With 32 countries vying for 2018 World Cup glory in Russia, it is worth looking at how the competing nations' country exchange-traded funds (ETFs) stack up against each other. As you will discover, a country's likely success on the football field certainly doesn't correlate to success on its local stock exchange.
While the financial markets slow down as soccer fans keep an eye on every piece of play, it's an ideal time to learn about three ETFs that are kicking goals off the field that could help your portfolio score gains. (See also: World Cup Could Boost Twitter's Stock: JP Morgan.)
Launched in 2015, the iShares MSCI Saudi Arabia ETF seeks to provide similar returns to the MSCI Saudi Arabia IMI 25/50 Index. The fund does this by investing the majority of its $265.31 million asset base in securities that are part of the underlying index. The ETF has a heavily concentrated portfolio; its top five holdings command a 46.09% weighting. Key holdings include basic materials company Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (TADAWUL: 2010), Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Corporation (TADAWUL: 1120) and The National Commercial Bank (TADAWUL: 1180).
The iShares MSCI Saudi Arabia ETF has an expense ratio of 0.74%, which compares to 0.54% for the category average. Although this fund is on the expensive side, it does offer exposure to a difficult-to-access market. Saudi regulators prohibited foreign ownership of Saudi stock before June 2015. The Saudi football team might not be expected to return from Russia with much silverware, but they can take stock knowing that their country's ETF has outperformed its competitors, with a year-to-date (YTD) return of an impressive 18.41% as of June 2018. (See also: The Kingdom Is Coming to Emerging Markets.)
The VanEck Vectors Egypt Index ETF launched in 2010 and aims to replicate the performance of the MVIS Egypt Index. In an attempt to achieve this, the ETF invests a minimum of 80% of its assets in securities that are constitutes of the benchmark index. The fund's top three holdings – Egypt Kuwait Holding (CA: EKHO), Commercial International Bank Egypt S.A.E. American Depository Receipt (ADR) (OTC: CIBEY) and El Sewedy Electric Co. (CA: SWDY) – carry a cumulative weighting of 25.28%. In total, EGPT's portfolio holds 25 stocks.
The VanEck Vectors Egypt Index ETF has $57.86 million in assets under management (AUM) and charges investors a lofty annual fee of 0.94%. A 0.69% dividend yield helps partially offset management expenses. The high expense ratio may have something to do with this instrument being the only pure-play Egyptian ETF. As of June 2018, EGPT has a YTD return of 6.72%, giving it a clear third place victory over France's national ETF – the iShares MSCI France ETF (NYSEARCA: EWQ), which has returned 3.43% YTD. (For more, see: Energy Investments Boost Egypt's Recovering Economy.)
Created in 2009, the Global X MSCI Colombia ETF attempts to mirror the returns of the MSCI All Colombia Select 25/50 Index. It does this by investing its assets in securities that make up the benchmark index. The underlying index represents a broad range of large-, mid- and small-capitalization Colombian companies. The ETF's top holding of Bancolombia SA ADR (NYSE: CIB) carries a 13.87% weighting. Its second top holding, Ecopetrol SA (NYSE: EC), has a weighting of 13.27%.
The Global X MSCI Colombia ETF has $111.86 million in net assets and pays a dividend of 1.73%. With an expense ratio of 0.61%, GXG is cheaper than KSA. Colombia may have similar odds as host nation Russia of taking home soccer's most coveted prize, but that's where the comparisons end. GXG has returned 7.39% YTD as of June 2018, while Russia's ETF – the iShares MSCI Russia ETF (NYSEARCA: ERUS) – has a disappointing YTD return of -1.58%. (See also: Top ETFs to Play Colombian Election Uncertainty.)
The ETF World Cup red card goes to Brazil for committing a foul on its YTD performance. The nation's iShares MSCI Brazil ETF (NYSEARCA: EWZ) has returned a disappointing -16.44% as of June 2018.