Traders are starting to bet big on emerging markets

If you're following the money, it looks like emerging markets are back. Since early March, net flows into the popular iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) have topped $4.6 billion.

"We continue to see flow moving out of developed markets" and into emerging markets, Stacey Gilbert of Susquehanna wrote to CNBC on Tuesday.

"We really see this as a China play," S&P Investment Advisory's Erin Gibbs said Tuesday on CNBC's "Trading Nation." "I think there's a lot of concerns with other areas of emerging markets."

Gibbs said that while investors begin to warm back up to Asian markets, other markets in the EEM basket might not be as stable. She noted that the EEM has largely been able to withstand fluctuations in Latin America and Africa because it is heavily weighted to Asia, with almost 50 percent allocated to China, Korea and Taiwan.

Longer term, Gibbs suggests focusing solely on ETFs that will benefit from the recovery in Asia.

"I would recommend that investors actually focus specifically on Asia Pacific ex-Japan," said Gibbs, a basket that is tracked by iShares' EEP. "We think you get the most bang for your buck by focusing on that one region."

And taking a closer look at the money flows for EEM, Gilbert warned that within the past week, fund flows have become more "two-way," accompanied by a great deal of upside call purchases in the options market.

"We still do see bullish flow in the options but I would say that the options make it seem like investors are hedging their bets," perhaps by selling out of ETF positions while buying options, Gilbert said Tuesday on "Trading Nation."

The performance since the beginning of March has certainly been nothing to sneeze at. The EEM has risen some 15 percent in that time, versus an S&P 500 that is up just half that.


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Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

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