Precious metals ETFs climbed to new highs in 2010 on the Eurozone debt crisis and U.S. dollar uncertainty. This performance comes on the heels of a decade-long rally. Precious metals are now likely in a bubble phase. Current prices are supported by momentum and speculation. This increases the attractiveness of metals ETFs in the short term but raises questions about long-term price sustainability.Base metal ETFs stagnated in 2010 on lower inflation and stable industrial demand. Base metals ETFs look attractive on continued demand recovery from China and the U.S.ETFs and ETNs offer an exceptionally easy access to precious and base metals for both short and long positions. With ETFs investors can isolate allocation to gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper, nickel, zinc, tin, lead, etc. Less specialized metals ETFs also allow access to baskets of precious metals or base metals as a class.The increase in popularity of metals ETFs is no secret. SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca:GLD - News) has amassed close to 60 billion in assets, more than any other ETF except for the S&P 500 indexed SPY. The introduction of platinum and palladium ETFs has arguably altered fundamental market demand for these metals.The introduction of metals funds like the "glitter," the "white" and the "dust," names of new metals ETFs have further productized and extended the metals meme. ("Glitter" is the ETFS Physical Precious Metals Basket Shares (NYSEArca:GLTR - News) offering exposure to gold, silver, platinum and palladium. "White" is ETFS White Metals Basket Trust (NYSEArca:WITE - News), which offers exposure into silver, platinum and palladium. Dust is Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bear (NYSEArca:DUST - News), a 2x leverage bear fund, not on the metals themselves but on the companies that mine and process them.Though all precious metals ETFs gained in 2010, silver and palladium were standouts, up about 80% for the year. The chart below compares the one-year performance of GoldShares (NYSEArca:GLD - News), with iShares Silver Trust (NYSEArca:SLV - News) and ETFS Physical Palladium Shares (NYSEArca:PALL - News).
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