Category Archives: WisdomTree

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.

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

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.

WisdomTree Wins Capital Link’s Top ETF Award

It’s award season again in ETF Land.

Capital Link held its 11th annual Closed-End Funds and Global ETFs Forum yesterday at its traditional home New York’s Metropolitan Club. During the conference Capital Link delivers awards to both the closed-end fund and ETF industries. However, I’m just listing the ETF awards. The awards are based on nominations by a committee of analysts and industry specialists who actively follow the products. Capital Link isn’t part of the nominating committee nor can members of the committee be candidates for the awards.

Capital Link’s award for Most Innovative ETF in 2011 went to the WisdomTree Managed Futures Strategy Fund (WDTI).

iShares won two awards: Best Shareholder Relations for best financial disclosure and proactive shareholder communications and Best Investor Relations ETF Website for most informative and user friendly financial Website.

The Most Innovative Index went to the Russell-Axioma IS Large Cap Low Volatility Index (LVOL).

Jan Van Eck, the president of Market Vectors ETFs, won the award for biggest contribution to the ETF sector in 2011. No explanation of the contribution was given, but audience members suggested it was for killing the Holdrs products.

In the category of awards to ETF analysts, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney won for best research team in both the ETF and closed-end fund industries. The team consists of Michael Jabara, David Perlman and Stephen Minar. Mariana Bush of Wells Fargo Advisors won the award for the analyst who made the biggest contribution to the ETF sector last year. She also tied for contribution to the closed-end fund sector with Jon Maier of Bank of America Securities – Merrill Lynch.

ETF Companies Seek Vanity Plates for Tickers

Rachel Louise Ensign wrote a funny story in the Wall Street Journal on ETF sponsors searching for memorable ticker symbols to help market their funds. Laura Morrison of the New York Stock Exchange says they’re like vanity plates on cars. But with 1,350 symbols already in use on the NYSE Arca, the biggest exchange for ETFs, and another 2,446 reserved for future products, it’s getting hard to find something catchy.

Ensign likes the literal, such as SOIL, the ticker for the Global X Fertilizers/Potash ETF, the figurative, such as DUST for the Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bear 3X Shares and the alluring, such as GGGG for the Global X Pure Gold Miners ETF.

My all-time favorite is humor, with MOO, the symbol for Market Vectors Agribusiness ETF. For literal, it’s hard to beat EGPT for Market Vectors Egypt Index ETF or CORN for the Teucrium Corn Fund. For figurative I like GULF for WisdomTree’s Middle East Dividend Fund
.

The question on whether these vanity plates help a fund’s marketing efforts ends up with a big possibly considering the Global X Farming ETF, with the ticker BARN, gets ready to shut down this month.

Hennessy Continues Cautious View on Economy

Even as the stock market surged on Thursday, Neil Hennessy, chairman and chief investment officer of the Hennessy Funds, continues to hold a cautious outlook for stocks and the economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 340 points Thursday, or 2.9%, to 12209, while the S&P 500 soared 43 points, or 3.4%, to 1285 after bondholders of European debt were browbeaten by politicians into accepting at 50% write-down to their Greek debt.

While the bondholders’ new Greek haircut removes one black cloud hanging over the markets, Hennessy believes there’s enough negativity in the U.S. economy to remain wary of the near future.

On Tuesday, Hennessy announced the rebalancing of his portfolio for his Focus 30 Fund. He screens for five variables, market cap between $1 billion and $10 billion, no foreign stocks, price-to-sales ratio below 1.5, growth in annual earnings, and stock price appreciation over last six months. This strategy has given the fund a 21.7% annualized return over the past three years, beating the S&P 500’s 17.4%. But over the past year the fund underperformed the index by 50 basis points to 10.37%, as of Oct. 27.

A closer look at the portfolio changes gives an idea of what Hennessy thinks will be the growth sectors next year. The biggest changes were consumer discretionary fell from 50% of the portfolio to 30%, while utilities jumped from 0% to 30%, and consumer staples from 0% to 10%. Meanwhile, financials, health care, and materials all fell to zero. With consumer discretionary down and utilities and consumer staples up this long-term growth mutual fund is so defensive it looks like they’ve battened down the hatches for a big storm.

Much like when I spoke with Hennessy a year ago, he continues to feel one of the biggest problems for business is the lack of leadership in Washington.

One of the biggest issues is that the Dodd-Frank regulations remain mostly unwritten. Without a clear understanding of what the government plans to do about new regulations, taxes, or the new healthcare plan, Hennessy says few companies are willing to hire. And with the presidential campaign picking up steam, he has little hope of clarity before the election.

With unemployment high, economic growth remains low, he added. Highlighting his sentiment is U.S. consumer confidence fell in August to its lowest level since March 2009. Also in August, investors pulled the most money out of mutual funds since October 2008, right after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.

