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Europe ETF Investors Should Book Nordic Flights


At the height of the European sovereign debt crisis, Nordic countries excluding Iceland, offered investors looking to maintain Europe exposure shelter from the storm.

After the European Commission ratcheted down its economic growth expectations for the Eurozone, investors may once again want to turn to the steady, Northern hands. Earlier this week, the European Commission pared its 2014 Eurozone GDP growth forecast to 0.8% from 1.2% and its 2015 outlook to growth of 1.1% from 1.7%. [Use These ETFs for Europe's New GDP Outlook]

That after major Europe exchange traded funds have come under pressure in recent months. Over the past 90 days, the Vanguard FTSE Europe ETF (VGK) and the SPDR EURO STOXX 50 Fund (FEZ) are lower by an average of 3.5%. Some Nordic ETFs have been better than the broader Europe counterparts.

Deutsche Bank said earlier this week that the European benchmarks with the brightest outlooks are Nordic and that densest concentration of earnings beats from the Euro Stoxx 600 comes courtesy of Sweden, reports Michael Hunter for the Financial Times.

Due to falling oil prices, the Global X MSCI Norway 30 ETF (NORW) has recently been clobbered, sliding 12% over the past three months to easily be the worst offender among Nordic ETFs. However, the iShares MSCI Sweden ETF (EWD) is off just 0.6% over that period, topping VGK and the major Germany and France ETFs.

Late last month, Sweden’s Riksbank lowered its main policy rate to zero from 0.25% in a bid to ward off deflation. Swedish borrowing costs hovered near 5% in early 2008, but the Riksbank foolishly raised rates in 2011, prompting the recent reversal of course. [Sweden Central Bank Lowers Rates to Zero]

Another Nordic ETF that has recently been less bad than its rivals is the Global X FTSE Nordic Region ETF (GXF) , which is down just 2% over the past 90 days despite a 12.5% weight to Norway.

Fortunately, that means Norway is merely GXF’s fourth-largest country weight. The fund allocates almost 48% of its weight to Swedish stocks, a significant overweight compared to broader Europe indices, and another 24.7% to Denmark.

Speaking of Denmark, the oft-overlooked iShares MSCI Denmark Capped ETF (EDEN) has benefited from its large health care exposure this year on its way to a 7% gain. However, the ETF’s performance has recently waned as the fund is off 4% over the past three months. [Danish Dominance in an ETF]

Western sanctions against Russia have proven problematic for EDEN. Danish farmers are major exporters to Russia and Danish banks have significant exposure to those farmers. Falling commodities prices coupled with the Russian sanctions are leading to an increased amount of sour agriculture loans in Denmark, relevant to EDEN because the ETF has a 16.6% weight to the financial services sector.

iShares MSCI Sweden ETF