While investors have turned to emerging market ETFs to capture the growth potential of developing economies, the Russia-Ukraine war has highlighted the risks associated with less developed countries.
“To what extent and at what point do we take into consideration—perhaps it’s during the asset allocation study—the risks associated with investing directly outside the United States?” Harry Keiley, board chair of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, asked at an investment committee meeting earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reports.
While investors continued to throw money into emerging market-related ETFs, the strategies have not been generating any outsized returns. For instance, the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: VWO) has attracted close $1.6 billion in net inflows and the iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: IEMG) added $940 million in inflows so far this year, according to ETFdb data. Meanwhile, VWO fell 6.0% and IEMG dropped 6.9% year-to-date.
Emerging market stocks have generated an average annualized return of 3.3% over the past decade. VOW shows an average 10-year return of 3.2%. On the other hand, global equities returned 11.1% and U.S. midsize companies returned 12.1% over the same period, according to MSCI and S&P Global data.
“The call on emerging markets outperforming has been disappointing,” Hayley Tran, co-head of equity research at Meketa Investment Group, a consultant to public pension plans and other institutional investors, told the WSJ. “Both the earnings growth and the returns have not delivered…not to the extent we expected.”
On the other hand, developed markets have outperformed emerging markets as they benefited more from U.S. Federal Reserve’s easy monetary policy, said Allianz SE economist Mohamed El-Erian. In comparison, he noted that developing countries faced deteriorating economic fundamentals.
In 2022, or more recently, global pension funds, institutions, and retail investors divested from Russian markets as the country suffered a precipitous decline following the wake of the invasion into Ukraine and Western sanctions. The selling soon spread to other emerging markets.
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