This is how bad things were for exchange traded funds tracking Latin America last year: Of the single-country funds, only the Global X FTSE Argentina 20 ETF (NYSEArca: ARGT) posted a gain.
The iShares MSCI Mexico Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWW) was the next best performer of the group with a loss of just under 2%. EWW’s 2013 performance is particularly disappointing when considering U.S. stocks surged, but then again, the Mexico ETF looked stellar in comparison to the iShares MSCI Chile Capped ETF (NYSEArca: ECH) and the iShares MSCI All Peru Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EPU), which lost an average of 24.6%. [Worst Global Markets by Single-Country ETFs]
With 2013 in the books, some investors see bargains in Latin America. Getting on a consensus on which markets offer the most opportunity is, however, another matter. Although growth there is projected to be just 2.5% this year, some investors still like Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy.
The forward price/earnings ratio for Brazil’s Ibovespa index was at 10.7 on Dec. 31, down from 19.2 a year earlier, compared with 15.4 for the S&P 500 on the last day of 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported citing FactSet data.
The iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWZ) lost almost 18% last year, good for the worst performance among the four major single-country BRIC ETFs. Despite the low valuations, Brazil has still drawn some tepid calls. Last month, BlackRock lowered its view on the country and some investors are concerned that a late-starting Carnival, the World Cup and national elections could hinder, not help, economic output. [Calendar Issues for Brazil ETFs in 2014]
“Peru is a favorite among the investors and analysts,” according to the Journal, but a legitimate rebound in Peruvian shares will likely be tied to a rebound in precious metals prices. As Peru is the world’s largest silver producer and a major gold producer as well, EPU is heavily allocated to the materials sector, making the ETF vulnerable to the whims of the spot market for those metals. [This Chart Explains Why Gold Moves the Peru ETF]
Some money managers have also started nibbling at LatAm ETFs with EWW being a favored destination. Some professional investors have been attracted by the allure of market friendly reforms promise to make the country’s economy more globally competitive and attractive to foreign investment.