Last year belonged to developed markets, plain and simple, and the bullishness was not confined to the 32.3% gained by the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY).
In local currency terms, Japanese stocks were among the developed world’s best performers, helping the WisdomTree Japan Hedged Equity (NYSEArca: DXJ) not only soar to prominence for its asset-gathering acumen, but also gain 41.4%. [It Could be Another Big Year for Japan ETFs]
European stocks, bolstered by low valuations and evidence the region’s sovereign debt crisis was abating, got in on the developed market act as well. However, things have been different to start 2014.
“Japan and the US were the two best performing G7 countries in 2013, but as shown below, they’re the two worst performing G7 countries so far in 2014,” according to Bespoke Investment Group. “Italy has been the best of the G7 so far in 2014 with a YTD gain of 5.68%. “Germany ranks 2nd with a gain of 1.90%, followed by Canada (1.07%) and the UK (1.05%).”
The rub is few global ETFs track a particular country’s benchmark index. So while stocks in Canada, Germany and the U.K. are sporting small gains as Bespoke notes, the iShares MSCI Germany ETF (NYSEArca: EWG) and the iShares MSCI United Kingdom ETF (NYSEArca: EWU) are slightly lower on the year. The iShares Canada ETF (NYSEArca: EWC) is off 2% while the iShares MSCI Italy Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWI) has lagged stocks in Italy with a gain of 3.7%.
Greece is the top-performing market to start the year, but it is now classified as an emerging market. That means, year-to-date, Portugal is the best developed market. The Global X FTSE Portugal 20 ETF (NYSEArca: PGAL) has delivered with a 2014 gain of 6.5%. [Portugal ETF Rises With The PIIGS]