How to Diversify Your Portfolio with Emerging Market ETFs
May 9, 2020
Written by: Ella Vincent
Investors can choose from many US-based stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). However, emerging market ETFs may be an option if a trader wants more diversity in their portfolios. ETFs that track stocks from other countries can provide more opportunities to invest in growth stocks.
This TradingSim article will help show the differences between American and emerging market ETFs. This article will also identify how investors can choose the best emerging market ETFs. Lastly, the article will highlight the top emerging market ETFs and Asian stocks as well.
Table of Contents
What is the difference between US and emerging market ETFs?
US-based ETFs often have different stocks, including value stocks and dividend stocks. They also have bonds, and commodities combined into one basket for investors to pick. Emerging market ETFs often have stocks from different countries like Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and China.
US and European ETFs differ in many ways
American and European ETFs both offer a basket of varying stocks, bonds, and commodities. However, they differ in important ways. The FTSE, the British stock exchange, does not offer as many ETFs in Europe. However, many emerging markets track the FTSE.
Individual trading platforms in Europe can take on larger trades of ETFs than the major European stock exchanges. Adriano Pace is director of equity derivatives at Tradeweb trades both American and European ETFs. He observed that European trading is more prevalent off-exchange than in the US.
“It’s very different from the London Stock Exchange or Deutsche Börse. For example, we can absorb the bigger trades,” said Pace. “The order book on exchanges are much thinner. It’s better for retail but not enough for asset managers. As a whole, off-exchange they can get the thing done.”
They are also much less popular in Europe than in the US. Sean Tuffy, head of regulatory intelligence at Brown Brothers Harriman, deals with European ETFs. Tuffy noted that European ETFs are more common with professional investment firms in Europe. He noted that European individual investors are less likely to own ETFs.
“When you look at the EU market, only 11 percent of households own funds compared to over 40 percent in the US. So, it’s not surprising that European ETFs are largely the domain of institutional investors,” said Tuffy.
European ETFs aren’t as actively invested as American funds
There is another key difference between American and European ETFs. Americans generally get their wealth from the stock market, especially from their 401K’s. American investors are more invested in their ETF trades. Their pending retirement or emergency funds are more tied up in the funds than their European counterparts.
Dennis Dijkstra is co-CEO of Flow Traders, Europe’s largest ETF electronic trader. He said that American investors want to closely watch their investments because more of their funds are at stake. They also are more aware of how much money they use to fund ETFs.
“One driver is that people invest their own pension money so they are much more cost-conscious than in Europe,” said Dijkstra.
European ETFs more complicated to settle than US funds
European ETFs are also different from American ETFs when investors want to sell them. All US trades settle in the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation when an investor sells an American ETF. However, there are dozens of European Central Securities Depositories Association members.
Laura Morrison, global head of exchange-traded products at Bats Global Markets noted the difference between American and European ETF investors. She noted that selling European ETFs is a more complicated procedure for stockbrokers.
“A broker may have to move collateral between central securities depositories. It’s more time consuming and costly,” said Morrison.
Currency risk analysis part of emerging market ETF purchases
In addition to noticing the difference between trades, there is the more specific difference in monitoring currency risk. Investment in international ETFs means more than watching the US dollar. If an ETF is heavy in Indian stocks, watching the Indian rupee is as crucial as watching the US dollar.
“At current valuations, we expect that emerging markets local currency bond returns will primarily be driven by currencies for the remainder of the year,” said Rodilosso.
The Federal Reserve’s latest actions to lower interest rates may depress the US dollar and help emerging market currencies in the long run. Rodilosso notes that rebounds in foreign currencies may help emerging market ETFs in the long run.
“As opposed to previous episodes of risk aversion and capital outflows, we believe external vulnerabilities are reduced for many countries, foreign currency reserves are higher and the downside risks to growth appear to outweigh inflation pressures for now,” said Rodilosso.
