Category Archives: iShares

Emerging Market ETFs Rally in Spite of Trump Trade Threat

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, emerging-market ETFs tumbled as investors feared that the new administration’s protectionist trade policies would hurt the countries in these markets. But then a funny thing happened. After ranking as one of the worst-performing sectors in the last quarter of 2016, emerging- market ETFs began the new year with a rally and are outperforming U.S. stocks.

So far this year, Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) has jumped 10%, iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG) leapt 10%, and the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) climbed 10% vs. 5% for the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY).

Part of the reason is that prior to the election, 2016 had been a pretty good year for emerging markets. Because many emerging markets are tied to commodities, the prior four years had been pretty bad because of falling commodity prices and slowing growth in China. But in 2016, commodity prices began to rise and China’s economic slowdown stabilized.

A big part of the postelection drop was out of concern for the economy of Mexico should Trump attempt to renegotiate Nafta and anxiety over trade barriers with China, according to Mitch Tuchman, chief investment officer at Rebalance IRA, a retirement investment advisor, in Palo Alto, Calif.

Robert Johnson, Morningstar’s director of economic analysis, said the recent performance is a continuation of last year’s rally. He also said companies and investors have begun to think that, in the wake of Trump’s mishandling of the immigration ban, he might not be able to implement his trade policies, especially as he gets pushback from industries hurt by trade bans and tariffs.

Also, since the trade policies haven’t yet been defined and investors think most emerging markets, besides Mexico and China, won’t be affected, they’re jumping back in.

“After five years of underperformance, emerging markets were oversold, and the election flushed out the remaining people hanging on,” said Gerald Laurain, chief investment officer with FTB Advisors, an RIA in Memphis, Tenn., with $4 billion in assets under management. “So now that they’ve established a low, the only place to go isup.”

J.J. Feldman, a portfolio manager at Miracle Mile Advisors, a Los Angeles-based RIA, said the valuations are much more compelling. The price/earnings ratio on the emerging markets is 12 vs. an expensive 18 on the S&P 500. He added that emerging- market stocks are yielding 2.25% vs. the S&P’s 2%.

Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, an asset manger in Westport, Conn., has a different angle. “When there is protectionism, America is the loser,” he said. “And tariffs will backfire. People are making the connection that it will weaken the dollar. Meanwhile, the euro is bottoming out and that is better for emerging markets.”

“Europe seems to be doing better, and it’s more important to China than the U.S.,” said Johnson. “There’s better growth there, no new rules and other markets they can sell into.”

So far through this year, the top country-specific ETFs are all in emerging markets. IShares MSCI Brazil Small-Cap (EWZS) has soared 30%, VanEck Vectors Brazil Small-Cap (BRF) surged 26%, iShares Brazil Capped (EWZ) is up 18%, Global X MSCI Argentina (ARGT) up 16%, and KraneShares CSI China Internet (KWEB) up 16%.

After a brutal two-year recession in Brazil, during which President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and replaced by Michel Temer, the country is finally expected to be on the road to recovery. Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles expects the Brazilian economy to return to a 2% annual growth pace by the last quarter of the year. Wall Street is forecasting a more realistic 0.2% growth rate in 2017 gross domestic product. Brazil’s economy is driven by resources and commodities. Its top commodity exports are oil, iron ore, soybeans, sugar cane and coffee.

While China is seeing its economy slowing, with GDP expected to post growth of 6.7% for 2016, that’s the kind of slowdown most country’s would kill for. Right now China is dealing with a cooling housing market, explosive growth in debt, and painful structural reforms instituted by President Xi Jinping.

“E-commerce is going well and that is tapping into a strong part of the economy,” said Rob Lutts, president and chief investment officer of Cabot Wealth Management, an RIA, in Salem, Mass. Lutts spends a lot of time traveling in China. “Investing in Alibaba is like investing in Amazon.com.”

Lutts said that China will have a big challenge over the next five years with a big debt bubble that will have to be distributed over the rest of the economy. This will bring the economic growth rate down to 5% by 2020. “They will have stress when the real estate bubble comes down in price, and that will hurt the smaller banks in the next six months.”

But Lutts is very bullish on India. For the fiscal year ended March 2016, India’s economy grew 7.9%, and Lutts said it could go higher. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is instituting reforms to remove government obstacles to business and make the government more efficient. Lutts said his favorite way to invest in India is in the financial services sector.

He thinks HDFC Bank is one of the best-managed banks in the world. It’s also the top holding of iShares MSCI India ETF (INDA), No. 3 in WisdomTree India Earnings Fund (EPI), No. 2 in iShares India 50 ETF (INDY) and No. 3 in PowerShares India Portfolio (PIN). The ETFs’ year-to-date gains range from 8.8% to 9.8%.

