After falling to a 20-month low against the U.S. dollar last week, the South Korean won was spotted lower against the U.S. currency during Monday’s Asian session, indicating that some investors made prescient bets on South Korea currency hedged exchange traded funds.
And those bets are being made in size. Last Thursday, Bank of Korea, South Korea’s central bank, joined the spate of global central banks lowering interest rates when pared borrowing costs to a record low of 1.75%. Heading into Thursday’s U.S. session, the Deutsche X-trackers MSCI South Korea Hedged Equity ETF (DBKO) had just over $64 million in assets under management. [Mild Reaction to Rate Cut by South Korea Currency Hedged ETFs]
However, DBKO’s unusually higher volume that day was a sign investors were piling into the fund. The ETF nearly doubled in size in just a day and now has $115.6 million in assets, according to Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management data.
DBKO and the rival WisdomTree Korea Hedged Equity Fund (DXKW) debuted last year and in 2013, respectively, amid little fanfare, but that as DBKO’s recent inflows suggest, that is starting to change. BOK has room to further lower rates. The central bank has lowered rates by 75 basis points over the past 22 months and with the Bank of Japan committed to rampant monetary easing and a weak yen, BOK must defend South Korean exporters with its own accommodative monetary policy. [South Korea ETFs Merit Attention]
With South Korean export data slack and BOK knowing it must defend exporters in Asia’s fourth-largest economy against the weak Japanese yen, market observers are not ruling out additional BOK rate cuts, which would likely benefit DBKO and DXKW.
For those familiar with investing in South Korea, the hedge currency idea makes sense. While the economy there is smaller than Japan’s, it is similar in that South Korea is also a major exporter of automobiles and electronics, among other goods. Just as Honda (HMC) and Toyota (TM) can be harmed by a strong yen, a rising won can be a detriment to the likes of Samsung Electronics, Samsung SDI, Hyundai Motors, Kia Motors, LG and KT&G.
DBKO’s rapid growth comes just as investors are starting to embrace single-country currency hedged ETFs that are not Japan funds. Euro hedged Germany ETFs, including Deutsche’s Deutsche X-trackers MSCI Germany Hedged Equity Fund (DBGR) , have recently seen explosive asset growth. However, prior to that, investors have favored yen hedged funds among single-country currency hedged offerings.
This year, currency hedged ETFs have attracted over $12 billion in inflows, 90% of which has gone to non-Japan funds. Like their Germany counterparts, DBKO and DXKW are giving investors reason to consider the currency hedge.
DBKO and DXKW are up an average of 4% this year while the unhedged iShares MSCI South Korea Capped ETF (EWY) has traded slightly lower.
Deutsche X-trackers MSCI South Korea Hedged Equity ETF