Don’t look now but Japan has been impressively outpacing the greater category of EAFE as represented by EFA (iShares MSCI EAFE, Expense Ratio 0.34%) in the month of February as well as year to date and we can look to either the Nikkei Stock Average or the MSCI Japan Index for proof of this out-performance.
In fact, you can take the data back to the one year as well as the five year trailing periods and still see out-performance here, although it is less pronounced than it has been in the short term here for Japan. Today we focus on the Nikkei Stock Average, which as a report from AltaVista Research from October 2014 pointed out “The Nikkei Stock Average is one of the most widely followed barometers of the Japanese stock market yet in the U.S. millions of investors are following the MSCI Japan Index due to the dominant market share of investments tracking it.”
We see AltaVista’s point here, as EWJ (iShares MSCI Japan, Expense Ratio 0.48%), the “dominant” force they are referring to in the ETF space currently has about $14.8 billion invested in it, and certainly there are larger assets invested in Separately Managed accounts and other investments tied to the MSCI Japan Index.
EWJ itself is a veteran to the ETF space in general of course as well, having debuted way back in March of 1996 when Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, and Alanis Morissette dominated the top pop singles list at the time.
Before 2011, ETF investors whom were looking for benchmark exposure to the Nikkei Stock Average which they undoubtedly saw flashing before them on a daily basis on the likes of CNBC and Bloomberg News if not in financial publications that they followed were simply out of luck as a product tracking the index did not exist.
NKY (MAXIS Nikkei 225 Index, Expense Ratio 0.50%) then debuted in mid-July of 2011 and at the moment is the eight largest “Japan Equity” focused ETF in the U.S. listed landscape. That said, its $91.2 million in assets under management is a small relative slice of the $14.8 billion in EWJ not to mention the next largest Japan Equity focused ETF, DXJ (WT Japan Hedged Equity, Expense Ratio 0.48%) currently has more than $13.7 billion in assets under management.