The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.


ETF Expert

) -- There's a tendency for many writers, analysts and money managers to lump all industrializing nations into a single entity. For better or worse, the popularity of

Vanguard Emerging Markets

(VWO) - Get Report


iShares MSCI Emerging Markets

(EEM) - Get Report

illustrates the way the developed world chooses to invest money. (Heck, Jim Cramer recently described the investing environment in terms of a four-legged stool, anchored by the U.S., Europe, China and the "emerging markets.")

The merits of aggregation aside, some governments in specific emerging economies have more ability to stimulate economic activity than others; that is, there are countries that may be able to lower interest rates or enact spending initiatives comfortably, and there are those where debt ratios and/or inflation are too high for fiscal and monetary easing.

In the 1/28/2012 edition of

The Economist

, there's a fascinating feature on exactly which countries may have the most wiggle room to ease. The publication devised an index that incorporated inflation, excess credit, real interest rates, currency exchange movement, current account balance, budget balance and government debt. (Note: My preference might have included a grade for political climate as well, but perhaps that might have been too subjective.)





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The Economist

contends that the resulting "wiggle-room index" offers a rough idea of which emerging economies might be better positioned to deal with economic weakness. It turned out that Indonesia, China, Singapore, Chile and South Korea had the most room of 27 "emergers" to maneuver on fiscal and monetary policy, whereas Egypt, India and Poland had the least.

How might this information be useful to ETF investors? Below, I laid out the 2011 performance for each country fund as well as the month-over-month performance here in 2012.

One thing that it is abundantly clear, stocks had already been factoring in which emergers have less room to ease. Indeed, the ETFs for countries with the least maneuverability were brutalized the most in 2011. For example, BRIC components

PowerShares China

(PGJ) - Get Report


Market Vectors Russia

(RSX) - Get Report

experienced drawdowns of -25.0% and -28.2% respectively. And yet, BRIC components Brazil and India fared even worse, with Brazil (EWZ) plummeting -37.3% India (EPI) shedding -40.5%.

By the same token, the very same countries that currently have little opportunity to prime the economic pump are performing the best out of the 2012 gate. One may get excited about the

S&P 500

rising more than 5% month-over-month or one may get really enthusiastic about 12% for Asian stalwarts like South Korea (EWY). On the other hand, the harder Poland (EPOL) and Turkey (TUR) and Egypt (EGT) fell, the larger the 20%-plus jump higher (month-over-month).

In sum, several emerging economies cannot rely on government maneuvering as much as others. Those that cannot rely on policy changes are more prone to the ill effects that eurozone debt contagion has on the entire globe. And, by extension, they are larger beneficiaries of debt crisis resolution.

For most folks, the super-sized rewards of the "tapped out" grouping isn't worthy of the risks. In contrast, the majority of wiggle-room contenders reside in Asia. Use stop-limit loss orders for investments is Asian neighbors like South Korea (EWY) and Singapore (EWS).

EWS 200

Disclosure Statement: ETF Expert is a Web site that makes the world of ETFs easier to understand. Gary Gordon, Pacific Park Financial and/or its clients may hold positions in ETFs, mutual funds and investment assets mentioned. The commentary does not constitute individualized investment advice. The opinions offered are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities. At times, issuers of exchange-traded products compensate Pacific Park Financial or its subsidiaries for advertising at the ETF Expert Web site. ETF Expert content is created independently of any advertising relationships. You may review additional ETF Expert at the site.