NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Here are this week's winners and losers.


Market Vectors Rare Earth/Strategic Metals ETF ( REMX) +12.09%

The rare earth metals industry took center stage this week after China announced that it plans to significantly reduce its export quota in the new year. In response, investors piled into companies including Molycorp ( MCP), Rare Elements Resources ( REE) and Australia's Lynas Corp. Together, these three companies make up close to 20% of the fund's total portfolio.

Looking to 2011, REMX should be an exciting fund for risk tolerant investors. Rare earth elements are used heavily in the production of handheld gadgets and will therefore become increasingly important as we rely more heavily on smartphones and iPads to work in today's fast paced, interconnected world.

iPath Dow Jones UBS Natural Gas Total Return Subindex ETN ( GAZ) +6.63%

Futures-based natural gas ETFs have struggled throughout 2010, weighed down by factors such as weather and oversupply. GAZ in particular, has struggled with a massive premium throughout much of the latter half of the year.

During the final week, however, the fuel got a welcomed lift, aided by colder weather forecasts. This news helped both GAZ and the United States Natural Gas Fund ( UNG).

Natural gas will likely be a popular topic in 2011. However, investors should continue to avoid futures-based products. Instead, an equity fund such as the First Trust ISE-Revere Natural Gas Fund ( FCG) should prove to be a more reliable way to track this industry.

ETFS Physical Palladium Shares ( PALL) +6.34%

Palladium prices got a lift this week, closing out a strong year on a positive note. Fund sponsor ETF Securities had great timing with the launch of PALL at the start of 2010. Thanks to improving economic conditions and insatiable investor demand for precious metals, this commodity rallied hard.

Looking to next week, palladium and its cousin, platinum should be interesting to watch as auto and truck sales numbers are released. Both metals are used extensively in the production of catalytic converters.


iPath Dow Jones UBS Sugar Total Return Subindex ETN ( SGG) -5.90%

Although it managed to recover some ground at the close of the week, it was not enough to keep the sugar ETN off this week's losers list.

Throughout the year, SGG saw staggering seesaw action. The start of the year was marked by a dramatic downturn, leading the fund to carve out new all-time lows. Then, in the second half of 2010, just as dramatically as it fell, the fund staged a comeback, powering past previous all time highs on a near-uninterrupted path.

It will be interesting to see what the new year has in store for this commodity. Investors looking for a safe way to gain a taste for sugar should look to PowerShares DB Agriculture Fund ( DBA). This diversified product sets aside a good portion of its portfolio to the crop.

iPath Dow Jones UBS Oil Total Return Subindex ETN ( OIL) -0.16%

While natural gas futures-based exchange-traded products shot higher this week, the same could not be said for funds focused on oil prices. Although crude has been on a tear recently, powered by improving sentiment towards the economic recovery, in the final week of 2010 prices took a breather, leading OIL and the United States Oil Fund ( USO) to noticeable losses.

Like natural gas, investors would be best off opting for an equity-based approach to this industry. Funds such as the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Oil Equipment & Services Index Fund ( IEZ) and the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF ( XOP) are two well diversified and stable products to consider.

Guggenheim Solar ETF ( TAN) -1.49%

The solar energy industry ended the week on a cloudy note, putting an end to volatile year. Although alternative energy remains a closely watched region of the market, investors hoping to try their luck with solar, wind or nuclear need to maintain a close watch on the macroeconomic issues facing various regions of the globe.

Solar energy ran into hurdles this year as the European Union attempted to sort out its debt issues. Austerity measures threaten the government subsidies companies rely on to stay lucrative and therefore weigh heavily on the industry.

Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.


At the time of publication, Dion Money Management owned PowerShares DB Agriculture Fund.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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