Investing in Nordic countries via ETFs is similar to investing in South America on one level. Just as Brazil and the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped Index Fund (NYSEArca: EWZ) command most of the headlines in South America, Sweden and the iShares MSCI Sweden Index Fund (NYSEArca: EWD) get most of the attention when it comes to Nordic ETFs.
That is to say a lot of investors may not be aware the iShares MSCI Finland Capped Investable Market Index Fund (BATS: EFNL) even exists. Arguably, it is interesting that the ETF has not drawn wider acclaim. After all, the Nordic countries have been on the receiving end of much adulation for their steadiness as the European sovereign debt crisis has worsened. [Nordic ETF Plays]
On the other hand, one of the chief selling points of ETFs such as EWD or the Global X Norway 30 ETF (NYSEArca: NORW) has been that those countries do not use the euro. Finland does and that underscores the high point/low point state of affairs with EFNL. Participation in the euro also appears to be a drag on the Finnish economy.
“Prolonged economic stagnation, combined with a sharp contraction in tax revenues, are projected to push up the Nordic country’s ratio of government debt to GDP so that by 2015, it will exceed the 60% limit set by the European Union’s fiscal rules,” reported Juhana Rossi for the Wall Street Journal, citing a report by the Bank of Finland.
On the more positive side of the ledger, Finland is home to a AAA credit, one that was recently reaffirmed by Moody’s. The U.S. cannot say that. There are other positive attributes to the Finnish investment thesis including low corruption, a highly educated workforce and a high competitiveness ranking courtesy of the World Economic Forum.
EFNL also features a 30-day SEC yield of 4.6% and a beta of just 0.17 against the S&P 500, according to iShares data. The same numbers for EWD are 1.75% and 1.08, but Finland’s lethargic growth and rising debt-to-GDP ratio are putting EFNL’s good news story at risk.