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China ETFs: Be Selective

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Investment uncertainty is widespread these days, perhaps nowhere more so than in China's economy.

In China's property market alone, forecasts range from "definitely not a bubble" to "imminent collapse." Luckily, investors seeking coverage of China can employ ETFs to gain exposure to specific sectors they deem lucrative.

China's GDP grew 11.1% in the first half of the year, as compared to the year ago period. However, the growth slowed from 11.9% in the first quarter to 10.3% in the second quarter.

One Chinese think tank estimates that the economy will grow 9.5% for the year, which suggests a further slowdown in the third and fourth quarters. Overall, 9.5% growth is strong, but the change in acceleration is likely to affect some sectors more than others.

The property market receives the most attention due to ongoing debate over whether there is a bubble or not. The ETF play here is Claymore/AlphaShares China Real Estate (TAO), which has gone nowhere in the past year and nowhere this year, although it's been a bumpy ride. TAO first tumbled in August 2009 when the mainland China stock market topped, then fell in January along with global markets, and again in May.

Meanwhile, Chinese property prices continued to climb, as double-digit annualized price increases became the norm. It appears the government's efforts to cool the market had a greater effect on stock investors up until this point.

Potential warnings signs cropped up this month. Chinese home prices in 70 cities fell 0.1% in June from May, the first slide in over a year. In Beijing, developers are cutting prices to move new homes. Next year, it is expected that some localities will introduce property taxes as part of a national effort at tax reform and that could be another factor slowing price appreciation.

TAO would need to rally about 12% to hit a new 52-week high, but only about 4% to hit a new high in 2010. It has outpaced other China ETFs over the past six months, but is roughly in line with the group year to date.

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