Checking In: First-to-Market Stud (EMCB, LQD, ELD)
The first-to-market advantage is not one that should be understated or underestimated when it comes to ETFs. Countless ETFs have thrived not because they are the best funds in their particular niche, but simply because they were the first funds to offer investors exposure to a certain concept.
Time will tell just how good the newly minted WisdomTree Emerging Markets Corporate Bond Fund (Nasdaq: EMCB) really is, but one thing is undeniable: It is the first ETF exclusively devoted to emerging markets corporate bonds.
There are other certainties regarding the WisdomTree Emerging Markets Corporate Bond Fund. One is the ETF is VERY new. New as in it has as an inception date of March 8, 2012. Another is that EMCB has been met with open arms by investors. The ETF had over $60 million in assets under management as of March 19, according to the WisdomTree Web site.
Success with emerging markets bond funds is nothing new to WisdomTree (Nasdaq: WETF). The WisdomTree Asia Local Debt ETF (NYSE: ALD) and the WisdomTree Emerging Markets Local Debt ETF (NYSE: ELD) have proven to be two of the most popular non-dollar bond funds on the market and have over $1.6 billion in AUM combined.
For its part, EMCB's holdings are dollar-denominated and nearly half of them are rated investment grade. EMCB, which has an expense ratio of 0.6%, offers exposure to corporate issues from seven sectors, though oil, industrials, metals and telecom names represent over 86% of the fund's weight. Utilities, banks and consumer stocks fight for the remaining scraps.
At the country level, EMCB stamps investors' passports to 14 destinations, but Brazil, Russia and Mexico combine for about 55% of the fund's country weight. Hong Kong, South Korea and Colombia combine for another 19%.
Speaking of EMCB's country weights, investors should note that the fund is not a pure emerging markets play and that does not mean some developed markets sneak into the ETF's lineup. Rather, EMCB features smaller weights to Kazakhstan, Qatar and Jamaica, all of which are frontier markets. Overall, Latin American issues account for just over half of EMCB's weight while Asia checks in at 23.6%. Eurpoe, Africa and the Middle East share the remainder.
In a yield-starved environment, EMCB might prove to be a fine alternative for adventurous investors looking for a spicier alternative to the iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (NYSE: LQD) and the PowerShares International Corporate Bond ETF (NYSE: PICB), which focuses more on developed market issues.
As WisdomTree noted: "Investment-grade, emerging-market corporate bonds have historically offered a significant yield premium compared to similarly rated U.S. corporate securities."
Bottom line: It's still early in EMCB's lifespan to be passing judgment on it, but the fund serves a previously unserved niche and an interesting one at that. Expect rivals to sprout up to challenge EMCB and expect to maintain its dominant AUM position, at least for a while.
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