As of today, U.S. investors can now access the market once referred to as the "Celtic Tiger" via an ETF, after Northern Trust launched its NETS ISEQ 20 Index Fund on the NYSE Arca exchange under the symbol IQE.
The new fund tracks the local, blue-chip ISEQ 20 Index, which includes the largest and most liquid stocks listed on the Irish Stock Exchange. Financial Services is the largest sector in the index by a significant amount, with a 40.86% weighting. The top five components are CRH PLC (14.24%), Allied Irish Banks PLC (13.23%), Elan Corp. PLC (12.29%), Bank of Ireland (8.05%) and RyanAir Holdings PLC (4.85%). At IQE's launch, the ISEQ 20 was down about 45% from the prior year.
Despite the steep stock market decline in the past 12 months, the Irish economy has seen a drastic evolution over the past couple of decades, largely due to a strong boom period in the 1990s that has continued intermittently into the new century and turned Ireland into one of the wealthiest countries in Europe.
IQE will probably not be alone for long: Currently, both Invesco PowerShares and State Street Global Advisors have ETFs in registration that are designed to track the Irish market. However, IQE is the only one that will cover Ireland's local blue-chip index.
The fund charges an annual expense ratio of 0.47%.