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Crucial St. Patrick's Day Amid Brexit: Ireland ETF in Focus

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Just before the occasion of Saint Patrick's Day, which honors Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, the country has one more reason to probably celebrate. UK lawmakers have voted in favor of postponing the Brexit process, recognizing that more time is required to sort out the impasse over Britain's departure from the EU. But they definitively rejected a proposition for the second referendum.

Prime minister Theresa May will now turn to European leaders to allow an extension to Article 50, the legal process under which Britain is leaving the European Union. Unless a postponement is approved by the remaining 27 EU leaders, Britain is heading for a confused departure on Mar 29 (read: Brexit Delay in the Cards? Europe ETFs to Rally).

Lackluster Irish Growth in Q4, Still Best in EU

Apart from this hope, the Irish economy is currently in a lackluster space. The Irish economy grew by 0.1% sequentially in Q4, slowing sharply from a 0.9% expansion in the previous period, as solid increases in private consumption and fixed investment were partially counterbalanced by a negative contribution from net exports.

Considering full-year 2018, the Irish economy expanded 6.7%, slower than 7.2% in 2017. However, the annual growth rate still made the European Union the fastest-growing economy for the fifth successive year.

What Lies Ahead?

Ireland's central bank forecasts that GDP growth will come down to 4.4% this year if Britain leaves the European Union with an agreement but 1.5% if it exits without a deal. Brexit could take a toll on agricultural and food exports, while a slowing Eurozone and global economy could weigh on exports (read: see all European Equity ETFs here).

Farming groups estimate that the €800-million-a-year market for beef will go away if “the industry misses tariff-free access to the UK and meat from non-EU states is allowed in on the same terms as Irish products.”

ETF in Focus

Overall, 2019 looks to be a tricky year for the Ireland economy and the pure-play fund iShares MSCI Ireland ETF (EIRL - Free Report) . Investors can thus stay away from the Ireland ETF even though the festive moment of St. Patrick's Day is around the corner. The ETF’s performance could be anything but green in the coming days given the Brexit drama.

The fund is heavy on CRH Plc (22.16%) followed by Kerry Group Plc (16.16%) and Icon Plc (5.80%). It charges 47 bps in fees. The fund has gained 4.2% in the past month and its future journey is largely dependent on Brexit. The fund has a Zacks ETF Rank #4 (Sell).

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