NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- One of the driving themes behind successful investment in emerging markets has been the ascending middle class in countries previously dominated by either the very wealthy or the very poor -- and of course, in either case, the poor outnumbered the wealthy. Part of the new middle-class investment theme is improved diets, which really means more protein in these people's diets. ETF provider Global X appears to be making a big bet on this theme having recently launched funds targeting the fishing industry, fertilizer companies and food producers. In between the fertilizer and food is the farm and so Global X has launched its Global X Farming (BARN) ETF.
This is a global fund invested most heavily in the U.S. at 31% followed by Singapore 15%, Malaysia 12%, China 7% and several smaller countries. The country weightings are important in the context of building a globally diversified portfolio. Chinese stocks traded on the Nasdaq have made a lot of news lately for the growing number of alleged fraudulent companies. The number of fraudulent, locally traded Chinese companies is much less because, as some have theorized, this type of fraud in China can warrant the death penalty. Many specialty funds with exposure to China include companies that would otherwise be difficult and expensive to trade and offer an effective way to build China into a portfolio.
One bit of disappointment with the fund is the very limited exposure to Latin America. The ascending middle class is obviously playing out in this part of the world as well. BARN allocates slightly over 3% to Brazil, popular Argentine cattle farmer
is not in the fund and George Soros' favorite
, which began trading in the U.S. in first quarter, only has a 0.39% weighting in the fund.
BARN has 50 holdings. Some like
Archer Daniels Midland
will of course be familiar, and some like
Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad
will not -- both are small-cap Malaysian plantations.
BARN will charge a 0.68 expense ratio, reasonably in line with expense ratios of narrow-based niche products from other fund providers. Expense ratios for funds tracking the broadest indexes are in many instances less than 0.10%, but it has been many years since the broadest funds provided an adequate return over any long period of time. This has made seeking out narrower exposures like farming important in terms of giving investors a better chance for "normal" equity returns.
The inelastic demand for food creates a powerful tailwind and investment thesis, but this will not make a stock immune to the next large decline in global markets. In many instances, stocks in this group fell more than the 56% peak-to-trough decline of the S&P 500 from 2008 to 2009. As important as the demand behind the theme is, the space, whether it is accessed through individual stocks or the BARN fund, should not be expected to be a set-and-forget holding.
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At the time of publication, Nusbaum was long CRESY, 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;
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