Israel, Middle East ETFs Dragged Down by Syria Tensions

September 4th at 9:00am by Tom Lydon

August was the worst month for U.S. stocks since May 2012 and the worst month for ETF outflows since early 2010. A variety of factors played parts in those ominous anecdotes coming to pass, but chief among those negative catalysts is the tenable situation in Syria.

Near the end of last month, speculation grew that the U.S. and other Western nations were mulling a military offensive against Syria after it became apparent the ruling regime in the Middle East nation used chemical weapons against its own citizens. Geopolitical tensions in the Middle East often lead to increased volatility in oil futures, but the recent goings on in Syria have weighed on Israel ETFs as well as those funds with exposure to other parts of the region.

Israel borders Syria and given that proximity, it probably is not surprising that the iShares MSCI Israel Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EIS), the largest and oldest of the two Israel ETFs on the market, has lost 5% in the past month despite the fact that the fund’s largest holding is Teva Pharmaceuticals (NasdaqGM: TEVA). The Israeli pharmaceuticals giant accounts for 24% of the ETF’s weight, but EIS has nonetheless proven vulnerable to Syria tensions. [ETF of the Week: Israel]

The newly minted Market Vectors Israel ETF (NYSEArca: ISRA), which debuted in late June, has proven somewhat more durable than its older rival. ISRA tracks the BlueStar Israel Global Index, a benchmark is comprised of Israeli and Israeli-linked companies. It replicates the performance of the largest and most liquid companies, as well as mid-cap and small-cap companies that display sufficient liquidity. [Investors Get Another ETF for Israel]

According to the BlueStar Israel Global Index’s methodology, no single component stock represents more than 12.5% of the weight of the index. The cumulative weight of all components with an individual weight of 5% or greater do not in the aggregate account for more than 50% of the weight of the index. Although there are important differences between EIS and ISRA, the latter has not been immune to the situation in Syria and has fallen 2.9% in the past month.

Previously sturdy frontier market ETFs are also feeling a pinch because of Syria and it is easy to understand why. The iShares MSCI Frontier 100 ETF (NYSEArca: FM), which has easily outpaced comparable emerging markets funds this year, has dipped 4.4% in the past month. Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Pakistan combine for nearly two-thirds of FM’s weight, highlighting why the ETF has been vulnerable to Syria-induced headwinds.

iShares MSCI Frontier 100 ETF

ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this post.

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.

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