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Three Middle East ETFs to Watch

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- As the world continues to depend on Middle East oil exports, the region's economy will boost, benefiting PowerShares MENA Frontier Countries (PMNA), WisdomTree Middle East Dividend Fund ETF (GULF) and Market Vectors Gulf States (MES).

Market sentiment has improved and global investors have been returning to the Middle East region since the Dubai financial crisis. During the depths of the financial crisis, oil prices plummeted and global oil consumption declined. The crisis impacted government spending and domestic investment, given the challenge of accessing both equity and debt funding.

Qatar is anticipated to lead the region, with GDP growth rates of 14.5% in 2010 and 17% in 2011, according to Qatar Statistics Authority. The country is expected to benefit from not only increased LNG production, but also growth in the non-oil sectors.

Similarly, other countries in the Middle East have started diversifying their economies to reduce dependence on oil revenues and increase employment, which will benefit the aforementioned ETFs.

Currently, equity markets in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are trading at attractive PE multiples of 12.1, 12.0, 15.3, 6.2 and 9.0, respectively. In comparison, the S&P 500, China's Shanghai Composite Index and India's BSE Sensex Index are trading at PE multiples of 13.5, 15.6 and 18.6, respectively.

The three ETFs, PMNA, GULF and MES, gained 3.10%, 8.82% and 14.57%, respectively, year to date. Currently, these ETFs are trading above their 200-day moving averages.

PMNA is the largest of the three ETFs, with a market cap of $21.0 million. The ETF is based on the Nasdaq OMX Middle East North Africa Index and had investments of 20.1%, 19.7%, 19.7%, 15.8% and 10.2% in the UAE, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, and Jordan, respectively, on June 30. The portfolio is dominated by large-cap stocks and growth stocks that account for 43.7% and 71.1%, respectively, of the allocation, according to the ETF's Web site.

PMNA provides an attractive diversification opportunity, due to its low correlation with other indices. The ETF's correlations with the S&P 500 index, MSCI EAFE and MSCI Emerging markets are 0.02, 0.16 and 0.22, respectively.

GULF follows the WisdomTree Middle East Dividend Index, a fundamentally weighted index that measures the performance of Middle East companies that pay regular cash dividends on shares of common stock. The ETF closely tracks the index with investment allocation of 31.7%, 24.3%, 19.2% and 10.9% in Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Egypt, respectively.
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