Diversification in many different stocks from different countries can lessen the blow of currency risk. Long-term investment will also prevent selling ETFs too soon. Riding out a volatile period in another country, such as the UK’s Brexit drama with the euro, can benefit investors over time.
Emerging market ETFs struggling in COVID-19 aftermath
“The scale of the drop in assets is quite staggering. This is quite a change from the start of 2020 when we all were placing bets on when ETFs in Europe would hit the €1tn mark,” said Garcia-Zarate.
Emerging markets value ETFs could recover from economic slump
While emerging ETFs are struggling, there are glimmers of hope. Vanguard emerging market ETFs have performed well. The corporation had ETF inflows of € 1.9 billion in March.
The economic crisis could lead central banks around the world to ease monetary policy. Luis Costa, head of CEEMEA (Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East) Strategy, noted that many international banks are acting like the Federal Reserve in the US. The South African Reserve Bank has started a bond purchase program to help the South African currency, the rand. Costa approves of the action taken to help emerging market ETFs.
“Some central banks are not necessarily in this line, which is probably the case for some central European central banks,” said Costa.
“If you take the vast majority of EM central banks, they have been, in a way, taking the chain,” added Costa.
Costa also believes that it’s inevitable that central banks help their economies.
“As long as it’s not a currency run – and I don’t think we have seen currency runs yet, even though the losses have been in double-digit levels – I do believe this is going to be a natural way for economies to react,” said Costa.
“Looking into the big floating currencies, like the South African rand, the Brazilian real, the Mexican peso, the Korean won, it’s good,” said Costa.
“Because they are going to be escape vaults to some emerging economies to absorb the devaluations of growth,” added Costa.
Undervalued emerging market ETFs can help investors
The economic downturn could be an unexpected boon for investors who are trading in emerging market ETFs. Many undervalued currencies are emerging market currencies. Exchanges of foreign currency happen at a lower price. They’re exchanged when they’re undervalued. The lower price of currencies could lead to more affordable emerging market ETFs as well.
Goldman Sachs Co-Head of Global Foreign Exchange, Zach Pandl, is an expert in emerging market ETFs. He noted that the average emerging market currency is “currently approximately 9% undervalued”.
Many currencies in Latin America are undervalued. The Mexican peso is devalued after major depreciation.
“These severe levels of undervaluation argue for positive returns on a medium-term horizon,” said Pandl.
“In the near-term, these are all currencies exposed to both risk sentiment and commodity prices. So, [they] will remain hostage to the moves in those factors,” added Pandl.
Financial experts say emerging markets can bounce back
Despite the current slide in ETFs, Morgan Harting, money manager at AllianceBernstein, believes that in the long run, emerging market investors will reap rewards.
“History suggests that emerging-market investors are likely to have one of their best six-to-12 month stretches in a decade from here, though it will be a very bumpy and psychologically uncomfortable ride, “said Harting.
“We see a number of issues offering equity-like returns and extremely high yields at prices we think are well below recovery values in the event of default,” added Harting.
A combination of central bank assistance and lower prices on emerging market currencies could help investors that want to pursue emerging market ETFs.
How investors can pick the best emerging market ETFs
As with any investment, research is key. TradingSim charts can help investors track international stocks and ETFs offered on the New York Stock Exchange. Beyond the US stock market, investors can also monitor international stock markets as well.
If an investor chooses ETFs with Asian stocks, they can watch the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Japan or China’s Shenzhen Stock Exchange. Traders can also monitor the FTSE. The FTSE is the British stock market. Investors can watch that market as well to check on individual stocks in international ETFs.
The top emerging market ETFs often have holdings in tech and healthcare stocks. However, diversified stocks in international ETFs can help investors find the top emerging market ETFs.
Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF a strong option for investors
One of the best emerging market ETFs that tracks the FTSE is Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF(NYSEARCA:VWO). The Vanguard emerging market ETF tracks the FTSE Emerging Markets All Cap China A Inclusion Index.
