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The Art of Investing in BRIC ETFs

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Brazil, Russia, China and India make up the BRIC nations that have attracted much discussion and investment over the past few years.

The term BRIC came to fame in a report by Jim O'Neill for Goldman Sachs (GS). and in subsequent research that argued the four countries could see their combined economies eclipse those of today's richest nations by 2050.

However, while these four nations could become a major force in the global economy, the term BRIC was the creation of an investment bank and these countries are not an economic union or political bloc.

There are some complementary aspects in their economies, such as Russia exporting natural resources and Brazil supplying the raw materials for growth in India and China, but beyond these similarities in the stage of development, they are four different countries. And as the performance of various ETFs shows, investors would be wise to treat of these countries separately.

One maxim of investing is diversification, especially if you know little about an area of the market. But in the case of BRICs, are investors really diversifying?

First comes the question of whether these four countries deserve to be grouped together. The fact that new BICK ETFs (swap Russia for Korea) may be on the way suggests that this is more about marketing than investing. More important, however, is the weighting of each country within the BRIC ETFs. Even investors who want to own the BRIC concept may not be getting what they want.

The oldest and largest BRIC ETF (first mover advantage continues to mean a lot in the ETF world) is the Claymore/BNY Mellon BRIC ETF (EEB). Its B-R-I-C weighting is 57%, 3%, 11% and 29%, respectively.

The iShares MSCI BRIC Index Fund (BKF) weighs those four at 35%, 14%, 16% and 37%, respectively, while the SPDR S&P BRIC 40 ETF (BIK) allocates them as follows: 27%, 22%, 8% and 43%.

EEB is basically a Brazil-China fund. BKF is more evenly allocated, but it is underweight India and Russia. BIK has the most even allocation, but it is still heavily overweight China and underweight India. (One reason for the major underweight of Russia in EEB is that it tracks an ADR index and there are fewer Russian ADRs.)
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