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By Patricia Oey and Andrew Daniels, CFA, CMA | 10-04-2017 10:00 AM

3 Picks Among Emerging-Markets Funds

Our analysts share three of their top emerging-markets stock funds on the heels of a strong year for the category.

Jeremy Glaser: After years of underperformance, emerging-markets funds have done very well in 2017 with the category up over 25%. We think emerging markets can be an important part of many investors' portfolios and asked our fund analysts to share three of their favorite picks for long-term investors.

Andrew Daniels: Gold-rated American Funds New World is a good way to get cheap, low-risk exposure to emerging markets. Rather than being a pure play on emerging markets, the fund typically invests more than a third of its assets in developed-market stocks which have heavy revenue exposure to emerging markets. This helps the fund be less volatile than its peers, and it tends to sacrifice some upside potential and deliver solid downside protection. A deep bench of analysts and managers and low fees also benefit fundholders.

Dan Sotiroff: Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund is one of the most broadly diversified funds in the emerging-markets Morningstar Category. It covers more than 4,000 stocks across large-, mid- and small-cap companies. Top 10 holdings represent only 17% of assets. This fund's country composition looks slightly different from others in the category. It does not hold stocks from South Korea as FTSE classifies South Korea as a developed market. It also holds Chinese A shares which expands its coverage into the Chinese market. This fund charges one of the lowest fees in the Morningstar Category. Investor shares are available for 32 basis points while admiral shares are available for 14 basis points. Vanguard also offers this fund as an ETF, which charges the same expense ratio as the admiral shares. Overall, it receives a Morningstar Analyst Rating of Bronze.

Patricia Oey: T. Rowe has been running a suite of diversified emerging-markets funds as well as regional funds since the 1990s. And so, it's one of the few fund houses that have a long, established track record. And this fund, Bronze-rated T. Rowe Emerging Markets Stock, is run by Gonzalo Pangaro. He has been at the helm for about eight years and he has been at T. Rowe for 19 years. He tends to run a growth-oriented portfolio and so far this year it's been very beneficial. His top holdings such as internet companies Tencent and Alibaba, as well as component makers, such as TSMC and Samsung Electronics, have really driven the performance of the portfolio. And what we've seen in emerging markets is similar to what we've seen in the U.S. with the FANG stocks, such as Facebook and Amazon driving the market. So, the same thing has happened in emerging markets as well.

But given the fact that these top holdings have done really well, the fund has become more concentrated. Now, the top 10 holdings account for about 37%. About three years ago, it was only 26%. But overall, this fund does do well, both in up markets and down markets. Over the trailing five years, its performance has landed solidly within the top quartile within diversified emerging-markets category. The fees are also relatively reasonable. It charges 1.26%. Pangaro is supported by a well-established and dedicated emerging-markets team. The team is comprised of seven portfolio managers and about 30 analysts from around the world.

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