With the coronavirus from China impacting developing economies in the Asia-Pacific region and political unrest in some Latin American markets, it’s easy to see how India is being glossed over by some investors this year.
However, India remains Asia’s third-largest economy behind China and the wilting Japan and it’s still the world’s largest democracy. Plus, stocks there are performing less poorly than broader benchmarks dedicated to developing economies. As of Feb. 21, the MSCI India Index is sporting a year-to-date loss of 0.9% compared to a 3.9% drop for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.
One reason investors are staying away from India: slowing economic growth. In fact, it’s so slow that GDP there has slumped to 4.5% growth from 8% over the span of just five quarters. Deficits are also running high, giving market participants pause about inflation, which India has previously grappled with.
Compounding investors’ concerns is India’s shadow banking crisis, one that has seen some dubious lenders go belly up. That’s problematic for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that many U.S.-listed India exchange-traded funds are heavy on financial services stocks, though not shadow banks. For example, the MSCI India Index allocates 30% of its weight to financials.
Still, India is massive market, one that’s home to over 5,000 stocks, meaning some India ETFs could be worth considering right now. Here are few to mull over.
India ETFs to Buy: VanEck India Small-Cap Index ETF (SCIF)
Expense Ratio: 0.83%, or $83 annually per $10,000 invested.
A market as large as India’s is capable of having a vibrant small-cap segment and that is indeed the case as highlighted by the VanEck India Small-Cap Index ETF (NYSEARCA:SCIF). In fact, “vibrant” is an accurate descriptor for SCIF as the India ETF is up 3.2% this year. Not only is that better than large-cap India ETFs, but SCIF is also topping the MSCI Emerging Markets Small-Cap Index as well as the major U.S. small stock benchmarks.
SCIF follows the MVIS India Small-Cap Index, “which includes securities of small-capitalization companies that are incorporated in India or that are incorporated outside of India but have at least 50% of their revenues/related assets in India,” according to VanEck.
The fund allocates just 11% of its weight to financials, tying that sector for fourth with healthcare on the SCIF roster. Industrial and materials names combine for almost 37%.
Although SCIF is more volatile than broader domestic and emerging small-cap ETFs, the fund is worth a look because market observers believe demand for small Indian equities will be strong over the course of 2020.
WisdomTree India ex-State-Owned Enterprises Fund (IXSE)
Expense Ratio: 0.58%
Consider the WisdomTree India ex-State-Owned Enterprises Fund (NYSEARCA:IXSE) a hidden gem among India ETFs. The fund debuted last April and is small as measured by assets, but those traits belie IXSE’s potential … potential that’s borne out by the fund’s modestly positive year-to-date performance.
Like other large emerging markets — think Brazil, China and Russia — India is home to an array of state-controlled companies. And as is the case in those other markets, Indian state-owned firms often lag their more private counterparts.
IXSE does devote 30% of its weight to the financial services sector, but that hasn’t been a drag on its performance this year and its 18.57% weight to technology stocks is attractive.
More importantly, WisdomTree has proven the exclusion of state-owned enterprises is a winning strategy. The WisdomTree China ex-State-Owned Enterprises Fund (NASDAQ:CXSE) and the WisdomTree Emerging Markets ex-State-Owned Enterprises Fund (NYSEARCA:XSOE) prove as much.
Columbia India Consumer ETF (INCO)
Expense Ratio: 0.75%
The Columbia India Consumer ETF (NYSEARCA:INCO) has been around awhile (it turns nine years old in August) and as its name implies, is a direct play on Indian consumers. The fund’s only sector exposure are consumer discretionary (51.70%) and consumer staples (48.30%).
INCO allocates over 38% of its weight to automobile equities, which presents some risks because Chinese automakers are entering India, prompting speculation that domestic manufacturers are vulnerable to lost market share.
The India consumer market is evolving and, hopefully, INCO will evolve along with it because the fund could use some more e-commerce exposure with India poised to become the third-largest online retail market in the world.
To its credit, INCO is performing less poorly than some traditional large-cap India ETFs this year, indicating it could be a winner if broader Indian benchmarks rebound.
Todd Shriber has been an InvestorPlace contributor since 2014. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.