Coronavirus Pandemic Lifted This ETF, But It Should Thrive Afterward

The burgeoning realm of thematic exchange-traded funds is home to a slew of products that are benefiting from seismic shifts caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

What Happened: Of course, the key with thematic ETFs is identifying those with durable themes, not just those that are appealing under extreme or specific circumstances. The KraneShares FTSE Emerging Markets Consumer Technology Index ETF KEMQ is an example of a thematic fund in the durable camp.

Up 33.63% year-to-date, KEMQ, like its U.S.-focused equivalents, is clearly benefiting from the rise of e-commerce and online retail, a move hastened by the pandemic. Additionally, the KraneShares fund is trouncing the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, more than doubling that benchmark's 2020 returns.

Why It's Important: With a COVID-19 vaccine perhaps just weeks away and more expected to come to market in the first quarter, some sectors' pandemic-fueled gains could wane, but the emerging markets consumer technology story isn't dependent on adverse scenarios to fuel gains.

“What makes this trend an inflection point instead of a pandemic-induced anomaly is that, in many cases, online platforms are better at providing these services in the developing world. New users may stick around for that reason,” according to KraneShares research.

Home to 55 stocks, KEMQ's roster isn't limited to the Amazons AMZN or Facebooks FB of the developing world. The ETF is chock full of fintech and platform companies that serve as the infrastructure backbones of emerging markets e-commerce companies.

“For example, in a survey conducted by research firm Kantar in Latin America regarding the use of digital payments, an average of seven out of every ten respondents from five countries (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Colombia) said that they no longer prefer the payment method that they had been using before the pandemic,” notes KraneShares.

What's Next: KEMQ's selection universe includes 26 countries and those geographic exposures are capped at 40% upon rebalancing.

The KraneShares fund offers utility for multiple reasons, including emerging markets consumers' comfort with shopping online due to lack of traditional retail infrastructure and rising internet penetration in those economies. Those are long-term, seismic shifts that will continue after COVID-19 is defeated.

“We believe long-term investors should retain an exposure to growth in emerging markets even as vaccines are distributed and the brick-and-mortar economy reopens,” notes KraneShares. “The shift to online consumption is a long-term trend everywhere. In emerging markets, this shift is especially transformative as first-time users from one of the fastest growing consumer groups leapfrog past legacy practices and technologies and develop online consumption habits that are likely to stick.”

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