As investors position their portfolios for the year ahead, many may be focusing on European markets and region-related ETFs to capture new opportunities for growth.
“Confidence is recovering at a pace in Europe,” Steven Holden, CEO of Copley Fund Research, said in a note. “Investors are positioned for outsized returns almost across the board in terms of sectors and geographies as a pickup in economic growth combines with near certainty that the ECB won’t raise interest rates for a long time yet.”
According to the Global Funds 2020 Positioning Themes report compiled by Copley Fund Research, global fund managers now have the biggest overweight position in European stocks on record while including the least amount of exposure to emerging markets in six years relative to benchmark.
Specifically, Copley found that the overweight to developed European stock markets touched a new high of 8.83% at the start of 2020. All major European countries and sectors showed an overweight positioning, led by the U.K., Germany and Switzerland.
ETF investors can also gain exposure to the European markets through targeted regional and country-specific plays. For example, the Vanguard FTSE Europe Index Fund ETF Shares (NYSEArca: VGK) and iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF (BATS: EZU) are the two largest Europe-related ETFs by assets under management.
VGK tracks the FTSE Developed Europe All Cap Index, which includes both all European countries. On the other hand, EZU only targets Eurozone members, so it excludes United Kingdom and Switzerland exposures.
Additionally, the WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity Fund (NSYEArca: HEDJ) has been a popular way to gain exposure to European equity securities, particularly shares of European exporters, while at the same time neutralizing exposure to fluctuations between the value of the U.S. dollar and the euro currency.
Investors can also look to country-specific ETFs, such as the iShares MSCI United Kingdom ETF (NYSEArca: EWU), First Trust United Kingdom AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEArca: FKU) and iShares MSCI United Kingdom Small-Cap ETF (EWUS) for U.K. exposure.
The iShares MSCI Germany ETF (NYSEArca: EWG), the First Trust Germany AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEArca: FGM), Franklin FTSE Germany ETF (NYSEArca: FLGR), Xtrackers Germany Equity ETF (Cboe: GRMY) and SDPR Solactive Germany ETF (NYSEArca: ZDEU) provide access to German equities.
For example, investors can target Swiss markets through the iShares MSCI Switzerland Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWL), First Trust Switzerland AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEArca: FSZ) and Franklin FTSE Switzerland ETF (NYSEArca: FLSW).