Investing in Emerging Markets: TUR, GLIN and More Top-Performing ETFs

Emerging markets are developing countries with volatile, fast-growing economies. Investing in emerging markets, through funds such as TUR or ARGT, can be a way to diversify your portfolio.
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Written by Sam Taube
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Edited by Chris Davis
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Nerdy takeaways
  • Emerging markets, as defined by MSCI, are 24 developing countries with volatile, fast-growing economies.

  • Emerging market investments can provide diversification and potentially rapid growth to a portfolio, but they can also be risky.

  • TUR and GLIN are among the best-performing emerging market ETFs this year.

  • You may also be able to buy individual emerging market stocks, although this may not be right for every investor.

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Nerdy takeaways
  • Emerging markets, as defined by MSCI, are 24 developing countries with volatile, fast-growing economies.

  • Emerging market investments can provide diversification and potentially rapid growth to a portfolio, but they can also be risky.

  • TUR and GLIN are among the best-performing emerging market ETFs this year.

  • You may also be able to buy individual emerging market stocks, although this may not be right for every investor.

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The United States is the largest economy in the world by far, accounting for more than a quarter of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022. Yet we make up less than 5% of the global population.

Most of humanity doesn’t enjoy the same standard of living that we do — at least, not yet. Developing countries are full of people working hard to offer their children the kind of life we take for granted in America. And every year, more of them succeed.

In investing parlance, these developing countries are called emerging markets. Investing in emerging markets isn’t just good for the conscience — it can also be a potentially profitable way to diversify your investment portfolio.

What are emerging markets?

Emerging markets are countries with fast-growing economies. They’re also called developing economies or developing countries. Emerging markets are often contrasted with so-called “established markets” or “advanced economies” like the U.S., which tend to be wealthier and more stable, but slower-growing.

Five countries that make up the “BRICS” acronym — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are some of the most prominent examples of emerging markets, and they’re good examples of why emerging markets are of interest to investors.

The U.S. economy grew about 58% between 2012 and 2022, the latest year for which complete international data is available

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Gross Domestic Product. Accessed Apr 11, 2024.
. The slowest-growing BRICS economy, South Africa, grew about 86% over that decade . The other four all had growth rates above 100%.


GDP growth, 2012-2022

United States










South Africa


Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Data is current as of Apr. 5, 2024.

Index provider MSCI classifies 24 countries as emerging markets

. They're listed below:

  • Brazil

  • Chile

  • China

  • Colombia

  • Czechia

  • Egypt

  • Greece

  • Hungary

  • India

  • Indonesia

  • Kuwait

  • Malaysia

  • Mexico

  • Peru

  • Philippines

  • Poland

  • Qatar

  • Saudi Arabia

  • South Africa

  • South Korea

  • Taiwan

  • Thailand

  • Turkey

  • United Arab Emirates

You may notice that certain notable emerging markets, such as Russia, are missing from the list above.

There is no universal standard for noting which countries are emerging markets, and indexers like MSCI often have geopolitical concerns to work around. Russia, for example, is an emerging market by most definitions. But it’s largely unavailable to Western investors for reasons related to the Russia-Ukraine war, so MSCI stopped tracking it in 2022.

Should I invest in emerging markets?

Investing in emerging markets might sound advanced or out-of-reach for novice investors, but there’s a strong argument for diversifying outside of the U.S. Even simple portfolios, such as those that contain only two or three funds, often include some exposure to international stocks. After all, a stock market crash in the U.S. might not hit international markets as hard.

In theory, faster GDP growth in emerging markets should also translate into faster stock market growth, but this doesn’t always work out in practice. Many of the ETFs listed above have underperformed the S&P 500 over the last five years, for a variety of reasons.

Some emerging markets, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, have energy-dominated economies that tend to boom when oil prices are high, and decline when they’re low. Others, such as Poland and Turkey, have unique security risks because they border active war zones.

There’s a common thread between these underperformances: Emerging markets tend to be less stable than established markets. They may be faster-growing, but that fast growth is more vulnerable to interruptions, like shifts in global resource markets or armed conflict.

One way to manage this kind of risk is by investing in several emerging markets at once, through a diversified emerging markets ETF, rather than a country-specific one.

» Interested in ETFs? Check out the best ETFs by one-year performance.

9 top-performing emerging market ETFs as of June 2024

Below is a list of the nine best-performing emerging markets ETFs listed by Finviz, ranked by one-year return.



Performance (Year)


iShares MSCI Turkey ETF



iShares MSCI India Small-Cap ETF



WisdomTree India Earnings Fund



VanEck India Growth Leaders ETF



iShares MSCI Peru and Global Exposure ETF



Columbia India Consumer ETF



VanEck Digital India ETF



Franklin FTSE India ETF



iShares MSCI India ETF


Source: Finviz. Data is current as of July 3, 2024, and is intended for informational purposes only, not for trading purposes.

Of course, it’s worth researching an ETF before you buy it, just as you would research stocks. Different emerging markets ETFs may have different holdings — and if you’re looking for exposure to a specific company in an emerging market, you may want to consider investing in it directly.

» More on index funds: Check out some of the best index funds in terms of long-term performance.

Investing in emerging market stocks

There are a few emerging market stocks that are directly listed on U.S. exchanges — largely bank stocks. For example, HDFC Bank, India’s largest bank, trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “HDB.”

Some others are available via over-the-counter (OTC) markets — although it’s worth checking an OTC emerging market stock’s trading volume on a website like Yahoo Finance or Google before buying it. Buying a low-volume OTC stock at a good price can be tricky.

Even large conglomerates like South Korea’s Hyundai (HYMTF) are largely overlooked by U.S. investors because they trade OTC. They may only change price a few times per trading day due to a lack of buyers and sellers. That can result in buy or sell orders going through at suboptimal prices, or not going through at all. Limit orders can somewhat mitigate this risk.

A third way to invest in individual emerging market stocks is to open an account with a broker that allows Americans to trade directly on foreign stock exchanges. However, only a few brokers offer this feature, and those that do may have special requirements for would-be foreign stock traders.

It’s also worth considering that you may be subject to the investment taxes and laws of the host country while investing directly in its stock market.

You can check out our list of the best brokerage accounts for stock trading to learn more.

Neither the author nor editor owned positions in the aforementioned investments at the time of publication.

Frequently asked questions

Emerging markets are often poorer than advanced economies, but on a global scale, they’re upper-middle-income countries, for the most part.

In economics terminology, countries with very low GDPs, such as Afghanistan or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are referred to as “least-developed countries,” or LDCs.

Although LDCs may have the potential for rapid economic growth in the future, many are largely inaccessible (or extremely hazardous) to international investors today, due to some combination of lack of infrastructure, active conflict, or lack of a functioning legal or banking system.

No — investing in emerging markets means investing in stocks from other countries, while forex involves trading the currencies of other countries.

Forex is a complicated and risky market that may not be appropriate for novice investors. But if you feel you’re capable of trying your hand at it, check out our list of the best forex brokers.

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