Emerging Markets ETFs Show Surprising Oil Correlations

It is not surprising that plenty of single-country emerging markets exchange traded funds are benefiting from rebounding oil prices .

For example, investors probably are not surprised to learn that Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSEArca: RSX ) and the iShares MSCI Russia Capped Index Fund (NYSEArca: ERUS ) are up an average of 20% year-to-date thanks in large part to rebounding Brent oil prices. After all, Russia is the largest oil producer that is not a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Impressive still is the fact that Russian stocks and exchange traded funds such as RSX and ERUS are rallying despite the lack of significant production cuts from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are major oil-producing countries that are not OPEC members, such as Russia.

Nor is it surprising that the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWZ ) is getting a lift from oil prices. Brazil is not an OPEC member, either. Nor is it Latin America's largest oil-producing country, but it is one of the region major crude producers, so it is logical higher oil prices would help this ETF.

However, there are also some single-country emerging markets ETFs that are surprisingly correlated to oil prices, including the iShares MSCI South Africa ETF (NYSEArca: EZA ) .

"Many emerging-market ETFs that don't have much direct exposure to oil producers at all, including South Africa and Turkey, have also been more closely correlated to oil than usual. The iShares MSCI South Africa ETF ( EZA ) - with only fractional energy exposure - has been more than three times more sensitive to oil moves over three months than over the past five years," reports Chris Dieterich for Barron's .

South Africa is a major commodities producer, but that exposure comes by way of precious metals such as palladium and platinum. Africa's second-largest economy is not anywhere close to being one of the continents major oil players let alone is it a significant contributor to global oil output.

"The trend could, maybe, be anecdotally explained by broad risk-on/risk-off buying/selling. If investors have buying or selling broad emerging-market funds, for instance, based on crude, perhaps the likes of South Africa and Turkey go along for the ride?," adds Barron's.

"Investors have cut their short positions in the largest ETF focused on the country to the lowest level since 2010, data from Markit Ltd. show. That accompanied a surge in net capital inflows into 41 ETFs buying stocks in South Africa to a five-year high of $136 million in the first quarter, the data show," according to Bloomberg .

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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