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ETF Chart of the Day: Fun on the Frontier


Back in April we spoke about the Frontier Markets space in ETFs, and being that Emerging Markets Equities have been active throughout the week, especially via EEM (iShares MSCI Emerging Markets, Expense Ratio 0.67%), this presents an opportunity to revisit the topic.

Frontier Markets, as the name may suggest, are less developed than Emerging Markets from a macro/economic standpoint, and countries that fall within these parameters are categorized as such by index providers. Frontier Markets do fall under the broad category of Emerging Markets Equities however, and it makes sense for portfolio managers to monitor the price action in both segments simultaneously.

FM (iShares MSCI Frontier 100 Index, Expense Ratio 0.79%) is the largest fund in this space, and still very new to the marketplace having debuted in September of 2012. Thus far, the ETF has reeled in $326 million since inception and it averages about 131,000 shares traded daily. FRN (Guggenheim Frontier Markets, Expense Ratio 0.65%) and PMNA (PowerShares MENA Frontier Countries Portfolio, Expense Ratio 0.70%) are smaller entries in this space, with $96 million and $14.9 million in assets under management collectively.

Exposure from a country and individual equity standpoint differs quite a bit across these funds due to different selection methodologies that are employed by the respective index providers, so it makes sense for money managers to perform their due diligence here at a fund level and decide which specific exposure to Frontier countries suits them best.

For example, FM is most heavily weighted to Kuwait (26.40%), Qatar (17.65%), and The UAE (13.61%) currently, so notably tilted in terms of equity exposure to the Middle East region while FRN has completely different underlying exposure (Chile 50.68%, Colombia 14.74%, Argentina 9.33% for example).

PMNA is a bit more specialized in that it only offers exposure to the Middle East and North Africa, so it is not as broad as either FM or FRN (81% of the equity exposure is to the Middle East with the
remainder being invested in North African countries). The bottom line is that there has been recent growth in this space in terms of asset inflows and interest in the exposure, and it ultimately will continue as these economies mature and emerge themselves.

iShares MSCI Frontier 100 ETF