Give Wall Street a little credit - if there is a demand for a product, they will meet it. If there is no demand for a product, they will figure out how to create that demand. With investors back out of their bunkers and looking to put money to work, Wall Street and Main Street have been working overtime to meet that demand. While not all of these ideas are new per se, many are seeing a resurgence in investor interest and new themes and sub-types are emerging to siphon off some of that demand. (To learn more, check out The Wall-Street Animal Farm: Getting To Know The Lingo.)

IN PICTURES: Learn To Invest In 10 Steps

The idea that gold is pretty popular these days is hardly new, but gold-bugs are getting increasingly inventive. The Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSE:GDX) has lagged the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSE:GLD) of late, but the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (Nasdaq:GDXJ) has been hot.

Going a step further, would-be investors are apparently trying to get more of the actual metal in their hands. Demand for minted gold coins continues to run hot, with many mints forced to limit order sizes to see that no customer goes away entirely empty-handed. And now this - gold-dispensing ATMs are on their way to the U.S.

Details are still scant and sketchy, but these machines dispense gold bars (in sizes ranging from one gram to 28 grams (one ounce), with the machines updating the gold price every 10 minutes. There is no word on the mark-ups that go with this service, but it seems fair to assume that they will be high, as retail gold prices often incorporate generous margins for the seller.

No-Fee ETFs
While the no-fee ETF arms race between major brokerage houses like Fidelity and Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCHW) began a while ago, it shows no sign of letting up. Brokers are increasingly trying to one-up each other by offering a larger and larger number of ETFs to investors with no commissions. The details of the financial relationship between the brokers and ETF administrators are not generally discussed, but even if the administrators are not sharing fees, the brokerages can probably look at the foregone commissions as part of their marketing budget to attract more assets and customers.

IN PICTURES: 10 Reasons To Add ETFs To Your Portfolio

Emerging Economies
Investor interest in emerging markets has always operated a bit like a full sauna session, with cycles of hot and cold following one after the other. Now things are heating up again. Nearly $6 billion flowed into emerging market funds in the week of October 20 alone, and two all-time weekly records were set in October, according to EPFR Global. With over $40 billion flowing in this year, it has been a banner year for investor interest in these fast-growing economies.

Along the same lines, numerous emerging market-oriented ETFs are near 52-week highs, including the China Small Cap Index (NYSE:HAO), the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (NYSE:EEM) and Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF (NYSE:VWO).

Diamonds have not yet managed to steal the stage from gold, but investor interest is heating up nonetheless. There are relatively few direct diamond plays in the U.S. markets, but Harry Winston (NYSE:HWD) (a miner and retailer) is near a 52-week high, as is Mountain Province (NYSE:MDM). Although a lot of diamond mining is dominated by giants like Anglo American, De Beers (a private company) and Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO), intrepid investors can find ADRs, small Canadian miners and shares listed overseas with a bit of effort. Investors are bidding up high-end jewelry retailers like Tiffany (NYSE:TIF), and these are often the only diamond-buying options for many people.

Fixed Income
With rates as low as they have been in decades, it is no great surprise to see that bond and fixed-income ETFs are near their highs as well. Names ranging from the PowerShares Emerging Markets Sovereign Debt ETF (NYSE:PCY) to the iShares Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (NYSE:LQD) to the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (NYSE:BND) are near the highs, and some people appear baffled that yields could be so low with the size of the deficits and debt being racked up the U.S. government.

What is interesting, though, is that there is relatively little evidence that the boom in bond interest is being led by retail investors. Instead, demand appears to be driven by pension funds and foreign investors - pension funds that need a fixed-income substitute for the mortgage bond market, and foreign investors who seemingly cannot find better uses for their trade surpluses.

The Bottom Line
Odds are good that if a sector is hot, bystanders have missed the easy (and safe) profits. That is not to say that there cannot be more money to be made trying to "top-tick" a secular bull market, but that is a difficult and dangerous game. If nothing else, investors should recognize that Wall Street works overtime figuring out new ways to make money off of the ideas they read about every morning in the papers. (To learn more, check out a few Easy Ways To Diversify Your Portfolio.)

For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: Rising Markets And Buffett's Successor.

Related Articles
  1. Chart Advisor

    Now Could Be The Time To Buy IPOs

    There has been lots of hype around the IPO market lately. We'll take a look at whether now is the time to buy.
  2. Chart Advisor

    Copper Continues Its Descent

    Copper prices have been under pressure lately and based on these charts it doesn't seem that it will reverse any time soon.
  3. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Buying Vanguard Mutual Funds Vs. ETFs

    Learn about the differences between Vanguard's mutual fund and ETF products, and discover which may be more appropriate for investors.
  4. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETFs Vs. Mutual Funds: Choosing For Your Retirement

    Learn about the difference between using mutual funds versus ETFs for retirement, including which investment strategies and goals are best served by each.
  5. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    How to Reinvest Dividends from ETFs

    Learn about reinvesting ETF dividends, including the benefits and drawbacks of dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs) and manual reinvestment.
  6. Stock Analysis

    What Exactly Does Warren Buffett Own?

    Learn about large changes to Berkshire Hathaway's portfolio. See why Warren Buffett has invested in a commodity company even though he does not usually do so.
  7. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Best 3 Vanguard Funds that Track the Top 500 Companies

    Discover the three Vanguard funds tracking the S&P 500 Index, and learn about the characteristics and historical statistics of these funds.
  8. Forex Fundamentals

    How to Buy Chinese Yuan

    Discover the different options that are available to investors who want to obtain exposure to the Chinese yuan, including ETFs and ETNs.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Fees: Why BlackRock is the Latest to Cut Them

    Low expense ratios are a big selling point for ETFs, but are they being focused on too much?
  10. Markets

    Are EM Stocks Finally Emerging?

    Many investors are looking at emerging market (EM) stocks and wonder if it’s time to step back in, while others wonder if we’ll see further declines.
  1. Which mutual funds made money in 2008?

    Out of the 2,800 mutual funds that Morningstar, Inc., the leading provider of independent investment research in North America, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Should mutual funds be subject to more regulation?

    Mutual funds, when compared to other types of pooled investments such as hedge funds, have very strict regulations. In fact, ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Do ETFs pay capital gains?

    Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can generate capital gains that are transferred to shareholders, typically once a year, triggering ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How do real estate hedge funds work?

    A hedge fund is a type of investment vehicle and business structure that aggregates capital from multiple investors and invests ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Are Vanguard ETFs commission-free?

    While some Vanguard exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are available commission-free from third-party brokers, a large portion ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Do Vanguard ETFs require a minimum investment?

    Vanguard completely waives any U.S. dollar minimum amounts to buy its exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and the minimum ETF investment ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
  2. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  3. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
  4. Black Monday

    October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost almost 22% in a single day. That event marked the beginning ...
  5. Monetary Policy

    Monetary policy is the actions of a central bank, currency board or other regulatory committee that determine the size and ...
  6. Indemnity

    Indemnity is compensation for damages or loss. Indemnity in the legal sense may also refer to an exemption from liability ...
Trading Center