Few emerging markets ETFs performed well in May. The iShares FTSE China 25 Index Fund (NYSEArca: FXI), the largest ETF by assets tracking the world’s second-largest economy, cannot be found among that group. Last month, FXI, also the most heavily traded China ETF, fell 3.2%.

If data released during Monday’s Asian session are any indication, another rough month May be ahead for FXI.

On Friday, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said the country’s official PMI for May rose to 50.8 from 50.6 in April. That topped the 50.1 reading economists expected. Readings above 50 indicate expansion. Any good feelings from that report were lost Monday when China’s unofficial HSBC manufacturing PMI report fell to 49.2 in May from 50.4 in April. [ETFs For A China Rebound]

“Despite operating conditions worsening, manufacturing output rose for the seventh month in a row during May, albeit marginally. Behind the meagre expansion of output, total new orders declined modestly and for the first time since last September. Demand from abroad also weakened over the month, with new export orders falling for the second month in a row. A number of panellists suggested reduced client demand, particularly in the US, had led to the overall reduction in export orders,” according to a statement by Markit.

How another disappointing data point weighs on FXI will be decided in the days ahead, but the ETF at least tried to be “less bad” last month. Year-to-date, FXI is down 11%, a performance that is far worse than the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: VWO) and the equivalent Brazil and India ETFs.

In May, however, FXI lost “just” 3.2%. That is not anything to write home about, but it put FXI in the middle of the pack among major Asian ETFs. FXI was far better in May than its Philippines, Singapore and Thailand counterparts, among others.

Still, the performance is disappointing considering that the Shanghai Composite jumped 5.6% last month. FXI’s May declines underscore the risks of the ETF’s 26-stock lineup, which consists mostly large-caps and state run mega-cap companies. More diverse plays on China such as the SPDR S&P China ETF (NYSEArca: GXC) and the iShares MSCI China Index Fund (NYSEArca: MCHI) outperformed FXI in May. GXC holds 221 stocks while MCHI is home to140 [Comparing Two China ETFs]

Compelling valuations may be the source of allure for FXI and other China ETFs in the back half of this year. The Shanghai Composite trades at 9.4 times 12-month estimated earnings, compared with a seven-year average of 15.5 times, reports Weiyi Lim for Bloomberg.

FXI trades at a discount to the broader emerging markets universe as measured by the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (NYSEArca: EEM). FXI has a P/E ratio of 13.57 and a price-to-book ratio of 2.05 while EEM has a P/E of 18.04 and a price-to-book just over three, according to iShares data.

iShares FTSE China 25 Index Fund

ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this report. Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of EEM.

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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