Shares of the iShares MSCI South Korea Index Fund (NYSE:
) and the rival First Trust South Korea AlphaDEX Fund (NYSE:
) traded higher for most of Wednesday, following news of Park
Geun-hye's victory in South Korea's presidential election. Park,
the head of the New Frontier Party, will become her country's
first female president.
While the U.S. has yet to elect a female president, plenty of
other countries have elected women as heads of state. In 2012,
there were at least 13 women occupying presidencies or
premierships across the globe,
according to Time
Some hail from nations tracked by popular
, giving investors an opportunity to see how equities in those
countries perform when a woman is running the show. Knowing that
folks can be sensitive about such matters, it is important to
note that poor performances by any country ETF cannot be blamed
on the sex of that country's president or prime minister. After
all, there are plenty of country ETFs that have, at times,
struggled under male regimes.
Global X FTSE Argentina 20 ETF (NYSE:
The dreadful performance of the Global X FTSE Argentina 20 ETF
this year, down 15.6 percent, has nothing to do with the fact
that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is a woman. Rather,
ARGT's slack performance has everything to do with Kirchner's
anti-free market principles and penchant for nationalizing
That ideology has brought
Argentina to the brink of its second
sovereign debt default this century.
iShares MSCI Germany Index Fund (NYSE:
As the top elected official in the Eurozone's largest economy,
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has played an often controversial
role in the region's efforts to escape one of history's worst
sovereign debt crises. Merkel's heavy-handed approach to
austerity measures means she probably is not the most beloved
politician in Greece or Spain, but those are not the countries
where she has to solicit votes.
From a pure performance standpoint, it is impossible to argue
with how German equities have performed this year. The DAX is one
of the world's top-performing major bourses while the iShares
MSCI Germany Index Fund has surged almost 32 percent.
iShares MSCI Brazil Index Fund (NYSE:
Brazil has been the laggard of the BRIC quartet this year,
meaning EWZ has been the laggard of the four major ETFs tracking
the BRIC nations. In fact, EWZ is the only currently sporting a
year-to-date loss. That said, EWZ has perked up in recent weeks
and it could rally enough over the next few days to finish the
year modestly to the upside.
Many of EWZ's woes
be pinned on Petrobras (NYSE:
), the ETF's largest holding. Petrobras is Brazil's state-run oil
producer and the government is the company's largest shareholder,
meaning Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff often endures
criticism for that stock's slump. In fairness to her, Petrobras
was problematic before she took office.
Despite low interest rates and a
variety of stimulus efforts
, Brazil's economy is projected to grow at a rate below two
percent this year. Economists are forecasting growth of just
three percent next year.
In the U.S., a slack economy would put a sitting president in
danger of not winning reelection. At the very least, it would
lead to some poor approval ratings. Rousseff has defied those
odds. Her approval has actually jumped slightly in the past 90
days and currently rests at an amazing 78 percent,
according to Reuters
iShares MSCI Thailand Investable Market Index Fund (NYSE:
South Korea's Park will not be the only woman to be an Asian
nation's top elected official. Thai Prime Minister Yingluck
Shinawatra is one of the others and when it comes to economic and
equity performance, it appears that she is doing a fine job.
On Wednesday, the World Bank boosted its growth forecast for
Thailand's 2012 GDP growth to 4.7 percent from 4.5 percent
while forecasting 2013 growth of five percent
. Amid contracting Eurozone economies, a prime destination for
Thai exports, Thailand's economy has proven resilient and
inflation is tame at three percent.
Economists and political pundits can debate how much credit
Shinawatra deserves, but there is no debating the fact that the
iShares MSCI Thailand Investable Market Index Fund has surged
34.4 percent this year.
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