How to Play Peru's Metals Mojo

When most people think of Peru, they envision Macchu Picchu in its unlikely aerie on a slope of the Andes. When investors think of Peru, mountains enter the picture, too. Their vision holds no mystery, though -- they're seeing mountains of metals.

Peru's mining industry is huge. While the country ranks 47th in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), falling between Algeria and Kazakhstan, it ranks fifth in the production of gold, and third in silver and copper. Last year, the companies in the Lima General Index that mine metals helped drag it down 25 percent; this year, they've helped it gain 10 percent.

Investors who want exposure to Peru through exchange-traded funds -- or any other kind of fund -- have few options. Actually, they have just one option. It's the the $250 million iShares MSCI All Peru Capped ETF (EPU ). Like the Lima General Index, it's up 10 percent in 2014; mining companies account for 6.2 percent of that gain. EPU tracks 25 stocks, half of which are in the materials sector. It charges 0.61 percent of assets annually, about average for a single-country emerging markets ETF.

On top of its metals mojo, Peru has decent economic fundamentals. The inflation rate is 2 percent, the growth in its gross domestic product is 5 percent, and its debt represents just 18 percent of its GDP.

Investors will be hard-pressed to find a Peru stake in their emerging markets funds. For example, the country gets a 0.3 percent weighting in the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM ) and a 0.05 percent weighting in Vanguard Total International Stock ETF (VXUS ).

EPU is volatile, but not much more than the broad emerging markets indices. And it's much less correlated to movements in the U.S. than the big emerging markets funds. While you take a concentrated risk when you invest in any single-country ETF, EPU can help diversify a portfolio.

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Eric Balchunas is an exchange-traded-fund analyst at Bloomberg. More ETF data is available here, and weekly ETF podcasts can be found here.

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