Emerging Market ETFs: Surprising Standouts In A Hectic Month

by on May 28, 2012 | ETFs Mentioned:

Throughout the past couple of years, investors have witnessed just how far and how deep the Euro Zone’s debt crisis has spread throughout the global financial market. As looming uncertainty and volatility continues to be a dominating force, many have flocked to their preferred “safe haven” investments, abandoning some of the more profitable and potentially lucrative corners of the market. And with many European countries on the verge of a double-dip recession, investors are seeing plenty of red flags warning them to stay away from riskier asset classes [see also 3 ETFs For A Euro Zone Double-Dip].

One segment of the market that has been particularly hit hard by the Euro Zone’s debt crisis is emerging market equities. Developing countries tied to the plagued region are struggling to maintain adequate growth rates and financial stability. A look at the 4-week returns of our ETFdb Emerging Markets Equity category paints a rather grim picture, with no single fund managing to stay out of the red. But there are some rather significant gaps between the various emerging markets ETFs out there; some have come close to breaking even, while others have shed close to 20% over a four week period. 

While emerging markets are down across the board, here are a look at three ETFs that have help up relatively well (as of May 24):

Market Vectors Gulf States Index ETF (MES): Down 2.7%

This ETF takes the title of the best performing fund of our ETFdb Emerging Markets Equity category based on 4-week returns. MES invests in stocks of companies that are headquartered in countries belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Some of the oil rich countries included in the GCC are Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. Because of their abundance in oil and significant budget surpluses, Gulf states have been able to maintain strong fiscal standings amidst Euro Zone’s economic turmoil.

Egypt Index ETF (EGPT): Down 3.9%

It is perhaps surprising to find this ETF at the top of the emerging market list, considering the massive upheaval of political and economic turmoil Egypt has endured over the last year. Despite this, Egypt has been successful in promoting growth and as such their economy has been able to enter a gradual recovery. Many agree that the recent positive economic indicators are a good sign for the country as long as they are able to withstand further political unrest, which has drastically cut into the country’s revenue stream.  Although EGPT is down about 4% in its 4-week return, it does boast an attractive gain year-to-date of about 30% [see this ETF in our Africa-Centric ETFdb Portfolio].

SPDR MSCI EM 50 ETF (EMFT): Down 4.5%

With only 50 holding in its portfolio, State Street’s EMFT is one of the most unique products in the emerging market ETF space. Considering the fund’s focus on relatively “safer” giant and large cap stocks, it perhaps is not surprising to see it faring much better than its broad-based counterparts such as VWO or EEM. The mega cap companies in EMFT’s portfolio have successfully been able to ride out the Euro Zone storm, sliding by with only a 4.49% 4-week loss.

Although the top performers are not big winners by any means, here are three ETFs who have landed at the bottom of the emerging market equity barrel.

Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX): Down 19.4%

The world’s biggest energy exporter Russia has had its fair share of struggles over the past year: the country has experienced a significant economic slowdown, while inflationary pressures continue to surge. Besides several government and socioeconomic setbacks, the Euro Zone crisis is perhaps the biggest cause of the country’s shaky financial standing, seeing as how Europe accounts for approximately half of the exports and imports in Russia. Not surprisingly, the Market Vectors Russia ETF, RSX, along with RSXJ, RBL, and ERUS are all in double-digit red territory for their 4-week returns.

India Small-Cap Index ETF (SCIF): Down 15.5%

India’s alarmingly large budget and trade deficits have sent up several red flags, making investors understandably bearish on essentially all Indian asset classes. To make matters worse, India’s currency has also taken a major hit, slumping to all time lows as investors continue to become more risk averse. Seeing as how small cap equities are the “purest” approach to gaining exposure to India’s local economy, Van Eck’s SCIF comes in as one of the worst emerging market ETF performers. Other India focused ETFs such as SMIN, INDA, EPI, and SCIN have also posted negative 4-week returns [see also India Bull Or Bear? ETFs To Play].

SPDR S&P Emerging Europe ETF (GUR): Down 18.4%

Considering how Russia, Turkey, and Poland make up nearly 90% of this ETF’s total assets, its not surprising to see this fund near the bottom of the emerging market barrel. Many of the developing European countries in this ETF have struggled to maintain sound financial grounding and with the onslaught of the Euro Zone debt crisis, keeping economic growth rates at high levels has been a seemingly impossible task. The MSCI Emerging Markets Eastern Europe Index fund, ESR, along with the two Poland ETFs, EPOL and PLND, have also suffered significant losses this year.

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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.