Play Foreign Energy for the Long Term

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- This week's Barron's cover story was titled "How to Play Energy Now." A better title probably would have been "How to Play Domestic Large Cap Oil Stocks Now." That's too bad because the energy sector is a great way to add foreign exposure to a portfolio. Just about every country has a big oil company and usually that big oil company is one of the largest in each foreign country.

Of course investors comfortable with selecting individual stocks can go that route and there are plenty of well-run companies to research and invest in, but foreign energy sector exposure is also easily added through exchange traded funds.

The two broadest funds in the group are the SPDR S&P International Energy Sector ETF ( IPW) and the iShares MSCI ACWI ex-US Energy Sector Index Fund ( AXEN). Although not carbon copies of each other, the two are very similar.

The largest holding in each fund are the Dutch and UK listings of Royal Dutch Shell, which add up to 17% in IPW and 14% of AXEN. BP ( BP) is the second-largest holding in each followed by Total ( TOT) and BG Group ( BRGYY).

The country weightings between the two funds are noticeably different. IPW allocates 37% to the UK, 28% to Canada and 10% to France. AXEN allocates 29% to the UK, 19% to Canada and then adds emerging market flair with 7% each to Russia and China. Each of the two funds has a trailing yield of just over 3%.

The emerging markets focused EG Shares Energy ETF ( OGEM) could be better than either of the global funds due to more favorable trends in consumption growth. For example, eight years ago Chinese per capita oil consumption was 1.25 barrels a year and now it is closer to 2.5 barrels and continuing to increase. It will not realistically get close to U.S. consumption levels at 25 barrels but the growth creates a tailwind for the related equities.

OGEM allocates 34% to Russia, 20% to China and 13% to India and indicates a yield of just under 2% for the fund.

One other way to come at this is to use country funds to help build exposure. One possible target portfolio weight for energy is 11% which is the current weighting for energy in the S&P 500.

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