Many who believe they are following a diversified investment strategy are typically under-allocated to the global markets, especially China, the second largest economy in the world. Investors, though, can increase their China exposure with exchange traded funds, but people should look under the hood as no two China ETFs are the same.
“While China is the second-largest economy in the world, foreign investment in China is still relatively low,” Todd Rosenbluh, S&P Capital IQ Director of ETF Research, said in a research note.
As of the end of November, China only made up 2.5% of the MSCI All Country World Index. In comparison, the U.S. made up 53.5% of the benchmark index, followed by Japan 8.0%, U.K. 6.9%, France 3.4% and Switzerland 3.2%, according to MSCI.
According to Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, non-Chinese investors only account for about 1.5% of the local Chinese equity market. In contrast, the percentage of foreign ownership in the U.S. is 14%, 23% for Japan, 24% for Taiwan and 51% for Germany, Dodd Kittsley, Head of ETF Strategy for Deutsche, told S&P Capital IQ.
The major reason for the low foreign ownership rate of mainland Chinese may be attributed to the strict controls Beijing has placed on outside investors – foreigners could only access mainland China A-shares via the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (QFII) or the Renminbi QFII (RQFII) programs.
However, China is undergoing reforms to open up its markets, as well as shifting away from state-owned enterprises and encouraging private capital to play a larger role, Kittsley added.
The Chinese A-shares market has experienced a large swing late summer, with the Deutsche X-trackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares ETF (NYSEArca: ASHR) down more than 40% during the height of the selling. ASHR tracks a basket of mainland stocks traded on the Shanghai and Shenzhen indices.
As the volatility dissipates, investors may be looking at China A-shares ETF options again.