Old Reliable Among Emerging Markets ETFs

In a year which emerging markets equities and the relevant exchange traded funds are delivering for investors after several years of disappointment, higher beta developing economies are stealing the limelight and deservedly so.

With commodities prices rebounding, so are previously moribund emerging currencies, a scenario that's lifting stocks in Brazil, Russia and South Africa, to name a few. Those are some of the most volatile emerging markets, but the ETFs tracking those countries are among the best-performing single-country funds this year.

It's almost easy for more docile fare such as the iShares MSCI South Korea Capped ETF EWY to get lost in the shuffle. That's not to say EWY is acting like a dud this year. Year-to-date, the largest ETF tracking Asia's fourth-largest economy is higher by a solid 15.2 percent, though that lags the MSCI Emerging Markets Index by 210 basis points.

Still, there is plenty of interest in EWY.

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In highlighting some recently brisk options activity in EWY, Street One Financial Vice President Paul Weisbruch said in a note out last week: “EWY has been on a tear lately, including a recent move to its highest levels since last summer.” 

EWY allocates nearly 23 percent of its weight to Samsung Electronics, making the ETF an indirect hedge on Apple Inc. AAPL exposure.

“Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the number one individual equity weighting in EWY, makes up more than 23% of the underlying portfolio, while the second largest weighting of only 3.10% seems very distant, and belongs to Hyundai Motor Co.,” adds Weisbruch.

South Korea's GDP growth is expected to be solid this year and next with the International Monetary Fund forecasting growth of 2.7 percent this year and 3 percent in 2017. The IMF “said that social spending could reduce poverty and help consumption, and said that Korea should limit intervention in currency markets,” reports Bloomberg

South Korea is the second-largest country weight behind China in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, but EWY has a slightly lower beta than the emerging markets benchmark.

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