-material role in basic industry.

Lesson 2: The Asia-Pacific region could lead the worldwide recovery. The top-performing non-leveraged ETF in March -- iShares MSCI South Korea ( EWY) -- vaulted 31%, followed closely by WisdomTree Pacific ex-Japan High-Yielding Equity Fund ( DNH), which climbed 24%. There are three other Asia-Pacific ETFs on the list.

Lesson 3: "Green" investments are for real. Even those who don't agree with the science behind global warming can't ignore the facts that the second- and fourth-best performers are solar investments, and No. 10, the iPath Barclays Capital Global Carbon Index Total Return ( GRN), is a "carbon emissions" play. Commitments by Congress and the Obama administration to support and subsidize these industries are largely responsible for their attractiveness to investors.

Lesson 4: The financial sector is OK. Four financial ETFs, including Claymore/Clear Global Exchanges, Brokers & Asset Managers ( EXB), made the list. Closely related to the group is PowerShares International Listed Private Equity ( PFP), whose holdings include a number of private-equity firms or managers as well as the consolidated exposure of the underlying portfolio investments.

March's Top-Performing ETFs Are Saying:
Industrial Production Should Pick Up; Green Is Fashionable;
Asia Is Popular; and Financials Are OK
NAME TICKER TheStreet.com RATINGS GRADE 1-MO. TOTAL RET'N (%) 3-MO. TOTAL RET'N (%) 12-MO. TOTAL RET'N (%)
iShares MSCI South Korea Index Fund EWY C- 30.55 1.75 -48.038
Claymore/MAC Global Solar Energy Index ETF TAN U 29.72 -20.87 N/A
PowerShares Financial Preferred Portfolio PGF D 28.14 -25.55 -50.515
Market Vectors Solar Energy ETF KWT U 23.64 -19.49 N/A
WisdomTree Pacific ex-Japan High-Yielding Equity Fund DNH D+ 23.35 -4.89 -44.004
PowerShares DB Base Metals Long Exchange Traded Note BDG U 22.24 11.39 N/A
Claymore/AlphaShares China Real Estate ETF TAO E+ 22.05 0.31 -42.336
iShares MSCI South Africa Index Fund EZA D+ 21.45 -3.45 -30.888
Market Vectors TR Russia ETF RSX E- 21.33 7.50 -68.983
iPath Barclays Capital Global Carbon Index Total Return GRN U 20.96 -22.32 N/A
Claymore/Clear Global Exchanges, Brokers & Asset Mgrs EXB E- 20.94 -8.13 -52.223
iShares MSCI Austria Inv Mkt Idx EWO C- 20.85 -5.61 -61.831
iShares S&P U.S.Preferred Stock Index Fund PFF E- 20.81 -20.40 -41.425
ELEMENTS MLCX Gold GOE U 20.81 N/A N/A
RevenueShares Financials Sector Fund RWW U 20.42 -26.31 N/A
PowerShares International Listed Private Equity PFP E+ 20.22 -18.11 -64.122
Rydex S&P Smallcap 600 Pure Value ETF RZV D 20.09 -25.34 -54.853
WisdomTree International Financial Sector Fund DRF D+ 19.94 -16.05 -56.697
iPath Dow Jones AIG Lead Total Return Sub Index LD U 19.92 25.35 N/A
PowerShares FTSE RAFI Basic Materials Sector Portfolio PRFM E+ 19.79 -10.92 -54.977
UBS E Tracs CMCI Industrial Metals Tr UBM U 19.77 20.64 N/A
iPath Dow Jones-AIG Copper Total Return Sub-Index ETN JJC D- 19.77 31.92 -52.208
PowerShares Dynamic Retail Portfolio PMR C+ 19.35 5.18 -11.996
iShares MSCI Australia Index Fund EWA C 19.34 -4.43 -44.345
PowerShares FTSE RAFI Asia Pacific ex-Japan Small-Mid Portfolio PDQ E 19.24 -3.09 -51.498
Source: TheStreet.com Ratings (Data as of 3/31/2009).
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TheStreet.com Ratings, recently cited for Best Stock Selection from October 2007 through February 2009 , is an independent research provider that combines fundamental and technical analysis to offer investors tremendous value in volatile times. To see how your portfolio can use this research, click here now!
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.

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