For almost as long as South America has been an appealing investment theme and for as long as there have been ETFs with which to embrace that theme, Brazil has loomed large. Just look at the statistics. The iShares MSCI Brazil Index Fund (NYSE: EWZ) isn't just the largest Brazil ETF. It's one of the largest emerging markets ETFs, period.
Even the ETFs tracking Latin America that purport to offer regional exposure are somewhat deceiving. Just look at the iShares S&P Latin America 40 Index Fund (NYSE: ILF), an almost $2 billion ETF, devotes more than 78% of its weight to Brazil and Mexico and that's par for the course with just about every ETF that offers what is supposed to broad LatAm exposure. Almost all of them are heavy on Brazil and Mexico while offering only scant exposure to other fast growing, arguably more appealing LatAm markets.
There is one ETF goes in the opposite direction. It's a multi-country play with NO Brazil or Mexico exposure. That fund is the Global X FTSE Andean 40 ETF (NYSE: AND) and it focuses on three ex-Brazil South American markets that have significantly rewarded investors in recent years: Chile, Colombia and Peru.
To be exact, Chile accounts for almost 49% of AND's weight while Colombia receives an allocation of almost 22%. Peru checks in at 20%. AND debuted in February 2011 and until recently, it's fair to say the fund has been somewhat anonymous. AND, first ETF to offer exposure to multiple LatAm economies while excluding Brazil and Mexico had $7.3 million in assets under management and was trading below 10,000 shares per day around the time of its first birthday.
Indicating that investors are waking up to the ETF and the South America ex-Brazil story, AND's average daily volume is now almost 10,400 shares per day and the fund had over $9.7 million in AUM as of May 8.
Interesting statistics to be sure, but what's really important is performance. Brazilian equities and the corresponding ETFs have been ravaged in recent months as investors have dialed back risk, commodities prices have fallen and global investors have continued to fret about Brazil's inflation situation.
Year-to-date, EWZ is down more than 1% and its chart indicates more declines could be on the way. At the same time, AND is higher by almost 20% and while EWZ is down 10% in the past month, AND is flat. Surprisingly, AND has performed well as commodities prices have slid despite the fact that its three constituent countries are resource-driven companies.
What that says is simple: South America beyond Brazil can be quite profitable and the continent's new frontiers represented in AND have more upside to offer.