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Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia. (Glen Allison/©PHOTODISC)
Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia. (Glen Allison/©PHOTODISC)

ETFs

Underappreciated ETFs from the land down under Add to ...

As the world watches and waits for the outcome of the U.S. government’s ongoing tussle about expiring tax legislation ad nausea, some prescient investors are looking abroad for the other prizes and pay-days.

We are cautiously optimistic about the U.S. economy for 2013 and hopeful that a last minute resolution of the fiscal fandango will surface between the cantankerous political factions before 2012 ends. In case something less than encouraging unfolds, it may be in our best investment interests to look overseas.

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One of the strongest economies isn’t one of the world’s largest. In fact it is often forgotten because it’s not regularly talked about in the mainstream media. Although by land mass it’s one of the largest nations, by population it doesn’t even rank in the top 20.

Unlike the U.S. and Europe, Australia is booming! With immense natural resources and boatloads of foreign money waiting to be invested in Australian assets and companies, the immediate future still looks exceptionally bright.

A look at the one-year chart of the iShares MSCI Australia Index ETF (EWA). EWA has had an impressive run, but as you can see the volume has been steadily going down since September 2012.

The ETF has a current dividend yield of 4.45 per cent. Over 12 per cent of the holdings of the fund are represented by the natural resources, mineral and energy conglomerate BHP Billiton, which alone has a dividend payout that yields around 3 per cent at a price of $76.

The second-biggest holding in EWA is Commonwealth Bank of Australia, representing over 10 per cent of the fund’s assets. Commonwealth Bank trades on the Australian Securities Exchange. Most of the other holdings are headquartered in Australia except U.K.-based Rio Tinto Ltd.

RIO, which represents less than 3 per cent of the fund’s assets, is in the business of finding, mining, and processing mineral resources worldwide. Its businesses include operating open pit and underground mines, mills, refineries and smelters, as well as various research and service facilities.

Like many of the Australian natural resource companies or the banks that finance them, RIO is involved in the mining and production of aluminum products, including bauxite, alumina and copper. RIO also mines thermal and coking coal, uranium, iron ore, gold, molybdenum, silver, nickel and diamonds.

It primarily operates in Australia, North America, South America, Asia, Europe and southern Africa. Rio Tinto plc was founded in 1873 and is headquartered in London, the United Kingdom. Since it represents such a small per cent of the holdings of EWA investors might want to supplement the ETF with shares of RIO which currently has a dividend yield-to-price of 2.56 per cent.

If you’re interested in an ETF that focuses on small-cap Australian companies take a look at the IQ Australia Small Cap ETF. Its one-year price and volume chart shows similar trends as EWA.

Australia’s future appears to be linked more to China’s growth and economic policies than to any other nation. Before investing in Australia and its commercial enterprises, you might want to carefully examine the nation’s official economic Web site.

You’ll learn all about its financial statistics, the country’s approach to banking and money, and the Productivity Commission, which is the Australian Government’s independent research and advisory body on a range of economic, social and environmental issues affecting the welfare of Australians.

At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the funds or stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet’s regular news coverage.

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