Following news that Sunni militants took control of the only legal border crossing between Iraq and Jordan, exchange traded funds with heavy Middle East exposure are again being punished Monday with the iShares MSCI UAE Capped ETF (NasdaqGM: UAE) taking the brunt of that punishment.
UAE, which debuted in late April, is today’s worst-performing non-leveraged ETF with a loss of 4.4% that extends the ETF’s June tumble north of 16%.
The timing of UAE’s launch and that of the iShares MSCI Qatar Capped ETF (NasdaqGM: QAT) looked as the two ETFs debuted just days ahead of the scheduled promotion of those countries from frontier to emerging markets status. Qatar and UAE, both OPEC members, are the first Middle East countries to move from a frontier markets index to the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. [Qatar, UAE ETFs Debut Ahead of EM Promotion]
Dating back to early 2013, even before MSCI made the decision to promote Qatar and UAE to the emerging markets index, Qatari equities and Dubai-listed shares had been among the world’s best performers. Inflows to QAT and UAE have shown there is some appetite for these countries’ equities in the single-country ETF wrapper.
QAT and UAE have accumulated $34.7 million and $59.6 million in assets under management, respectively, solid amounts considering the ETFs are not yet two months old. However, the recent escalation of violence in Iraq is reminding investors of the risks of investing in the Middle East.
“At least 71 prisoners and five police officers were killed Monday when militants attacked an Iraqi police convoy transferring inmates from one prison to another,” according to CNN.
Militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, now control at least 70% of the Anbar province and earlier this month took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, CNN reported.
Tensions in the region have sent oil prices soaring, though neither nor QAT nor UAE is as heavily exposed to the energy sector as investors might expect. For example, UAE allocates 68.4% of its weight to the financial services sector while devoting just 5.3% to energy stocks, according to iShares data.
QAT is down 0.84% today, which looks when compared to UAE, but the Qatar ETF has not been angel this month, tumbling more than 10%. QAT has come under pressure amid allegations of bribery and graft relating to the country winning host nation status for the 2022 World Cup.
Although FIFA has yet to confirm that Qatar will lose the 2022 World Cup, speculation is so rampant to that effect that one British bookmaker stopped taking bets on Qatar’s tenuous host nation status because some betters were wagering five-figure amounts on the possibility of another country replacing Qatar as the host.
That speculation along with the violence in Iraq has tainted a solid start for QAT, which surged in late May after Qatari policymakers boosted foreign ownership limits for Doha-listed stocks. Qatari banks are viewed as the strongest GCC financial institutions with the possible exception of their Saudi Arabian counterparts. [Qatar ETF Soars as Foreign Ownership Limits Rise]
iShares MSCI UAE Capped ETF