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An ETF That Takes You to the Frontier

And you thought frontiers were only for the likes of Daniel Boone and Captain Kirk.

After what seems like eons, the first of what will be several (PowerShares and WisdomTree each have one in the hopper as well) frontier market ETFs has finally listed, making the space accessible to the average investor.

The Claymore/BNY Mellon Frontier Markets ETF (FRN) listed on Thursday with ticker FRN.

Frontier markets, simply explained, are one or two steps behind emerging markets in terms of things like modernization, regulation and other standards of development.

One big difference between the two types: More-mature emerging markets usually endure normal bull and bear market cycles, but frontier markets also take in the story that is happening on the ground.

For example, Vietnam has garnered a lot of attention for its economic dynamism, and investment capital has flowed in over the past decade, seeking to exploit the young-but-large population that is willing to work very hard and relatively cheaply.

This sort of effect tends to make the booms and the busts larger in magnitude, which is part of the maturation process, and this is something to keep in mind before committing any of your own capital to the space.

The last two years of trading in the Vietnam Opportunity Fund (VTOPF) are a perfect microcosm for this effect. The runup is attributable to capital flowing in. The whoosh down is the result of too much capital, contributing to a 25% inflation rate.

Coincidentally, or maybe not, FRN does not have exposure to Vietnam. Its largest country weight is Poland at 24.86%, followed by Chile at 21.01% and Egypt at 17.73%. The country weightings get much smaller from there.

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