The iShares MSCI Malaysia ETF (NYSEArca: EWM) has been flying under the radar this year, but the biggest Malaysia exchange traded fund is higher by nearly 6% and there could be some catalysts ahead for the big Malaysia fund.
Malaysian stocks were emerging markets laggards last year. EWM fell 4% while the MSCI Emerging Markets Index jumped almost 11% and that was after the Malaysia ETF rallied to start 2016. That after EWM was beset with corruption woes in Malaysia, making the ETF a laggard relative to broader emerging markets benchmarks. For example, EWM trailed the MSCI Emerging Markets Index 450 basis points in 2015 and by nearly 800 basis points in 2014.
“As demand for commodities waned last year, Malaysia observed a sharp decline in revenues from key exports, particularly oil and gas. Although the country grew a robust 5.3% in the first half of this year, the second half is expected to play out differently,” according to a Seeking Alpha analysis of Malaysian economics.
Malaysia is a net oil exporter, meaning its government revenue stream is somewhat dependent on recovering oil prices. Politicians there have been cutting down on government subsidies to limit fiscal risks in an effort to steer the country toward high-income status and toward more domestic consumption. Consumption is now said account for over half of Malaysia’s gross domestic product.
EWM is nearly 21 years old and has just over $260 million in assets under management. The ETF holds 45 stocks. Like many single-country emerging markets ETFs, EWM has a significant weight to bank stocks as the financial services sector accounts for over 28%. Industrial and utilities stocks combine for 31% of the ETF’s roster.
“Attempts by the government to shore up its fiscal position are seen as progress. Amidst the 2008 crisis, Malaysia saw its budget deficit climb to 7.0% of GDP. Najib Razak, who was elected as Prime Minster in 2009, has tried to reassure markets in the past by pledging to cut the deficit in prior budgets, and thanks to strong growth, some progress has been made on this front,” according to Seeking Alpha.
Previously, Razak came under scrutiny for $700 million in money transfers through government outlets and state-run firms bearing his name prompting EWM to betray its reputation as a beacon of strength at a time of tumult for emerging markets equities.
The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.