Investing in China has been a hot topic for years and will be for many more to come. Considering the country's latest GDP growth came in at a whopping 11.9%, how can it be ignored by investors? Even during the global recession years of 2008 and 2009 China was able to post solid growth numbers with a GDP of 9.13% in 2008 and 8.48% in 2009.
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There are a number of ways investors could gain exposure to the China growth in their portfolio. The two most popular are Chinese companies that trade as ADRs on U.S. stock exchanges and Chinese exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Due to the company-specific risk of investing in individual stocks, the best strategy for most investors is Chinese ETFs. (For a quick refresher on this topic: check out ADR Basics: What Is An ADR?)
Broad-Based China ETFs
The largest Chinese ETF, as measured by assets under management, is the iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 ETF (NYSE:FXI). The ETF invests in 25 large-cap Chinese stocks that either trade in the U.S. or Hong Kong.
The largest holding is China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) with 10% of the allocation. Financials make up 45.4% of the ETF and China Construction Bank is the number two holding with a 9% allocation. Because the ETF only invests in 25 stocks and the top two holdings make up 19%, the ETF is not considered diversified and therefore the risk is higher than a typical ETF. That being said, FXI is a solid proxy for the large-cap Chinese stock market and an acceptable option for most investors. (For more, see Investing In China.)
During the last year a number of ETF companies introduced Chinese sector-specific ETFs. Now investors have the opportunity to invest in sectors such as financials or technology similar to U.S. sector ETFs. The Global X family of ETFs is the leader with six Chinese sector ETFs; their largest by assets under management is the Global X China Financials ETF (NYSE:CHIX). The ETF is composed of 25 stocks that have their main business operations in China and only securities that are tradable for foreign investors without restrictions are included. The expense ratio is an acceptable 0.65%.
Investors have a choice if they want to invest in the Chinese technology sector. There is the Global X China Technology ETF (NYSE:CHIB) or the Claymore China Technology ETF (NYSES:CQQQ). CHIB invests in a number of Chinese stocks that trade in the U.S. as ADRs such as China Unicom (NYSE:CHU) and Baidu.com (Nasdaq:BIDU). CQQQ has many of the same holdings as its competitor and they both charge similar expense ratios; 0.65% for CHIB and 0.70% for CQQQ.
Favorite China Sector ETF
Of the remaining Chinese sector ETFs there is one that stands out above the rest due to its exposure to the growing middle class - the Global X China Consumer ETF (NYSE:CHIQ). The ETF allows investors to take advantage of the growth of the China consumer through retail, food, consumer services and automobiles. What also makes this ETF unique from many other China ETFs is that it relies more on the economy of mainland China and not foreign nations. My bet here is that the growth in China continues and the middle class benefits.
The Bottom Line
Keep in mind that there will be high volatility with sector ETFs and especially the ones that concentrate on an emerging economy such as China. (For more, see China ETFs Move With The Market.)
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