Emerging market investors are shying away from consumer staples sector, along with related exchange traded funds, as years of outperformance have made the sector a crowded traded.

Over the past three years, the EGShares Emerging Markets Consumer ETF (NYSEArca: ECON) has generated an average annual return of 6.7%. Meanwhile, the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: EEM) returned an average 3.8% and Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: VWO) gained an average 4.8%.

Year-to-date, EEM is down 1.1% and VWO is up 2.9%. In contrast, ECON has declined 3.2%.

Consumer staples in countries from India to China have outperformed the broader emerging markets by 50% since 2008, reports Chao Deng for the Wall Street Journal. Consequently, the sector’s price-to-earnings ratio is at its highest in over a decade.

“Five years ago, [these stocks]were the only growth out there,” Matt Linsey, a fund manager at GAM Fund Management Ltd., said in the article. But investors move in a herd and “themes get overplayed.”

Year-to-date, the Global X China Consumer ETF (NYSEArca: CHIQ) has declined 14.3% while the iShares China Large-Cap ETF (NYSEArca: FXI) is up 1.6%. CHIQ, though, includes a heavy tilt toward discretionary names at 64.5% of the portfolio, along with 29.5% in consumer staples.

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