Overall, all the experts think that because Europe is growing and Trump’s policies are still undefined, emerging markets should keep rising throughout the year.

Orginally published in Investor’s Business Daily.

Comparing ETFs? Don’t Just Look At Expense Ratios

The rule when buying ETFs is that when all things are equal, buy the one with the lowest expense ratio. But remember that similar sounding ETFs often aren’t equal. This means don’t let the expense ratio be the only factor in choosing an ETF.

“Our belief is expenses and past performance matter, but more important is understanding what’s inside the portfolio,” said Todd Rosenbluth, S&P Capital IQ director of ETF research.

SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) tracks the S&P 500 stock index and charges a tiny expense ratio of 0.09%, commonly called nine basis points. One hundred basis points make up 1 percentage point. Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight ETF (RSP) also tracks the S&P 500. But it charges a fee of 0.4% of assets.

Look At The Performance

“You might ask ‘Who in their right mind would pay 40 basis points vs. 9?'” said Ron Delegge, founder of ETFguide. “But then you take a look at the 10-year return.”

RSP returned an average annual 9.42% in the past 10 years, compared with 7.85% for SPY, according to Morningstar. In fact, RSP beats SPY in all periods reported on Morningstar.com, from one month on.

The big difference between the funds is the way the indexes are weighted. SPY follows the S&P 500’s classic market-capitalization weighting, which multiplies the stock price by the number of shares outstanding to get a stock’s market value. The biggest companies get a larger weighting, comprising a greater percentage of the index than the smaller ones. Thus a $1 move in Apple (AAPL), with a 3.98% weighting, will lift or drag down the index much more than a $1 move in the shares of Diamond Offshore Drilling (DO), which has a weighting of just 0.01%.

But RSP gives every stock in the index an equal weighting of 0.2%. This means a $1 rise in Diamond Offshore’s stock moves the index just as much as a $1 increase in Apple’s shares. By giving greater weight to the smaller stocks in the index, this has a big effect on the fund’s performance. Year to date, RSP is up 2.25% vs. SPY’s 1.29%, 96 basis points more — after paying the expense ratio.

“Would I be willing to pay more for those returns?” asks Delegge. “Definitely.”

Of course, SPY could just as easily outperform RSP in periods when the market favors large-cap stocks or other factors that can be found in SPY but not RSP.

But S&P 500 trackers aren’t alone. “One example that is much maligned is PowerShares FTSE RAFI U.S. 1000 ETF (PRF), said Michael Krause, president of AltaVista Research in New York, which runs the ETF Research Center website. “I calculate that cumulative since its inception in 2006, PRF has outperformed iShares Russell 1000 ETF (IWB) by 14 percentage points.”

ETF Research Center pegs PRF’s average annual return since 2006 at 8.9% vs. 8.1% for IWB.

PRF’s expense ratio is 0.39%, while IWB charges 0.15% of assets.

Not Alone

This trend happens a lot among the industry ETFs. SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB) and iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (ITB) sound like they track the same industry, meaning they should post similar results. XHB charges 0.35%, while ITB charges 0.45%, so XHB seems like a better choice.

Yet only 35% of the XHB holdings are actual homebuilding companies, and 28% building products. The rest of the stocks are home furnishing producers and retailers, home improvement retailers and household appliance makers. However, homebuilding companies make up 71% of the ITB portfolio, with building products at 13%.

ITB has risen by an annual average of 25.72% in the past three years vs. 21.01% for XHB. Year to date, ITB is up 8.32% vs. XHB’s 6.74%. That more than compensates for the extra 10 basis points.

“Cheaper hasn’t been better as of late,” said Rosenbluth.

Originally published in Investor’s Business Daily.

WisdomTree Wins ETF of Year at ETF.com Awards As ProShares Walks Away With 4 Statues

It’s award time again.

Much like Spring follows Winter, although reports of more snow this weekend are leading some to question that, the ETF industry starts its period of self-congratulations on the heels of the Oscars, Grammys and Golden Globes.

ETF.com, the self-proclaimed world’s leading authority on exchange-traded funds, started the season off with their second annual awards banquet.

“Our awards try to recognize the products that make a difference to investors,” said Matt Hougan, president of ETF.com. “The ones finding new areas to put money to work.” The awards are determined by a panel of experts chosen by ETF.com.

Held at The Lighthouse restaurant at New York’s Chelsea Piers March 19, ETF.com wins the prize for best party location. With picture windows overlooking the Hudson River, guests of the cocktail hour took in the sunset over New Jersey before the ceremony started.

The WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity (HEDJ) was the big winner, grabbing the prize for ETF of the Year, while the Market Vectors ChinaAMC China Bond (CBON) won Best New ETF. Not quite sure what the difference is between those two awards, but obviously both funds stand out from the crowd of 117 ETFs issued in 2014.

However, ProShares swept the evening, as the single provider that won the most awards. The twin funds ProShares CDS North American HY Credit (TYTE) and CDS Short North American HY Credit (WYDE) claimed the awards for both Most Innovative New ETF and Best New Fixed-Income ETF.

“We designed these ETFs for investors who want high yield credit exposure that is isolated from interest rate risk,” said Steve Cohen, ProShares managing director.

The fund was also nominated for Best Ticker of the Year with its homophones for “tight” and “wide”. However, the awards announcer had a chuckle by claiming they really were pronounced “tighty whitey”, a reference to his jockey shorts. Best Ticker was awarded to HACK, the PureFunds ISE Cyber Security ETF.

ProShares also won Best New Alternative ETF for the ProShares Morningstar Alternative Solution (ALTS) and Most Innovative ETF Issuer of the Year.

“We are always striving to deliver new and innovative products to allow investors to build better portfolios,” said ProShares Chief Executive Michael Sapir.

Lee Kranefuss, the man who created the iShares brand of ETFs and built them into the largest ETF issuer in the world won the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the only speech of the night — thank goodness — Kranefuss said, “ETFs allow people to take control.” He likened ETFs to iTunes, saying “no longer are you limited to what the record company puts out.” He said he’s often been asked if he thought the ETF industry would take off like it has in the 15 years since iShares launched.

“Not really,” said Kranefuss, “we just put out the best products we could put out.”

The other award winners:

Best New U.S. Equity ETF – iShares Core Dividend Growth (DGRO)
Best New International/Global Equity ETF – Deutsche X-trackers Harvest MSCI All China Equity (CN)
Best New Commodity ETF – AdvisorShares Gartman Gold/Euro (GEUR) and AdvisorShares Gartman Gold/Yen (GYEN).
Best New Asset Allocation ETF – Global X /JPMorgan Efficiente (EFFE)
ETF Issuer of the Year – First Trust
New ETF Issuer of the Year – Reality Shares
Index Provider of the Year – MSCI
Index of the Year – Bloomberg Dollar Index
Best Online Broker for ETF-Focused Investors – TD Ameritrade
Best ETF Offering for RIAs – Charles Schwab
Best ETF Issuer Website – BlackRock

Emerging Market ETFs See 5 Months Of Inflow

Emerging-market exchange traded funds have seen five straight months of inflow from investors, especially into Asian markets, reversing last year’s trend, while European equity funds have seen outflow.

With the U.S. equity markets hitting all-time highs, market analysts consider Asian markets cheap in a world with few bargains. They are encouraged by recent stabilization of the Chinese economy, improving fundamentals throughout Asia, and optimism over the recent elections in India and Indonesia.

In addition, the Federal Reserve’s tapering of its quantitative easing strategy has not resulted in higher Treasury yields, which many fear would mean more expensive borrowing costs for emerging-market countries.

“There is also a lot of excitement over the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect,” said Richard Peterson, who is the managing director of MarketPsych.com, a behavioral finance consultancy based in New York.

The program is expected to start in October. Global investors will for the first time be able to trade the Shanghai A shares, which are now available only to Chinese investors via the Hong Kong stock exchange. Chinese investors will also be allowed to trade the previously unavailable Hong Kong H shares.

In August, emerging-market equity ETFs, including China funds, received inflow of $4.7 billion, according to BlackRock ETP Research. Inflow was down from the $6.3 billion posted in July, on expectations of rising U.S. interest rates, which could pull investment money out of Asian and back to the U.S. Still, over the past five months emerging-market ETFs have gathered $17.6 billion.

Vanguard Attracts Flow

Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (ARCA:VWO), the largest emerging-market ETF tracked by research house XTF, recorded $1.7 billion in inflow over the last three months. The $49 billion VWO is up 8% this year. It has an expense ratio of 0.15% and a yield of 2.47%. The fund has 43% of its assets in emerging Asia and 21% in Latin America.

Subtracting the outflow of the first three months of the year, emerging-market equity’s net inflow of $11.6 billion as of August has surpassed the $10.4 billion of redemptions posted in 2013, said BlackRock. Last year’s net outflow came on the heels of a Chinese banking crisis, an overheated property market, fear of a hard economic landing in China, and regional currency weakness based in anticipation of rising U.S. interest rates.

