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Playing IPO Resurgence With a High-Flying ETF

While small, the sole exchange-traded fund (ETF) focused on the initial public offering market continues to deliver impressive returns for investors.

The First Trust US IPO Index ETF hit an all-time high in January and has risen more than 30 percent over the last twelve months, making it the top performer among strategy ETFs, according to data from IndexUniverse.

(Read more: ETFs Growing and Growing, and 'Here to Conquer')

That's twice as good as returns for the S&P 500 and better than the average IPO return last year of 20 percent.

(Read more: ETF Price Wars Keep Heating Up)

The ETF, which has been around since 2006, tracks performance of U.S recent biggest and brightest IPOs and spin-offs.

The fund's strategy allows investors avoid exposure to price volatility and speculative trading that often happens when a newly-minted company hits the market. It only buys stocks after at least five trading days and then holds on to shares for up to four years.

FPX managers bill the fund as an "unemotional, rigorous, and disciplined approach to investing" in IPOs.

(Read More: What's Hot in ETFs for 2013?)

Most of the ETF's top holdings are rather big names: Visa (10.79 percent), Facebook (9.99 percent), General Motors (6.77 percent), Kinder Morgan (5.82 percent), Phillips 66 (5.47 percent).

Despite consistently outperforming the broader market, FPX has yet to attract big money inflow. The fund, which has an expense ratio of 0.60 percent, has a modest $24.7 million in assets under management.

Meanwhile, after a disappointing second-half of 2012, IPO activity is picking up. (Read More: IPOs—Cramer Separates the Best From the Rest.)

The IPO market has recorded its second most active January of the past decade, with eleven new public companies raising $2.5 billion in proceeds, according to data from Renaissance Capital.

That's markedly better than last January, when only four IPOs priced, raising $0.4 billion.

So far, this year's average IPO has returned 11 percent from its offer price, according to Renaissance Capital.

There are currently 11 companies on the IPO calendar. Among them: Zoetis, a spin-off of Pfizer's global animal health medicines and vaccines business, ZAIS Financial, a mortgage REIT, QGOG Constellation, a Brazilian provider of offshore oil and gas drilling, and Boise Cascade Company, a building materials and forest products provider.

By CNBC's Karina Frayter

Tune in: CNBC is the exclusive broadcast partner of the 6th Annual Inside ETFs Conference. Be sure to catch On-Air Stocks Editor Bob Pisani ( @BobPisani) live from the conference throughout the day on Feb. 11th and 12th, only on CNBC.

  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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