Latin American equities have extended several years of disappointment in 2015 with the iShares Latin American 40 ETF (NYSEArca: ILF) down 5.1%. Some single-country exchange traded funds tracking Latin American stocks have fare even worse.
For example, the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWZ) is off 8.1% while the iShares MSCI All Peru Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EPU) is lower by 7.5%. Those data points almost make the 3.7% lost by the iShares MSCI Chile Capped ETF (NYSEArca: ECH), the lone ETF dedicated to tracking equities in the world’s largest copper-producing country, seem impressive.
At least Chilean stocks are inexpensive. As in really inexpensive. As in downright cheap compared to their Latin American peers. In fact, Chilean stocks currently traded at the biggest discounts relative to the rest of Latin America since November 2009, according to Bloomberg.
“The price-to-estimated-earnings ratio of the MSCI Chile index, which historically trades at an average premium of 33 percent to the Latin American average, is at a discount for the first time since 2009. Chile’s premium versus Brazil has shrunk to 11 percent versus a historical average of 50 percent, the analysts said. Brazil’s economy is forecast to contract 1.3 percent this year, while Chile’s should grow 2.7 percent,” reports Bloomberg.
The $252.4 million ECH is home to 35 stocks, more than half of which are utilities or financial services names. Despite its relatively light 12.2% weight to the materials space, its third-largest sector allocation, ECH is viewed by market participants as highly correlated to price action in copper futures.[Copper Surge Boosts Chile]
Although Chile is viewed by some market observers as the most advanced and open South American economy and it is undeniably home to Latin America’s highest sovereign credit rating (AA-), there is also no denying the country’s dependence on copper exports as a driver of government revenue. [A Chilly View on the Chile ETF]
“Copper roughly represents 40% of the country’s export revenue and minerals constitute the majority of the revenue in total,” according to Emerging Equity.
According to a Citigroup note cited by Bloomberg, Citi analysts say Chilean stocks are getting so inexpensive that the market is close to being a “screaming buy” and that things there are not nearly as bad as they are in Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy.
iShares MSCI Chile Capped ETF
Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of ILF.