Investors who want to invest in European stocks have plenty of options among mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. But check first whether you already have a large chunk of money in Europe. Many diversified global and international stock funds have a large percentage of their portfolio in European stocks. For example, Dodge & Cox International Stock (symbol DODFX), a member of the Kiplinger 25, recently had 60% of its assets in companies based in Europe (including the United Kingdom).
If you want a no-load fund that owns nothing but European shares, consider T. Rowe Price European Stock (PRESX). Over the past 10 years, the fund gained 9.2% annualized, compared with 8.5% for the average European mutual fund. Manager Dean Tenerelli focuses on how proficient companies are at generating a return on shareholders’ capital. In the past year, that has led him to some Spanish and Italian banks that survived the global financial crisis.
If active management isn’t your thing, you’ll appreciate Vanguard European Stock Index (VEUSX). The fund, which tracks the FTSE Developed Europe index, holds about 500 stocks. But note: The index is dominated by British, French and Swiss companies, which account for 61% of the portfolio. The exchange-traded Vanguard FTSE Europe ETF (VGK) tracks the same index. Annual expenses for both the fund and the ETF are just 0.12%.
Another ETF, iShares MSCI EMU (EZU), takes the opposite tack. It excludes British and Swiss stocks and owns only shares of companies in 11 developed-country members of the euro currency zone. Its fees, at 0.50% annually, are much higher than those of the Vanguard funds.
One question to ask about any overseas fund: Does it try to hedge against currency fluctuations? Some do and some don’t. That can make a big difference depending on what happens with the dollar’s value against the euro, British pound, Swiss franc and other currencies. In our list, the Dodge & Cox fund does hedge in some cases, while the T. Rowe Price fund doesn’t. Most index funds, including ETFs, don’t hedge unless they’re specifically designed to do so.
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