The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Almost every exchange-traded fund provider has broad-based emerging-market funds but the new EG Shares Emerging Markets High Income Low Beta ETF ( HILO) appears to be truly unique in the space. There are plenty of dividend-centric funds and many of them try to minimize the relative volatility, but the unique aspect of this fund is the country makeup and the individual holdings in the fund. The basic model is to screen 21 emerging markets for high yield, low volatility and low correlation to respective home market of each constituent to build an index of 30 emerging-market companies; the index will rebalance annually. The result is a fund that looks unlike any other broad-based emerging-market fund I've seen. Malaysia is the largest country weighting at 18% followed by South Africa at 17%, Brazil and China at 13% each and several other countries with smaller weightings. HILO skips countries like South Korea, Taiwan and Russia which tend to be featured in more popular ETF like iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF ( EEM). At the sector level, telecom is the largest by far at 30% followed by energy companies at 14.5% and, interestingly, transportation infrastructure at 6.5%. Transportation infrastructure is actually Zhejiang Expressway and Jiangsu Expressway, which are two of the largest publicly traded toll roads in China. Excluded are more volatile sectors like financials, basic materials and technology. The rest of the individual stocks are also far from the old standbys seen in other funds. There are several companies in the fund with close to 5% weightings including stocks no one has heard of like Total Access Communication from Thailand and a couple that might be familiar like Philippine Long Distance ( PHI). Not included in the fund are names ubiquitous in most emerging-market funds like Petrobras ( PBR) , Gazprom and China Mobile ( CHL). The differences in composition between HILO and most of the other broad funds speak to the potential utility of the product. Currently, the yield of the underlying index is 5.54% which after accounting for the 0.85% expense ratio puts the potential yield of the fund at 4.69% compared to a 1.9% yield for EEM. But as is always the case with ETFs, the dividends can be volatile. Taking what should be a higher yield from HILO and its lower volatility allows for a pairing of the fund as a core type position with some sort of narrow specialty fund in the emerging-market space.
For example, HILO has little to no exposure to industrials, materials or financial stocks. A core of HILO paired with an explore of something like the EG Shares Basic Materials GEMS ETF ( LGEM) or the Global X China Industrial Sector ETF ( CHII). Another type of pairing could be with a country fund not well represented in HILO such as the iShares Peru ( EPU) or Market Vectors Russia ETF ( RSX). If HILO does what it is supposed to do then this sort of combination could allow for less volatility compared to simply holding EEM, with a higher yield and potential outperformance by virtue of choosing well or correctly avoiding a lagging area within the emerging-market space like maybe financial stocks. As a stand-alone substitute for EEM, HILO could offer a way into emerging markets for investors with a lower tolerance for volatility.
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