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What are we looking for?

The best and worst performers among Canadian-listed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) during a miserable summer for the markets. Equities have taken a beating amid concerns over euro zone debt woes and slowing global growth. Many investors wish they had heeded the adage to sell in May and go away.

The screen

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We looked at the eight best and eight worst ETF performers for the four months ended Aug. 31. Leveraged and inverse (short) ETFs were excluded.

What did we find?

Investors who bet on precious metals bullion and futures had a relaxing summer. It was depressing for those who kept their U.S. financial, energy and base metals ETFs.

Claymore Gold Bullion ETF (unhedged) gained 19.4 per cent, while Horizons COMEX Gold ETF, which tracks futures contracts, rose 17.3 per cent. Both benefited as gold soared above $1,900 (U.S.) an ounce amid worries about the European and the American debt crisis.

BMO Precious Metals Commodities ETF, which tracks future contracts on both silver and gold, posted an 11.5-per-cent return. Silver, which hit a high of around $50 an ounce in the spring, fell sharply in May, but has rebounded to the $40 level.

The worst performer was BMO Equal Weight U.S. Banks ETF (hedged to Canadian dollars), which shed 23.4 per cent. Bank of America, Regions Financial Corp. and Hudson City Bancorp. Inc. were the biggest losers among its holdings.

"Banks did well coming into the new year until February," but they have since taken a big hit because of rising concerns about the weak U.S. housing market, sluggish loan growth, and weak merger-and-acquisition activity, said Alfred Lee, an investment strategist with BMO ETFs at Bank of Montreal.

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Energy ETFs lost steam as the price of crude oil tumbled after rising to over $100 a barrel in the spring because of turmoil in the Middle East.

Base metals ETFs have been hurt by fears of a slowdown in the global economy. The biggest losers in the BMO S&P/TSX Equal Weight Global Base Metals ETF were Sherritt International Corp., Lundin Mining Corp. and Thompson Creek Metals Co. Inc.

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