You're always looking to beef up your investment returns. Look no further. A new ETF offering gives you the chance to add a healthy helping of stroganoff and borscht to your portfolio.
Earlier this week, shares of the first exchange-traded fund to focus on Russian companies began trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The Market Vectors Russia ETF
Trouble for Templeton?
As with many international ETFs, the Market Vectors fund will make it much easier for investors to pinpoint their investment objectives. Until now, only a handful of the stocks that the new Russia ETF owns traded on U.S. exchanges. Mutual funds were the only way many investors could participate in the Russian market, which has provided explosive growth over the past several years. Yet most of the offerings, including Third Millennium Russia (TMRFX) and ING Russia (LETRX), have hefty sales loads of up to 5.75%.
In the past, the best alternative for those seeking to make bets on Russia's economy was to use a closed-end fund, Templeton Russia
However, in response to news of the Van Eck offering, Templeton Russia's premium has virtually disappeared. While the fund's holdings have risen nearly 7% in value year to date, the price of fund shares has fallen almost 20% so far this year.
This is just one example of how lack of access to emerging markets can create temporary inefficiencies in global stock prices. Closed-end fund investors saw a similar phenomenon within the Indian stock market. Before the iPath MSCI India ETF
For international investors, these new ETFs are often more attractive than existing alternatives. Fees tend to be lower. The new Russia ETF has an expense ratio of just 0.69% compared to Templeton Russia's 1.84%, and India Fund's 1.41% in annual expenses far outpaces the 0.89% fee that the India ETF charges. At the very least, the availability of an exchange-traded alternative makes it difficult for closed-end offerings to continue trading at premiums to their net asset values. If they trade at discounts, however, closed-ends may again become attractive from a valuation perspective.
In any event, Russia's dominant returns over the past five years -- averaging over 40% -- have set a high bar for future performance to meet. If typical investors choose to buy these new ETFs merely to chase past performance, they may have a big surprise ahead of them. For now, however, Russia is just the latest in a long series of funds seeking to capitalize on the increasing appetite for global stocks.
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