The Vanguard emerging market ETF has 4,100 holdings. Approximately 58% of the ETF stocks are Asian technology companies.
Don Cody, president and CEO of Global Macro Asset Management is a noted ETF expert. He said that investors could invest in Vanguard’s emerging market ETFs. Cody also noted that Vanguard is a prominent brand with investors.
“Vanguard, because of their size, attracts some of the best active money managers. their passive or indexed investments track their underlying benchmarks exceptionally accurately,” said Cody.
Andrew Chen, finance expert, believes that Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF is a good low-cost, low-risk option for investors.
“Vanguard funds are best-in-class when it comes to passive index investing for low cost,” said Chen.
“What makes them stand out is their rock-bottom cost and passive management.
He commented that the passive management “allows investors to achieve market-matching returns for zero effort and near-zero cost,” added Chen.
Vanguard emerging market ETF can be solid option for investors
Dejan Ilijevski, president of Sabela Capital Markets, believes that the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Market ETF is a strong option for investors.
“The underlying funds that make up the Vanguard target retirement funds hold U.S. stocks, international stocks, U.S. bonds and international bonds,” said Ilijevski. “Buy one of these funds. You’re done throughout your investment horizon.”
The Vanguard emerging market ETF covers many international stocks with assets worth $70 billion. Even though the year-to-date return is down 14%, the yield is about 4%.
Alibaba stock a big draw to investors
One of the stocks held by the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF is Alibaba (NYSE:BABA). The e-commerce company is dubbed “the Chinese Amazon” because of its large online marketplace in the Asian nation.
Jack Ma started Alibaba in 1999 with 18 other founders. Ma noted that the corporation started with just $80,000 when the company first launched.
“I talked to the 18 founders, (and) one of the things we wanted to prove: If Jack Ma and his team can be successful, 80% of people in the world can be successful, because we don’t have money, we don’t have technology, we have almost nothing.”
“The only thing is that we believe in[is the] future, and we started to do little by little,” added Ma.
By 2005, Alibaba made $225 billion through online sales. Yahoo became Alibaba’s key American ally in 2005 with a $1 billion investment. Yahoo touted the partnership at the time.
“Together, we will create one of the largest Internet companies in China, and our combined assets will make us the only company that has a leading position in all the key sectors that are driving explosive Internet growth in China such as search, commerce, and communications, ” said Yahoo in a statement.
In addition to the partnership, Alibaba has success with Singles Day, a Chinese version of Black Friday. The one-day shopping extravaganza brought in $30.8 billion in 2018.
Alibaba struggles with COVID-19 aftermath
The coronavirus crisis negatively affected Alibaba. The corporation has struggled despite the corporation’s higher-than-expected last earnings report. Alibaba’s chief financial officer, Maggie Wu, commented that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the company.
“Our overall revenue growth rate, we believe, will be negatively impacted for the March quarter,” said Wu.
RBC Capital Markets analysts Mark Mahaney is also bearish on the company in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic shattering the Chinese economy.
“We [RBC Capital Markets] believe the company will remain materially exposed to a global-scale recession,” said Mahaney.
Alibaba still optimistic about future
Even though Alibaba’s stock has declined, there is still optimism from the corporation. Alibaba’s last earnings report saw a jump in revenue to $7.5 billion. The earnings report beat expectations of financial experts.
“I think after all is done, I would expect that this is an inevitable trend, that more and more businesses and more and more customers will have a digital life or digital working style,” said Zhang.
Zhang expressed optimism that coronavirus is contained by the end of the year. The CEO believes that the Chinese economy will rebound by summer.
“We expect the impact of coronavirus to be largely contained to the March quarter with improved growth resuming in the June quarter,” said Zhang,
“Cloud computing is our long-term strategy. We strongly believe that every business in the future will be powered by cloud,” he said.
