Unlike the fall of 2012, 2013 has seen a definite turnaround in the European economy. The latest economic indicators for the region signal that the economy is slowly picking up.
European consumer and business confidence are rising, indicating a new era of growth for the continent. In fact, the confidence indicator in September managed to maintain its upward trend, with a two-year high set in August (Read: Play a Resurgent Europe with These ETFs).
The economy is experiencing rising GDP forecasts for 2013 and 2014 as well. The economic outlook for France, Germany, Greece, Portugal and Spain are improving. The re-election of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has also helped to restore political stability in the region considering that Germany is the largest economy in the EU.
The bailout packages by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and EU have saved the Grecian economy from deteriorating further. The economy is approaching the close end of stabilization and 2014 is expected to mark the first year of growth since 2007.
The government expects its economy to grow about 0.6% in 2014, bringing the six-year darkness of recession to a gradual end (Read: 3 Cyclical ETFs for an Improving Economy).
Moreover, based on preliminary figures from the Bank of Spain, the Spanish economy grew 0.1% during the third quarter. The positive figure suggests a surprising end to the two-year recession, marking the first quarterly growth in over two years.
Given these improving trends, there is a “feel-good factor “about the European region. And this is further corroborated by the fact that some of the worst performing markets have led the upswing this past one month.
The surge in these markets is expected to continue at least for the rest of the year and could be worth a look for investors keen to bet on European investments heading into the end of 2013 (See all the European Equity ETFs).
Below, we have highlighted the top three country ETFs from the continent, which have been the star performers in the last four weeks. Interestingly, these European ETFs have delivered double-digit returns over the last one month, beating out the S&P 500, as well as the broad European ETFs like Vanguard FTSE Europe ETF (VGK - ETF report) and iShares MSCI EMU ETF (EZU - ETF report).
The Global X FTSE Greece 20 ETF (GREK - ETF report)
Surprisingly, the best performer among the European ETFs comes from Greece. Investors can consider betting on the economy with The Global X FTSE Greece 20 ETF (GREK - ETF report). The fund has gained around 22% over the last 4 weeks, suggesting that a strong positive shift in Greece is at hand. (Read: Greece ETF on the Rise, Can It Continue?).
The product tracks the FTSE/ATHEX Custom Capped Index and manages a small asset base of $84.3 million. The ETF has heavy exposure to the top three firms – Coca Cola HBC AG, Hellenic Telecom and Opap S.A. – that collectively make up 30% of total assets. The fund charges a fee of 65 basis points on an annual basis.
The product is also focused from a sector perspective, with Consumer Defensive (20.44%), Consumer Cyclical (18.54%) and Financial Services (15.15%) taking the three biggest spots. The fund charges a fee of 69 basis points on an annual basis.
iShares MSCI Spain Capped ETF ((EWP - ETF report))
Spain can be played with EWP, an ETF that primarily invests in large and mid-cap Spanish stocks. The fund has enriched investors’ portfolio with over 12% returns in the last one month, while adding around 40% in the last one year.
This noteworthy performance has been driven by its holdings breakdown, which is heavily skewed towards Financial Securities. Two of its top three financial holdings – Banco Santander and BBVA –account for 33% of its total assets.
The fund provides ample liquidity with an average volume of approximately 0.6 million shares per day and charges investors a decent fee of 52 basis points a year (see Why PIIGS ETFs Are Outperforming).
iShares MSCI Italy Capped ETF (EWI - ETF report))
To target the market of Italy, investors can choose this ETF which holds over two dozen Italian stocks and charges investors 52 basis points annually.
The product is highly concentrated in its top ten holdings which together make up around 64% of the fund assets, while its top pick alone takes up 17.8% of the fund.
The fund is heavy on Financials (31.69%) and Energy (22.41%), while sectors such as Utilities, Industrial and Consumer Discretionary also have double-digit exposure in the fund.
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