Many market participants tend to associate Emerging Markets based ETFs with “Frontier Markets” products based on the higher beta nature of the countries involved, and the historical tendency of the two to trend together in reference to longer term performance.

However, with EEM (iShares MSCI Emerging Markets, Expense Ratio 0.67%) staggering this year and handily “in the red” in terms of net performance YTD, and losing more than $2.1 billion in assets under management in 2013, some Frontier Markets have fared noticeably better.

While the largest ETF in terms of assets under management in the “Frontier” space, FRN (Guggenheim Frontier Markets, Expense Ratio 0.65%) has also lagged notably this year, in lockstep with EM index proxies, two other products in the space are firmly “in the black” in terms of net performance this year, led by FM (iShares MSCI Frontier 100, Expense Ratio 0.79%), and followed by PMNA (PowerShares MENA Frontier Countries, Expense Ratio 0.70%). None of these products are huge in terms of assets under management, as FRN currently has $146 million in AUM, followed by FM’s $81 million and PMNA with $15 million.

As opposed to broad Emerging Markets based indexes, which offer exposure typically to the “BRIC” countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China, as well as South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Malaysia, and Thailand for instance, Frontier Market index based products offer exposure to countries that are much less mature in terms of their stages in development.

For example, FM is heavily concentrated in the Middle East and to a lesser degree Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, with portfolio holdings that are listed in countries including Kuwait, Qatar, Nigeria, the U.A.E., Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Oman, Argentina, and Vietnam just to name a few. [The First Nigeria and Central Asia ETFs]

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