It’s 2016 now but the stock market is behaving like it’s 2015 all over again. On the first trading day of the New Year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell as much as 470 points on renewed fears over the Chinese stock market. This was a familiar theme; U.S. stocks fell heavily in August last year due in large part to a sell-off in Chinese stocks.
With that in mind, the following three mutual funds have very high exposure to China. Investors hoping to steer clear of Chinese equities may want to avoid these funds. Conversely, investors who view the recent sell-off as a buying opportunity may want to do more research on these mutual funds.
China Spooks the Stock Market Again
China is a major player in global markets. It is the world’s most populous nation with a population of 1.3 billion, and it is the second-largest economy in the world behind only the United States. As a result, what happens in China’s stock markets and economy has a pronounced ripple effect across the world. Chinese stocks plunged 7% Monday, triggering circuit breakers in those markets after manufacturing data in a key area of the Chinese economy showed contraction. The official manufacturing PMI, or Purchasing Manager’s Index, was 49.7 in December. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.
A decline in economic growth could have major ramifications for the U.S. because many U.S. companies have invested significant resources in building their businesses in China. The prospect of slowing economic growth in China, a premier emerging market, threatens the earnings growth for many U.S. companies that do a significant amount of business there. In fact, China is one of the nations that is included in the ‘BRIC’ list, an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China, the most important emerging markets in the world.
Naturally, mutual funds were equally affected as many mutual funds invest heavily in Chinese equities. Here are three mutual funds with very high exposure to Chinese stocks.
Mutual Funds With High China Exposure
The Eaton Vance Greater China Growth Fund (EVCGX) lost 11% of its value in 2015. Investors can expect a higher level of volatility in this fund as it keeps 27% of its holdings in the technology sector. While that worked against investors last year, if Chinese equities rebound in 2016, that bet could pay off. Investors pay a 1.9% annual expense ratio for this fund, which is on the high side of its peer group. This fund gets a three-star rating from Morningstar fund ratings.
The Fidelity China Region Fund (FHKCX) lost 18% of its value in 2015. The fund offers a 1% dividend yield. On a positive note, this fund carries an expense ratio of 0.99% and is one of a few Chinese equity mutual funds to charge less than 1% per year. The Fidelity fund has a high weighting in the Chinese financial sector, which constitutes 29% of the fund’s total holdings. As a result, the health of the Chinese financial system is of top priority to holders of this fund. This fund receives a four-star rating from Morningstar.
The Matthews China Dividend Fund (MCDFX) performed very well in 2015. This fund rose 3%, which was surprising given the poor performance of many other Chinese mutual funds. What separated the Matthews fund from the pack was its focus on defensive stocks. The fund holds significant positions in equities that pay dividends, such as China Mobile (CHL) and China Merchants Bank (CIHHF). The Matthews fund as a whole yields 3.3%, which is a significantly higher yield than the vast majority of Chinese equity mutual funds. Because of its category outperformance and high dividend yield, this fund has earned a five-star rating from Morningstar.
The Bottom Line
Chinese stocks ended 2015 on a scary note, plunging significantly in the last few months of the year. Unfortunately for investors, the fear of continued economic slowdown in China reared its ugly head on the first trading day of 2016. The three funds listed above have high levels of investment in China. For investors not afraid to take risks, these could be buying opportunities if economic growth in China accelerates throughout the year.