The Investment Series: International Investing Basics
International Investing Basics (Go to the Investment Series for other Basics)
This is the fifth article in a series on investment basics. If you are new to investing, it is recommended that the articles be read in order. Prior articles introduce terminology that is used in later articles.
|A Multiple Choice Question|
|Too Risky, Too Foreign, Too Weird|
|Ways to Invest Internationally|
|A Five Year Snapshot|
|A Multiple Choice
Between 1970 and 2000, how many times has the U.S. equity market been the world's top performer?
Answer: (a) NEVER. Not only that, the US equity markets have ranked among the top 3 only twice in the last 10 years.
Surprised? International Investing is not just for high-flying risk takers. It can form part of the asset allocation of a well rounded portfolio. It can improve portfolio gain due to participation in well performing markets. It can reduce portfolio risk by improved diversification since international markets often behave differently than the U.S. markets.
A five year snapshot below shows the two times in the last 10 years that the U.S. markets have at least made it into the top three.
International Investing involves three areas of additional risk when compared to domestic (U.S.) investing: political risk, currency risk, and market risk.
Political risk addresses the stability of the government, the actions of the government, and the stability of the political climate. Governments can change, governments can take over companies, and governments can drastically change policies and rules.
Currency risk is concerned with the value of the stocks local currency as compared to the U.S. dollar. This concern includes not only day to day fluctuations in exchange rates, but also longer term trends such as inflation.
Market risk addresses the reliability of reported corporate information and the ease (or lack thereof) of trading shares. Corporate reporting by U.S. companies is rigorously legislated. The same degree of rigor is not seen in many international markets, making the information less reliable. Furthermore, accounting practices may differ making comparisons to U.S. corporations difficult even if the reporting is reliable. For example, long term debt versus total capital is a ratio used by analysts. In the U.K., an accounting rule about goodwill amortization can cause the capital valuation to appear low, thereby leading to potentially incorrect comparisons.
These risks can work both ways. They may act to hurt the investor; or they may act ot help the investor.
|Too Risky, Too Foreign,
Here's a true false quiz:
The world's largest food company is, of course, a U.S. company.
2. Burger King, Breyers Ice Cream, Dunkin Donuts, and Dannon Yogurt are all U.S. companies.
3. Since the U.S. is a world leader in technology, clearly the leading mobile phone operator in the world will be a U.S. company.
How did you do? ALL are FALSE.
1. The world's largest food company is Nestle SA and is based in Switzerland. (January 2000)
2. None are US companies. Here's the breakdown.
|Breyers Ice Cream||Unilver NV||Netherlands|
|Dunkin Donuts||Allied Domecq||U.K.|
|Dannon Yogurt||Dannone Group||France|
3. The leading mobile phone operator in the world is Vodaphone Airtouch Plc based in the U.K. (January 2000)
Ways to Invest Internationally
For the U.S. based investor, buying and selling directly on international markets is fraught with difficulties. So the marketplace has developed a number of options to make it easier. Here are some of them
Due to the additional risk of international investing, it should be clear that high quality research is a must in making sound international investment decisions. Last year's best performing market will likely not be the best performer of the following year. Comprehensive, forward looking research is necessary to invest wisely in international markets.
Check back for the next installment in the Investor Series: Basic Investment Strategies.
|Source: Morgan Stanley Capital International. Percentages rounded to tenths. Past performance does not guarantee future results.|
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