Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Natural gas futures surge 3% as weather turns warmer

Natural gas futures surge 3% as weather turns warmer

CommoditiesMay 12, 2015 01:47PM GMT Add a Comment
Natural gas futures surge 3% as weather turns warmer Natural gas futures surge 3% as weather turns warmer
Investing.com - U.S. natural gas prices gained sharply on Tuesday, as forecasts for late this week and early next week turned warmer, boosting near-term demand expectations for the heating fuel.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, natural gas for delivery in June rallied 8.7 cents, or 3.12%, to trade at $2.889 per million British thermal units during U.S. morning hours.

A day earlier, natural gas prices lost 7.8 cents, or 2.71%, to close at $2.802 after hitting a high of $2.935, the most since March19.

Futures were likely to find support at $2.725 per million British thermal units, the low from May 8, and resistance at $2.935, the high from May 11.

Updated weather forecasting models pointed to hotter-than-normal temperatures on the East Coast through May 26, boosting early summer cooling demand for the fuel. Forecasts originally called for mild summer weather during the period.

Demand for natural gas tends to fluctuate in the summer based on hot weather and air conditioning use.

Approximately 49% of U.S. households use natural gas for heating, according to the Energy Department.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Information Administration's next storage report slated for release on May 14 is expected to show a build of approximately 125 billion cubic feet for the week ending May 8.

Supplies rose by 101 billion cubic feet in the same week last year, while the five-year average change is an increase of 82 billion cubic feet.

The EIA said last week that natural gas storage in the U.S. rose by 76 billion cubic feet, compared to expectations for an increase of 75 billion and following a build of 81 billion cubic feet in the preceding week.

The five-year average gain for the period was an increase of 75 billion cubic feet, while supplies rose by 68 billion cubic feet during the comparable period a year earlier.

Total U.S. natural gas storage stood at 1.786 trillion cubic feet as of last week, 71.1% above year-ago levels and 3.6% below the five-year average for this time of year.

Last spring, supplies were 55% below the five-year average, indicating producers have made up for most of last winter’s unusually strong demand.

Elsewhere on the Nymex, crude oil for delivery in June tacked on 61 cents, or 1.03%, to trade at $59.86 a barrel, while heating oil for June delivery jumped 1.34% to trade at $1.971 per gallon.

Global Bond Rout Deepens as Equities Join Slide, Dollar Weakens

Global Bond Rout Deepens as Equities Join Slide, Dollar Weakens

Global Bond Selloff Deepens
Bonds fell around the world, with 10-year Treasury yields spiking to a five-month high, as governments added to supply amid a global rout. European stocks slid with U.S. equities futures, while oil led commodity gains.
Treasury note yields rose two basis points to 2.30 percent at 8:50 a.m. in New York. Germany’s 10-year bund yield is now 14 times higher than a month ago and Japanese yields climbed. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slid 1.4 percent and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures retreated 0.5 percent. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index dropped 0.4 percent. Oil in New York increased 1.3 percent to $60.01 a barrel.
Overblown expectations for the European Central Bank’s quantitative-easing plan helped push debt valuations to extreme levels, triggering a “large and vicious” selloff in European bonds that’s infected other markets, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said. Treasuries fell as the U.S. prepared to sell $64 billion of debt this week, extending a slump on Monday that sent yields 13 basis points higher.
“What’s new in this is that now it seems to be the U.S. side of things driving things lower,” said Christoph Rieger, the Frankfurt-based head of fixed-income strategy at Commerzbank AG, which is ranked first among dealers by the nation’s debt agency. “With the supply that is coming up, which is certainly a factor, the market still may be tempted to test the lows. Now is not the time to be bold.”

‘Regime Shift’

The drop in Treasuries stabilized at the end of last week before resuming Monday amid continued selling in European debt markets. Those losses spread to Asia Tuesday, with Japanese 10-year yields rising six basis points to 0.45 percent. German yields have advanced in 11 of the past 12 sessions, climbing 56 basis points to 0.71 percent.
The selling comes as governments add to supply. In Japan, a 10-year bond auction drew the fewest bids in six years. The nation’s finance ministry is due to sell 30-year debt May 14. The Netherlands auctioned 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) of 10-year bonds on Tuesday, while Germany sold index-linked debt due in April 2026. Italy is scheduled to offer as much as 7 billion euros of securities on Wednesday.
“It all sounds like we’re absolutely doomed in the bond markets but I think it is a realization that’s hitting bond investors that they need to be extremely cautious at the moment,” Bill Blain, a London-based strategist at Mint Partners Ltd. said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “On The Move” with Jonathan Ferro.

Stock Retreats

The selling in the bonds spread to global equities Tuesday, with the MSCI All-Country World Index slipping 0.2 percent. European shares led losses, falling for the first time in four days as all industry groups in the Stoxx 600 retreated.
All but two of 18 western-European markets fell. Germany’s DAX Index led declines, tumbling 1.9 percent. France’s CAC 40 Index, Portugal’s PSI 20 Index and Spain’s IBEX 35 Index slipped more than 1.2 percent.
Greece has readied a repayment to the International Monetary Fund, officials said, as the European Central Bank prepared to reassess emergency funding for the country’s banks.
“The weakness today is broad-based,” said Espen Furnes, who helps oversee $85 billion at Storebrand Asset Management in Oslo. “Short term, Greece is still an issue. The bond market is showing more volatility and can possibly signal a less sanguine attitude towards QE.”
The MSCI Emerging Markets Index fell 0.8 percent, dropping for the first time in three days. Currencies were mixed, with Russia’s ruble strengthening 0.8 percent and India’s rupee sliding 0.5 percent.

China, Dollar

The Shanghai Composite Index increased 1.6 percent after climbing 3 percent Monday in the wake of China’s third interest-rate reduction in six months. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index fell 1.5 percent in Hong Kong.
The dollar’s decline on Tuesday wiped out all of its gains from the previous day. It weakened 0.9 percent to $1.1252 per euro. The Norwegian krone and Australian dollar were the best-performing major currencies tracked by Bloomberg.
Brent crude advanced 2.2 percent to $66.34 a barrel, ending three days of declines. Production from shale formations in the U.S. fell by about 1 percent this month and the decline will persist in June, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Monday.
Crude inventories probably dropped by 500,000 barrels through May 8, declining for a second week, a Bloomberg survey of analysts showed before EIA data on Wednesday. Stockpiles are still more than 100 million barrels above the five-year average for this time of year.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Crude oil futures trim gains as U.S. dollar regains ground

Crude oil futures trim gains as U.S. dollar regains ground

CommoditiesApr 30, 2015 01:53PM GMT Add a Comment
© Reuters.  Oil futures pare gains as U.S. dollar firms © Reuters. Oil futures pare gains as U.S. dollar firms
Investing.com - Crude oil futures gave up most of their overnight gains on Thursday, as the U.S. dollar firmed after earlier losses following the release of upbeat U.S. jobless claims data.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil for June delivery hit an intraday peak of $59.38 a barrel, the most since December 12, before trading at $58.69 during U.S. morning hours, up 11 cents, or 0.19%.

The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, was up 0.15% to trade at 95.45, after hitting an overnight low of 94.48, the weakest level since February 26.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits fell by 34,000 last week to 262,000 from the previous week’s total of 296,000. Analysts had expected initial jobless claims to fall by 6,000 to 290,000 last week.

A separate report showed that manufacturing activity in the Chicago-area grew more than expected in April, following two consecutive months of contractions.

The upbeat data eased concerns over the strength of the economy and fuelled speculation that the Federal Reserve could bring forward its timetable for a U.S. rate hike.

The Federal Reserve kept interest rates on hold on Wednesday and offered little hints on the timing of its first rate hike in nearly a decade.

In its monthly policy statement on Wednesday, the Fed said it will take into account labor market conditions, inflationary pressures and expectations of international financial developments when it decides on the timing of a rate increase.

The central bank removed all calendar references on a potential window for raising rates from its statement, adding to uncertainty over the timing of a Fed rate hike.

The statement came after data on Wednesday showed that the U.S. economy grew just 0.2% in the three months to March, slowing sharply from 2.2% in the final quarter of 2014. It was the slowest rate of growth in a year.

A recent run of disappointing U.S. economic data dampened optimism over the recovery, fuelling speculation the Fed could delay hiking interest rates until late 2015, instead of tightening midyear.

A day earlier, Nymex oil prices rallied $1.52, or 2.66%, to end at $58.58 as concerns over a supply glut eased following the first crude stock draw in almost six months at the Cushing, Oklahoma, hub last week.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that crude oil inventories rose by 1.9 million barrels last week, below expectations for an increase of 2.3 million barrels.

Supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma, the key delivery point for Nymex crude, fell for the first time in almost six months, dropping by 500,000 barrels to 61.7 million.

Total U.S. crude oil inventories stood at 490.9 million barrels as of last week, the most in at least 80 years, even as drilling activity fell.

U.S. oil futures are up almost 20% in April due to mounting expectations that U.S. shale oil production has peaked and may start falling in the coming months amid an ongoing collapse in rigs drilling for oil.

According to industry research group Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI), the number of rigs drilling for oil in the U.S. fell by 31 last week to 703, the lowest since October 2010. It was the 20th straight week of declines.

Market players have been paying close attention to the shrinking rig count in recent months for signs it will eventually reduce the glut of crude flowing into the market.

Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil for June delivery shed 3 cents, or 0.04%, to trade at $65.81 a barrel. On Wednesday, London-traded Brent futures rose to $66.72, the highest level since December 10, before closing at $65.84.

Brent futures are up more than 17% so far in April as some investors bet that a bottom had been reached after a nine-month long rout. But prices are still down approximately 43% since June, when futures climbed near $116.

Meanwhile, the spread between the Brent and the WTI crude contracts stood at $7.12 a barrel, compared to $7.26 by close of trade on Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pakistan ETF Opens Market to Individual Investors

Pakistan ETF Opens Market to Individual Investors

Traders at the Karachi Stock Exchange.
European Pressphoto Agency
China’s launch on Monday of a massive infrastructure-spending plan in Pakistan has brought considerable attention to the South Asian frontier market. Chinese President Xi Jinping announced and launched a $28 billion package of infrastructure deals that will form part of the so-called China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Last weekend, Pakistan’s Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said the total Chinese investment into Pakistan would reach $46 billion.
Much of the spending will focus on power and transportation and is expected to boost Pakistan’s already-burgeoning economy. The announcement is also helping the country’s stock market to recover from a slump that saw the MSCI Pakistan index fall by more than a fifth in dollar terms over the two months to the end of March.
China’s colossal investment plan is not the only potentially market-moving news for Pakistan this week. Investment Bank Renaissance Capital yesterday described the country as an “undervalued reform story”, noting that the government is living up to its privatization promises—including its recent record-breaking sale of its stake in private sector banking giant HBL—and delivering reforms that should enhance stock valuations.
Against this backdrop, the timing of the launch of the first Pakistan-focused exchange-traded fund in the U.S. is remarkably fortuitous. U.S.-based ETF provider Global-X is launching the ETF tomorrow on the New York Stock Exchange.
The fund joins a growing list of single-country frontier-market ETFs, including Global-X’s Argentina and Nigeria funds, as well as Market Vectors’ Vietnam fund. Jay Jacobs, research analyst at Global X Funds, says: “With the launch of the … Pakistan ETF, investors now have access to one of the largest, most liquid frontier-market countries.”
Write to Dan Keeler at dan.keeler@wsj.com.
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Investing in Pakistan? There’s an ETF for That - PAK

Investing in Pakistan? There’s an ETF for That

April 23rd, 2015 at 1:00pm by Todd Shriber
Business is booming for single-country exchange traded funds. There are now over 200 such ETFs trading in the U.S. with over $100 billion in combined assets under management. Add the Global X MSCI Pakistan ETF (NYSEArca: PAK) to the list.
PAK, the first dedicated U.S.-listed Pakistan ETF, has been a long time coming. New York-based Global X, an issuer that is no stranger to exotic single-country offerings, filed plans for a Pakistan ETF more than five years ago. [Global X Explores new ETF Frontiers]
Pakistan, ranked the world’s 44th-largest economy by nominal GDP last year by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is classified as a frontier market. Prior to the debut of PAK, the iShares MSCI Frontier 100 ETF (NYSEArca: FM) was the ETF with the largest Pakistan exposure. Pakistan is FM’s fourth-largest country weight at 10.4%. [Pakistan set to be a Bigger Part of This ETF]
Pakistan was demoted to frontier status in 2009 after its equity market was closed to sellers for over 100 days during the 2008 global financial crisis, according to news reports. However, Pakistan’s benchmark Karachi Stock Exchange 100 Index has since been one of the best-performing equity benchmarks in the world.
The index currently trades around 33,456, up from just under 29,000 on March 30. Up nearly 23% over the past year, the KSE 100, has roughly tripled since the fourth quarter of 2011. In 2013, Pakistan was home to the world’s fifth-best equity market with a gain of nearly 50%.
PAK tracks the MSCI Pakistan Index and is home to 31 stocks. Like many ETFs that track frontier and smaller emerging markets, PAK is heavy on financials services stocks with that sector commanding nearly a third of the new fund’s weight. Pakistan’s status as a major producer of fossil fuels and other natural resources leads to a combined weight of 57.2% to the energy and materials sectors for PAK, according to Global X data.
Pakistan, the sixth-most populous country in the world, “has been identified by Goldman Sachs as one of the potentially large, fast growing markets that are expected be an important source of global economic growth and opportunity in the future,” according to Global X.
Frontier markets historically have low correlations to developed and emerging markets equities. PAK has the potential to continue that theme as Pakistani equities had a correlation of zero to the S&P 500 last year, according to Global X.
PAK is the fourth single-country frontier markets ETF to come to market. The others are the Mar, ket Vectors Vietnam ETF (NYSEArca: VNM), Global X MSCI Argentina ETF (NYSEArca: ARGT) and the Global X Nigeria Index ETF (NYSEArca: NGE).
PAK Top 10 Holdings and Sector Weights

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Bubble That Was Not A Bubble: Understanding SPY's Valuation


  • SPY appears to be very expensive when compared to the GDP.
  • When comparing the level of corporate profits to GDP, it appears that the U.S. market is generating very high levels of profits.
  • The crash at the start of the century displayed very weak earnings.
  • Extremely low yields on high-quality debt present two distortions to the market - enhancing earnings and reducing investment options.
  • The question going forward will be one of the sustainability of earnings. If earnings are sustainable at this level, the market is being fairly valued.
When considering the state of the economy, it is all too common to see a focus on all the wrong things. Investors know that the SPDR S&P 500 Trust ETF (NYSEARCA:SPY) is considered a substitute for the market in most finance classes. Previously, I disproved the myth that SPY was the efficient frontier of the market. Despite those issues, it is still far better than most investors will come to creating a truly efficient portfolio.
What should an efficient portfolio look like? I'm still working on designing mine, but I've shared my current holdings. In May, I'll run another piece with the latest updates. My biggest area for addition has been international holdings through ETFs.

The landscape is changing

I read a piece recently that had me thinking about the future of the economy. Charles Sizemore, CFA pointed out the high valuation of the market relative to GDP. I've been reading a few of his ideas because it keeps me thinking about the market from a top-down perspective instead of a bottom-up perspective. As an analyst, it is common to build our expectations from projections for firms, rather than to start with the economy on a very broad level. In that article, he presents the following chart.
In the current economy, we are seeing TMC (Total Market Cap) to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) reaching very high levels. However, we are not seeing P/E ratios (on a broad level) hitting absurd valuations. The issue is that corporate profits are hitting levels that I would consider absurd. The following chart by the St. Louis Fed demonstrates that point. This chart was also brought to my attention courtesy of Mr. Sizemore's articles.
(click to enlarge)

