A benefit of exchange- traded funds is the opportunity they offer in markets not easily accessible to individual investors.
Consider iShares:Austria (EWO), the fund designed to track the Austrian market as represented by the MSCI Austria Index. Its performance record has been tops over the past several years, and it offers a chance to invest in a bundle of companies that can provide exposure to some of Europe's hottest emerging-market countries, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Russia.
"This is a nice way to get indirect Eastern European exposure when your alternatives are limited," says iShares:Austria portfolio manager Lisa Chen.
It also adds an international element to your portfolio, provided you're a fan of concentrated portfolios.
What's kept this fund humming is a combination of right place, right time, and solid companies within the index. As of the end of June, 22 percent of the portfolio was invested in banks, 16 percent in integrated telecommunications, and 18 percent in energy holdings.
The risks of investing in this exchange-traded fund include those of any concentrated portfolio, along with economic and currency risks. Exchange-traded funds like iShares:Austria trade like stocks, with shares bought and sold through brokers.
Dian Vujovich is an author, syndicated columnist and publisher of fund-investing site www.fundfreebies.com.