iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return ETN (OIL) 6.4%A number of energy-related products saw strength as upward market action reignited investor confidence. As indicated by the action seen from OIL and SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Equipment & Services ETF ( XES), both futures- and equity-related products saw welcome gains. The solar energy industry-tracking Market Vectors Solar Energy ETF ( KWT) shined this week as well. I encourage investors to continue to monitor solar ETFs from the sidelines. Although a new year is nearly upon us, many of the factors that plagued the industry in 2011 continue to be in play.
iShares MSCI Austria Index Fund (EWO) 6.4%Sentiment regarding the troubled European Union continues to swing wildly as leaders work to resolve the region's ongoing sovereign debt woes. This week, optimism reigned, and ETFs linked to troubled nations like Austria managed to push higher. As we prepare to close the books on 2011, it will be interesting to see what is in store here. Conservative investors should continue to hold off on jumping into this corner of the developed world. > > Bull or Bear? Vote in Our Poll
SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB) 5.9%An economic calendar laden with real estate-related reports ensured that homebuilder-focused ETFs like XHB and the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Home Construction Index Fund ( ITB) would be interesting to watch this past week. Overall the data proved encouraging, but investors did learn of some peculiar news regarding the depth of the housing crisis. During the middle of the week, the National Association of Realtors announced that it had revised lower its new-home sales data for the period between 2007 and 2010. The Wall Street Journal reported that the group had overstated sales by over 14% during this period. In the coming week, investors will uncover more clues regarding the state of the housing market. On the docket for Thursday are pending home sales.
iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXX) -11.2%Since failing to break through its 50-day moving average during the first half of the month, the VXX has struggled to find footing. Although it saw some strength during the second half of the week, three days of heavy losses were enough to earn this ETN a spot on the losers' list. Thanks to a four-day slide, the closely-watch VIX index has tumbled back to levels last seen in late July. Looking to the shortened week ahead, it will be interesting to see whether the index can stabilize. As fear fell by the wayside, investors reduced exposure to safe-haven asset classes. The Treasury-tracking iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond Fund ( TLT) has given up nearly all of the gains it witnessed during the opening weeks of December.
iShares S&P North American Technology Software Index Fund (IGV) -2.1%It was a rough week for this software industry ETF as top index components failed to inspire on the earnings front. Oracle ( ORCL) was the big loser here. After reporting its disappointing numbers, the fund tumbled back to levels last seen in late August. Although IGV has taken its lumps, it continues to outperform against other industry-concentrated tech ETFs like iShares S&P North American Technology Multimedia Networking Index Fund ( IGN) on a year-to-date-basis. As we head into the final week of the year, it will be interesting to see whether the fund can regain some of its lost ground.
iShares Silver Trust (SLV) -1.9%It was a week of mixed action on the precious metals front, particularly for those linked to industry. While the bullion-backed SLV took a notable hit, palladium prices trudged higher, lifting Physical Palladium Shares ( PALL) to four consecutive days of gains. Gold closed out the week on a slightly positive note. The iShares Gold Trust ( IAU) was up less than 1%.