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Middle East Fund Has Its Quirks, Perks

Just last month, the news was about Claymore BNY/Mellon Frontier Markets ETF (FRN) -- and now, we have the second-to-market PowerShares MENA Frontier Countries Portfolio (PMNA), which will mimic the NASDAQ/OMX Middle East North Africa Index.

FRN is diversified across several types of frontier markets, but the index underlying PMNA only invests, as the name implies, in a very narrow region; Kuwait 19.74%, UAE 19.04%, Egypt 16.11%, Qatar 14.52%, Morocco 12.21%, Jordan 9.20%, Oman 4.77%, Lebanon 2.22% and Bahrain 2.21%.

This is a regional fund, so country weights are large because the region doesn't have too many investible countries. If the region makes sense for your portfolio and you don't want to pick stocks, the regional approach is as broad as it's going to get.

The sector allocation may be a bit of surprise, only 2.41% of the fund is energy. The big oil companies from these countries are owned by the respective governments and not listed on the local exchanges.

The biggest sector by far is financials, at 56.07%. Telecom is second at 16.52%, industrials at 15.35%. The rest are too small to move the needle. The weighting in financials leaves me wanting to learn about Middle Eastern banks. But, the index does not concentrate the stocks held, with only three names being larger than 5% (and not much larger than 5%, at that).

The fund may seem expensive at 0.95%, but accessing any sort of frontier or lower emerging market is not going to be cheap.

There are a couple of structural elements that complicate things a bit.

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