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Weighing Russian ETF Options

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - On Tuesday, investors were greeted to pleasing news regarding the Russian energy industry. Thanks to rising oil prices, state-owned Russian energy giant Lukoil (LUKOY) reported strong third-quarter earnings numbers, highlighted by a 40% net increase in profits from a year earlier.

While strong numbers from Lukoil bode well for the Russian marketplace, finding the best way to follow the nation's performance has become an increasing difficult task for ETF investors.

Picking a Russian ETF

In November, BlackRock (BLK) unveiled its newest fund in its growing line of internationally-focused ETFs: the iShares MSCI Capped Russia Index Fund (ERUS). Designed to track the broad Russian economy, this index is comprised of the largest and most liquid companies traded in the nation.

Although the launch of ERUS marks iShares' first foray into this attractive member of the BRIC emerging nations, it is entering an already heavily saturated ETF market. Aside from ERUS, two other Russia-focused funds have previously been made available to investors: the Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX) and the SPDR S&P Russia ETF (RBL). Like ERUS, these two competitors seek to capture the strength of Russia's markets and, in doing so, boast a number of identical holdings.

Russia's economy is known for being heavily reliant on its domestic oil and gas industry. Therefore, it is not surprising that RSX, RBL, and ERUS each set aside major portions of their portfolio to companies such as Gazprom (OGZPY), Lukoil, and Rosneft. Currently, 42% of ERUS' index, 31% of RBL, and 22% of RSX are dedicated to the trifecta.

With three funds on the market each seeking to provide investors with exposure to the most prominent companies hailing from the same global economic player, picking the most appropriate can be a tricky task. However, looking beyond the funds' holdings, it is possible to find the option that will provide the most stable play on this nation.

I have consistently urged investors to hone in on a fund's qualities such as trading volume and liquidity before when weighing any ETF option. By opting for funds which boast high average trading volumes, investors will have the room necessary to safely move in and out of positions in the event that the markets are sent for a loop. Typically, I consider funds which trade hands over 100,000 each day to be the most stable products.

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