Not Even Norway? (ENOR, NORW)
Norway, what happened? Along with Sweden, Norway and the other Scandinavian countries were expected to be lights among the darkness that is the Euro Zone. After all, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden have on primary advantage: They're not Euro Zone members.
Even with that important feather in its cap, Norway and the two ETFs that track the country, the Global X Norway ETF (NYSE: NORW) and the newly minted iShares MSCI Norway Capped Investable Market Index Fund (NYSE: ENOR), have struggled recently. Part of the struggles can be attributed to Norway's status as an oil exporter, but much of the blame lies on the fact if an ETF has deep ties to anything Europe, it's going to trade lower.
Combine the Euro Zone calamity with the fact that the United States Brent Oil Fund (NYSE: BNO) has lost almost 15% in the past month and it's easy to see why NORW and ENOR have been battered. Year-to-date, NORW and ENOR have outperformed the MSCI Europe Index, which can be invested in if one dares via the Vanguard MSCI Europe ETF (NYSE: VGK), but in the past month things have turned ugly.
As oil prices have plunged and the sovereign debt crisis has worsened, NORW and ENOR are down 18% and 15.6%, respectively, in the past month compared to a 14.7% loss for VGK. NORW's 18% slide is actually worse than what the iShares MSCI Italy Index Fund (NYSE: EWI) has done over the same time and only slightly better than the iShares MSCI Spain Index Fund (NYSE: EWP). That's infamous company to say the least.
Still, it pays to remember there are reasons to be bullish on Norway going forward. The smallest Scandinavian country is also the world's second-happiest country with a low unemployment rate, healthy banks and no currency or debt issues to be afraid of.
"We love the investment opportunities in Norway and the Scandinavian area in general," Street One Financial President Scott Freeze told Benzinga in an interview. "Specific to Norway - they are one of the top oil exporters in the world, have the second highest sovereign wealth fund, and the highest standard of living in the world. They have very low unemployment and are not part of the euro, so they give you the ability to get European exposure without having exposure to the euro."
Beyond NORW and ENOR, which were highlighted today Freeze also mentioned the Global X FTSE Nordic Region ETF (NYSE: GXF). That $22 million ETF is 46% allocated to Sweden while Norway and Denmark combine for another 41%. Finland makes up the rest. GXF is down almost 17% in the past month.
"The Scandinavian economies are one of the few in the world that do not have sovereign debt issues, currency issues, or outsized deficits to deal with. Scandinavian banks have been the recipients of a number of the withdrawals from Spain and Greece, and their economies continue to be stronger than almost anywhere in the world," Freeze said.
Along those lines, it's worth noting financials are GXF's largest sector weight at almost 30%. NORW is more than 14% allocated to bank stocks while ENOR features a 12.5% weight to that sector. Perhaps the argument can be made that Norway and the aforementioned ETFs are beneficiaries, not victims of the PIIGS' problems.
"I wholly expect for Greece to leave the euro and for Spain to see unsustainable yields, crushing the euro and having a carryover effect on the other world markets," Freeze said. "Add in the Indian and Chinese issues and we see a doubled digit drop from already weak markets, but we expect the Scandinavian countries to outperform the US, European and Asian markets."
For now, it's probably best to wait for oil prices to stabilize before rushing into NORW or ENOR, but the bottom line is if and when Europe rebounds, the Scandinavian ETFs are likely to be leaders not laggards.
For more on Scandinavian ETFs, please click HERE.
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