Not even three full trading weeks into January and this has already become a familiar refrain: “What the heck is wrong with emerging markets?”
Another familiar and potentially dangerous refrain is that emerging markets equities are ready to outperform their U.S. peers. That thesis centers around on days like Monday when emerging stocks were merely less bad than U.S. equities. A flawed thesis to be sure given that “less bad” can still be bad and the reality is the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF’s (EEM) 2014 loss is triple that of the S&P 500.
The Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) , like EEM, is off more than 4%. VWO and EEM are the two largest emerging markets ETFs by assets. For the selective, there are opportunities to be had in the emerging world, but broadly speaking, until they prove different, developing markets are in a downtrend. [No One Likes Emerging Markets]
“One of the most important ratios that I follow is the Emerging Markets vs S&P500. This one got destroyed last year after falling behind early and never really catching up to the US, Japan, or even Europe. The sellers definitely showed up last year, and so far this trend has continued in 2014,” notes J.C. Parets, president of Eagle Bay Capital.
Parets posts excellent technical analysis pieces at All-Start Charts, including the chart below, which is a weekly ratio chart of EEM and the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) . Pay close attention to the violation of support as denoted by the shaded area.
“Here is a weekly chart of this ratio currently hitting lows not seen since 2005. You want to talk about downtrends? This is one of the most powerful ones out there. I see no reason to be long this chart unless we can miraculously get back above those 8 years of broken support,” said Parets.
Chart Courtesy: J.C. Parets
Indeed, EEM is a diverse ETF to some extent. It is home to almost 830 stocks, but four countries – China, South Korea, Taiwan and Brazil – combine for 55% of the ETF’s geographic weight. Year-to-date, the four largest single-country ETFs tracking those nations are down an average of 5.6%.
The countries that round out EEM’s top-10 country weights are South Africa, India, Russia, Mexico, Malaysia and Indonesia. Of the largest ETFs offering exposure to those nations, only the Market Vectors Indonesia ETF (IDX) and the iShares MSCI Indonesia ETF (EIDO) are higher since the start of 2014. [Getting Selective With Emerging Markets]
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF
Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of EEM and SPY