IShares MSCI Emerging Market ETF (ARCA:EEM), the second largest emerging-market ETF, with $41.9 billion in assets, had net inflow of $2.01 billion the past three months, according to XTF. The fund is up 5% this year. It has an expense ratio of 0.67%.

BLDRS Emerging Markets 50 ADR (NASDAQ:ADRE) is the second best performing ETF in the emerging-market category, up 13% year to date. The fund tracks the performance of about 50 emerging-market American depositary receipts. This ETF charges an expense ratio of 0.3% and had a yield of 3.5%.

“We are seeing in Europe grave concerns about the economic rebound and a lot of political uncertainty in Latin America,” said Andrew Karolyi, faculty director of the Emerging Markets Institute at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. “People withdrawing capital from Europe need to deploy it somewhere, and Asia looks like the least bad option.”

For full article see Investor’s Business Daily.

Biotech ETFs Bounce Back After Three-Month Correction

Biotechnology exchange traded funds surged this week on news that drug giant Merck agreed to buy Idenix Pharmaceuticals for $3.85 billion, leading investors to believe the biotech sector has bottomed out after three months of misery.

On Monday, the big pharma drugmaker offered the tiny biotech $24.50 a share, a 239% premium to its closing price Friday, in order to acquire Idenix’s portfolio of three early-state hepatitis C drugs.

The news sparked a rally in the biotech sector and biotech ETFs. PowerShares Dynamic Biotechnology & Genome Portfolio ETF (PBE) jumped 8.4% Monday, to advance 11% for the week ending June 10. It now has about 9% of its assets in Idenix.

SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (ARCA:XBI), now with 4% in Idenix, leapt 6.8% Monday, for a 14.6% gain over the past five days. Overall, biotech sector ETFs rose an average of 5% over the past week.

Big 2013 Move, Then Pullback

Last year, the biotech sector was one of the best areas of the market, posting a bigger return than the S&P 500. But since February, the sector has undergone a significant retrenchment. First, it started out as a flight from risk in a sector many said was in bubble territory.

The timing was prescient. Over the next three months, a string of biotechs suddenly imploded. In early March, Geron, a biotech with no products, plunged 62% after U.S. regulators halted the trial of its only experimental drug.

In April, Cytokinetics’ shares lost more than 60% after its experimental treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease failed to work better than a placebo in a clinical trial.

Then the first week of May saw three biotechs all report failures with their leading drug candidates.

“These unexpected blowups and the overall flight from risk hurt the small-cap biotech sector with valuations under $1 billion,” said Ron Garren, an oncologist and editor of BioTechInsight.com, an online biotech stock newsletter in Carmel, Calif.

“They got decimated and some lost more than half their value. Of course, some were overvalued to begin with.”

From late February to May 8, iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (NASDAQ:IBB), which tracks all the biotechs on the Nasdaq, and PBE each tumbled 18%. XBI sank 29%.

Over the past month, XBI climbed 21% for a year-to-date return of 15%. PBE is up 14% for an 18% gain this year. IBB, the biggest biotech ETF with $5.2 billion in assets, advanced 10% the last 30 days for a 10% return year-to-date.

ProShares Ultra Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF
(NASDAQ:BIB) is a leveraged fund that seeks to post a daily return twice the results of the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index.

It fell 35% during the biotech correction, but gained 21% over the past month. Year to date, BIB is up 16%, but its return over the past 12 months is 82% compared with the 32% return for the average biotech ETF.

Opportunity Seen

“As the yields on dividend stocks begin to dry up, risk stocks look more attractive, and after the biotech beat down, I think these stocks are a great opportunity,” said Garren.

“There has been an incredible amount of work in immunotherapies and cancer. Also, there are big opportunities involved in fatal diseases that need therapies.”

China Stock Market: Decline Presents Opportunity

The Tiananmen Square massacre, in which Chinese troops killed hundreds of pro-democracy protesters, occurred 25 years ago last week. While the Chinese government didn’t give their people democracy, it did give them capitalism.

Just 18 months after the massacre, in December 1990, the government opened the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Since then, China has become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. According to the World Bank, the per capita growth of China’s gross domestic product since Tiananmen Square is 8.8% on an annualized basis.

“While the Chinese government reacted harshly to the protesters in Tiananmen, it’s made a concerted effort to increase growth and wealth over the past 25 years, which has had a huge impact on the population,” said Jonathan Brodsky, managing director of Advisory Research, a Chicago asset management firm with $11 billion under management.

“The pro-growth initiatives, which have been a powerful tool of the government to maintain stability, were accelerated in the face of Tiananmen.”

