BGI Expands International Funds

December 14, 2007

iShares added international funds on top of international funds on Wednesday, launching three new ETFs onto the NYSE Arca exchange.

Barclays Global Investors added three new international ETFs to its product lineup this week.

Small Cap International

The iShares MSCI EAFE Small-Cap Index Fund (NYSE Arca: SCZ) is the second small-cap international ETF launched by iShares, following the November launch of the FTSE Developed Ex-US Small Cap ETF (NDAQ: IFSM). International small-caps have become a big deal lately as investors search for diversification, and the large-cap segments of developed countries grow more closely correlated with each other. SCZ charges 0.40% in expenses, less than the 0.50% expense ratio for IFSM.

WisdomTree was the first company to launch a small-cap international ETF, the WisdomTree International SmallCap Dividend Fund (NYSE: DLS), in June 2006. DLS charges 0.58% in expenses.

SSgA also offers a competing fund, the SPDR S&P International Small Cap Fund (AMEX: GWX), which launched in April and charges 0.60% in expenses.

Global Infrastructure

The iShares S&P Global Infrastructure Index Fund (NYSE Arca: IGF) enters a somewhat less crowded field, although it too is not a first-mover in the space. The fund tracks an index of 73 companies involved in infrastructure products and services worldwide.

SSgA is the first-mover in this space with its SPDR FTSE/Macquarie Global Infrastructure 100 ETF (AMEX: GII), which launched in January and currently has $74 million in assets. 

The U.S. is the largest country exposure in both funds, receiving 24% of the weight in IGF and 37% of the weight in GII.

IGF carries an expense ratio of 0.48%, while GII charges 0.60%.


Finally, the iShares MSCI Kokusai Index Fund (NYSE Arca: TOK) tracks the MSCI Kokusai Index, which covers the world's developed markets ex-Japan. The United States has the largest country weighting in the index, representing more than 50% of its total market capitalization. TOK charges an expense ratio of 25 basis points.

The fund is the first ETF to cover the developed markets excluding Japan. It seems like a strange product to launch on a U.S. exchange, since presumably most U.S. investors are already invested in the U.S. market and would probably want exposure to Japan in their global portfolio. However, with the Tokyo Stock Exchange having announced a push to expand its lineup of ETFs through cross-listings, it seems likely that TOK would be a possible candidate there.

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