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British ETFs in Focus as Brexit Debate Flares Up

The Brexit debate has sparked off again with the Treasury coming out with a long-term economic analysis. As per the report, a potential exit from the EU would reduce Britain’s GDP by 6.2% in 2030. British finance minister, George Osborne, stated that “a vote to leave the EU would do permanent damage to the country's economy” and “families would be £4,300 worse off and tax receipts would face an annual £36 billion black hole” (read: British ETFs in Focus on Brexit Talks).
 
The Treasury’s warnings confirm several market participants’ belief that a "Brexit" would lead to a weaker currency owing to worries about Britain's £229 billion annual trade with the EU, which could suffer if new trade barriers are raised. One of the major advantages of the EU is free trade between member nations, which makes exporting goods to other EU countries easier and cheaper for British companies. So, Brexit could have a negative impact on Britain’s GDP. Lower GDP growth and tougher export conditions would hit several sectors like retail and financial services among others and therefore have an unfavorable impact on British equities.
 
However, the Treasury report has drawn flak from pro-Brexit supporters including the justice secretary, Michael Gove.
 
The debate on Brexit is heating up with June 23 drawing closer when Britain will vote on whether the UK should remain a member of the EU. The U.S. President Barack Obama who is scheduled to visit Britain this week believes the country is better off economically and politically if it stays in the EU as per a Reuters report.
 
But, there has been a steady rise in Eurosceptics over the past decade pressing for a referendum largely because of Europe’s migration crisis and continued Euro zone travails. Although chances of Brexit were slim a couple of years back, the perpetual problems in the EU have over time narrowed the polls. Gambling firms predict that British voters are more likely to vote in favor of staying in the EU though (read: Greek Woes to Impact Brexit? ETFs in Focus).
 
Whether the UK will ultimately choose Brexit or select to remain in the EU remains to be seen. But polls and political propaganda are likely to continue to stimulate uncertainty in the short term. In this scenario, we highlight three ETFs that are primarily exposed to British equities and two sterling currency funds, which are likely to be on investors’ radar in the coming days (see: all the European Equity ETFs here).
 
iShares MSCI United Kingdom ETF (EWU)
 
This product tracks the MSCI United Kingdom Index. In total, it holds 113 securities with almost 40% of its assets allocated to the top 10 holdings. EWU is popular and actively traded with AUM of $2 billion and average daily volume of more than 3.7 million shares. From a sector look, financials takes the top spot at 20.6% while consumer staples, energy, consumer discretionary, and health care round off the top five. The ETF charges 47 bps in annual fees. It has a Zacks ETF Rank #3 or ‘Hold’ rating with a Medium risk outlook. The fund has gained 3.3% in the last one month (as of April 19, 2016).
 
First Trust United Kingdom AlphaDEX ETF (FKU)
 
This fund provides exposure to 74 firms by tracking the NASDAQ AlphaDEX United Kingdom Index. The fund has amassed $153.9 million in its asset base while it has an average daily volume of more than 35,000 shares. None of the firms accounts for more than 2.8% of the total assets.
 
Sector-wise, financials takes the top spot at about 30.7% share while consumer discretionary, industrials and information technology also have double-digit allocation. FKU charges a fee of 80 bps annually and has a Zacks ETF Rank #3 with a Medium risk outlook. The fund is up 0.8% in last one month (as of April 19, 2016) (read: UK ETFs in Focus as BOE Keeps Rate Unchanged).
 
iShares MSCI United Kingdom Small-Cap (EWUS)
 
With AUM of $13.1 million, this product tracks the MSCI United Kingdom Small Cap Index. In total, it has a diversified portfolio of 237 securities with none of the components holding more than 2.2% weight. From a sector look, financials takes the top spot at 22.9% while consumer discretionary, industrials, information technology and materials round off the top five. The ETF has an expense ratio of 0.59% and trades in light volume of around 2,600 shares a day. The fund lost 0.2% in the last one month (as of April 19, 2016) and has a Zacks ETF Rank #4 or ‘Sell’ rating with a Medium risk outlook.
 
Guggenheim CurrencyShares British Pound Sterling Trust (FXB)
 
The fund tracks the price of the British Pound Sterling. With the UK currency in a tight spot, the fund lost 0.6% in the last 30 days (as of April 19, 2016). With AUM of $48.5 million, it is the most popular pound ETF. The ETF has an expense ratio of 0.40% and trades in volume of around 17,000 shares a day. The fund has a Zacks ETF Rank #3 with a Medium risk outlook (read: Top and Flop Currency ETFs YTD).
 
iPath GBP/USD Exchange Rate ETN (GBB)
 
With AUM of $0.8 million, the fund provides exposure to the British pound/U.S. dollar exchange rate. The fund lost 1.6% in the last one month (as of April 19, 2016). The ETF has an expense ratio of 0.40% and trades in light volume of less than 1,000 shares a day and has a Zacks ETF Rank #3 with a High risk outlook (see: all Currency ETFs here).
 
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ISHARS-UTD KING (EWU): ETF Research Reports
 
FT-UTD KINGDOM (FKU): ETF Research Reports
 
ISHARS-MS UK SC (EWUS): ETF Research Reports
 
CRYSHS-BRI PD S (FXB): ETF Research Reports
 
IPATH-GBP USD (GBB): ETF Research Reports
 
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