The P/E theory

When we start questioning whether the market is hitting a "top" or if we are "in bubble territory", we would be wise to remember the history.
The P/E issue can be clearly seen in the bubble around the year 2000. The first chart shows that the valuations of the market relative to GDP were very high in 2000. The second chart shows that corporate profits after taxes were very low in 2000. I built the following chart using data from multpl.com. Since I haven't used the source before, I can't guarantee the accuracy of the data. The data provides the P/E ratio of the S&P 500 since about 1871. That isn't a typo. Here is my chart.
(click to enlarge)
The chart is confirming the idea that the P/E ratios around 2000 were at unprecedented levels. We witnessed higher P/E ratios during the latest crash, but I believe that was more of an abnormality with recognizing losses. The second chart showing the incredible reduction in earnings for the year that immediately bounced back supports my explanation. When the three charts are used together, a more complete picture is formed.

We are not repeating the same old mistakes; we are making new ones

The sharp difference between the current highs and the ones seen before the bubble burst at the start of the century is that this time, we are seeing enormous corporate profits that can be used to pay dividends, repurchase shares, or invest in new productive assets. Quite simply, the current market is worth more than the old market, because the companies are actually making money. There is a world of difference between an investor "making money" by having a stock go up and a company "making money" by producing an item of value and selling the item for a profit.
Courtesy of very low interest rates, we are seeing two distortions in the market. The first issue is that corporate earnings are higher than they would be under normal interest rate scenarios, because lower interest rates reduce the amount of interest that must be paid on any given amount of debt. The second issue is that investors seeking wealth do not have any option for high-quality debt offering respectable yields on holding until maturity. Sorry, the long-term rates on treasury yields are not attractive for investments unless the investment can be funded with short-term debt or as a play on the yield curve inverting and creating capital gains. However, I won't go off into the yield curve in this article. The simple case is that a lack of attractive debt investments is driving up the value of equity by enhancing earnings and limiting the options available to investors.

What if corporate profits are sustainable?

In my opinion, if corporate profits are not sustainable, then the market is overvalued. However, I believe there is a great opportunity for further research into the sustainability of corporate earnings over the next few decades. In future articles, I'll be diving into my views on some of the factors that will influence long-run earnings growth rates.

My positions

At the present time, I'm concerned about the valuations of the market as demonstrated by SPY; however, I have a fairly substantial long position in the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index (NYSEARCA:VTI), which has about a 99% correlation with SPY. I'm also holding a position in the Fidelity Spartan® Total Market Index Fund (MUTF:FSTVX), which has about a 99.7% correlation to VTI. I'm not big on holding large amounts of cash, but I will use my expectations for future growth to determine which markets to invest in. Because of my concerns about the valuations on SPY, I'm choosing to increase the percentage of my portfolio in international assets. My most recent acquisition was the Vanguard Global ex-U.S. Real Estate ETF (NASDAQ:VNQI), which, I believe, should represent a small holding in my portfolios due to the diversification benefits. I wrote about VNQI before purchasing it.
Because I believe the current valuations have very little in common with the bubbles in 2000 and 2007, I'm not selling my shares in VTI. I am simply choosing to focus on adding to new investments in foreign markets at a faster rate than I'm adding to my investments in domestic markets.
Additional disclosure: Information in this article represents the opinion of the analyst. All statements are represented as opinions, rather than facts, and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell a security. Ratings of "outperform" and "underperform" reflect the analyst's estimation of a divergence between the market value for a security and the price that would be appropriate given the potential for risks and returns relative to other securities. The analyst does not know your particular objectives for returns or constraints upon investing. All investors are encouraged to do their own research before making any investment decision. Information is regularly obtained from Yahoo Finance, Google Finance, and SEC Database. If Yahoo, Google, or the SEC database contained faulty or old information, it could be incorporated into my analysis.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Vietnam ETF: Battered . . . And Compelling

