Your Money: Making most from change in China

Posted: November 28, 2013

All of a sudden, Wall Street loves China - again. After a major conference of Chinese leaders this month, the socio-economic changes foreign investors have demanded for decades are on the horizon.

"The new [Chinese] policies will create meaningful opportunities for foreign private investments in all sectors, especially health care and consumer sectors," said Charles Gradante, founder of Hennessee Group L.L.C., a money-management firm based in New York City that concentrates on hedge funds.

The structural changes in China could be a boon to the stock market's consumer and health-care sectors, Gradante noted, citing the scrapping of China's "one child" policy. In the next 15 years, China's population of people over 60 will also grow, to 400 million, larger than the population of the United States.

Floating the yuan, and not fixing it at a certain exchange rate but allowing it to fluctuate against other currencies, is also on the table.

Sounds promising, but playing China can be complicated. Let's examine exchange-traded funds. Be aware of the underlying companies and holdings in each fund, and research carefully before deciding on which to buy or sell. Ask questions of your broker, for instance: Is there an exchange-rate effect and what are the annual and trading fees?

China ETFs perform very differently, according to data provided by Michael Galantino, managing director of Boenning & Scattergood in West Conshohocken.

Year-to-date returns through last Wednesday are all over the map, Galantino noted. An ETF such as the iShares China Large Cap ETF (FXI) was down 1.41 percent, while iShares MSCI China ETF (MCHI) gained 1.88 percent. Powershares Golden Dragon China Portfolio (PGJ) and the Guggenheim China Technology ETF (CQQQ) on the other hand, both exploded with gains of over 50 percent.

Global X China Consumer ETF (CHIQ) is a play on the rise of the Chinese middle class as consumers, while the fixed-income market is the aim of the Powershares Chinese Yuan Dim Sum Bond Portfolio (DSUM).

Should you dare, you can also "short" the Chinese market - meaning you are betting the prices will fall - with ProShares Ultrashort FTSE China 25 (FXP).

Institutional investors, such as Rareview Macro, of Stamford, Conn., favor playing China via the FXI, the iShares large-cap exchange-traded fund. It's liquid and you can trade options against it. But that doesn't mean it's for everyone.


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