Alibaba is a strong stock in the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF.
iShares CoreMSCI Emerging Markets ETF
iShares has many emerging market ETFs. One of the best emerging market ETFs is iShares CoreMSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEARCA:IEMG). The iShares emerging markets ETF has 2,000 holdings with $47 billion in assets.
iShares emerging market ETFs tumble in COVID-19 era
While the iShares emerging market ETF has many holdings, the fund has suffered. In April alone, the iShares CoreMSCI Emerging Markets ETF lost $2.4 billion in assets. The fund follows the investment results of the MSCI Emerging Markets Investable Market Index. The ETF predominately has holdings in Asian tech companies, like South Korea’s Samsung (NYSE:SSNLF).
“Demand for server and PC to remain solid as more people work from home, but a decline in mobile demand to remain a risk,” said Samsung in a statement.
5G delay hurts Samsung
The delay in a 5G rollout and store closures also may negatively affect Samsung in the second quarter. The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a postponement in the launch of the newest smartphone technology. Store closures are also dragging down smartphone sales.
“Shrinking market and store closures make a drop-in earnings seem inevitable (and) 5G network investments may face reductions or delays domestically and internationally,” said Samsung.
Samsung Q1 profits beat expectations
While Samsung has been hit by a drop in 5G phone sales, the corporation still had a profitable Q1 2020. Samsung expects to bring in $5.23 billion in profit. That’s an increase of 2.7% from the same time a year ago. Samsung’s native South Korea has managed to get coronavirus cases under control.
However, Samsung vice-president Lee Jong-Min noted that the company could suffer in Q2 2020 because of rising coronavirus cases in Europe, India, and the United States. Many of Samsung’s smartphone customers are in the US, Europe and India.
“Although there are signs that the spread of the coronavirus in North America and Europe is slowing down, it is too soon to be relieved,” said Jong-Min.
“Also, as it takes some time for the economy to recover, it is difficult to forecast how much of a demand drop we will see in the second quarter,” added Jong-Min.
Some financial analysts see downside for Samsung
Many financial analysts are concerned about Samsung’s future earnings. Park Sung-Soon is an analyst at Cape Investment & Securities.
“The problem is Samsung’s mobile business will be really bad,” said Sung-soon.”It will recover in the second half, but not as strongly as Apple.”
Sanjeev Rana is a senior analyst at CLSA that watches Samsung stock. He noted that Samsung’s smartphone sales could suffer even after the COVID-19 crisis is over.
“The worries are for the smartphones because of lockdowns and adverse impact from coronavirus. We might see a big decline in the shipments (year-on-year),” said Rana.
CW Chung, head of research for Korea at Nomura, noted that if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, Samsung’s sales could plummet in Q2 2020
“Considering the current supply and demand scenario, we see low possibility of a market double-dip yet, but if COVID-19 outbreak continues into 2H20, we see higher possibility of a market double-dip,” said Chung.
Some financial experts say Samsung can survive market instability
While some financial experts are bearish on Samsung stock, some are bullish on Samsung stock. Samsung is most known for phones, but also makes semiconductors. The component is common in data centers that many companies use now in work-from-home situations.
While Rana believes that Samsung phone sales may drop, its semiconductor division should still be profitable.
“This means that second-quarter should again be quite solid at least for the semiconductor business,” said Rana.
BMO Capital Markets analyst Ambrish Srivastava analyzes Samsung. He agrees that Samsung’s memory components can drive the corporation’s sales in Q2.
“However, for memory, the company continues to see strong demand on the data center side. Memory also continues to benefit from a sanguine supply-demand environment heading into this crisis,” said Srivastava.
Samsung may have advantage over Apple
Samsung is experiencing difficulties in this volatile market. However, it may have an advantage over Apple in the long run. Apple’s smartphones are manufactured in China, the country where COVID-19 started. However, Samsung phones are manufactured in Korea, Vietnam, and India.
