Developed Markets: A Commodities Vs. Country Fund Comparison (EWA, EWL, BNO)
Last week, we looked at the performance of several country-specific emerging markets ETFs relative to a commodity or commodities that the countries are often most associated with. The results were interesting in that we found the country ETFs have been outperforming the commodities or related commodities funds they were compared to.
At least that has been the case this year. It's also important to remember that there are plenty of developed markets with deep ties to the commodities trade. With that, we're now going to compare the performance of several developed market country-specific ETFs against the commodities those countries are often associated with.
Global X FTSE Norway 30 ETF (NYSE: NORW) The Global X FTSE Norway 30 ETF made our list of ways to play rising Brent crude prices and nothing has materialized to make us change that view. Statoil (NYSE: STO), Norway's largest oil company, is NORW's largest individual holding at almost 24.4%. Overall, the energy sector represents almost 44% of NORW's weight.
Since Norwegian oil is subject to Brent pricing, it's relevant to compare the performance of NORW to the U.S. Brent Oil Fund (NYSE: BNO). Year-to-date, NORW has outpaced BNO, but by a small margin. That said, NORW is still a solid developed market play on rising oil prices.
IndexIQ Canada Small Cap ETF (NYSE: CNDA) We've previously noted that the iShares MSCI Canada Index Fund (NYSE: EWC), by far the largest Canada ETF, is somewhat light on energy and materials exposure. However, those sectors combine for 73% of the IndexIQ Canada Small Cap ETF's weight. Year-to-date, CNDA has lagged BNO, but has also easily outdistanced the U.S. Oil Fund (NYSE: USO).
Canada is also a major silver producer and every Canada-specific ETF has lagged the iShares Silver Trust (NYSE: SLV) this year.
iShares MSCI Australia Index Fund (NYSE: EWA) Using the iShares MSCI Australia Index Fund (NYSE: EWA) as a proxy for the precious metals trade has been done before and with the ETF solidly in the green in 2012, it hasn't been a bad idea this year, either. However, EWA has really been taken to school by SLV and the iShares Gold Trust (NYSE: IAU). Things get a little better with the IndexIQ Australia Small Cap ETF (NYSE: KROO), which has been better than IAU and EWA, but not nearly as good as SLV.
iShares MSCI New Zealand Investable Market Index Fund (NYSE: ENZL) New Zealand is often viewed as a commodities play, though the country isn't really known for one commodity in particular and investors have a tendency to overlook the fact it's agriculture exports that are a big driver of this economy.
Along those lines, ENZL has been a far better bet than the PowerShares DB Agriculture ETF (NYSE: DBA) in 2012, but the Market Vectors Agribusiness ETF (NYSE: MOO) has been far superior to both DBA and ENZL.
iShares MSCI Switzerland Index Fund (NYSE: EWL) Switzerland's primary exports are watches and chocolates, along with chemicals and machinery. For those want to some tasty chocolate exposure this year, the iPath DJ-UBS Cocoa TR Sub-Index ETN (NYSE: NIB) has outpaced EWL), but the reality is Switzerland is viewed more as a play on gold even though the country doesn't mine the yellow metal, at least not on any meaningful scale. In this case, IAU would be a better way of playing gold rather than trying to backdoor your way into gold with EWL, an ETF that is arguably too heavy on bank stocks.
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