Fidelity's FIGFX Makes the Case for Investing Overseas

Fidelity International Growth fund tends to thrive during stretches of market uncertainty.

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A portfolio without foreign stocks would be like "fighting an investment battle with one arm tied behind your back," says Jed Weiss. He's biased, of course, as manager of Fidelity International Growth (FIGFX (opens in new tab)) fund. But he has a point: Foreign stocks make up about half of the global stock market.

Over the past 12 months, International Growth, a member of the Kiplinger 25, gained 28.7%, trailing the 30.9% return of the MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks foreign stocks in developed countries. The fund shone for most of the year, but November and December were a challenge.

That's not surprising: The fund tends to thrive during stretches of market uncertainty, thanks to Weiss's penchant for what he calls share gainers – financially healthy companies with strong positions in their industry that can raise or keep prices steady even in troubled times. Semiconductor companies such as ASML Holding (ASML (opens in new tab)), Lam Research (LRCX (opens in new tab)), Lasertec (LSRCY (opens in new tab)) and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSM (opens in new tab)) were among the fund's big winners over the past year.

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But when the stock market makes a sharp upward turn, the fund typically lags. That's what happened in late 2020. The approval of two COVID-19 vaccines fueled a shift in market sentiment away from steady Eddies. As a result, some fund holdings that had done well earlier in the year suddenly became laggards, including Roche (RHHBY (opens in new tab)) and Nestlé (NSRGY (opens in new tab)), defensive businesses with strong balance sheets.

A Tilt Toward Survivors

Life is returning to normal now, and that bodes well for International Growth.

"The market has started to focus on firms that will come through this period stronger, and that's what my investment process is geared toward," says Weiss.

He's upbeat about luxury companies that have gained market share. "Not all did well," says Weiss. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMUY (opens in new tab)) is a top holding. Weiss sees opportunities, too, in hard-hit industries such as aerospace and commercial catering. Earlier this year, he picked up shares in the U.K. catering company Compass Group (CMPGY (opens in new tab)).

Weiss's focus on market-share gainers has served investors well. The fund's five-year annualized return, 14.3%, beat the 10.6% annual return of the MSCI EAFE Index.

Nellie S. Huang
Senior Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Nellie joined Kiplinger in August 2011 after a seven-year stint in Hong Kong. There, she worked for the Wall Street Journal Asia, where as lifestyle editor, she launched and edited Scene Asia, an online guide to food, wine, entertainment and the arts in Asia. Prior to that, she was an editor at Weekend Journal, the Friday lifestyle section of the Wall Street Journal Asia. Kiplinger isn't Nellie's first foray into personal finance: She has also worked at SmartMoney (rising from fact-checker to senior writer), and she was a senior editor at Money.