Investors walking, not running out of Russia funds

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Early effects of market turmoil in Russia are starting to show up in the U.S., but it's not outright panic.

Investors pulled just $55.9 million over Monday and Tuesday from the largest Russia-focused exchange-traded fund, Van Eck's Market Vectors Russia, according to data from The Russian stock-focused fund still manages $1.23 billion and has seen net inflows of $1.22 billion over 2014 despite losing more than 50 percent of its value (The net flow number reflects big swings over 2014; the fund started the year at $1.05 billion, with a high point of $2.1 billion and a low point of $719 million).

The much-smaller iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF had virtually no net outflows this week and only lost $4.2 million so far in December, according to It manages $151 million overall.

"Investors are not pulling out of Russia en masse yet because of what's going on this week," said analyst Stacey Brorup. "There have been outflows all month long before the ruble drop and overall the fund is still up in assets for the year."

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While there hasn't been panic selling in Russian ETFs, the small group of mutual funds that have sizable exposures to Russia are hurting and seem poised to suffer additional outflows.

The $3.3 billion Pimco Emerging Markets Bond Fund, for example, is down 11.36 percent in December. The fund had total Russian exposure of 18.2 percent as of Sept. 30, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of holdings (Russian exposure is listed by Pimco as 11.3 percent because some securities were issued in other countries by Russia-focused companies).

Other funds with high Russia exposure have similarly suffered. They include the Voya Russia Fund (down 47.7 percent this year through Dec. 16 with 76 percent in Russia as of Sept. 30), the T. Rowe Price Emerging Europe Fund (-41.7 percent on 51 percent exposure as of Sept. 30) and the Fidelity Advisor EMEA Fund (-18.7 percent on 20 percent exposure as of Oct. 31), according to Morningstar data.

It's too early to tell how much investors have pulled from those funds in December as such data are released monthly, usually on the eighth business day of the new month.

The trend isn't good: the $70 million Voya fund had net investor outflows of $36 million in 2014 through November; the $230 million T. Rowe fund saw investors pull $54.9 million; and the $114.8 million Fidelity fund lost $19.4 million, according to Morningstar.

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The same trend is true with larger funds with less Russia exposure.

The $6.6 billion GMO Emerging Markets III fund, with Russia exposure of 11.3 percent as of Aug. 31, is down 11.33 percent in 2014 and has seen net outflows of $1.2 billion through November. The $1.2 billion Brandes Emerging Markets I fund, with exposure of 9.7 percent as of Sept. 30, is down 12.45 percent and has gained $944 million in assets through November. And the $1.9 billion Stone Harbor Local Markets Institutional fund, with exposure of 9.3 percent as of Sept. 30, is down 12 percent and has lost $68 million through November. All figures are from Morningstar.

A spokesman for Stone Harbor said exposure to Russia for the institutional-focused fund had fallen to 8.2 percent at the end of November and outflows were $55 million for the month of December, less than 3 percent. Spokesmen for the other money managers either declined to comment or did not respond to requests.

Mututal funds with high Russia exposure

Russia Exposure % (net)
YTD Return (%)
Est. Net Flow 1 mo ($M)
Est. Net Flow YTD ($M)
Fund Assets ($M)
Voya Russia A 76.72 -47.74 -1.4 -36.7 70.1
T. Rowe Price Emerging Europe 51.35 -41.71 -3.1 -54.9 230.5
Fidelity Advisor EMEA A 20.11 -18.73 -1.8 -19.4 114.8
Kopernik Global All-Cap A 17.44 -26.79 -97 841.3 601.9
Goldman Sachs BRIC A 11.89 -9.24 -3.5 -81.9 137.4
GMO Emerging Markets III 11.35 -11.33 -97.6 -1,204 6,611.7
Brandes Emerging Markets I 9.76 -12.45 34.4 944.7 1,205.3
Stone Harbor Local Markets Instl 9.34 -12.03 -28.2 -68.8 1,917.1
Lazard Emerging Markets Equity Instl 8.34 -9.48 20.1 -256.4 13,145.8
Source: Morningstar, Inc. Returns as of 12/16/14. Flows as of 11/30/14. Exposure dates are between 8/31/14 and 10/31/14.

Funds that focus on managing money for institutions like public pensions and college endowments have been lowering their allocation to Russia.

The average portfolio weight to Russia for emerging markets equity managers dropped 20 percent from a year before to 4.04 percent at the end of the third quarter, according to data tracker eVestment.

Emerging markets bond managers also now have an average portfolio weight to Russia of 6.56 percent, down from a 9.97 a year before.

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