The Best Way To Profit From Europe's Recovery
Europe, which has been long believed to be simply too volatile for prudent long-term investors, appears to have turned the corner.
The world experienced years of one crisis after another sweeping the eurozone. These financial missteps destabilized theequity markets, creating a dangerous place for investors. Lastyear , EuropeanCentral Bank President Mario Draghi made the unprecedented promise that hewill "do whatever it takes" to save the commoncurrency . This single statement has led to greater stability to the European Union's ( EU )economy and growth in thestock market .
Certainly, not all regions are thriving, but things are improving enough to create a compelling case fordiversification into the European stock markets.
The primary reason for this improvement is the full-forcesupport of the EU Central Bank for the unified euro currency. Fears of the euro being devalued or even eliminated resulted in deep economic stability concerns due to lack of trust in the currency. Now, these fears have lifted, bringing back the confidence needed for stock market growth.
Signs of greater confidence in the EU economy include the first signs of growth for the past sixquarters . In the second quarter, the eurozone economy beat estimates by expanding 0.3%. Clearly, this isn't much, but it's the first green sprouts after the long economic winter.
As an investor, what I like best is the fact that eurostocks trade at a 25% discount to long-term valuation. Overall, euro stocks are at a 50% discount to thebook value of U.S. stocks. The European economic crisis has created opportunities for savvy investors.
The smartest way investors can profit from Europe's upward economic momentum is through exchange-tradedfunds (ETFs ), which provide targeted exposure combined with professionally managed diversification within the particular niche. They make much more sense than an investor attempting to purchase individual companies within the region to capture profits.
My favoriteETF to ride Europe back to prosperity is the Vanguard FTSE Europe ETF ( VGK ) . As its name implies, this ETF is intended to mirror the performance of the FTSE Developed EuropeIndex . Launched in 2005, thefund represents companies in 15 EU countries and is well capitalized with anasset foundation of just under $6 billion. It also boasts substantialliquidity with about 2 millionshares traded.
The fund holds 503 stocks, with slightly more than 19% of the portfolio held in the top 10 holdings. No individual holding exceeds 3%, with Nestle the largest individual holding at 2.9%. Royal Dutch Shell and HSBC Holdings take the second- and third-heaviestweighted allocations.
VGK's Top 10 Holdings
Financial services is the largest single sector with consumer defensive and industrials filling the second- and third-biggest sectors.
VGK's Sector Weightings
There has recently been a significant increase incapital flowing to this fund in the seven days prior to Aug. 20. According to research firm ETF Channel, there was a $621 million inflow, a week-over-week increase of just over 8%.
Over the past year, the fund has returned 12.5% with ayield a little less than 5.5%.
A look at the technical picture shows VGK has been in a sharp uptrend since June 24. The fund has climbed more than 12% to the $53 area in the past two months. Technical support exists at $52, creating a strong risk-to-reward ratio for a long-term entry.
Risks to Consider: The eurozone is improving, but it still has a long way to go. Southern regions such as Italy and Spain may continue to struggle while theygain footing. I'm not suggesting that investors go all-in on the pending EU recovery, as the risk remains high despite the positive signs. However, it is time to start diversifying into Europe to capture the substantialupside potential.
Action to Take --> Entering the VGK ETF at the current level in the $53 area with stops just below support at $52 makes solid technical sense. My six-month target for shares is $60.