An Out-of-Favor ETF That's Worth a Look Now

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Foreign stocks and mining stocks have performed quite poorly in 2013.

Not surprisingly, the WisdomTree Commodity Country Equity ETF ( CCXE), which focuses on countries dependent on mining, has been an especially poor performer.

The exchange-traded fund has fallen 8% so far this year. That compares to a 6% gain for the the iShares MSCI EAFE ETF ( EFA), and an 18% gain for the SPDR S&P 500 ( SPY).

In focusing on commodity-based economies, CCXE looks much different than EFA or other broad-based foreign funds, which are usually dominated by Japan and the U.K.

Russia, New Zealand and Norway are the largest country exposures in CCXE. All have weightings of approximately 13%, followed closely by South Africa with 12%. Chile, Canada, Brazil and Australia all have 11% weightings in the fund. Of all of those countries, only Norway and New Zealand have positive returns in 2013. Two of the countries, Brazil and Chile, have blown up this year with close to 20% declines.

New Zealand's inclusion in the fund is a little unusual because the country doesn't have much in the way of natural resources in the ground.

It has ideal weather for farming, so it is an agricultural economy that benefits by selling a lot of produce and milk to China through a free-trade agreement established in 2008.

Although concerns loom about China's economy and future demand for resources like copper and iron ore, demand for food will be far less cyclical, and this bodes very well for the Kiwi economy.

CCXE is fairly concentrated at the sector level with 24% in financials, 21% in energy, 15% in telecom and 12% in materials.

The individual stocks in the fund have little in the way of concentrated risk. Norwegian oil giant Statoil ( STO) is the largest holding in the fund, at 5.5%, followed by Telecom Corp of New Zealand ( NZTCY) at 3.1%. There are 161 holdings in all.

Like many of WisdomTree's funds, CCXE's constituency is based on dividends, and the fund's trailing 3.89% yield reflects that. But the dividends paid out by the fund are uneven because many foreign companies only pay once or twice a year. The last four quarterly dividends (per share, oldest to most recent) have been 25 cents, 22 cents, 20 cents and 44 cents. Many Norwegian and Chilean companies pay annually in the spring.

The investment appeal of the commodity-based countries is that their economic cycles -- and their stocks markets -- tend to rise and fall at different times than service-based economies such as U.S.

This means the stocks of these countries often have a low -- or sometimes negative, as has been the case this -- correlation to U.S. equities.

Through most of the last decade, many of the countries in CCXE dramatically outperformed U.S. stocks and continued to move higher for months after the S&P 500 peaked in October 2007. So it is not unusual that these countries have struggled for the last couple of years as domestic stocks have skyrocketed.

Although it is impossible to know with certainty when commodity-based countries will again lead, they will rotate back into favor at some point. The U.S. bull market is now the fifth longest on record, according to Bespoke Investment Group. Anecdotally, investors have been losing patience with emerging markets, foreign developed markets and commodities. This is a good indication that we could be near the bottom for the commodity-based countries.

At the time of publication, Nusbaum had no holdings of securities mentioned, but his firm held shares of STO on behalf of many of its clients.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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