An ETF for the new smartphone king

Investors looking for exposure to Samsung, which has topped Apple as the world's No. 1 seller, can use this fund.

By TheStreet Staff Oct 28, 2011 2:45PM

By Don Dion, TheStreetTheStreet

 

Samsung released its quarterly earnings Friday, and on the surface the numbers were decent. Despite seeing an earnings dip over the past three months, the company managed to beat analyst expectations.

 

Digging deeper, however, investors can uncover some impressive news regarding the company's smartphone division. Although Samsung is still considered a relative newcomer to the industry, its products have taken off in popularity.

 

In fact, over the past quarter, Samsung managed to usurp the throne from Apple (AAPL) to become the world's leading player in the industry, with 24% market share. Samsung shipped nearly 28 million units over the past three months, handily outpacing Apple's 17 million units.

 

This shakeup is exciting, and it will be interesting to see whether Samsung can maintain its position for the long run. In the near term, there are ways investors can target the new king of the smartphone industry.

 

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For ETF investors looking for ample exposure to the Korea conglomerate, few products can compare with the iShares MSCI South Korea Index Fund (EWY). This fund is designed to provide investors with broad exposure to the South Korean market, spreading its assets across a pool of more than 100 different names.

 

Companies like Hyundai, Posco (PKX) and Shinhan Financial Group (SHG) each represent respectable slices of the fund's index. However, Samsung Electronics will likely drive much of the fund's day-to-day action over time. Alone, this company accounts for more than 17% of the fund's assets.

 

As in many other nations, South Korea's market struggled in August and September as the European crisis and fears of a Chinese hard landing weighed heavily on investor confidence. As global fears have waned over the past month, however, shares of EWY have had an impressive rebound. Since the start of October, the fund has been on a steep upward trajectory, breaking through to levels last seen in early August.

 

This action has aided the fund's positioning within our short-term momentum rankings. News of Samsung's newfound dominance in the smartphone industry may be enough to fuel the fund higher in the days ahead.

 

EWY is not an ETF that I would encourage investors to go all in on, though. On the contrary, those interested in wading into this Asian nation should view EWY as a small niche component within an otherwise well-diversified portfolio.

 

Analysts have noted in the past that South Korea boasts a number of developed nation characteristics. However, the country is still considered an emerging market and will likely witness volatility typical in developing regions in the foreseeable future.

 

Any volatility will likely be magnified by the top heavy structure of EWY's underlying index. Samsung is attractive at this time given the good news surrounding the company's earnings and smartphone dominance. However, we have seen in the past how a concentrated product like this can leave an investor vulnerable to market shakeups.

 

In addition, investors with exposure to EWY will want to keep a close watch on the ongoing trials steering macroeconomic sentiment. South Korea's performance is heavily influenced by its exporting industries. Therefore, in the event that fears reemerge and investors begin to once again doubt global growth prospects, the nation could be in for a rocky ride.

 

As a short-term play, the South Korea ETF is an attractive option for investors looking to gain ample exposure to the new king of the smartphone industry. I encourage those interested in EWY to remain flexible, however. Over the long run, there are a number of hurdles to keep a watch on.

 

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

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