One of the main reasons select country-specific emerging markets ETFs have struggled mightily in recent weeks is a raft of anti-government protests that have taken place across the developing world. Latin America has not been immune to that ominous trend. Protests have taken place in Brazil and even with the benefit an almost 2% gain Wednesday, the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped Index Fund (NYSEArca: EWZ) is down 18% in the past month.
The already downtrodden iShares MSCI Chile Capped Investable Market Index Fund (NYSEArca: ECH) could be the next ETF to join the dubious protest club. Although ECH is down just 7.5% in the past month and Chilean stocks are coming off their best one-day performance in a year, Chile’s status as the world’s largest copper producer makes ECH vulnerable to further retrenchment in base metals. [Peru ETF Plagued by Plunging Metals Prices]
On Wednesday, violent protests clashed with Chilean police ahead of what were expected to be more docile protests by students and trade unions demand education reform. Over 100 people were arrested and four police officers were injured in the melee.
Protesters demanded a wider distribution of Chile’s copper wealth and reform of the education system that would put the state back in control of the mostly privatized public universities. Student leaders also want to change the tax system so the rich pay more, reported Luis Andres Henao for the Associated Press.
The protests, which come ahead of Sunday’s presidential primaries, stand in stark contrast to Chile’s reputation as one of the more stable, economically advanced countries in South America. ECH has, at times, been a leader among ETFs tracking Latin American countries due in part to Chile’s advanced banking system and vibrant economy behind copper production. [Chile, Peru ETFs Stand Out]
The protests also come at a time when ECH has been fragile at best. Slack commodities demand from China has weighed on the ETF even though the materials group is merely ECH’s fourth-largest sector weight behind utilities, financials and consumer staples, according to iShares data.
ECH is down 16.8% year-to-date, a performance that makes the ETF the second-best large-cap focused single-country ETF tracking a Latin American nation. The iShares Mexico Investable Market Index Fund (NYSEArca: EWW) is the “leader” of the pack with a 14.4% year-to-date loss.
While economic growth in Chile is believed steady relative to other emerging markets this year, ECH may now face domestic headwinds that trump global commodities demand. As is the case in the Brazil, ordinary Chileans have tired of income inequality and high-priced education that is unobtainable to many average citizens.
iShares MSCI Chile Investable Market Index Fund
ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this post.