One of the greatest spectacles in sports kicks off in South Africa over the weekend, with 32 countries gathering to compete in the final stages of the World Cup. Even the economists of the world have taken an interest in the upcoming matches; ABN Amro recently released a note predicting that the world economy would benefit more from a German victory than if any other national team were to win.
In reality, any connection between success on the soccer pitch and an economic boost would be minimal. The biggest winner over the coming month could be South Africa, which has a chance to display its infrastructure and business environment to the world. To get in the spirit as the competition begins, we run through the 32 competitors, highlighting the ETF options available for each:
France: The iShares MSCI France Index Fund (NYSEARCA:EWQ) offers pure play exposure to French equities.
Mexico: Several ETFs in the Latin America Equities ETFdb Category include Mexican equities, and the iShares MSCI Investable Market Index Fund (NYSEARCA:EWW) offers targeted exposure. ProShares also offers 200% and -200% Mexico ETFs (UMX and SMK, respectively).
South Africa: The host country’s equity market is accessible through the iShares MSCI South Africa Index Fund (NYSEARCA:EZA), while the WisdomTree Dreyfus South African Rand Fund (NYSE:SZR) offers exposure to the exchange rate and money market rates.
Uruguay: There’s no pure play Uruguay ETF, but a number of the broad-based funds in the Latin America Equities ETFdb Category offer indirect exposure through stocks that derive a portion of their revenues from the country.
Argentina: This South American economy is one of the largest without a pure play ETF available to U.S. investors. Some funds in the Latin America Equities ETFdb Category offer moderate exposure, including the Market Vectors Latin America Small Cap Index ETF (NYSEARCA:LATM).
Greece: Greek equities have a small allocation in many broad-based Europe ETF, but there’s no pure play covering the beleaguered Greek economy. The Claymore Shipping ETF (NYSEARCA:SEA), expected to be re-launched soon, will be the closest thing to a Greece ETF; the country will account for about 20% of assets.
Nigeria: There’s no dedicated Nigeria ETF available, but this long-shot to win in South Africa receives the third largest allocation in the Market Vectors Africa ETF (NYSEARCA:AFK), making up almost 20% of assets.
South Korea: There are two ETFs offering exposure to South Korea, including the large cap-focused iShares MSCI South Korea Index Fund (NYSEARCA:EWY) and the very different IQ South Korea Small Cap ETF (NASDAQ:SKOR-OLD).
Algeria: U.S investors looking for exposure to Algeria won’t have much luck. There are a handful of Middle East ETFs that offer exposure to the region, including the WisdomTree Middle East Dividend ETF (NASDAQ:GULF).
England: For exposure to the U.K., the best option is the iShares MSCI United Kingdom ETF (NYSEARCA:EWU). There are also multiple ETFs offering exposure to the USD/GBP exchange rate, including the CurrencyShares British Pound Trust (NYSEARCA:FXB).
Slovenia: ETF options for Slovenia are limited, but there are a couple of funds offering exposure to Eastern Europe, including the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Eastern Europe Index Fund (NYSEARCA:ESR) and SPDR S&P Emerging Europe ETF (NYSEARCA:GUR).
U.S.: The ETFs offering exposure to domestic equity markets are numerous; perhaps the most broad-based fund is the Claymore Wilshire 5000 Total Market ETF (NYSEARCA:WFVK).
Germany: For exposure to Germany, the only pure play ETF option is the iShares MSCI Germany Index Fund (NYSEARCA:EWG).
Ghana: Exposure to Ghana is hard to come by in ETF form. The closest option is AFK; according to its fact sheet offshore Ghana companies make up about 1% of assets.
Serbia: One of the smallest countries to be represented in South Africa, there’s no pure play ETF on Serbia. Regional plays include the two Eastern Europe ETFs profiled above, GUR and ESR.
Cameroon: Like the other home continent competitors, Cameroon isn’t well represented in U.S-listed ETFs; indirect exposure through AFK is the best option.
Denmark: There isn’t a pure play Denmark ETF, but the country receives the second largest allocation (about 20%) in the Global X FTSE Nordic 30 ETF (NYSEARCA:GXF).
Netherlands: EWN tracks the MSCI Netherlands Investable Market Index, a benchmark that includes the largest and most liquid Dutch equities.
Italy: The defending World Cup champion is also home to a cash-strapped economy; the iShares MSCI Italy Index Fund (NYSEARCA:EWI) has been battered in recent weeks as concerns over a potential debt crisis have intensified.
New Zealand: The WisdomTree Dreyfus New Zealand Dollar Fund (BNZ) offers exposure to New Zealand money markets, while several ETFs in the Asia Pacific Equities ETFdb Category include minor weightings to New Zealand equities.
Paraguay: None of the funds in the Latin America Equities ETFdb Category offer pure play exposure to Paraguay; minor allocations to this country can be achieved through some of the broad-based Latin American ETFs, including ILF and LATM.
Slovakia: With a population of just over five million, Slovakia is one of the smallest countries represented at the World Cup. Exposure through ETFs is tough to find; GUR and ESR are the best bets for indirect exposure.
Brazil: One of the favorites to win, Brazil is accessible through three pure play ETFs, including a large cap fund (NYSEARCA:EWZ), small cap fund (NYSEARCA:BRF), and infrastructure ETF (NYSEARCA:BRXX). Also, ProShares offers 200% (NYSEARCA:UBR) and -200% (NYSEARCA:BZQ) leveraged Brazil ETFs.
Ivory Coast: A popular sleeper choice in the “group of death,” Ivory Coast is hard to find in any of the 1,000+ U.S.-listed ETFs; AFK is the closest, offering regional exposure.
North Korea: Perhaps the biggest underdog in the tourney, North Korea is also the least accessible economy on this list. Isolationist policies make even indirect exposure difficult; the China Equities ETFdb Category may come the closest, but there’s really no way to play North Korea through an ETF.
Chile: The iShares MSCI Chile Index Fund (NYSEARCA:ECH) is linked to an index comprised of the largest and most liquid Chilean equities.
Honduras: This economy is far too small for its own ETF; the Market Vectors Latin America Small Cap ETF (LATM) offers some indirect exposure, as components companies generate revenues from Honduras.
Spain: This country may be one of the favorites, but the iShares MSCI Spain Index Fund (NYSEARCA:EWP) has been one of the worst performing equity ETFs this year.
Switzerland: The iShares MSCI Switzerland Index Fund (NYSEARCA:EWL) offers exposure to the Swiss economy; not surprisingly, financials are one of the largest sector allocations.
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.
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