There's no question that the U.S. is the engine of global economic growth. But that doesn't mean that investors (especially those with intestinal fortitude) can't find good buys abroad. Europe is fertile bargain-hunting ground. "The sell-off in Europe has been vicious," says Paul Christopher, a strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors. Stock-price declines appear to be anticipating a European recession, but investors may be too pessimistic. Says Christopher: "We see unemployment falling, and retail sales and car registrations rising. Banks are easing lending standards, and loan demand is starting to creep up. Things are getting better in Europe, not worse." The European Central Bank is easing monetary policy just as U.S. central bankers have gotten more restrictive, helping to fuel a surge in the dollar and depreciation in the euro. That should benefit exporters and multinational firms based in Europe.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a foreign name more familiar than Nestlé (symbol NSRGY , $73). The Swiss food processor's brands include Lean Cuisine, Gerber and Alpo. Sales to the developing world account for 45% of its revenues. For financial-services giant Credit Suisse Group ( CS , $27), a rebuilt capital base and a focus on private and investment banking will translate into healthy long-term profit growth. Shares of French drugmaker Sanofi ( SNY , $46) sell at an undeserved discount relative to Sanofi's peers because of overblown concerns that its portfolio of diabetes drugs is facing increased competition. German carmaker Daimler AG ( DDAIY , $78) is benefiting from strengthening car sales. September marked the 13th consecutive month of increasing car registrations in Europe. Good fund choices include T. Rowe Price European Stock ( PRESX ) and Vanguard FTSE Europe ETF ( VGK ), an exchange-traded fund.
Japan's economy will log another year of choppy growth, as it digests a sales-tax hike in the second quarter of 2014 and prepares for another in October 2015. Emerging markets present better opportunities. China is "stuck in low gear," says Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS, an economic forecasting firm. But "low gear" for China means growth of 7%, which is what economists are expecting in 2015. India's economy continues to strengthen following the election of a pro-business government. By contrast, Brazil's economy is back in recession, and Russia is teetering on the brink, says IHS.
Emerging-markets stocks are due for a sustained upturn, says Jeffrey Kleintop, chief global investment strategist for Charles Schwab & Co. Economic structural changes have made many of these nations less vulnerable to both a rising dollar and falling commodity prices, which might have wreaked havoc in the past. And the shares have rarely been cheaper relative to other markets or to historical norms. A good way to navigate these markets is with Harding Loevner Emerging Markets ( HLEMX ), a member of the Kiplinger 25.