Benchmark Brazil ETF Gets Mid-Cap Rival

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The S&P 500 Index of the largest U.S. companies fell 24% in the decade that ended in December 2009, excluding dividends, while Brazil's Bovespa Index quadrupled.

Brazil benefited from emerging-market countries that needed resources to build up their infrastructure. That trend is likely to continue, and Brazil will be in the spotlight after having earned the right to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The exchange traded fund industry has seized on the Latin investment hotspot. The latest ETF is the GlobalX Brazil Mid Cap ETF ( BRAZ), which GlobalX says enables U.S.-based investors to capture the "story on the ground" in Brazil better than the iShares MSCI Brazil Index Fund ( EWZ). The iShares MSCI Brazil Index Fund targets the largest resource companies, which have been the catalyst for the Brazil theme.

The new mid-cap fund's largest sector weighting is utilities, at 20% of assets, followed by consumer staples, with 17%, and industrials, at 16%. The ETF has 40 holdings, with the biggest targeted at 5% of the fund, which lowers single-stock risk. In comparison, the iShares Brazil fund has a combined 18% allocated to Petrobras' ( PBR) common and preferred stock.

The Brazil Mid Cap ETF is actually the second exchange traded fund to target the "story on the ground." A little over a year ago, Van Eck launched the Market Vectors Brazil Small Cap ETF ( BRF). Though the ETF targets the same theme, it's very different. The small-cap fund is heaviest in financials, at 27% of assets, and consumer discretionary, at 25%. The fund has been very successful in attracting over $600 million in assets.

At the industry level, there is enough differentiation for both mid-cap and small-cap ETFs to succeed, but the mid-cap fund might better capture the middle-class ascendancy, which is one of the drivers for the "story on the ground." The reason is the sector makeup. The financial industry improves the everyday life of Brazilians less than others do. In addition, it stands to reason that, before buying expensive wristwatches and clothing from consumer-discretionary companies, newly middle-class Brazilians might instead improve the quality of their diets and modernize their utilities.

Investors who agree with that line of thinking would probably go with the mid-cap fund. Those who place greater importance on aspirational-discretionary purchases may prefer the small-cap ETF.

Finally, another option is the EG Shares Brazil Infrastructure Index Fund ( BRXX). That ETF owns mega-cap miners and small- and mid-cap utilities that play into the "build up and out" theme of the country's infrastructure, which is a tie-in to the story on the ground captured in the GlobalX Brazil Mid Cap Fund.

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At the time of publication, BRXX was a personal holding.

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; click here to send him an email.

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