NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- For much of the past decade, equities related to natural resources dramatically outperformed the broad indices.
This was largely due to increased demand from China, which has been modernizing its infrastructure and in the process creating a middle class.
All investment themes eventually stall, however, and stocks related to natural resources lagged the broad indices during the most recent leg of the bull market in 2012 and 2013.
Don't write off the theme, though. There are still many countries that lag China in building out infrastructure and developing a middle class. They will create similar demand trends, even if on a smaller scale and at a somewhat slower pace.
India and Africa would be obvious candidates, and they could eventually support natural resource-related stocks.
One relatively new exchange-traded fund that could benefit is FlexShares Morningstar Global Upstream Natural Resources Index Fund (GUNR)GUNR. Even though GUNR started trading in 2011 it has already amassed $2.8 billion in assets, far ahead of older funds such as the iShares Global Materials ETF (MXI)MXI, which has $406 million, and the SPDR S&P Global Natural Resources ETF (GNR)GNR, which has $486 million in assets.
All three funds have similar holdings and similar expense ratios (GUNR's is 0.48%.) and similar 2% trailing dividend yields. All three are relatively broad-based in the resources sector, in contrast to more specialized funds such as the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX)GDX.
As a global fund GUNR's largest country weighting is the U.S. at 37%, followed by the U.K. at 21%, Canada at 14% and Australia at 7%. Other countries have smaller weightings.
Metals companies make up 32% of the fund's holdings, followed energy and agriculture, which each have 28% weightings. It has smaller weightings for water and timber companies. GUNR is dominated by large-cap companies that will be familiar to most investors. They include BHP Billiton (BHP)BHP, Exxon Mobil (XOM)XOM and Monsanto (MON)MON.