NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Fans are cheering and vuvuzelas are blaring as the 2010 FIFA World Cup gets into full swing. Whether soccer fan or not, investors have a number of opportunities to play this popular tournament using ETFs.
South Africa, the host of this year's international tournament, can be tracked using the
iShares MSCI South Africa Index Fund
or the broad Africa-focused
Market Vectors Africa ETF
Investors looking for an alternative play on the global tournament itself should check out the
Market Vectors Gaming ETF
Launched in 2008, Market Vectors Africa holds the title of being the first and only U.S.-listed ETF designed to track a basket of companies from across the entire African continent. AFK's index, the Dow Jones Africa Titans 50 Index is comprised of firms hailing from nations including South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Ghana. South Africa, which accounts for nearly 30% of the fund, makes up the single largest geographic slice of the fund.
AFK's index is entirely made up of mid- and small-cap companies and is largely dominated by banks, resources, and telecommunication firms. Top holdings include Tullow Oil, Orascom Construction Industries, Commercial International Bank Egypt.
Although AFK is currently the only fund that takes a broad approach to Africa, this fund has struggled to garner a following. With average volume under 20,000 and just over $50 million in assets, liquidity will pose an issue for investors looking to move in and out the fund quickly.
Given the issues facing AFK, investors should consider the more liquid iShares South Africa fund as a better alternative.
Like AFK, EZA's index, the MSCI South Africa Index, is dominated by materials, financials, and telecom firms. MTN, the official sponsor of this year's soccer tournament, is the fund's largest holding, accounting for just over 10% of its total index. Sasol and Standard Bank Group round out EZA's top three positions and account for an additional 9% and 7% of the fund respectively.
EZA can also be used as an international play on precious metals. Gold and platinum miners including
, Impala Platinum and
hold prominent positions in this fund, making it an adequate proxy play for miners.
Strong moves from gold and other precious metals have aided EZA's materials-heavy index in recent weeks. The hype and tourism boost that comes with hosting the World Cup should provide added fuel to a fund already moving in the right direction.
While EZA and AFK are available for investors looking to play the economic benefits that will result directly from the uptick in visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite teams, investors looking to play an alternative aspect of the World Cup should check out BJK.
BJK is the only ETF currently available which provides pure-play exposure to the gaming industry. Although BJK is heavily focused on the resort and casino industry, a prominent portion of the fund's portfolio is also dedicated to sports betting firms which will be taking wagers on the success of the various teams playing in South Africa.
With billions keeping their eyes on the pitch hoping to see their favorite team rise to victory, it is no doubt that the 2010 World Cup will be one of the more heavily bet upon events in the sports world this year.
William Hill, Ladbrokes, OPAP, and Tabcorp are among the largest gambling houses listed under the BJK moniker. Together, these firms account for 12% of the fund's total portfolio.
The appeal of BJK, however, is two-pronged. Aside from benefiting from the World Cup, BJK and other leisure-focused ETFs such
PowerShares Dynamic Leisure & Entertainment Portfolio
may also appeal to investors seeking a play on the global economic recovery. As markets around the world continue to heal and discretionary spending returns, consumers will once again turn to casinos, restaurants and hotels for some much needed relaxation.
Don Dion is president and founder of
, a fee-based investment advisory firm to affluent individuals, families and nonprofit organizations, where he is responsible for setting investment policy, creating custom portfolios and overseeing the performance of client accounts. Founded in 1996 and based in Williamstown, Mass., Dion Money Management manages assets for clients in 49 states and 11 countries. Dion is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts and Maine and has more than 25 years' experience working in the financial markets, having founded and run two publicly traded companies before establishing Dion Money Management.
Dion also is publisher of the Fidelity Independent Adviser family of newsletters, which provides to a broad range of investors his commentary on the financial markets, with a specific emphasis on mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. With more than 100,000 subscribers in the U.S. and 29 other countries, Fidelity Independent Adviser publishes six monthly newsletters and three weekly newsletters. Its flagship publication, Fidelity Independent Adviser, has been published monthly for 11 years and reaches 40,000 subscribers.