This year may have started off on shaky footing as our nation tiptoed near the fiscal cliff, but when we look in the rear view mirror its undeniable that the bulls prevailed from the beginning through the finals trading days of 2013. While a number of asset classes posted dismal returns, namely precious metals and volatility, a number of others managed to post stellar gains, even topping the S&P 500′s impressive +28% return for the year .

Improving growth prospects at home and signs of recovery overseas prompted many to scale back on defensive holdings and increase their risk appetites. As investors’ confidence grew so too did the demand for growth-sensitive securities. As such, ETFs focused on the cyclical alternative energy sector led the way higher trailed closely by those offering inverse exposure to volatility as well those targeting the biotech corner of the healthcare market .

Below, we display the 15 best performing ETFs of this year; please note this list excludes leveraged funds and returns are as of 12/27/2013:

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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.

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