Some of the most popular new exchange-traded funds seem to be gravitating toward the anti-U.S. equities, anti-U.S. dollar, anti-quantitative easing theme. Fund provider Global X has been at the forefront of meeting the demand for this theme including its latest --
the Global X FTSE Norway 30 ETF
Long-time readers of my articles and blog posts might recall I view Norway as a very important investment destination and an ETF for this country actually seems overdue.
In seeking out foreign diversification for an equity portfolio, it makes sense to seek out countries with different fundamental attributes than the U.S. A resource-based economy like Norway is likely to have different attributes than a service-based economy like the U.S. This difference hopefully results in a different equity market performance. Indeed, the Norwegian OBX index peaked in May 2008; eight months later the
started its decline.
The new Norway ETF, not surprisingly, is heaviest in oil and gas stocks with
of Norway, as the largest holding at 19% of the fund. The energy sector makes up 41% of the fund followed by financials at 18%, telecom 11% and basic materials at 10%.
In addition to Statoil, there are two other very large holdings --
, a large bank, and
, which is the large phone company of Norway.
There are a few other stocks that some investors might also recognize like fertilizer company
Other reasons to own Norway include the story on the ground in the country. Norway always ranks in the top three in various quality of life surveys. The country had its own financial crisis 20 years ago and learned its lessons from those excesses and mostly avoided the most recent crisis.
Norway has one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world at over $300 billion which means no entitlement shortfalls like in the U.S.. In the last couple of years Norway merely endured a mild recession, as opposed to the worst financial crisis in 80 years, and its central bank is already raising interest rates, albeit slowly. Norway uses its own currency, the krone, so the problems affecting the euro countries don't directly hurt Norway.
Some folks might be critical of this fund for having too much in natural resources (energy plus materials), but I actually think this is a positive attribute for portfolio construction. By virtue of its composition I believe the fund is a proxy for the energy sector and can be treated as such in the portfolio. The Norway OBX index, similar to the index underlying the fund, has a high correlation to the
Energy Select Sector SPDR
, but has dramatically outperformed that fund in the last year rising 25% vs. just 12% for XLE.
Finally, there are plenty of resource-based economies to capture the diversification benefit but only three that are developed markets -- Australia, Canada and Norway. ETFs have been available for Australia and Canada for years, so the new Norway fund increases the choices available.
As a side note, New Zealand is often called a commodity-based economy but it is more along the lines of an agricultural-based economy. Emerging-market exposure in this regard, that being commodity-based economies, through countries like Brazil and Peru, can be great holds but tend to be more volatile than developed commodity countries which is why the Norway ETF stands to be an important tool over the course of the entire next stock market cycle.
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At the time of publication, Nusbaum was long STO, although positions may change at any time.
Roger 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.