-- Q: Is buying last year's winning ETFs a great way to makes lots of money this year?
A: Success doesn't like to repeat itself on Wall Street.
It seems so tempting. Just get a list of the best-performing investments last year, buy them all on January 1 of the current year, and hope that the run continues.
After all, basketball teams, companies and students often enjoy the momentum of success. Shouldn't investments be able to keep the winning going from one year to the next?
Unfortunately, this momentum effect doesn't apply to shares of individual companies.
A USA TODAY analysis found it's a pretty lousy strategy when it comes to investing in stocks.
Of the top stocks over the past five years, four of those posted large losses in the year following their big win.
But you're asking a different question. You're asking whether the winning ways of exchange-traded funds, or mutual funds that trade like stocks, can linger from year to year.
The answer, not surprisingly, is no.
Let's consider what has happened this year. Seven of the best mainstream ETFs in 2010 wound up underperforming the average ETF in 2011 so far.
The top ETF of 2010, the Market Vector Russia ETF, rocketed 46.7% in 2010. But investors who piled in this year have lost 31.3% of their money.
This analysis is based on the broad universe of ETFs as defined by TD Ameritrade and Morningstar Associates.
A full list of these ETFs can be found and traded for no commission at TD Ameritrade.
Below is a list of the best mainstream ETFs in 2010 and how they've done in 2011 so far: