The U.S. has had a great run in 2013, no doubt about it. But with slowing earnings and steep valuations, the market looks ripe for a contraction in the next few months.
So instead of worrying about slow growth or overly expensive stocks at home, try bargain-hunting in Europe, where values are depressed and a turnaround is under way.
Skeptical? I understand why … a 12% unemployment rate in the eurozone, underperformance since 2011 and general fears about European sovereign debts are admittedly very real challenges.
But there’s a lot more going for Europe than many think. And if you can also enjoy a massive 6.8% dividend while playing the content in low-risk large-caps? Well, you should have peace of mind that your investment isn’t just a long-shot turnaround bet.
Here’s why I am broadly bullish on Europe right now, and specifically the SPDR S&P International Dividend ETF (DWX).
The Bull Case for Europe
There are some very favorable signs coming out of the continent recently, including the fact that in Q2 the EU officially exited its longest recession in 40 years and the fact that unemployment has finally stopped rising and has at least stabilized after EU jobless rate held steady at 12.0% for August.
Yes, 12% is a huge number. But the fact that it has stabilized and will likely start to move lower gives you a great opportunity to buy the turnaround.
That’s what’s happening already in European stocks, which have outperformed even red-hot U.S. stocks in the past three months or so. Take Germany’s DAX 30 stock index — the nation’s version of the Dow Jones Industrial Average — that just closed at an all-time high to start October. Considering Germany is the EU’s largest economy, this is a very encouraging sign for the continent at large.
Oh yeah, and European equity funds saw the biggest inflows in 11 years lately according to Merrill Lynch analysts. Seems like investors are already moving their money.
If you’re uncertain about American equities right now, you should consider following these investors’ lead into European stocks.
And the SPDR S&P International Dividend ETF is your best way to do that.
DWX — Your Best Europe ETF
As I mentioned, the DWX has an impressive yield of 6.8% and focuses on large-cap issues outside the United States. And while the fund hasn’t budged since spring of 2009 despite the S&P 500 roughly doubling in that same period, now may be the time to enter into this ETF before it takes off.
Main holdings right now include Belgacom, a Belgian telecommunications company; Ferrovial, a Spanish infrastructure company; and TDC, a Danish media giant.
As of right now, the about half of all assets in Europe and the U.K., 22% in Australia, 9% in Canada; the rest is in Asia, South America and even South Africa. So while this isn’t a completely focused Europe bet, it is clearly overweight in the region. And in the broader scheme of things, having some geographic diversity may help reduce your risk — something that appeals to many investors in this uncertain market.
Expenses are reasonably low, too, with an annual expense of 0.45%, or $45 on every $10,000 invested. This isn’t as cheap as some European ETFs, but it’s incredibly affordable considering you’re tapping into an asset class that might be impractical otherwise … and with added flexibility.
You see, foreign dividend stocks are notoriously infrequent with their dividend payouts. Take Belgacom, currently the top holding in this ETF. The company has an annualized yield of over 8%, but pays three-quarters of its dividend in April, with a second and smaller distribution in December each year.
Furthermore, to buy Belgacom directly, you’d have to be able to either buy it on the pink sheets where volume is incredibly thin, or buy it on the Euronext exchange. Furthermore, financial information is often harder to obtain and digest when you’re picking individual stocks overseas.
So why not simply buy the high-yield DWX fund, which pays dividends quarterly and takes the guesswork out of stock analysis?
So if you’re fed up with American equity, take a serious look at European exposure via this ETF. In addition to the exposure to this foreign market, there are a host of other benefits that DWX has to offer including a built-in diversification and ease of trading.
And when you throw in the big dividend, the SPDR S&P International Dividend ETF stands out among other investments in the same arena.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP.