Best-Performing ETFs Go Platinum

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The best-performing exchange traded fund in the fourth quarter was Market Vectors Brazil Small-Cap ETF ( BRF).

The ETF surged 24% on expectations of higher demand for energy and metals. Besides the Brazil exchange traded fund, seven industrial metals-related funds and two coal funds ranked at the top of the performance charts.

The iPath Dow Jones-UBS Platinum Subindex Total Return ETN ( PGM) was the second-best performer in the fourth quarter, also up 24%. Spot platinum finished the year at $1,465.50 an ounce, up 13%.

Platinum is a precious metal with industrial uses priced in dollars per ounce, but the rally has extended to metals priced by the ton. For the quarter, copper and aluminum each rose 19%. That said, the PowerShares DB Base Metals Long ETN ( BDG) climbed 23%.

The two coal funds, Market Vectors - Coal ETF ( KOL) and PowerShares Global Coal Portfolio ( PKOL), made the list with returns of 20% and 18%, respectively. As coal provides about half of U.S. electricity generation, the bitterly cold weather in the Midwest and Northeast during the past three weeks has boosted demand.

Top coal players include Massey Energy ( MEE), Consol Energy ( CNX) and Peabody Energy ( BTU). Another holding, Patriot Coal ( PCX), is an important bellwether as it received approvals from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to proceed with mountaintop mining at the Hobet 45 mine in West Virginia.

That signals that the Obama administration won't block coal mining but instead require companies to spend heavily on environmental protections. The extra costs were sufficient to elicit grumbling from Patriot Coal management. After the bruising fight for health-care reform in Congress, the likelihood of stricter energy legislation during an election year was diminished.

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Kevin Baker became the senior financial analyst for TSC Ratings upon the August 2006 acquisition of Weiss Ratings by, 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.