Not that many emerging markets ETFs have done much to excite investors this year, but for a while, it felt as though funds tracking Brazil were among the worst performers. Due to slack global commodities demand, a sagging currency and anti-government protests that eroded the popularity of previously highly-regarded President Dilma Rousseff, the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWZ) is off 20.4% year-to-date.
That slide makes EWZ the worst performer among the four major ETFs tracking BRIC nations this year, but due to a seemingly never ending raft of bad news, India is starting to look like the new Brazil. With a year-to-date loss of 19.3%, the WisdomTree India Earnings ETF (NYSEArca: EPI) is flirting with EWZ for basement dwelling status among BRIC ETFs. That represents a stark reversal from early 2013 when India ETFs were solid performers. [India ETFs Lead Emerging Markets in Early 2013]
Making matters all the more troubling is the fact that in the past month, EPI is off more than 5% and the iShares India 50 ETF (NasdaqGS: INDY) is lower by 3.3% as the comparable Russia and China ETFs are noticeably higher. Even EWZ is sporting a loss of just 0.27%. [Technical Signs Point to Emerging ETF Rotation]
EPI, INDY and other India ETFs have been hit by a weak rupee and the inability of the Reserve Bank of India to contain the currency’s slide with hawkish commentary. Another reason for the weakness in Indian equities is the country’s rising current account deficit. Combine India’s need to import most of its oil use and the country’s voracious appetite for gold and there are the makings of widening deficit.
On Tuesday, RBI declined financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund, perhaps in part because that could risk India’s already fragile hold on an investment-grade credit rating. Investors have sold $1 billion worth of Indian shares this month, the most of 10 major Asian markets tracked by Bloomberg, reports Santanu Chakraborty for the news agency.
Investors considering ETFs such as EPI and INDY will need to pack some patience. RBI said on Monday that recovery of the sagging economy will be slow and is expected only towards the later part of the current fiscal year, according to the Press Trust of India. The central bank expects Asia’s third-largest economy to grow 5.7% this year, well below government estimates of 6% or more.