Year-to-date, the iShares MSCI Netherlands ETF (NYSEArca: EWN) is off nearly 3% while the iShares MSCI Germany ETF (NYSEArca: EWG) has traded slightly lower. The iShares MSCI Belgium ETF (NYSEArca: EWK) is something of a standout with a 5.5% gain.
However, the real laggard among single-country ETFs tracking Central European Eurozone members is the iShares MSCI Austria Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWO). EWO is off 3.9% this year, but that loss has accelerated to 7.6% in the past month.
Erste Group, the Austrian bank that is EWO’s largest holding at 11.8% of the ETF’s weight, is to blame. Shares of Erste Group have been in a tailspin this month after the company warned about losses it will incur due to its exposure to emerging European nations. On July 4, $1.4 billion was slashed from Erste’s market value, according to Reuters.
Hungary and Romania are the markets weighing on Erste and, in turn, EWO. Erste recently forecast a loss of $408 million related to a new Hungarian law that is forcing lenders there to reimburse borrowers for loans dating back to 2004.
In Romania, Erste “will carry out an impairment test on the entire amount of Romanian intangibles (goodwill, brand, value of customer relationships) of about $1.1 billion, which may result in the full write-off of such intangibles,” according to Romania Insider.