With the yield on the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 2.9%, Hennessy says, just like last year, companies will focus on dividends, either initiating or increasing existing ones, as a way to drive their stock prices higher. Meanwhile, the Dogs of the Dow, the ten highest-yielding stocks in the Dow industrials, currently yield 4.1%, or 30% higher than the 3.2% yield on the 30-year U.S. Treasury Bond. The Hennessy Total Return Fund is a mutual fund that tracks the Dogs of the Dow strategy.

Hennessy says stocks are cheap because market fundamentals, such as price-to-sales, price-to-book, price-to-cash-flow and price-to-earnings, are significantly below their 5-year and 10-year averages. The market’s P/E ratio is currently a multiple of 13, compared to its 5-year average of 16.

If you want to focus on the two main sectors of the Focus 30 Fund check out the Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLU) or the Consumer Staple Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLP).

Five good ETFs for dividend investing:
SPDR S&P Dividend ETF (SDY)
WisdomTree Emerging Markets Equity Income Fund (DEM)
iShares S&P U.S. Preferred Stock Index Fund (PFF)
First Trust DJ Global Select Dividend Index Fund (FGD)
Guggenheim Multi-Asset Income ETF (CVY)

For my full analysis of these five ETFs go to Kiplinger.com.

5 Excellent ETFs for Emerging Markets

Emerging-markets stocks are short of breath, which is understandable. Over the previous two years, and for most of this millennium, the stock indexes in up-and-coming countries blew away the Dow Jones industrial average, the Nasdaq 100 index, Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and other popular benchmarks in the developed world. But now it’s 2011, and emerging markets are backtracking. The benchmark MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which measures 21 emerging-markets country indexes, has lost 5.2% so far this year. The S&P 500, by contrast, is up 1.7% (all return figures are through March 17).

This might warn you to stay away from emerging markets, or if you’ve been investing profitably in these nations, to bring your money home. We disagree. Instead of cashing out, this is an excellent time to enter emerging markets or to increase your stake, and using exchange-traded funds is a great way to do so. The future remains bright for Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, a group of markets headed by the BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India and China — and also featuring such prosperous countries as South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan.

There’s no denying the present problems. A big reason for the emerging markets’ decline so far in 2011 is high inflation, fueled by record or near-record prices for oil and other basic materials, plus soaring food costs. To keep inflation from getting out of control, central banks in some developing countries have raised interest rates and may push them higher. Rising rates slow economic growth by increasing the cost of borrowing. At least one analyst fears that the emerging nations may not raise rates enough to tame rising prices. “We think the primary driver [for the stocks’ decline] is a lack of emerging-market central-bank inflation-fighting credibility in the face of mounting food-driven pricing pressure,” says Alec Young, Standard & Poor’s international stock strategist.

Turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa and the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear-power-plant crisis aren’t helping matters. Though most African and Middle Eastern countries are classified as frontier markets, which are less liquid and more lightly regulated than emerging markets, some investors worry that non-democratic countries that do have the status of emerging markets may also suffer disruptions. And the disaster in Japan has the potential of slowing growth all over the world because of disruptions in the global supply chain.

Nevertheless, the reason to invest in this group still holds: Most of the world’s growth for the next ten years will come from emerging economies. With a few exceptions, they are not drowning in debt, and they didn’t suffer badly from the credit meltdown. They have young, growing middle classes that are buying cars and houses and like to spend their newly earned discretionary income as they please. If all pans out, says Michael Gavin, Barclays Capital’s head of emerging-markets strategy, developing-markets stocks will return an annualized 10.5% through 2021. Those kinds of returns are worth shooting for.

A Broad Index ETF

To earn the return of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, buy Vanguard MSCI Emerging Market Stock ETF (VWO). You start with the advantage of the lowest expense ratio in the emerging-markets sector, 0.22%, plus you get a dividend yield of 1.8%. The top countries by weighting are China, 17.6%; Brazil, 16.3%; South Korea, 13.7%; Taiwan, 11.2%; South Africa, the only African country in the index, 7.5%; Russia, 7.4%; and India, 7.2%. The fund is down 5.2% this year, but has returned an annualized 43.8% over the last two years, and 12.7% annualized since its creation in 2005.

This ETF doesn’t carry the risks that a manager may pick the wrong stocks or the wrong countries. The drawback is that because it invests only in large and mega-size companies, many of which do big business in the U.S. and Europe, you aren’t making a pure and direct investment in the growth of emerging nations. But so far that hasn’t been much of a drag on results.

To read about the other four ETFs:

  • WisdomTree Emerging Markets Equity Income Fund (DEM)
  • WisdomTree Emerging Markets SmallCap Dividend Fund (DGS)
  • SPDR S&P Emerging Asia Pacific ETF (GMF)
  • iShares S&P Latin America 40 Index Fund (ILF)

Go to Kiplinger.com.