Top ETFs to Play Colombian Election Uncertainty

2018 is the year of presidential elections in South America. The election cycle kicked off in Costa Rica in February and concludes when Brazilians go to the polls in early October. In between, presidential elections take place in Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico. The presidential election in Colombia is particularly interesting given that it is the first since the historic 2016 peace deal between the state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.

Voters in Colombia have a choice between Iván Duque, a candidate from the right who is unsympathetic toward the ongoing peace negotiations with the FARC, and leftist candidate Gustavo Petro, the former mayor of Bogotá who has an M-19 guerrilla background. After the May 27, 2018, presidential elections, neither candidate received a clear majority of the vote, which sends Colombians back to the polling booths on June 17, 2018.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the election outcome, Colombia's economy is expected to grow by 3% this year. This provides a buying opportunity for investors who want exposure to this emerging market before the dust finally settles.

Investors who have a bullish view on the Colombian economy should consider investing in the Global X MSCI Colombia exchange-traded fund (ETF) (NYSEARCA: GXG) or the iShares MSCI Colombia ETF (NYSEARCA: ICOL). Those investors who want more broad exposure to the South American economy as this election year rolls on may want to consider purchasing the iShares Latin America 40 ETF (NYSEARCA: ILF).

Global X MSCI Colombia ETF

The Global X MSCI Colombia ETF launched in 2009 and seeks to match the returns of the MSCI All Colombia Select 25/50 Index. The fund attempts to do this by investing the majority of its $112.65 million asset base in American depository receipts (ADRs) and global depository receipts (GDRs) based on the securities in the benchmark index. The ETF provides exposure to companies with economic links to Colombia. GXG has a top-heavy portfolio, with its two leading holdings of Bancolombia S.A. ADR (NYSE: CIB) and Ecopetrol S.A. ADR (NYSE: EC) carrying a cumulative weighting of 27.54%.

The Global X MSCI Colombia ETF charges an annual fee of 0.61%, which compares with the category average of 0.54%. The fund has a relatively narrow 52-week trading range between $9.33 and $11.51 and is currently trading at $10.92 as of June 2018. It has returned 8.98% year to date (YTD) and pays a 1.76% dividend yield. (See also: 5 Ways You Can Invest in Colombia From Abroad.)

iShares MSCI Colombia ETF

Created in 2013, the iShares MSCI Colombia ETF aims to mirror the performance of the Index MSCI All Colombia Capped Index. The ETF invests at least 90% of its assets under management (AUM) in securities that make up the underlying index. These are securities of firms that have significant operations in Colombia. Like GXG, the fund has a heavily concentrated portfolio; its top five holdings have a combined weighting of 42.58%. Key names include Ecopetrol, Bancolombia, Banco Davivienda S.A. (BVC: PFDAVVNDA), Interconnection Electric S.A. E.S.P. (OTC: IESFY) and Grupo Nutresa SA (OTC: GCHOY). In total, the portfolio contains 28 securities.

The iShares MSCI Colombia ETF is smaller than GXG, with just $23.74 million in net assets, but it has the same annual fee of 0.61%. As of June 2018, the fund has a three-year annualized return of 2.68% and a one-year annualized return of 10.68%. It has returned 7.92% YTD. Investors receive a 1.4% dividend. (See also: Colombia Nurtures a Hub for Tech Startups.)

iShares Latin America 40 ETF

Formed in 2001, the iShares Latin America 40 ETF tracks the performance of the S&P Latin America 40 Index. To do this, the ETF invests the bulk of its assets in securities that represent the underlying index. The benchmark index comprises 40 of the largest Latin American firms. ILF's top 10 holdings have a cumulative weighting of over 50%. Leading companies in its portfolio include Vale S.A. ADR (NYSE: VALE), Itau Unibanco Holding S.A. ADR (NYSE: ITUB) and Banco Bradesco S.A. ADR (NYSE: BBD).

The iShares Latin America 40 ETF has AUM of $1.37 billion, making it a much larger than GXG and ICOL. The fund is also more competitively priced, with an expense ratio of 0.49%. It has returned 3.46% over the past three years but is down 9.72% YTD as of June 2018, making it a possible play for contrarian investors. (See also: The Best 4 Places to Invest in Latin America.)

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