That headline is not an insult. Actually, it is hard to say anything bad about how the iShares MSCI Belgium Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWK) has performed this year. Year-to-date, EWK is up 20.8%.
That is 150 basis points better than the iShares MSCI Italy ETF (NYSEArca: EWI) and, not surprisingly, EWK has been significantly less volatile. EWK has outperformed the iShares MSCI Austria ETF (NYSEArca: EWO) by nearly two-to-one. EWK has been significantly less volatile than its Austrian and Italian counterparts. In fact, EWK has only been marginally more volatile than the iShares MSCI Germany ETF (NYSEArca: EWG). [Germany: Stalwart ETF, Economy]
EWK’s ascent is notable on multiple fronts. First, the ETF is small with just $67.1 million in assets under management. By comparison, EWG has $5.4 billion in AUM. Second, EWK’s largest sector-weight is a 29.3% weight to the supposedly stodgy consumer staples sector. Third, despite the surge and the heavy allocation to staples, a sector that often trades at elevated valuations, EWK itself is not expensive. [Playing Defense Isn’t Cheap]
Citing Morningstar data, Gary Gordon notes EWK recently traded with a P/E of just 11.7 and a price-to-sales ratio of 0.8.
“Belgium may also be a bargain. EWK bounced off its 200-day trendline in June and hasn’t looked back since. Granted, EWK is likely to travel in the same general direction as other foreign stocks in the region. Still, the relative affordability combined with recent 1-month and 3-month momentum may make EWK particularly profitable,” said Gordon.