April 7, 2015
Easy money leads to easy gains. At least that’s the conclusion drawn after witnessing worldwide monetary stimulus programs that have pushed 17 different stock markets to new all-time highs in this year’s first quarter. Yet for countries that are not swept up in the global frenzy of rate cuts, central bank bond buying and “beggar thy neighbor” currency moves, there have been fewer reasons for investors to cheer.
Take Vietnam, for example. The Market Vectors Vietnam ETF (VNM) has fallen more than 13 percent year-to-date and roughly 25 percent over the past 12 months. Yet the current underperformance should spell long-term opportunity.
The Vietnamese economy grew nearly eight percent annually in the 2000’s, thanks to a rapid pace of reforms. Yet progress has stalled in recent years, pushing the economic growth rate to around five percent, or below the rate of its Far East peers. As a result, Vietnamese stocks have largely missed out on the global bull market of the past five years.
Yet a pronounced shift in policy plans in 2015 should help give the economy—and Vietnamese stocks—a fresh boost.
A key catalyst will be a stepped up pace of privatizations, which has slowed to a crawl in recent quarters. “Over the next six to nine months, investors will get a lot more clarity about which companies will be brought public,” says Nikhil Bhatnagar, vice president for Asian equities at Auerbach Grayson. “That should relieve investor concerns about the government’s commitment to privatization.”
The government has identified more than 500 candidates for initial public offerings, according to Amrita Nandakumar, ETF product manager at Market Vectors. “Some of those companies, in fields such as pharmaceuticals, could help bring greater diversity to our Market Vectors fund,” she says. The move won’t happen right away because the Market Vectors fund, which carries a 0.76 percent expense ratio, rebalances quarterly after the underlying index gets re-jiggered.
The current index weighting, which focuses on Vietnamese-listed companies (or companies that derive more than 50 percent of their revenue in the country), reflects the fact that Vietnam still lacks a homegrown industrial base. Many of its major factories are owned by American, European, Japanese and Chinese companies.
As a result, it is heavily weighted toward financial stocks (42 percent), while consumer stocks make up another 28 percent. Vietnam has been aiming to more aggressively develop its oil and gas reserves, and the energy sector comprises another 16 percent of the fund.
Stepping Out Of The Shadows
Although Vietnam toils in the shadow of bigger economies in Asia, it’s unwise to think of it as an economic also-ran. The country has a population of roughly 90 million and a median age just below 30, which compares favorably versus the rapidly aging societies of China and Japan with median ages of 37 and 46, respectively.
To capitalize on those strengths, Vietnam needs to develop a thriving middle class. And that starts with a well-educated workforce. Notably, the Program for International Student Development ranks Vietnam 17th in the world in terms of 10th grade reading, science and math skills, ahead of countries such as Australia, Austria and France.
“The country’s demographics, education and location (near key shipping lanes) are why companies such as Samsung and Intel are announcing major investments in the country,” says Darshan Bhatt, co-founder of Glovista, an emerging markets-focused investment firm with $1.1 billion in assets under management. He adds that as labor costs in China and elsewhere rapidly rise, Vietnam is attracting a surge in foreign direct investment.
Geopolitics are also heightening Vietnam’s appeal. “The country is about to receive a lot of developmental capital from Japan, which sees Vietnam as a counterweight to an increasingly aggressive China,” says Auerbach Grayson’s Bhatnagar.
Market Vectors’ Nandakumar also thinks that an expected ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes countries accounting for 40 percent of global gross domestic product, will serve as an economic catalyst. “It should provide a major export boost to Vietnam,” she says.
Still, a huge gap persists between Vietnam’s economic potential and its current global market status. “The market is very reasonably valued, but global investors are scared off by a lack of liquidity,” says Glovista’ s Bhatt. Yet he thinks the coming privatizations will be a panacea.

“The government’s move to open up many more sectors [to investment] is a clear positive––the liquidity picture is changing,” he says.
The fund’s valuation could be another positive for the fund. Nandakumar notes that the holdings in the Vietnam ETF are currently valued at 1.3 times book value, right near a five-year low and half the multiple sported by the Market Vectors Indonesia ETF (IDX).
Against that backdrop, the skies do appear bright for long-term investors. The Vietnamese economy is expected to grow more than 6 percent this year (the best showing since 2011), and the country’s privatization plans, rising domestic consumption and broadening trade agreements could help return the country to the leading edge of emerging-market economic growth.
For now, the Market Vectors Vietnam fund remains the only pure-play ETF for this economic up-and-comer.