Investors seeking exposure to the Hong Kong stock market might consider exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Hong Kong has long thrived as a global financial center and open capitalist economy, and it largely has continued to do so since it became a semi-autonomous region of China in 1997. Beijing initially allowed Hong Kong to maintain its Western-style political system under the central government's "one country, two systems" approach. But now, political unrest and Beijing's continued tightening of control over democratic freedoms in Hong Kong threaten the former British colony's political and economic autonomy. The most recent sign of diminishing freedoms occurred in April 2021 when Hong Kong's Legislative Council passed a law that makes it significantly easier for the government to quickly block Hong Kongers from leaving, expanding the scope of last year's national security law. Developments like this are raising questions over Hong Kong's future role as a global financial hub. But at least for now, Hong Kong remains open for business and investor capital. In this environment, Hong Kong ETFs offer investors a way to gain diversified exposure to a leading financial center in the global economy.

Key Takeaways

  • Hong Kong equities underperformed the broader market over the past year.
  • The ETFs with the best 1-year trailing total return are FLHK and EWH.
  • The top holding for each of these ETFs is AIA Group Ltd.

There are 3 distinct Hong Kong ETFs that trade in the U.S., excluding inverse and leveraged ETFs. Hong Kong equities, as measured by the MSCI Hong Kong Index, have underperformed the broad U.S. equity market with a total return of 34.1% over the past 12 months compared to the S&P 500's total return of 50.0%, as of May 6, 2021. The best-performing Hong Kong ETF, based on performance over the past year, is the Franklin FTSE Hong Kong ETF (FLHK). We look at both Hong Kong ETFs below. All numbers below are as of May 11, 2021.

ETFs with very low assets under management (AUM), less than $50 million, usually have lower liquidity than larger ETFs. This can result in higher trading costs which can negate some of your investment gains or increase your losses.

Franklin FTSE Hong Kong ETF (FLHK)

  • Performance over 1-Year: 38.5%
  • Expense Ratio: 0.09%
  • Annual Dividend Yield: 2.76%
  • 3-Month Average Daily Volume: 3,097
  • Assets Under Management: $17.5 million
  • Inception Date: Nov. 2, 2017
  • Issuer: Franklin Templeton Investments

FLHK tracks the FTSE Hong Kong Capped Index, a market-cap-weighted index representing the performance of large- and mid-cap Hong Kong-listed stocks. The ETF follows a blended strategy, providing exposure to a mix of growth and value stocks at a relatively low cost. The majority of its holdings are of companies domiciled within Hong Kong, but China- and Macao-based companies also comprise a small portion of the fund's total assets. The fund's largest exposure is to the financial sector, followed by real estate and industrials. Its top three holdings include AIA Group Ltd. (1299:HKG), a provider of insurance and financial services; Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. (388:HKG), an owner and operator of stock and futures markets; and Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd. (669:HKG), a multinational manufacturer of power tools, hand tools, outdoor equipment, and more.

iShares MSCI Hong Kong ETF (EWH)

  • Performance over 1-Year: 34.3%
  • Expense Ratio: 0.51%
  • Annual Dividend Yield: 2.27%
  • 3-Month Average Daily Volume: 5,855,389
  • Assets Under Management: $1.2 billion
  • Inception Date: March 12, 1996
  • Issuer: iShares

EWH is much larger and more liquid than FLHK, but also more expensive. This ETF tracks the MSCI Hong Kong 25/50 Index, an index designed to gauge the performance of the large- and mid-cap segments of the Hong Kong equity market. It follows a blended strategy, investing in both value and growth stocks. Geographically, essentially all of the fund's holdings are domiciled in Hong Kong. Real estate companies are given the largest allocation in the portfolio, followed by insurance companies and companies that produce capital goods. The fund's top three holdings include AIA Group Ltd.; Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing; and Techtronic Industries Co.

The comments, opinions and analyses expressed herein are for informational purposes only and should not be considered individual investment advice or recommendations to invest in any security or to adopt any investment strategy. While we believe the information provided herein is reliable, we do not warrant its accuracy or completeness. The views and strategies described on our content may not be suitable for all investors. Because market and economic conditions are subject to rapid change, all comments, opinions, and analyses contained within our content are rendered as of the date of the posting and may change without notice. The material is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any country, region, market, industry, investment, or strategy.