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Analyse: db x-trackers MSCI AC Asia (ex-Japan)

Finanztitel und China-Aktien sind die dominierenden Themen in diesem breit aufgestellten Asien-ETF.

Lee Davidson 21.09.2012

Rolle im Portfolio

The db x-trackers MSCI AC Asia (ex-Japan) provides exposure to fast-growth economies of Asia, excluding stodgy, slow-growth Japan. Investors should be cautious, however, in assuming that fast-growth in terms of GDP will necessarily translate into stock market returns. Academics have repeatedly debunked this assertion over the years, revealing that no significant correlation exists between the two growth trajectories. Geographically-speaking, Chinese equities represent the largest stake in the index (~24%) followed by South Korea (~21%), Taiwan (~15%), Hong Kong (~12%), and India (~9%). However, despite the relatively equitable distribution, China's economic influence pervades throughout the bulk of the index. The Chinese Communist Party's fixation on GDP growth has contributed to massive internal spending on infrastructure. The resulting infrastructure boom has sent global commodity prices sky-high. As a result, China's neighboring economies have benefited from some of the spillover demand for these precious raw materials.

Over the past 10 years, the reference index has maintained a high level of correlation to the MSCI Emerging Markets index (~89%) as well as a fairly high correlation to the MSCI World (~86%) and STOXX Europe 600 (~84%) indices. Given its breadth, this fund can be suitable as a core holding for those seeking diversified exposure to Asian equities.

Fundamentale Analyse

China's breakneck growth is slowing. In the first and second quarter of 2012, China's economy realised 8.1% and 7.6% GDP growth, respectively, continuing the decelerating trend that began in Q4 2010 when GDP growth was at 9.8%. This deceleration stems from weakening export demand due to the tough economic conditions in Europe and the US. In order to compensate for weak export demand, China's government has turned towards fixed-asset investment, which grew 23.8% in 2011 on the back of an 11.1% increase in investment by state-owned and state-controlled enterprises. Furthermore, China has sought to support growth by loosening monetary policy. In June and July, the People's Bank of China implemented successive cuts to the benchmark lending rate and the deposit rate.

South Korea has a somewhat different story. Exports and increased domestic demand fueled high GDP growth (6.2%) for South Korea in 2010, but growth slowed in 2011 due to a deceleration in world trade and falling domestic demand, culminating in a 3.4% year-over-year GDP growth rate for Q4. For Q2-2012, South Korea's growth decelerated to a 0.4% quarter-on-quarter uptick with expectations for stagnation in Q3 based primarily on failing exports to China and Europe.

Furthermore, cause for concern remains acute in South Korea when it comes to energy. South Korea imports all the oil it consumes, and as a result, its trade balance is very sensitive to fluctuations in oil prices. Over the past few years, volatile oil and commodity prices contributed to volatile inflation rates in Korea. Rising oil prices and loose monetary policy prompted inflation to peak at 4.7% in July 2011 before sliding down to 1.5% currently as oil prices began to recede and stricter monetary policy became enforced. Lower inflation rates have allowed the Bank of Korea some extra room to support growth more decisively. Most recently, the Bank of Korea cut its key lending rate by 25 basis points in July bring the rate down to 3%. Looking long-term, the outlook for Korea is largely positive following the formation of a trade pact with the EU worth roughly $30 bn in new trade. Regulatory restrictions and 98% of duties imposed on trade between the EU and Korea will be removed to make it more efficient for Korean and EU firms to open operations within each other's borders.

The trajectory of Taiwan's economy hinges on export demand, and as such, its economic performance was particularly sluggish in 2011 as the developed world deleveraged and choked down austerity measures. Specifically, Taiwan's export growth fell sharply during the course of 2011 from 8% in Q1 to 0.3% in Q4. On the heels of falling export growth, Taiwan's economy has been sluggish registering a -0.2% year-over-year growth rate in Q2-2012. For 2012, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting, and Statistics for Taiwan projects GDP growth to weaken further down to 2.1% due in part to lethargic forecasted export growth of 0.1% for the year. On the positive side, Taiwan's trade relationship with China has dramatically improved via the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). Trade across the Taiwan Straits has never been better with reduced tariffs on hundreds of products on both sides.


The MSCI AC Asia ex-Japan NR index is a free-float adjusted market capitalisation weighted index designed to measure the equity market performance of Asia, excluding Japan. Because closely held firms will have a smaller piece of their aggregate market capitalisation floated on public exchanges, the free float adjustment serves to ensure the underlying liquidity of the holdings is superior relative to a pure market capitalisation weighting. Components must meet minimum criteria for liquidity, foreign ownership, as well as a waiting period for newly-listed stocks. The index is reviewed quarterly, but the May and November semi-annual reviews tend to be more comprehensive than the February and August reviews. As of this writing, there are 616 companies included in the index. Equities from China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and India combine to make up approximately 82% of the index. The top sector weighting is financials (~32%), followed by information technology (~17%), industrials (~10%), and consumer discretionary (~9%).


The db x-trackers MSCI AC Asia ex-Japan TRN Index ETF uses synthetic replication to achieve exposure to the performance of the MSCI AC Asia ex-Japan index. The fund engages in a fully-funded swap with its parent company, Deutsche Bank, whereby the fund transfers cash from investors to Deutsche Bank in return for the performance of the benchmark index. In addition, the swap counterparty posts collateral to a segregated account held at State Street Bank and pledged in favor of the fund. For equity ETFs, db x-trackers accepts a mix of sovereign and investment grade bonds and highly liquid blue-chip stocks from OECD countries as collateral. Haircuts are applied to the securities posted as collateral and as such collateral levels are maintained between 107.5% and 120% of the fund’s NAV at the end of each business day. While the funded swap structure does not imply direct fund ownership of the collateral basket, db x-trackers’ ETFs are entitled by Luxembourg law to enforce the pledge and sell collateral assets without prior notice to Deutsche Bank. db x-trackers does not engage in securities lending, which helps to mitigate some counterparty risk. Dividends received from the underlying holdings are immediately reinvested preventing any cash drag. The fund is domiciled in the Luxembourg and its base currency is USD.


db x-trackers levies a 0.65% total expense ratio (TER) for the MSCI AC Asia ex Japan TRN Index ETF, which is on par with other ETFs tracking this same index.


As of this writing, there are a significant number of ETFs tracking the Asian equity market. In seeking Asian equity exposure, investors should primarily consider their desired level of index concentration from both a sector and geographic perspective. Investors seeking more concentrated exposure to Asia's emerging markets can consider ETFs that track the MSCI EM Asia index. The largest and most heavily-traded ETF tracking the index is the db x-trackers MSCI EM Asia TRN Index ETF. The fund charges a TER of 0.65%. With this fund, investors trade off exposure to Hong Kong for increased exposure to China, South Korea, Taiwan, and India

Über den Autor

Lee Davidson  is an ETF analyst with Morningstar Europe.