NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Everyone has an opinion about China as an investment destination. At one end of the debate, China is the straw that stirs the global drink driving demand for resources and everything else on its way to world domination. At the other end of the debate there is a speculative frenzy in real estate and the banks are in serious trouble for being overexposed to empty commercial real estate projects. Such divergent opinions have yielded a multitude of investment products offering both broad-based and thematic exposure. The newest fund is the iShares MSCI China Index Fund ( MCHI) and frankly, it is a head-scratcher. The fund intends to offer exposure to both large- and mid-cap stocks. It will have 140 holdings and have an expense ratio of 0.61%. At the sector level it is 37% in financial stocks, 18% in energy, 11% in telecom and 8% in industrial stocks before the sectors get much smaller from there. The fund, actually, is a head-scratcher on two levels. The first point is that there is almost no mid-cap exposure. The information isn't on the Web site yet, but a call to iShares will tell you that the fund has 65% allocated to what index provider MSCI calls giant companies, 30% to large companies and not quite 5% in mid-cap companies. For now there are no funds targeting only mid-cap stocks in China, but an investor seeking that exposure would probably be better off with the Guggenheim China All Cap ETF ( YAO), which targets 47% in large-cap, 34% in mid-cap and 19% in small-cap. It would be prudent to research Guggenheim's definition of mid-cap and make sure it is compatible with your own. Equally confounding is the me-too nature of this fund. The me-too concept repeats frequently in the ETF industry, usually for competitive reasons or to offer a full suite of products. The odd thing about this new fund being a me-too product is that the fund provider iShares appears to be copying is ... iShares. The similar funds in question are the long standing FTSE China 25 Index Fund ( FXI) and the FTSE China HK Listed Index Fund ( FCHI). MCHI has eight of its top 10 in common with FXI, and nine of its top 10 in common with FCHI. The percentages of the top 10's weightings are very similar as well; MCHI 51%, FXI 60% and FCHI 58%.
The sector weightings are also similar. The financial sector is the largest in all three funds ranging from 37% to 55%; energy features prominently in all three with mid-teens weightings; and telecom is also similarly weighted in all three funds. It is possible that MCHI will behave differently on occasion but the vast majority of the time it should look just like the other two iShares funds. From the top down I believe financial and real estate companies in China should be avoided at all costs which makes most of the broad-based funds like the three mentioned in this article unattractive. It is possible that there will be no consequence to the financial stocks from the various problems cited but given the breadth of funds that exist, like the sector funds from Global X, and the multitude of individual stocks, there is no need take on the risks of the financial sector in your China exposure. I think exposure to energy, materials and industrial stocks or funds will prove out to be a much better way to access China over the next five years.
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