NEW YORK (
) -- There has been an onslaught of China-focused exchange traded funds, mostly from
and one from
GlobalX China Industrials ETF
makes the best first impression.
GlobalX Industrials looks like an infrastructure fund, with construction and engineering comprising 27% of the ETF and transportation 22%. Industrial equipment accounts for 26%, and building materials, mostly cement companies, takes 20%.
The China ETF's holdings let you follow the building process, from raw materials (cement) to producers (construction firms) to end users (China Railway Group, Beijing Capital International Airport). The methodology limits any single stock's weighting to 4.75% of the ETF.
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Other than the industrials ETF, GlobalX has also launched funds for the financial, consumer and technology sectors. The reason that the industrial fund makes the best first impression has to do with the fundaments of China, combined with the unique exposure that the ETF offers. Banks in China have increased their lending in a shocking fashion over the past couple of years, paving the way for too much leverage and risking a financial meltdown akin to that of the U.S. And the technology fund is heaviest in the same Internet stocks --
-- that have been available to U.S. investors for years.
The consumer fund is interesting as a late-cycle play. The logic in looking to the
GlobalX China Consumer Sector ETF
for later down the road has several facets to it. First is that, for now, China is still building up its infrastructure and modernizing the country, in terms of municipal services and amenities in people's homes. At some point, the infrastructure theme will play out, at which time it may make sense to consider consumer stocks as people in the rural west finally ascend to a lifestyle closer to that of the more urbanized eastern part of the country.
Another reason to hold off on consumer stocks for now is that a recent report in the South China Morning Post noted that unpaid credit card debt has surged this year. That implies there will be growing pains along the way for China, and there will be problems for financial stocks as well. A threat to financial stocks becomes relevant for some of the popular China funds, especially the
iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index Fund
, 47% of which is financial stocks.
The nearer-term prospects for the industrial sector are more compelling. Highway improvements, for example, cut drive times from rural areas by as much as 50%, which means more manufacturing can migrate west, where labor is cheaper. Cities in the east are still being built up, helped by China's stimulus plan. Industrial output in China increased by 19% in November from a year earlier.
One last point about the potential benefit of investing in China at the sector level is that, as an investment destination matures, money stops flooding in indiscriminately and eventually is targeted to certain industries.
At the time of publication, Roger Nusbaum had no holdings in the securities mentioned.
Nusbaum is a portfolio manager with Your Source Financial of Phoenix, and the author of Random Roger's Big Picture Blog. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Nusbaum appreciates your feedback;
to send him an email.