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Emerging-Markets Large-Caps Take on Dow

Stocks in this article: ITUB LFC VALE

The iShares funds are a direct attack on the inroads EG Shares has tried to make on the ETF industry. In addition to the similarities of fund construction, they only charge 0.72% in management fees versus 0.85% for the EG Shares. Even the ticker symbols of the funds are almost identical.

For now, there is little interest in any of the funds. The EG Shares average less than 10,000 shares per day traded, the iShares MSCI Emerging Market Materials Sector Index Fund has only averaged 1,200 shares a day, while the iShares MSCI Emerging Market Financial Sector Index Fund didn't trade one share in its first week on the market. The lack of interest in this space is corroborated by WisdomTree's recent decision to close seven of 10 foreign sector funds. Those included developed- and emerging-market stocks.

The lack of interest, for now at least, is unfortunate because the past decade has shown the importance of country and sector selection. As the S&P 500 dropped 24%, investors willing to invest in specific countries added tremendous value to their portfolios. iShares MSCI Brazil, hardly an obscure investment destination, was up 250%. In that same period, iShares MSCI Hong Kong (EWH) rose 20%. At the industry level, the Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF) was down 40% for the decade, far worse than the broader stock market, while the Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK) plummeted 60%.

While some say it's impossible to correctly pick sectors and countries, the market gives the occasional warning about what to avoid, especially at the sector level. Occasionally a sector grows to be too large relative to the S&P 500, often because of some sort of investment mania. In the early 1980s, during the first alternative-energy boom, that sector grew to be 30% of the S&P 500, only to implode. Ten years ago, technology grew to 30% during Internet-stock mania. A few years ago, the financial sector swelled to 22% of the index before crashing in what we're calling the worst financial crisis in 80 years.

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