European equities have been one of the best performing regional equity markets thus far in 2015,1 and a primary catalyst has been the blockbuster January 22 announcement by Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, of an open-ended plan of quantitative easing. An immediate impact was seen through a weaker euro compared to the U.S. dollar, which should help make large-cap euro-area exporters more competitive in global markets—especially for the exporting powerhouse from Germany. But large-cap multinationals are not the only way to invest in euro-area stocks.
A New Way to Invest in Euro-Area Small Caps Without Investing in the Euro
The divergence between the European Central Bank (ECB) and the U.S. Federal Reserve (which may raise short-term interest rates at some point in 2015) makes it very difficult to argue for a stronger euro versus the U.S. dollar. As a result, for those looking to get exposure to the euro region, we believe currency hedging is of prime importance. For those who want exposure beyond the exporters, we believe small-cap euro-area stocks also offer an interesting opportunity set that is tied to improvements felt in the local economies.
The WisdomTree Europe Hedged SmallCap Equity Index represents:
• The performance of small-cap euro-area stocks without the additional layer of euro risk.
• The Index is created by selecting the bottom 10% of the total market capitalization of euro-area countries within WisdomTree’s broad developed international dividend Index (the WisdomTree DEFA Index). The Index has approximately 260 constituents, with an average market capitalization of about $2.2 billion and a total market capitalization of about $580 billion .
Euro-Area Small Caps Contrasted with Euro-Area Exporters
So, why should people think about euro-area small caps? We think a primary reason is that they offer a geographic revenue exposure that is distinctly different from euro-area large-cap multinationals3.
• Approximately Twice the European Revenue Exposure: Euro-area small caps tend to have approximately twice the European revenue exposure as euro-area exporters, thereby offering significant complementarity and more direct exposure to any improvements or sensitivity to local economic conditions.
• Improved Economic Expectations: If an initial result of the ECB’s quantitative easing announcement is a weaker euro and more competitive exporters, a secondary reaction could be an inflection point in improving economic expectations, which could impact small-cap stocks. Large-cap exporters typically are more than twice as exposed to emerging markets as the more domestic small caps.
A key driver of performance in any broadly diversified strategy is the country and sector exposures. When looking at the WisdomTree Europe Hedged SmallCap Equity Index, it is clear this Index represents a more cyclical segment of European equity exposures. For example:
• On a country basis, Italy represents more than 18% of the Index, and Spain represents 8.8%. These exposures are considered part of the peripheral European4 countries that need the types of additional lending and credit programs that the European stimulus measures are directed toward.