Female Heads of State and ETF Returns: Mid-Year Review
Knowing that folks are passionate about certain issues, let's just clear one thing up right away.
What follows is a look at some country-specific ETFs that track stocks in nations with female heads of state. No more, no less. This is not a commentary on gender or any related issue. That stuff is best left to certain mainstream media organizations.
Around here, the goal is to find profitable opportunities with ETFs, domestic and foreign. When it comes to those ex-U.S., single-country funds, politics in those countries are important. However, the gender of the leader is not.
That said, isolating a group of noteworthy country-specific ETFs where women are in charge is not difficult. A similar exercise was conducted at the end of last year and we merely wanted to check up on how some of those ETFs have been performing this year while adding some new ones to the list.
Global X FTSE Argentina 20 ETF (NYSE: ARGT)
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is arguably to blame for much of her country's economic woes such as slowing growth, soaring inflation and, an albeit diminished, flirtation with a second sovereign debt default this century. However, no one in their right mind should blame her for ARGT undergoing a reverse split earlier this year.
Regime change in Argentina could help the country realize its vast economic potential and be a boon for ARGT at the same time. The ETF is down 11.4 percent year-to-date.
iShares MSCI Brazil Capped Index Fund (NYSE: EWZ)
To be fair to Kirchner, she is not the only South American female leader having a rough go of things this year. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, once wildly popular, is dealing with one of the most stunning reversals in recent memory of an emerging market going from darling to devil in short order.
At this point, it really is akin to beating a dead horse, but Brazil, Latin America's largest economy, is being hit from all angles. That list includes a plunging currency, rising unemployment and high interest rates that the central bank has used, to no avail, to stem inflation.
Regardless of the gender of Brazil's current leader, recent anti-government protests prove ordinary Brazilians are disenchanted with the direction their country is moving in. Investors are as well as EWZ is down 18 percent in just the past month.
iShares MSCI South Korea Capped Index Fund (NYSE: EWY)
This year will be Park Geun-hye's firs full year as South Korea's first female president. Her timing was bad. In fact, it should be noted that South Korea's problems have essentially been created by leaders in other countries. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are men and guess what the two biggest risks to South Korea's economy are. The weak yen and the end of U.S. quantitative easing. Heading into the start of trading Thursday, EWY was down 11.6 percent in the past month, but the ETF is up 3.5 percent today after South Korea boosted its 2013 GDP growth estimate to 2.7 percent from 2.3 percent.
Other year-to-date returns for ETFs tracking countries with female leaders: iShares MSCI Australia Index Fund (NYSE: EWA), though Julia Gillard was ousted Wednesday, down 8.7 percent. The iShares MSCI Germany Index Fund (NYSE: EWG) is up 0.6 percent while the iShares MSCI Thailand Investable Market Index Fund (NYSE: THD) is down 5.5 percent.
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