NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Infrastructure has been a burgeoning theme in the last few years, spawning numerous exchange traded funds looking to capitalize on plans to expand and modernize highways and transportation systems in emerging markets.
While several ETFs target infrastructure, they usually have distinct strategies that can generate wildly different results. That means investors have to look more closely at the funds' holdings before they buy.
Last month, I attended the MoneyShow convention in San Francisco. The event is geared toward individual investors and traders. While interest in ETFs was high at the convention, I found that investors paid little attention to the funds' underlying holdings.
The differences among infrastructure funds illustrates what can happen if you don't do your due diligence. Among two of the popular funds, the PowerShares Emerging Markets Infrastructure Portfolio (PXR) has returned 39% this year, while the SPDR FTSE/Macquarie Global Infrastructure 100 ETF (GII) has fallen 7%.That's because industrial stocks make up 51% of the PowerShares fund, with another 45% going toward materials. One of its big holdings is Vale (VALE - Get Report), a Brazilian mining company. About 37% of the fund is invested in China, Russia and Brazil. However, the fund can own stocks from developed markets that draw revenue from emerging markets, such as Caterpillar (CAT - Get Report) in the U.S. and ABB (ABB - Get Report) of Switzerland. In contrast, utility stocks make up 89% of the SPDR ETF. The fund also invests more heavily in developed countries with the U.S. accounting for 38% of its assets, followed by 11% in Germany and 9% in both Japan and France.