Because the company isn’t as exposed to China as Apple is, Samsung may not have to worry about future phone supply as much as Apple in the second quarter. Samsung is still a top holding in the iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF.
Schwab Fundamental Emerging Markets Large Company Index ETF
One of the top emerging market ETFs is Schwab Fundamental Emerging Markets Large Company Index ETF(NYSEARCA:FNDE). The ETF has $2.9 billion in assets. The Schwab ETF primarily tracks Chinese stocks and invest heavily in Asian tech and financial companies.
The emerging market ETF has fallen year-to-date, as has many ETFs. Hovever, the ETF still pays an impressive dividend yield of 3.7%. One of the companies in the Schwab Fundamental Emerging Markets Large Company Index ETF is Chinese tech giant Tencent (OTC: TCEHY).
Tencent survives COVID-19 chaos
The Chinese company’s success is evident from its last earnings report. Tencent reported $15.2 billion in revenue, a 25% jump from 2019. As China was under lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis, the company’s online gaming revenue grew.
“Tencent has been favored by fate up to now and [our success] should be attributed to the era,” said Ma.
Ma also noted that Tencent’s success also comes from its dedication to its customers.
“Tencent’s vision is to become the most respected internet company that improves people’s quality of life,” said Ma.
Tencent diversifies into fintech
Tencent’s growth has increased because it’s expanded beyond gaming into fintech. The tech company invested heavily in the Australian online payment company AfterPay. James Mitchell is the chief strategy officer of Tencent. He touted the investment in a statement.
“We are pleased to become investors in Afterpay. Inside China we operate the leading digital payment service and a rapidly growing FinTech platform, and outside China we have actively invested in pioneering FinTech companies, providing us with unique insights into emerging FinTech services,” said Mitchell.
AfterPay’s co-founders Anthony Eisen and Nick Molnar praised Tencent’s investment.
“We feel very privileged to welcome Tencent as a substantial shareholder in our business. Being able to attract a strategic investor of this caliber is extremely rewarding and is a testament to our team and the strength of our differentiated business model,” said Eisen and Molnar.
Tencent is a growing stock that is a vital part of the Schwab Emerging Markets Equity ETF.
SPDR S&P China ETF
Another emerging market ETF is SPDR S&P China ETF(NYSEARCA: GXC). The ETF tracks Chinese stocks. The SPDR S&P China ETF has a market capitalization of $179 billion. One of its holdings is Chinese tech company Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU).
Baidu grows as alternative to Google
The search engine company is the “Chinese Google”. Baidu is strictly limited in the Asian nation but is still successful. The Chinese government censors search results as well.
Despite the restrictions, Baidu has flourished as a tech company in China. The company touted its Q4 2019 success in its last earnings report.
“Baidu had a strong finish in 2019. Total revenue reached RMB107.4 billion, or $15.4 billion, up 8% year-over-year, excluding spin-off revenue. Revenue from Baidu Core was $11.5 billion, up 6% year-over-year, excluding spin-off revenue. Adjusted EBITDA(earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) for Baidu Core was $3.7 billion for 2019,” said Baidu in a statement.
“Total revenues for the fourth quarter was $4.1 billion, up 6% year-over-year, which slightly beats the high end of our guidance. Revenue from Baidu Core was $3.1 billion, up 6% year-over-year, accelerating from the last two quarters,” added Baidu.
Investors looking for an international alternative to Google can invest in Baidu. Baidu is a key holding in the SPDR S&P China ETF.
Global X MSCI China Health Care ETF
While many ETFs are down year-to-date, one emerging market ETF is performing well in this volatile stock market. The Global X MSCI China Health Care ETF has only $50 million in assets, Despite the small number of funds, the Global X ETF is up 6% year-to-date.
“Firms in the healthcare sector received praise from Beijing for their efforts on the frontlines combating COVID-19 and received support for aggressive R&D (research and development) investments focused on containing and eliminating the outbreak,” said Rodstrom.
