Why You Should Be Looking 'Down Under' for ETF Investment Buys

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- International exchange-traded funds, including Australian ones, have been under fire as shifting currency woes and economic forecasts continue to indicate signs of trouble, but the selloff in ETFs from the Land Down Under is creating an investment opportunity.

Europe has continued to show relative overall weakness despite the commitment to lower rates and quantitative-easing efforts. Now emerging markets and other Asian nations are starting to show signs of weakness as well.

The natural instinct for most investors is to react to these declines by reducing exposure and managing uncertainty by moving to cash or other opportunities. However, for those with cash on the sidelines that they are looking to put to work, these selloffs can be a profitable trading opportunity.

Australia has been hit particularly hard this month. The iShares MSCI Australia ETF  (EWA) has fallen more than 9% despite hitting new highs in August.

EWA tracks 70 large- and mid-cap companies within Australia with 50% of the portfolio dedicated to financial stocks.

These losses have been mirrored or some say driven by declines in the Australian dollar as well. The CurrencyShares Australian Dollar Trust  (FXA) has been relatively stable all year prior to a 5% decline this month that has foreign investors nervous.

The flight to quality in the U.S. dollar index and subsequent decline of the Aussie dollar makes investments overseas less attractive relative to domestic equities.

A look at a one-year chart of EWA and FXA shows a relatively high level of correlation between the two asset classes. Peaks and valleys associated with currency fluctuations have also been mirrored in Australian stock prices as well.

This selloff is creating an opportunity as EWA nears prior important support levels in February and March. If EWA can hold above that key $24.50 area on the chart, it will likely bring some stabilization and confidence back into this important Pacific Rim economy.

FXA is also nearing a prior level of consolidation that may help boost Australian stocks, given the oversold nature of the current price action.

Although a direct investment in Australian equities may be too concentrated for some, there are a number of diversified international indexes with overweight exposure to this country. One ETF that specifically targets Pacific Rim stocks is the iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan ETF  (EPP) .

This fund includes 60% exposure to Australia with smaller allocations to Hong Kong, Singapore, and New Zealand. EPP has more than $3 billion in total assets spread among 145 individual companies.

Income investors may be inclined to focus on the iShares International Select Dividend ETF  (IDV) , which has more than 19% of its portfolio dedicated to high-yield Australian stocks. The fund selects 100 established and high-quality dividend companies of foreign developed nations.

The current 30-day SEC yield on this ETF is 4.24%, which is substantially higher than many domestic counterparts. I recently increased exposure to this holding for clients in my Strategic Income portfolio to take advantage of the most recent pullback and subsequently increase the comprehensive yield of the strategy.

No matter what vehicle is ultimately used to play a pullback in Australia, the most important thing is to use a risk management strategy to guard against a deeper correction. A trailing stop loss or sell discipline will allow an investor to define the risk, while still participating in a turnaround in Australia.


-- By David Fabian of Fabian Capital Management


At the time of publication, the author was long IDV, although positions may change at any time.

Follow @fabiancapital

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

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