By the end of the 17th century, which European nations were in better shape, and which were weaker, than they were at the beginning of the 1500's?
I bet that your textbook has a given answer that you are supposed to find. You should look, because it may have ones other than these...
To me, the biggest losers over this time period were the Iberian countries -- Spain and Portugal. At the start of the 1500s, these were two of the most powerful countries in Europe. They were the ones that dominated international trade and had divided the world between them. By the end of the period, they have become much weaker.
The biggest winner in my opinion was England. By 1700 this was perhaps the strongest country in the world with the biggest empire. They were also the richest.
Because of the gamble made by Spain on Columbus's theory the East Indies could be reached by going west, Spain and Portugal would dominate the 1500's along with the Dutch. What they all figured out the hard way, was that it's easy to claim land and colonize, it's much harder to sustain and hold onto. Poor Spain also created the shift in the balance of power with the failed invasion of England in 1588. That single event would do more to hurt them than any other. As a result, by the late 1600's, England, along with their arch rival France, would extend their sphere's of influence all around the world, forcing Spain, Portugal, and the Dutch into a slow and painful regression.
Your use of the term "17th Century" means the 1600's, so your question spans the years from 1500 to 1699. By 1699 the English, French, and the Dutch were quickly gaining on the Spanish and Portugeuse in wealth and in world dominance. Since Spain and Portugal were still quite powerful nations in 1699, its really hard to pin down exactly which countries were dominate. By the late 1700's however; with the British in firm control of much of India, the Americas (minus the US of course), the Caribbean, and other parts of Asia, I would conclusively say they were the most powerful nation at that time. Spain was on the way out, with most of their new world colonies soon to gain Independence. But in 1699, world dominance was very much up for grabs. But Spain and Portugal were clearly losing influence world wide mainly to the British, French, and the Dutch.