European stocks and the related exchange traded funds haven't been all that bad this year, but when measure against their U.S. counterparts, the picture grows murkier. Year-to-date, the iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF EZU is up 14.4%, trailing the S&P 500 by nearly 700 basis points.
Eurozone stocks can take some steps toward shedding their laggard status today on the back of the European Central Bank meeting.
The ECB cut the interest rate on deposits by 10 basis points to 0.5% Thursday and said it would relaunch quantitative easing.
The risk is that banks in the region will be pinched, a consideration for investors because many eurozone ETFs are heavy on the financial services sector.
“While the ECB’s strategy is to boost growth and inflation by lowering borrowing costs for companies and households, squeezing banks too much could hamper their ability to supply the credit that fuels the economy,” according to Bloomberg.
In addition to the aforementioned EZU, here are some Europe ETFs to consider today and over the remainder of 2019.
WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity Fund
The WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity Fund HEDJ accomplishes two primary goals. First, it exploits weakness in the euro via its currency hedge. Second, its financial services weight is just 11.73%, making that sector merely the fifth-largest in the fund. Additionally, HEDJ is proof positive that there are opportunities in eurozone stocks as this WisdomTree has performed inline with the S&P 500 this year.
“It took less than a generation to balloon the ECB’s balance sheet from below 1 trillion euros to 4.69 trillion euros ($5.19 trillion) via bond purchases. How big of a dent can the ECB make in equities? This isn’t the $24-trillion S&P 500; the MSCI EMU Index is worth only 3.77 trillion euros ($4.18 trillion),” according to WisdomTree.
SPDR EURO STOXX 50 ETF
The SPDR EURO STOXX 50 ETF FEZ tracks the EURO STOXX 50 Index.
That index “captures approximately 60% of the free-float market capitalization of the EURO STOXX Total Market Index, which in turn covers approximately 95% of the free float market capitalization of the represented countries,” according to State Street.
FEZ is a concentrated ETF — it really does hold 50 stocks — and is worth watching today for a couple of reasons.
First, financial services is the fund's largest sector weight at just over 16%. Second, France and Germany, the eurozone's two largest economies, account for two-thirds of the fund's geographic exposure.
iShares MSCI Europe Small-Cap ETF
The iShares MSCI Europe Small-Cap ETF IEUS, which is not a dedicated eurozone ETF, faces a similar situation to that of U.S. small-cap ETFs: it's lagging equivalent large-cap funds this year.
IEUS provides exposure to 13 countries, seven of which are eurozone members. The fund devotes 13.39% of its weight to bank stocks, the smaller kind that could be crimped by lower rates, but over a third of its weight goes to cyclical industrial and consumer discretionary names that could be boosted by more easy money from the ECB.
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