For much of 2013, European shares lagged the markets of other developed nations. Shares in Europe were rangebound while their counterparts in the U.S, Japan, and elsewhere saw soaring asset prices.
However, the further we have gone into summer, the better it has looked for Europe. The continent is seeing many of its top markets rebound strongly, while so-called ‘PIIGS’ nations have seen a reversal too.
The perception regarding the continent is starting the change, the euro currency is looking more firm, and growth rates are actually starting to pick up as well. In fact, the euro zone recently saw preliminary GDP growth figures beat estimates and come in at 0.3% for the second quarter over the first. While this might not sound like a lot, it does end an 18-month contraction, and could herald a new era of growth for the region.
This shift may even lead to some much needed job growth on the continent, hopefully creating a ‘virtuous cycle’ in a number of key markets that have been beaten down over the past few months (see all the European Equity ETFs).
Given this changing perception, some of the worst performing markets in years past have led on the upswing over the past month. These markets, while still uncertain for the long-term, may have some more room to run from a momentum perspective, and could be worth a closer look for those seeking European investments in the short run.
Below, we highlight four country ETFs from the region that have been among the top performers in Europe. This group has managed to turn it around lately and all four are beating out both the S&P 500, as well as broad European ETFs like (VGK) and (EZU), over the past one month time frame:
iShares MSCI Italy Capped ETF (EWI)
While the perception might not be too favorable for the Italian economy, the country has come back strong in recent weeks. One way to play this trend is with EWI, an ETF that follows the MSCI Italy 25/50 Index, holding roughly two dozen Italian firms in its basket.
The portfolio is a bit focused from a sector perspective, with financials (32%), energy (25%), and industrials (15%), taking the three biggest spots. The fund also has a large cap focus, while Eni takes the top spot at nearly 20% of the portfolio (see Bet on the Euro with these 3 ETFs).
EWI is just barely break even over the past three months, posting a 0.6% gain, though its performance in the past one month has been quite solid at 6.9%.
iShares MSCI Belgium Capped ETF (EWK)
To target the often overlooked market of Belgium, investors have this ETF from iShares. The product tracks the MSCI Belgium IMI 25/50 Index, giving exposure to about 43 companies in the Belgian market.
The product does have some concentration issues though, as Anheuser-Busch accounts for 21.6% of the portfolio on its own. Beyond that, financial services, food retail, and commodity chemicals make up big chunks of this large cap focused ETF.