After a Disappointing Year, Advisors Wade Into LatAm ETFs

November 22nd at 7:30am by Todd Shriber

No doubt it has been a disappointing year for exchange traded funds tracking Latin American equities. The iShares Latin American 40 ETF (NYSEArca: ILF) is down 14.2% and all but one of the region’s single-country ETFs are in the red this year.

That includes steep losses for the iShares MSCI Chile Capped ETF (NYSEArca: ECH), iShares MSCI All Peru Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EPU) and iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWZ), which also ranks among the 10 worst ETFs in terms of year-to-date outflows. [Worst Global Markets by Single-Country ETFs]

Despite the disappointments offered by LatAm ETFs this year, some portfolio managers still see opportunity in the region for patient investors. Some “portfolio managers are finding smaller markets in Mexico and Chile as better bets to tap into Latin America’s long-term growth,” reports Murray Coleman for the Wall Street Journal.

ECH, the lone Chile-specific ETF, has plunged 26.6% this year, due in part to the country’s status as the world’s largest copper producer. However, some market observers believe that on a long-term basis, China’s desire to shift to a more consumption-based economy will help not hinder copper demand. [Single-Country ETFs Slammed by Fed Talk]

EWW is down 9.1%, better than ECH and EWZ, but still a disappointment when considering Mexican stocks usually benefit from an improving economy and higher equity prices in the U.S. [Be Choosy With Emerging Markets ETFs]

Market friendly reforms promise to make the country’s economy more globally competitive and attractive to foreign investment over time, said Ken Liu, a global equities strategist at RiverFront Investment Group, in an interview with the Journal.

One issue that could hinder EWW in the near-term is valuation. Investors that are currently embracing emerging markets are doing so with markets that are discounted relative to the broader developing world, including China, South Korea and Taiwan.

EWW is not trading at a significant discount to the broader emerging markets realm, a byproduct of the ETF’s combined 40.7% weight to defensive staples and telecom names.

One advisor cited in the Journal also sounded a moderately bullish tone on LatAm small-caps, which can be accessed via the Market Vectors Latin America Small-Cap Index ETF (NYSEArca: LATM).

LATM is down 25% this year. Brazil and Mexico combine for about 55% of the ETF’s weight. This year’s best single-country LatAm ETF has been the Global X FTSE Argentina 20 ETF (NYSEArca: ARGT) with a gain of about 10%.

Market Vectors Latin America Small-Cap Index ETF