The France and Italy country-specific exchange traded funds are outperforming the broader European markets, but investors may be ignoring major risks in the two economies as all eyes are on Greek drama.
Year-to-date, the iShares MSCI France ETF (NYSEArca: EWQ) rose 12.0% and the iShares MSCI Italy Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWI) increased 17.7%. In contrast, the broader iShares MSCI EMU ETF (NYSEArca: EZU) gained 10.8% and SPDR EURO STOXX 50 (NYSEArca: FEZ) returned 9.6% so far this year.
However, investors should be more cautious with their France and Italy outlook. France and Italy face mounting pressure from high debt, slow growth, unemployment, poor public finances and lack of reforms to remedy the situation, reports Satyajit Das for the Financial Times.
Excluding unfunded pension, healthcare costs and Eurozone bailout payments, Italian total real economic debt is 259% of gross domestic product, up 55% since 2007, and France’s equivalent debt is 280% of GDP, up 66% since 2007.
Italy’s budget deficit is 2.9%, with government debt at 132% of GDP, while France’s budget deficit is 4.2%, with government debt at 95% of GDP.
The two economies would have to generate significant growth to dig themselves out from a mountain of debt. For instance, Italy’s economy is still some 7% below pre-financial crisis peaks and is hovering at the same level as it was in 1999, reports The Hill.