China Is Worst Bet for Emerging-Market ETF Investors This Year

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  • Most U.S.-based funds that declined in 2016 focused on China
  • Shanghai Composite worst performer among 93 markets this year

China has been one of the few losing bets this year for U.S. investors who buy emerging-market assets through exchange-traded funds, and short sellers see more declines to come.

Out of 93 country-specific ETFs invested in developing nations, 31 focused on China have declined in 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s about three out of every four that fell during the period. The funds have slumped as the country’s benchmark gauge posts the world’s worst performance this year, slumping 17 percent while the MSCI Emerging Markets Index advanced 5.3 percent.

Stocks in Shanghai have been tumbling as economic indicators from industrial production to retail sales trail estimates after the government has signaled that it will be less aggressive in boosting growth with stimulus. The Chinese currency is heading for its biggest monthly loss since last year’s devaluation, while swelling debt levels fuel concern that corporate defaults will increase after at least 10 companies have missed payments this year.

“Investors are becoming increasingly concerned over slowing growth in China, you have a concern over a weakening yuan,” Mohit Bajaj, a director of ETF trading solutions at WallachBeth Capital in New York, said by phone. “This doesn’t add to investor optimism.”

Investors have been boosting bets that the declines will continue.

The portion of outstanding shares sold short in the iShares China Large-Cap ETF, which owns the 50 largest companies, touched a two-year high of 18 percent this month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and Markit Ltd. Bearish bets on the Deutsche X-trackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares ETF, the biggest in the U.S. that invests in mainland shares, have risen to more than 7 percent of outstanding shares from about 1 percent in March.

The Shanghai gauge is this year’s worst performer among 93 global indexes, while the nation’s currency trades near the five-year low it touched in January. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. warned last week that the yuan weakness may trigger capital outflows and increase bets on a one-off devaluation.

The Deutsche X-trackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares ETF has slipped 15 percent this year. The iShares China Large-Cap ETF has retreated 1.6 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum, funds focused on Brazil and Russia have gained the most this year.

The VanEck Vectors Russia ETF, the largest fund invested in the country, has rallied 24 percent this year, while iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF has gained 40 percent. In Russia, a rebound in oil, the country’s biggest export, is boosting an outlook for the country mired in a second year of an economic contraction., In Brazil, assets have rallied this year on hopes that a new government will step in to revive growth.

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