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This weekly column of highlights leading and lagging Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) and is designed to supplement the data you can find in our ETF center. The graphs below are based on a select list of ETFs that I follow and reflect the returns from last Friday's close through this afternoon.

Note: If you are not familiar with the advantages that ETFs offer, make sure you read the information in our Education and FAQ sections.

Last week we saw that 2006 started with a bang as most groups headed higher, led by energy and technology funds. This week we find a more balanced distribution...

This Week's Leading and Lagging Exchange Traded Funds

A couple of groups showed gains of more than four percent while the largest loss was capped near four percent. Overall, though, most moves were less than two percent, in either direction, which means the market held much of its gains from last week.

Scanning over the advancers, I see some of the energy and tech-related names we saw last week, so it looks like there was some follow-through on momentum there. I also see gold and some of the "niche" areas tracked by PowerShares such as the PBW, which tracks some of the alternative energy and fuel-cell stocks.

The nanotech index put in a strong showing this week, but I wasn't really familiar with this ETF so I check out the PowerShares website to see what it tracked. The top holdings include small-cap names like Arrowhead Research (ARWR: View sentiment for ARWRsentiment, chart, options) , Westaim (WEDX: View sentiment for WEDXsentiment, chart, options) , and Veeco Instruments (VECO: View sentiment for VECOsentiment, chart, options) but the PXN also includes familiar big-caps like Intel (INTC: View sentiment for INTCsentiment, chart, options) , International Business Machines (IBM: View sentiment for IBMsentiment, chart, options) , 3M (MMM: View sentiment for MMMsentiment, chart, options) , and even General Electric (GE: View sentiment for GEsentiment, chart, options) . In looking over the charts of these stocks, it looks like the ETF was able to gain this week in spite of the large-cap exposure.

For a longer-term perspective, the bullets below show how the ETFs listed above have faired over the last six months, prior to this week. In other words, it shows how they had been performing before this week's move.

Prior Six-Month Returns for This Week's Top Performing Sector Exchange Traded Funds:

Prior Six-Month Returns for This Week's Bottom Performing Sector Exchange Traded Funds:

As you can see, many of the PowerShares funds haven't been around long-enough to show six-month returns, which explains the "n/a." You can also see that this week's gain in gold isn't an isolated event as the yellow metal has been on a strong run. Networking, energy and oil services, in particular, have also been strong.

As I mentioned last week, I was interested in getting your feedback on ETFs that track foreign markets. Many of you said you were interested in this, with a one-month timeframe being the most popular, so the graph below shows the leading and lagging foreign market exchange traded funds over the last month...

Leading and Lagging Foreign Market Exchange Traded Funds

While the S&P 500 Index (SPX - 1,285.58) has gained a little over one percent in the last month, these ETFs have showed strong gains. The EWN is the only fund from my list to drop, while the EZA and EWZ led the way.

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