Investing in frontier markets has generally been rewarding for investors since late 2012. The iShares MSCI Frontier 100 ETF (FM) is up 20% since its September 2012 debut as some investors have embraced frontier markets as new vestiges of economic growth and for the low correlations stocks in the frontier world have to developed market equities.
One of FM’s top-10 country holdings, Argentina, has not kept pace with its frontier brethren, but the often overlooked Global X FTSE Argentina 20 ETF (ARGT) has recently not been the dour performer that some investors remember. [Frontier Markets ETFs Hold up...Sort Of]
Beset by speculation the country was heading for its second sovereign debt default since the start of the 21 st century, yields on Argentine bonds and the credit default swaps traders use to insure that debt at several blowout episodes last year, making an already difficult operating environment all the more dicey for ARGT. [Argentina ETF Falls on YPF Nationalization]
Reports of hyper-inflation and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s overt hostility toward foreign companies operating in her country sent ARGT tumbling. The decline was so bad that issuer Global X had to reverse split the ETF on a 1-for-2 basis in May.
While Argentine sovereign bonds still command a yield premium north of 1,000 basis points over U.S. Treasurys, the country has, to this point, skirted another default. Argentine debt surged Thursday on reports the International Monetary Fund is considering the South American country’s request to have the U.S. Supreme Court hear its case involving holders of defaulted debt.
Argentina claims a federal appeals court in New York was wrong when it ruled in October that investors in restructured Argentine debt can’t be paid unless holders of the nation’s defaulted bonds, including some U.S. hedge funds, are also compensated, report Katia Porzecanski and Sandrine Rastello for Bloomberg. The IMF previously said if the appeals court ruling is upheld, it would complicate Argentina’s ability to restructure its debt, Bloomberg reported.
There are no guarantees when courts are involved, but Argentina’s ability to thus far stave off another default has helped ARGT. The ETF is up 1.3% in the past month, good enough to make it the second-best performer over that time among single-country ETFs tracking South American nations. [Argentina ETF in Focus as New Pope is Elected]
With a standard deviation of 20.8%, ARGT is not the most docile ETF around, but the fund has a P/E of just 11.5 and a price-to-book ratio of 1.25, according to Global X data, indicating a significant discount to the broader frontier ETF FM.
Global X FTSE Argentina 20 ETF
ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this post.
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.