BRIC ETFs sport small-cap look

New funds allow investors to gain exposure to small companies in Brazil, Russia, India and China.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 20, 2011 11:39AM

By Don Dion, TheStreet


The BRIC nations are popular for both investors and fund providers. The ETF industry offers a wide collection of products that tap into Brazil, Russia, India and China from a number of perspectives.


The field of BRIC-related ETFs expanded last week with the launch of Van Eck's Market Vectors Russia Small Cap ETF (RSXJ). The first fund of its kind, RSXJ provides investors with exposure to a diverse collection of small companies based in Russia.


So far, the fund has seen limited interest and is still vulnerable to liquidity issues. I urge investors to hold off on RSXJ until it gathers steam.


Despite my hesitations, the launch of RSXJ marks an exciting event for the BRIC ETF universe. With its introduction, investors can now gain small-cap access to all four BRIC nations. Small companies in Brazil, India, and China can be accessed using the Market Vectors Brazil Small Cap ETF (BRF), Market Vectors India Small Cap ETF (SCIF) and Guggenheim China Small Cap ETF (HAO) respectively.

Small cap BRIC funds have usually been viewed as promising tools for investors looking to target these nations' rapidly growing domestic populations. For instance, the iShares MSCI Brazil Index Fund (EWZ) provides investors with exposure to the largest and most liquid companies based in Brazil and the fund's index is dedicated to large international companies such as Petrobras (PBR) and Vale. Due to their reach across the globe, the performances of these firms are not entirely dependent on the state of Brazil's economy.


The small companies underlying BRF, on the other hand, are more likely to do the bulk of their business with Brazilian customers. Therefore, their performance will be determined based on the strength of the nation's domestic consumer class.


On top of providing investors with strong exposure to its respective nation's domestic population, small cap emerging market ETFs are traditionally viewed as being more volatile than funds designed to capture large cap market leaders. Investors with a tolerance for risk may find the added upside potential attractive.


While some may find small cap BRIC funds attractive substitutes for large cap cousins, it is also possible to use these funds to compliment international exposure. For instance, investors highly confident in the strength of China's markets may want to enhance their exposure to the nation by pairing a large cap fund such as iShares FTSE China 25 Index Fund (FXI) with HAO. By keeping exposure to HAO small, investors can benefit from the fund's upside potential while protecting from the threat of a downturn.

 The advent of exchange traded funds has made international investing not only simple, but essential to the creation of a well-balanced, long-term portfolio. Using these products, domestic investors can expand their investing horizons well beyond the shores of the United States and into popular developed and emerging nations.


Small- cap emerging market funds such as RSXJ represent another exciting evolution in the ETF industry.


TheStreet contributor Don Dion owns Dion Money Management. At the time of publication, Dion Money Management did not own any of the equities mentioned.


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