Poland’s currency zloty, bonds and stocks gained on Monday (May 16, 2016) as Moody’s reaffirmed its long-term credit rating for the country at A2. And unsurprisingly two ETFs tracking the country – iShares MSCI Poland Capped ETF (EPOL) and VanEck Vectors Poland ETF (PLND) – jumped 3.4% and 3%, respectively.
Poland, one of the outperformers in the EU, has been lagging in recent months thanks to growth slowdown in the emerging markets. Eurozone troubles also continue to weigh on the country (read: 4 ETFs to Bet on Eurozone Recovery).
Still, as per IMF forecasts, the country’s GDP growth rate is expected to touch 4% in 2016 as compared to 3.6% in 2015 building investors’ confidence in the country.
Although Poland did not get a downgrade from Moody’s, the rating agency revised its outlook for the country to negative from stable. The agency cited several reasons for the change in outlook including fiscal risks arising from a substantial increase in current expenditures, uncertainty as to offsetting revenue measures and the government's intention to lower the retirement age. Another factor affecting the outlook was the risk of deterioration in the investment climate thanks to unpredictable policies and legislations. The President's office has recently presented a proposal to implement a law converting Swiss franc mortgages into zlotys (read: Volatility ETFs: Buy or Sell Now?).
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has criticized this proposal and stated that the country’s financial system along with credit and economic growth will stand to suffer if the country goes ahead with its plan to convert foreign-currency denominated mortgages. The IMF has also warned that the increase in government expenditure would lead to a rise in budget deficit to 2.8% in 2016. The rising budget deficit could even cross 3% in 2017, breaching the European Union’s budgetary rules.
Instead, the IMF has encouraged the Polish government to follow policies that are market friendly (read: Why You Should Invest in India ETFs Now).
Despite these concerns, investors who believe that Poland is poised for a turnaround could catch the Poland-focused ETFs. Both the ETFs carry a favorable Zacks ETF Rank of 3 or ‘Hold’ rating, suggesting room for upside (see: all European Equity ETFs here).
EPOL in Focus
EPOL has about $173.4 million in AUM and an average daily volume of 274,000 shares. The product tracks the MSCI Poland IMI 25/50, charging 63 basis points a year from investors. With 40 stocks in its basket, this fund puts as much as 46.1% of its total assets in the top five holdings, suggesting high concentration risk. Financials actually makes up roughly half of the portfolio with 44.7% exposure. Energy and materials round off the top three sectors with exposure of 17.3% and 9.6% respectively. Shares of EPOL fell roughly 5.4% in the last one-month period ended May 16, 2016 (read: Top and Flop Country ETFs of Q1).
PLND in Focus
The fund looks to track the VanEck Vectors Poland Index and has 26 securities in its basket, charging investors 60 basis points a year in fees. The fund has 36.4% of its total assets in the top five holdings. PLND also puts heavy focus on financials, with as much as 37.1% exposure, followed by a 14.1% allocation to energy, 12.7% coverage in utilities and 11.4% in consumer discretionary. PLND sees a paltry volume of around 13,000 daily, while the ETF lost more than 5.8% in the last 30 days.
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