“Healthcare tech and biotech companies, as well as medical equipment and suppliers, we’re all encouraged by Chinese authorities to help respond to the outbreak of COVID-19,” added Rodstrom.
Healthcare stocks boom in Global X ETF
The aforementioned Alibaba corporation is a holding in the Global X ETF. The corporation has diversified into healthcare and is one of the best performers in the emerging market ETF.
“Health Care Technology firms like Alibaba and Ping An, as well as medical software provider, Winning Health Technologies, stepped in to facilitate telemedicine doctor visits and consultations during the outbreak and containment of COVID-19 in China, and are among China’s best performers YTD,” notes Rodstrom.
Corporations like China’s Ping An is another holding that is helping the Global X ETF surge this year.
“Ping An’s Good Doctor telemedicine platform, for example, became so popular that the user base increased nine-fold from December 2019 to January 2020 alone,” said Rodstrom.
“These firms provided critical services, rapidly responding to provide necessary supplies and equipment, ramped up R&D[research and development] investments, and helped solidify the emerging role technology is playing in China’s health care space with the online distribution of goods and telemedicine services,” noted Rodstrom.
Lenovo another strong stock in Global X ETF
In addition to healthcare stocks, the Global X MSCI China Health Care ETF also has tech company Lenovo(OTCMKTS: LNVGY) as one of its holdings. The Hong Kong tech company has performed well in its last earnings report.
“Last quarter, despite the geopolitical uncertainties and industrywide supply shortages, we delivered a record-setting performance with geographical balance, operational excellence and solid strategy execution. Both group revenue and pretax income reached all-time highs,” said Yang Yuanqing, Lenovo Chairman and CEO, in a statement.
Matthew Zielinski, president of Lenovo’s North America Intelligent Devices Group, noted Lenovo’s recent success. Lenovo’s PC’s have been selling more now that more people are working from home.
“Our growth continues to explode,” said Matthew Zielinski. And that remains a true testament to the health and the engagement and the loyalty we have for one another with our channel.”
Lenovo is another strong holding in the diversified Global X MSCI China Health Care ETF.
“Investors often seek to invest in emerging markets in order capture the growth potential of those economies, but we believe that the investor risk and return experience may be improved over broad benchmarks through a selective approach that considers the growth, value and quality characteristics of a company,” said Lopez.
“VanEck has been investing in emerging markets for nearly 30 years. Given that it values growth at a reasonable price, this new index methodology aligns well with VanEck’s active management investment philosophy. We are happy to be able to provide investors access to this new index approach in a cost-efficient ETF,” added Lopez.
Ping An shows major growth
One of the holdings in the VanEck Vectors China Growth Leaders ETF is the aforementioned Ping An Healthcare and Technology Company (OTCMKTS: PNGAY). The company has outperformed with 52% revenue growth over the past year.
Steven Lan is a Ping An analyst in the company’s native Hong Kong. He noted that investors outside Asia see Ping An as a diversified stock.
“Views are diverging between mainland and foreign investors toward Ping An,” said Lam. “Many foreign investors not only value the stock as an insurance company, but a fintech player.”
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, financial analysts like Vincent Hsu liked Ping An stock. The Fuh-Hwa Securities Investment Trust fund manager touted Ping An as a top company for an emerging market ETF.
“It’s the best Chinese financial company to institutional investors,” said Hsu.“Lots of foreign investors are buying Ping An, as the stock ranked top in the criteria valuing a company’s business, investment, and capital.”
A mixture of success in fintech and healthcare has made Ping An a top holding in the VanEck Vectors China Growth Leaders ETF.
Best emerging market ETFs can be found in volatile economy
Emerging market ETFs can be a great option for investors who want to diversify their portfolios. American stocks are dominant in the stock market, but many Asian stocks are rising and worth a second look from investors. TradingSim charts and analysis can help investors find the best international ETFs to add to their portfolios.