Brodsky runs Advisory Research Emerging Markets Opportunities Fund , which has more than 20% of its assets invested in China. The fund was up 9.5% this year going into Monday.

On the 25th anniversary, June 4, 2014, the Shanghai Composite Index closed at 2024, a 1,924% rise from when the market opened. However, even though China posted phenomenal growth over that period, the stock market has experienced enormous volatility on a fairly regular basis. The index is down 66% from its peak of 6092 on Oct. 16, 2007.


Sentiment Sours

Investor sentiment has soured on China for a variety of reasons. Top of the list is that China’s economy has slid from the phenomenal growth rate of 10% a year to the merely great annual rate of 7%. Part of this is related to the declines in the economies of its trading partners in the developed world.

Domestically, the country is suffering from a bubble in the real estate market, a slowdown in consumer spending and high debt levels in the Chinese banking industry. Add to that China’s shadow banking industry, which sells Chinese consumers lightly regulated, obscure investment products, and you can see significant risk to the economy.

Problems Already Discounted?

“The problems are not new and they are fully discounted, maybe more than fully discounted, creating one of the best opportunities to buy China in a decade,” said Jim Oberweis, president of Oberweis Asset Management in Chicago. The firm manages $5 billion in assets, including the Oberweis China Opportunities Fund . The fund gained 60% last year but is down 4.9% year-to-date.

Among ETFs, iShares China Large-Cap ETF (FXI), which holds 25 of the biggest Chinese stocks, currently trades at a price-earnings ratio of 7.6 and a price-to-book value of 1.1, while the S&P 500 has a P/E of 17, according to Morningstar. The fund is down 3% year-to-date, after rallying 5.3% over the past three months.

Global X China Financials ETF (CHIX), which has a P/E ratio of 6, is down 5.9% year-to-date, following a 6.6% rally over the past three months.

IShares MSCI China ETF (MCHI), with a P/E of 9, is down 3.8% year-to-date, after rising 2.3% the last three months.

Originally published in Investor’s Business Daily.

Horizons’ New Korean ETF is First Based on Kospi Index

Horizons ETFs Group, one of the largest ETF families in the world, earlier this month launched its third fund in the U.S. market and its first country-specific one: Horizons Korea Kospi 200 ETF (HKOR).

While other ETFs track the South Korean stock market, including iShares MSCI South Korea Capped ETF (EWY), First Trust South Korea AlphaDEX Fund (FKO) and WisdomTree Korea Hedged Equity Fund (DXKW), Horizons’ new fund is the first to track the Korean blue chip benchmark.

“What makes this significant is that it’s the first U.S. ETF to track an index whose point of origin is South Korea, as opposed to MSCI,” said Arlene C. Reyes, chief operating officer of exchangetradedfunds.com, a site that follows the global ETF market. “The Kospi 200 is to Korea what the DAX is to Germany. It’s important because it’s the index of choice for the South Korean stock exchange.”

Samsung Electronics makes up 21% of the index, with Hyundai Motor at 5.5% and Kia Motors at 2.3%. The information technology sector comprises 32% of the index, followed by consumer discretionary at 17%, industrials and financials at 13% each.

With more than $4 billion in assets, the iShares ETF, which tracks the MSCI Korea 25/50 Index, is the 800-pound gorilla tracking Korea. Its top-10 holdings and sector allocations are similar to the Horizons Fund. EWY has 20% in Samsung Electronics, for example. But the Kospi 200 ETF tracks a more diversified swatch of the stock exchange and 93% of its market capitalization, holding 200 companies vs. iShares’ 105.

Furthermore, HKOR is the cheapest of the bunch, with an expense ratio of 0.38%.

Officially listed in the emerging markets category, South Korea has fallen along with the other emerging-market economies over the past year. EWY is down 7% this year. Topping the reasons for the broad decline are worries about the U.S. Federal Reserve tapering its quantitative easing program and the falling yen, which will make Japan’s pricing more competitive to South Korea.

“Korea is more of an emerged market, as opposed to an emerging market,” said Joe Cunningham, executive vice president at Horizons ETFs Management, Horizons’ U.S. unit. “Compared to the other emerging markets, Korea has greater growth in per capita income, a larger consumer market, a very diversified economy, lower debt levels and the companies are household names.”

Cunningham says another advantage to HKOR is that while options are traded on the iShares ETF, no futures are traded on its index. But options and futures are traded on the Kospi 200, making it the most liquid index in Asia. This gives investors in HKOR 24-hour exposure, which the other ETFs don’t have.

Read more at Investor’s Business Daily.