New South Korea ETF Could be in Play on Won Intervention

Talk of intervention by the Bank of Korea in an effort to weaken the won, one of this year’s top-performing emerging markets currencies, could mean the newly minted WisdomTree Korea Hedged Equity Fund (NasdaqGS: DXKW) is worth a look for investors looking hedged-currency exposure to Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Earlier this week, South Korean Finance Minister Hyun Oh Seok told the press authorities are keeping a watchful eye on the won in a bid to protect the country’s exporters, Yewon Kang reports for Bloomberg.

Major South Korean exporters include Samsung, Hyundai Motors and Kia Motors, three stocks that combine for over 30% of the iShares MSCI South Korea Capped ETF’s (NYSEArca: EWY) weight. Home to $4.4 billion in assets under management, EWY is by far the largest South Korea ETF, but it is not a currency hedged fund. [South Korea ETFs the Hedged Currency Way]

Any possible weakening of the won bears watching for multiple reasons. First, the currency has been bid higher this year as investors have sought emerging markets refuge in stocks and ETFs offering exposure to current account surplus countries. That means at a time when global investors have voraciously dumped Indonesia shares, as just one example, they have also embraced South Korean stocks because of the country’s account surplus and lack of dependence on external financing. [Diverging EM Currencies Make ETF Less Bad]

Additionally, DXKW shares a few things in common with the wildly popular WisdomTree Japan Hedged Equity Fund (NYSEArca: DXJ). Both ETFs track stocks in advanced, export-dependent Asian nations and both are designed to benefit from weaker currencies in those countries.

South Korea is home to the world’s 15th-largest economy, third-largest equity market in the Pacific Rim and is is the 7th-largest exporter and the 10th-largest importer in the world, according WisdomTree Research Director Jeremy Schwartz, prompting some debate as to whether the country is emerging or developed. [WisdomTree: Is South Korea Developed or Emerging?]