As smart-beta, or non-market-capitalization-weighted index investing takes hold, the concept of equal-weighted indexes makes sense to many investors. But the strategy doesn’t always work out as planned.
In a bid to put more “equal” into the sphere of developing countries, index provider MSCI in November created the MSCI Emerging Markets Equal Country Weighted Index. And this week Guggenheim announced it hitched one of its existing exchange-traded funds to the new index, tweaked its name and now has what it says is the first ETF to use an equal country-weighted underlying index for emerging markets.
The fund formerly known as the Guggenheim MSCI Equal Weight Emerging Markets ETF is now the Guggenheim MSCI Emerging Markets Equal Country Weight ETF. The prior Guggenheim fund was based on an index that equal-weighted its holdings, and according to Morningstar its track record has been middling at best versus its benchmark during its four-year existence.
Guggenheim wouldn’t say such performance prompted the fund’s index switch, but it might have played a role.
“Guggenheim is always looking for ways to enhance the overall experience for ETF investors and advisors, and results are part of that,” says Ivy McLemore, a Guggenheim spokesman.
He notes the fund, which sports an expense ratio of 81 basis points and whose ticker symbol remains EWEM, will keep the track record of its previous incarnation. McLemore adds that the new index gives investors a different take on emerging markets.
“We felt the average emerging market fund—whether it’s an ETF or a mutual fund—tends to overweight countries, so sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between an emerging markets fund and a BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] fund,” McLemore says.
The BRIC countries were last decade’s darlings within emerging markets. But save for India, which has recently been on a roll after it went through a rough patch, the other members all have their issues now. China’s economic growth is downshifting (though expected growth of around 7 percent isn’t too shabby), Brazil is a stagflated mess, and Russia has it obvious problems centered on Ukraine-related economic sanctions and plunging oil prices.
As of year-end 2014, BRIC countries accounted for about 41 percent of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which is market cap-weighted. In the emerging-markets index based on equal-weighted holdings, the BRICs comprised 36 percent during that same period.
In the MSCI Emerging Markets Equal Country Weighted Index, all 23 countries classified as emerging markets comprise roughly 4.3 percent of the index after semi-annual rebalancing.