Surprise Performances Among Global ETFs (GXG, EWM, AFK)
It's no secret that, broadly speaking, international stocks are being treated like red-headed step children these days. In the past month, the Vanguard MSCI Europe ETF (NYSE: VGK) is off almost 8% while the Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSE: VWO) is down more than 10%. The BRICS? A well-documented mess to say the least.
While we wouldn't rush to call them all pleasant surprises, there are some international ETFs that have certainly been less bad over the past month. Whether these less bad performances are a harbinger of a good things to come on the upside remains to be seen, but our list does include a couple of familiar names that have previously shown decent relative strength along with a couple of funds that some would have expected to incur significant damage over the past month but have not.
Market Vectors Egypt ETF (NYSE: EGPT) We've been bearish on the Market Vectors Egypt ETF for several months and reiterated that stance in early April. To be sure, EGPT has fallen since then, but the fund is down less than 2.5% in the past month.
This is surprise, though we're not yet convinced it's one of the pleasant nature. Egypt is a frontier market, implying its volatility should be higher than a traditional emerging market. In the face of falling currency reserves, a possible economic crisis and looming elections, it's hard to endorse a flight to EGPT, but the ETF deserves credit for at least holding up well in an environment that should have be far more punitive to a fund of this nature.
Market Vectors Africa Index ETF (NYSE: AFK) Here's where the losses over the past month start getting a tad steeper. The Market Vectors Africa Index ETF is off 4.8% since April 24, but that's still better than VWO. It's also far better than myriad Europe and country-specific emerging markets funds.
AFK's monthly performance is surprising given that energy and materials names have been taken to the woodshed. Those sectors account for 31% of the fund's weight. It should be noted that a quarter of AFK's weight is allocated to companies that do business in Africa, but are not based there and that might be helping AFK stay afloat. Egypt is 18.4% of AFK's country weight, so those willing to roll the dice on that nation can do so in more conservative fashion with AFK.
Global X FTSE Colombia 20 ETF (NYSE: GXG) The Global X FTSE Colombia 20 ETF, the dominant of the two Colombia ETFs on the market today, has slid 5.25% in the past month, but from here, downside could be limited to the $20 area where the 200-day moving average lies.
Simply put, it's not surprising GXG has lost ground in this market setting. Colombia is South America's third-largest oil producer and oil prices are falling. But GXG has held up nicely relative to Brazil and the broader emerging markets universe. The long-term bull case for Colombia remains in tact and news earlier this week that the country sees oil production rising to 1 million barrels per day by year end solidifies bullishness on GXG on the premise oil prices and demand will rebound.
iShares MSCI Malaysia Index Fund (NYSE: EWM) The iShares MSCI Malaysia Index is also sporting a 5.25% decline since April 24. That's not a surprise, but what is a surprise is that EWM has handily outperformed comparable ETFs tracking the following Southeast Asian emerging/frontier markets: Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. EWM has also been better in the past month than the iShares MSCI Singapore Index Fund (NYSE: EWS) and that's somewhat of a surprise because Singapore is viewed as one of the steadier plays in the Asia-Pacific region.
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