Earlier this year, when the largest emerging markets, such as the BRIC nations, were swooning, select Southeast Asian markets were soaring. The Philippines was one of those leaders. That made the iShares MSCI Philippines ETF (NYSEArca: EPHE) one of the few shining stars among single-country emerging markets ETFs in the first few months of 2013.
There were legitimate fundamental catalysts that drove EPHE higher. Investors poured cash into Philippine stocks and the ETF amid a seemingly never-ending stream of good news that included upward revisions for GDP growth and multiple sovereign debt ratings upgrades that helped the Philippines land investment-grade credit ratings. [Philippines ETF up on Credit Rating Upgrade]
Fast-forward to May and EPHE fell victim to same confluence of factors that ravaged other emerging markets ETFs: A plunging currency, rejection of developing world debt, both dollar- and local currency-denominated issues, and talk of the Federal Reserve tapering its quantitative easing program. [Emerging Markets ETFs Casualties of Tapering Talk]
The impact on the formerly high-flying EPHE has been palpable as the ETF has tumbled nearly 14% since the start of June, a decline that represents one of the worst six-week stretches in the ETF’s brief history. EPHE debuted in the third quarter of 2010.
From early August 2012 its May 2013 peak, EPHE, the lone ETF devoted exclusively to the Philippines, surged from around to $29 to $43.50, or 50%. Along the way, the ETF offered little in the way of dips to buy. “Pullbacks” for EPHE during its bull run, in percentage terms, could be counted using just a few fingers.
It is that scenario combined with the current state of affairs that could be sounding a cautionary tale about EPHE’s near-term fortunes. Now that the fund has pulled back in earnest, the ETF resides 6.7% below its 200-day moving average, few buyers have stepped in to stop the fund from falling.
Worse yet, there has been no significant alteration to the Philippines’ strong underlying fundamental story. Earlier this month, ANZ Bank said government spending could increase, helping the Philippine economy along the way. On Monday, Standard Chartered offered its own bullish assessment of the Philippine economy.