The first exchange-traded fund (ETF) came onto the American financial markets in 1993 when State Street Global launched the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE:SPY). With an average volume of over 200 million shares traded, this original ETF is still the most popular ETF traded today - but that doesn't mean it gives the best returns. (For related reading, see Introduction To Exchange-Traded Funds.)

IN PICTURES: How To Make Your First $1 Million

One of the biggest advantages of ETFs is that an investor can create a diversified portfolio with a handful of different ETFs to cover the entire stock and fixed income market. Likewise, for investors who already have a sizable portfolio of individual stocks, more specialized ETFs can be a great way to augment holdings and provide entry into a wide variety of sector, commodity, small-cap and emerging markets.
Buying an ETF to represent an entire sector of the stock market can also be a great idea to ride out a bullish trend on a specific sector.

Sound appealing? Check out some of this year's hottest ETFs.


Company Net Asset Value YTD % Gain
ProShares Ultra Silver (NYSE:AGQ) 201.10 +139.95%
Direxion Daily Real Estate Bull 3x Shares (NYSE:DRN) 146.75 +40.24%
iShares MSCI Thailand Invest Mkt Index (NYSE:THD) 645.74 +48.18%
ProShares Ultra Gold (NYSE:UGL) 203.70 +52.01%
iShares Silver Trust ETF (NYSE:SLV) 6,940M +43.59%
Global X Silver Miners ETF (NYSE:SIL) 264.76M
+66.7%

Bottom Line
With gold and silver hitting record highs these days, it's no surprise that four of the top ETFs represent these precious metals. If you're looking to add a new twist to your portfolio, dive into some additional research on these leading funds.

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