Exchange-traded funds have had a banner year, reaching a new peak of $1.7 trillion in assets held, at the end of November. That's a gain of 24.5%, from last year. And a doubling from four years ago.

"We are likely to end 2012 with a record level of assets'' in exchange-traded funds and other exchange-traded products, said Deborah Fuhr, Managing Partner at ETFGI, the London consulting firm that compiles the numbers. This should also reflect "a record level of net new assets invested into the products during the year.''

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