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New Russia ETF Faces Tough Competitor

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When it comes to playing Russia, two's a crowd.

Last week, State Street (STT - Get Report) unveiled its newest exchange traded fund: the SPDR S&P Russia ETF (RBL).

This ETF threatens to step squarely on the toes of another fund: the Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX). RSX has followed many of the same companies and boasts an impressive track record since its 2007 launch.

Given RSX's significantly longer track record and impressive run up over the past year, State Street's new offering has a massive hill to climb.

RBL's debut highlights a growing trend within the ETF realm. Boasting over 900 products, the ETF arena is becoming noticeably crowded with copycat instruments.

Some of the most recognizable rivalries that have propped up in the ETF arena include the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (EEM) vs. the Vanguard Emerging Market ETF (VWO); and the iShares S&P 500 Index Fund (IVV) vs. the SPDRS S&P 500 ETF (SPY).

While a number of the most popular "me-too" products focus on broad market indexes, as evidenced in RBL, companies have also stepped up the competition when it comes to individual sectors and popular nations as well.

Although both track their own specific indexes, the largest slices of RSX's and RBL's portfolios are dominated by many of the same firms. RSX follows the DAXglobal Russia+ Index, while RBL is backed by the S&P BMI Capped Index. Both funds have heavy exposure to energy giants like Gazprom (OGZPY), Lukoil (LUKOY), Rosneft (OJSCF) and Surgutneftegaz (SGTZY), which together account for nearly a third of their respective portfolios.

Given this heavy exposure to large producers of oil and natural gas, investors should consider their current exposure to energy. For those with sufficient energy exposure, a small, niche position as part of a well-diversified portfolio is ideal.

Over the past year, Russia's energy dominance coupled with the global economic recovery have helped RSX to power higher and become one of the top performing ETFs. In the most recent one-year period through March 18, the fund is up more than 140%.
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