Peru ETF: iShares Sneaks to the Finish Line

| About: iShares MSCI (EPU)

With a global start-up preparing to launch the first exchange-traded fund focused on Peru in coming weeks, industry giant Barclays Global Investors has sneaked to the finish line.

On Monday, the soon-to-be BlackRock Global Investors opened the iShares MSCI All Peru Capped Index (NYSE: EPU). It follows an earlier announcement by fledgling Global X Management Co. of a similar ETF. But that fund hasn't come out yet, although it's expected to launch soon.

According to a BGI statement, Peru is Latin America's fastest-growing economy, with a gross domestic product growth rate of more than 9% last year. The firm added that in May, emerging markets net inflow of $14.9 billion into ETFs included some $6 billion from ETF investors.

“With the fastest growing economy in Latin America and one of the lowest inflation rates in the region, Peru’s essentially untapped market offers diversification benefits and poses an attractive opportunity to investors,” said Daniel Gamba, CEO of Latin America for iShares, in a statement.

The fund will track an MSCI index holding the top 25 Peruvian stocks by free-float adjusted market cap sizes. By contrast, Global X intends to use a FTSE index to track the country. In an interview with late last year, the company's Chief Executive, Bruno del Ama, said that MSCI has been updating its indexes to overcome difficulties in smaller markets. By contrast, he says the FTSE benchmark for Global X's planned ETF was tailor-made to capture the most investable segments of Peru's marketplace. (See related story here.)

Whether that makes a whole lot of difference in terms of single-country ETFs over the longer term—and that the Global X ETF will actually hit the market soon —is open for debate. But at least investors appear to be close to having a choice in a market which up to now was difficult for all but the biggest institutions to find access to.

EPU comes with an expense ratio of 0.63%. Materials (65.16%) and financials (15.23%) dominate the new ETF’s sector breakdown. In the past five years through the first quarter, EPU’s benchmark has outperformed the S&P 500 index by slightly more than 30 percentage points on an average annualized basis, according to BGI.

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