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ETFs Are a Way Into Brazil

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I write many articles about building narrow exposures in portfolios and also about avoiding parts of the market that seem like blatant trouble spots. Obviously, with a portfolio of individual stocks it's easy for a do-it-yourselfer to pick specific names in such a way as to avoid whatever he wants to avoid and capture whatever he wants to capture (easy is a reference to the access, not the analysis). Obviously, not everyone wants stocks only -- exchange-traded funds are a popular tool that can allow for implementing specific inclusions and exclusions for people who take the time to look under the hood and do a little spreadsheet work.

Brazil can be used as an example. There are broad-based funds like the iShares MSCI Brazil Index Fund (EWZ) , the Global X Brazil Mid Cap ETF (BRAZ) and the Market Vectors Brazil Small Cap ETF (BRF). These funds, while each having their own sector biases, offer diversified access. Generally, I prefer narrower access and anyone agreeing with that idea has plenty of choices in terms of ETFs, individual stocks or a combination of both.

Someone interested in financial exposure in Brazil, for example, could buy the Global X Brazil Financials ETF (BRAF) and be done with it. Some portion of the financial sector allocation for the entire portfolio could go into this fund and be the total allocation to Brazil. After all, Brazil's banks generally weathered the financial crisis fundamentally far better than the U.S. and European banks and looking ahead seem to face fewer systemic threats.

Take a glance under the hood and you'll see names like Itau Unibanco (ITUB) and Banco Bradesco (BBD) -- these are names that anyone interested in Brazilian financials should be familiar with. Beyond those two names, however, there are unlikely to be too many familiar names which could be a reason to seek other ways into the country. The lack of familiarity makes the Brazil Financial ETF more difficult to analyze.

The financial sector, obviously, isn't the only way into Brazil. Anyone who has studied the country could reasonably conclude there might be three or four ways in for them along with one or two they would avoid. For anyone wanting Brazil, I think materials is one way in, as is infrastructure (think utilities and industrials) and consumer items (things that the ascending middle class in Brazil can now afford that it couldn't before).

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