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Wal-Mart Drama Hits Mexico ETF

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Given its size and dominance within the consumer realm, investors holding on to products like the Market Vectors Retail ETF (RTH), the Vanguard Consumer Staples ETF (VDC), and the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Consumer Services Index Fund (IYC) should keep their eyes on the ongoing bribery-related drama facing discount retail giant, Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report). RTH is particularly vulnerable to the company's fluctuations; shares of WMT represent nearly 12% of the fund's portfolio.

It may be surprising to some investors, but another one of the most vulnerable ETFs that will likely come from this controversy is the iShares MSCI Mexico Investable Market Index Fund (EWW). In the past, I have praised this fund as a way for investors to take aim at a relatively drama-free corner of the global marketplace. To add to the fund's appeal during periods of market uncertainty, EWW also sets aside the bulk of its portfolio to defensive sectors like telecommunications and consumer staples. Unfortunately, however, the fund's portfolio puts investors right on the front lines of this particular international business controversy.

Designed to provide broad exposure to the Mexican stock market, EWW lists recognizable companies including Carlos Slim's, America Movil (AMX), Fomento Económico Mexicano (FMX), Cemex (CX) and the now-infamous Wal-Mart de Mexico (WMMVY) as some of its largest holdings. The fund is top-heavy too: Wal-Mart de Mexico, alone, represents over 10% of its total portfolio. America Movil, meanwhile, accounts for over one-fifth of EWW's assets.

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As the saga unfolds, conservative-minded investors will likely be best off watching EWW from the sidelines. This event is concerning, but it also stands as an important learning experience. EWW shows how important it is to do the proper homework before diving into a product.

The ETF universe has allowed individuals to tap into asset classes and nations that were once unavailable. While the growth and expansion of the industry has helped retail investors gain access to new investment opportunities and construct unique strategies, not all products are appropriate for everyone.

For instance, like EWW, many internationally focused funds boast excessive exposure to very small pools of companies. Those who are too aggressive with these concentrated options can quickly find themselves in a vulnerable position in the event of a Wal-Mart de Mexico-type upheaval.
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