Market Overview

Pretenders, Not Contenders: Some EM ETFs Disappointing to Start 2012


The good news is it's not hard to find copious amounts of analysis regarding the resurgence of emerging markets ETFs in 2012. The bad news is where there are winners, there are usually losers.

Well, in this case, we're talking more about disappointments or potential disappointments than outright losers simply because finding a plain vanilla emerging markets ETF that is in the red to start 2012 is downright difficult. So consider this a public service announcement regarding some emerging markets laggards because these offenders could prove quite vulnerable in the event of an EM ETF pullback.

Or the reverse could prove true. Maybe the funds highlighted here are just slow starters and their time to shine is coming up soon. Time will tell which scenario proves accurate. In the meantime, here are five EM under-performers to take a look at.

Market Vectors China ETF (NYSE: PEK) A few things to remember regarding the Market Vectors China ETF. First, China's A shares market, that country's equivalent of the S&P 500, is basically closed to foreign investors. Second, PEK is the only ETF that offers exposure to China's A shares, but it does so through various derivatives instruments, not stocks. Third, the A shares have been lagging Hong Kong- and U.S.-listed Chinese stocks this year.

No, there's no getting around the fact that PEK is up almost 10% year-to-date heading into the start of trading today. There's also no denying the iShares FTSE China 25 Index Fund (NYSE: FXI), the largest China ETF, is up over 16%.

WisdomTree Middle East Dividend ETF (Nasdaq: GULF) Lots of possible reasons why the WisdomTree Middle East Dividend ETF has been an epic disappointment to start 2012, but all these nagging issues between the West and Iran might be the true explanation. That's a convenient excuse to be sure. Whatever the reason is for the slack performance, GULF is up just 2.2% to start 2012 compared with almost 16% for the Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSE: VWO). At least GULF has a 5.61% yield.

Guggenheim Frontier Markets ETF (NYSE: FRN) As is the case with PEK and GULF, the Guggenheim Frontier Markets ETF is up year-to-date. And no, we're not griping about FRN's 12.4% gain. What is worth noting is that FRN is riskier and has a higher expense ratio than VWO. Put another way, unless FRN starts outperforming VWO by a decent margin, it might be best to play frontier markets with specific country funds. Market Vectors Vietnam ETF (NYSE: VNM) anyone?

iShares MSCI Malaysia Index Fund (NYSE: EWM) On the surface, a gain of almost 9% to start the year isn't too shabby. But in the case of the iShares MSCI Malaysia Index Fund, investors can ask for more and they would've gotten a lot more with other Asian tigers. The iShares MSCI Thailand Investable Market Index Fund (NYSE: THD) has outperformed EWM this year. The iShares MSCI Philippines Investable Market Index Fund (NYSE: EPHE) has done so by a wider margin.

To be frank, the Market Vectors Vietnam ETF has outright embarrassed EWM. The only bigger disappointment among emerging Asia ETFs this year has been the...

Market Vectors Indonesia Index ETF (NYSE: IDX) Or the iShares MSCI Indonesia Investable Market Index Fund (NYSE: EWM). The two Indonesia ETFs are each up slightly less than 8% year-to-date. There is a bull case for either of these funds so the sort of slow start to 2012 is a surprise. Of the members of this dubious list that are most likely to depart for the outperformers club, our money would be on IDX and EIDO.


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