Emerging Market Bond ETFs for Yield

March 6th at 6:34am by Tom Lydon

Investors are taking a harder look across the fixed-income spectrum for alternative sources of yields. While many have branched into other U.S. debt securities such as junk bonds, investors can also browse through emerging market bond exchange traded funds to meet their income needs.

For instance, the Market Vectors Emerging Markets Local Currency Bond ETF (NYSEArca: EMLC), which recently surpassed $1.5 billion in assets under management, has a 4.82% 30-day SEC yield, the highest among broad emerging market debt-focused ETFs. EMLC has a 0.47% expense ratio. [Why Emerging Market Bond ETFs Could Stay Hot in 2013]

“Many local currency-denominated emerging market bonds are currently delivering more attractive yields than traditional fixed income investments, while at the same time offering currency and credit fundamentals that appear to be on more solid footing than fixed-income investments denominated in U.S. dollars, Euros or the Yen,” Fran Rodilosso, fixed income portfolio manager at Market Vectors, said in a press release.

EMLC tracks bonds issued in local currencies. Consequently, potential investors should keep in mind that a strengthening U.S. dollar against emerging market currencies could diminish returns of the fund. [Rising Interest in Riskier Emerging Market ETFs]

The ETF’s top country allocations include Brazil 10%, Poland 10%, South Africa 10%, Mexico 10% and Malaysia 8.7%. Debt allocations include A 26.7%, BBB 30.5% and BB 13.3% – anything ranked BB or below is considered non-investment, speculative or “junk” grade.

The WisdomTree Emerging Markets Local Debt Fund (NYSEArca: ELD) also provides exposure to local currency debt. The ETF comes with a 3.86% 30-day SEC yield and a 0.55% expense ratio.

ELD’s country allocations include Indonesia 10.6%, Mexico 10.6%, Brazil 10.4%, Malaysia 10.2% and Thailand 7.1%. Credit qualities include AAA 9%, AA 7.5%, A 32.7%, BBB 29.6%, BB 10.7% and below B 0.4%.

On the other hand, investors can take a look at U.S. dollar denominated emerging market bond funds, such as the iShares JPMorgan USD Emerging Markets Bond Fund (NYSEArca: EMB), which has a 3.7% 30-day SEC yield and a 0.59% expense ratio.

EMB’s top country allocations include Brazil 7.1%, Russia 7.1%, Turkey 6.8%, Mexico 6.5% and Philippines 6.5%. The fund’s credit ratings include AA+ 0.4%, AA 0.2%, AA- 1.1%, A+ 1.9%, A 1.3%, A- 5.4%, BBB+ 0.4%, BBB 31.7%, BBB- 9.2%, BB+ 10.4%, BB 7.6%, BB- 2.6%, B+ 9%, B 4.2% and B- 0.4%.

The PowerShares Emerging Markets Sovereign Debt Portfolio (NYSEArca: PCY) is another offering that is exposed to U.S. dollar denominated debt. The fund has a 4.26% 30-day SEC yield and a 0.50% expense ratio.

PCY’s top country allocations include Hungary 4.7%, Pakistan 4.6%, Lithuania 4.5%, Ukraine 4.5% and Poland 4.5%. Credit quality breakdown includes AA 4%, A 9%, BBB 40%, BB 32% and B 15%.

In comparing returns, the local currency ETF EMLC has gained 6.1% and ELD returned 5.0% over the past year, whereas the U.S. dollar denominated EMB gained 9.0% and PCY increased 12.8%.

For more information on debt securities, visit our bond ETFs category.

Max Chen contributed to this article.

Full disclosure: Tom Lydon’s clients own EMB.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.