For many investors, the development of ETFs has been instrumental in gaining exposure to quickly growing emerging markets. These funds have allowed many to put assets to work in a variety of countries cheaply and easily, greatly diversifying portfolios from a geographic perspective in the process. In order to gain this exposure, many investors have flooded into just a few ETFs in the space as these funds control nearly all the assets in the emerging market ETF world. In fact, two ETFs, (VWO - ETF report) and (EEM - ETF report)—which both track the MSCI Emerging Markets Index—account for a whopping $80 billion of assets in the space, far and away the leaders in the emerging market sector.
This impressive total in these two funds-- which track the same index-- suggests the vast majority of investors who have exposure to emerging markets are doing so via one of these products. While both of these funds do a great job of providing broad exposure to some of the world’s largest and most liquid emerging markets, one can definitely argue that they do not offer a complete picture of the sector and leave something to be desired for many (Go Local With Emerging Market Bond ETFs).
This is largely due to the fact that the funds remain heavily concentrated in just a few nations limiting the broad appeal of the ETFs as proxies for global emerging market performance. For example, in VWO, four nations—China, Korea, Brazil, and Taiwan—make up close to 58% of the total exposure in the fund while investments in South Africa, Russia, and India combine for another 21% of assets. This leaves roughly 20% for the rest of the emerging world suggesting that investors are heavily concentrated in a few countries and could stand to look at some national ETFs in order to round out their emerging market exposure (read Top Three Emerging Market Consumer ETFs). For these investors, we highlight three emerging market ETFs below that could help to balance out exposure to the developing world and help to dull some of the heavy concentrations that are inherent in the two most popular ETFs in the space (all GDP data is PPP and from the CIA World Factbook).
Turkey is a rapidly growing country that often doesn’t get the respect that it deserves. The country is one of the 20 largest economies on earth and is close to breaking into the trillion dollar club—and already has by some measures. Yet despite the fact that Turkey has an economy larger than Australia or Taiwan, the nation makes up just 1.3% of assets in VWO, a surprisingly low percentage considering that Taiwan receives a double digit allocation (read Five ETFs to Buy In 2012).
In order to increase exposure to this economy, a closer look at the iShares MSCI Turkey Investable Market Index Fund (TUR - ETF report) could be warranted. The fund tracks the MSCI Turkey Investable Market Index and gives exposure to nearly 100 securities in the Turkish market. The fund is heavily exposed to financials (42%) of assets while two defensive sectors—consumer staples and telecoms—round out the top three. Total costs come in at a reasonable 59 basis points while the 30 Day SEC yield is a pretty solid 2.6%.
Mexico is one of the largest economies in the world and has a GDP of nearly $1.6 trillion; enough to put it in the top 15 and just behind Italy. In fact, the country has a bigger economy than South Korea although the Asian nation has three times the assets in VWO than its Latin American counterpart. Clearly, Mexico, which is the fifth biggest emerging market economy on Earth, should probably have more in assets than what it receives in either of the major emerging market ETFs (also read Time To Get Regional With Bond ETFs).
If an investor is looking to rectify this situation, an iShares ETF could be the way to gain more access to the economy quickly and easily; the MSCI Mexico Investable Market Index Fund (EWW - ETF report). The product tracks publically traded securities in the Mexican market by following the MSCI Mexico Investable Market Index. This produces a fund that has just under 50 securities in total and one that charges a relatively low 52 basis points in fees. Top sector weightings include consumer staples (30%), telecom (22%) and materials (15.9%) while many sectors do not receive any allocations at all. In fact, close to 70% of the assets go towards the top ten holdings and two securities, America Movil and Walmart de Mexico, combine to make up nearly one-third of total assets by themselves.
For investors looking for a smaller economy that has been overlooked, the island nation of the Philippines could be worth a closer look. The country has a $350 billion economy which means that it is larger than Switzerland, Hong Kong, or Singapore. Yet despite this size, the country makes up under 75 basis points in VWO, practically a rounding error in total portfolio contribution (read Inside The Vietnam ETF).
For those looking to ramp up assets in this overlooked country, an allocation or a closer look at the MSCI Philippines Investable Market Index Fund (EPHE - ETF report) could be a good idea. The fund tracks a benchmark of nearly 40 securities that are based in the country, charging investors 59 basis points a year for its services. Top allocations go towards financials (36.6%), industrials (22.7%) and utilities (16.4%). Assets are reasonably well spread out across individual securities as no one company makes up more than 9% while the top ten assets take up close to 58% of all the assets.
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Author is long VWO.