Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF

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Emerging markets are starting to get attention again. 2008 was a big wake-up call for emerging market investors -- it reminded people that the increased rewards that EM investments enjoyed in 2006 and 2007 came with increased risks on the downside. But in 2012, emerging-markets growth is getting tapped again by pension funds, and they're doing it through the Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF ( VWO). Pensions picked up an additional 12.4 million shares of the exchange-traded fund, hiking their holding by close to 40%.

VWO is a fund that tracks the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, a basket of a couple thousand stocks plucked from 21 different markets. The sheer size of the index makes it a good way to get exposure to emerging markets as a whole without the higher beta of individual names. VWO holds "only" 871 individual stocks at last count, far less than its index, but far more than most ETFs.

For investors looking for ways to harness long-term EM growth, VWO is hard to beat. The fund has an expense ratio of 0.20%, making it the cheapest fund in its category.

VWO is also one of the top holdings at Ray Dalio's Bridgewater Associates.

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