Despite constant refrains regarding compelling valuations, Chinese stocks and the corresponding ETFs got off to disappointing start this year. For most China ETFs, the year-to-date numbers are still in the red.
However, the valuations are still attractive and many China ETFs, popular and obscure, have been surging over the past month. The iShares FTSE China 25 Index Fund (NYSE:FXI), the largest China ETF by assets with over $6.8 billion, currently has a P/E ratio of 13.57 and a price-to-book ratio of just over two, according to iShares data.
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The $1.04 billion SPDR S&P China ETF (NYSE:GXC) is even cheaper with a P/E of 9.71 and a price-to-book ratio of 1.53. Both FXI and GXC traded at noticeable discounts to the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (NYSE:EEM), which currently sports a P/E over 18 and a price-to-book north of three, according to iShares data.
If the returns accrued by FXI, GXC and other China ETFs over the past month are any indication, investors are again starting to warm to Chinese stocks. In the past month, FXI has surged 8.1 percent, making the second-best performer among the four major major ETFs tracking the BRIC nations. Only the WisdomTree India Earings ETF (NYSE:EPI) has been better. Since April 11, FXI has trounced the comparable Brazil, Russia and South Korea ETFs.
However, as is often the case with China ETFs, some funds are outpacing FXI. Just look at what the following ETFs have done over the past month.
Guggenheim China Technology ETF (NYSE:CQQQ) Including Wednesday's almost 1.8 percent jump, the Guggenheim China Technology ETF has gained over five percent since we highlighted the fund just eight days ago. More impressively, this unheralded China ETF has surged about 16 percent in the past month.
Said another way, CQQQ has been twice as good as FXI. It helps that the average return offered by NetEase (NYSE:NTES), Sina (NASDAQ:SINA) and Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) since mid-April has been north of 15 percent. Those stocks combine for over 21 percent of CQQQ's weight. The valuation still looks good as CQQQ trades for 12.5 times earnings and 1.8 times book value.
Guggenheim China Small-Cap ETF (NYSE:HAO) There has been ample chatter about the slack performances turned in by diversified emerging markets ETFs that are heavy on large-caps, but some small-cap equivalents have held up quite well.
The same can be said if China ETFs where the $252.3 million Guggenheim China Small-Cap ETF has jumped over nine percent since mid-April. As is the case with CQQQ, HAO is benefiting from bouncing Chinese technology names as that sector accounts for nearly 10.2 percent of the ETF's weight. Investors do not need to worry about paying up for Chinese small-caps because HAO's valuations are lower than the other ETFs mentioned here with a P/E of 10.2 and a price-to-book of 1.2, according to Guggenheim data.
PowerShares Golden Dragon China Portfolio (NYSE:PGJ) It was only a few months ago that the PowerShares Golden Dragon China Portfolio was being punished for exposure to Chinese Internet stocks. The good news for PGJ investors is that scenario has flipped, as has been highlighted by CQQQ and HAO.
PGJ, which has almost $190 million in assets under management, allocates almost 22 percent of its combined weight to Netease, Baidu and Sina. Although PGJ is not a technology sector ETF, it might as well be with a 50.3 percent weight to that group. That is more than triple the weight given to health care, the second-largest sector represented in the fund.
PGJ has surged 14 percent in the past month, but this ETF does mirror similar U.S. funds with heavy weight to stocks such as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) in that the valuations are pricey. PGJ's P/E is over 30, according to PowerShares data.
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