It wasn't all that long ago that global investing was an activity that was restricted to only the wealthiest U.S. investors. If you weren't one of America's ultra-rich, you weren't able to access foreign markets.
That began to change in the 1950s, with the advent of international and global mutual funds, and access further expanded over the next three decades with the introduction of single-country closed-end funds. Today, thanks to the recent explosion in exchange-traded funds (ETFs), investing in overseas stocks is now almost as easy as targeting a given market sector here at home.
In fact, although it has been a mere 17 years since the first ETF began trading in the United States (in 1993), the most recent count finds more than 290 international, regional and foreign-country-focused funds listed on the various U.S. exchanges - enough to entice any investor with even a modest yen for overseas portfolio exposure.
Wall Street's Mood Shift Is Signaling a Profit-Making Price Push Ahead
A mood of mild optimism has begun to spread down Wall Street not long after there was nothing but long faces. Fancy that.
More good news out of Europe, better-than-expected new home sales, and the latest of a solid second-quarter earnings season has helped resuscitate the animal spirits that were missing in action since the spring.
Stocks rose past some key milestones in their historic July over the past week, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average just barely into positive territory for the year. It was a very professional, low volatility rally this week, a welcome change from the intra-day dramatics that had put everyone on edge lately.
What has really changed from the point of view of government policy or corporate results? Nothing and everything.
To find out whatâ€™s changing on Wall Street, click here.
Ignoring Sovereign Default Damages Credibility of EU's Bank Stress Tests
The European Union (EU) bank stress tests failed to account for a sovereign default, meaning results show a healthier banking sector than actually exists.
The tests results were released Friday with seven banks failing, but analysts say many more institutions could have failed if the tests simulated a sovereign default. Testing regulators from the Committee of European Banking Supervisors (CEBS) decided against testing securities held in lenders' banking books, where sovereign debt is held and only written down in the case of default.
"The long awaited stress tests do not seem to have been that stressful after all," said Gary Jenkins, an analyst at Evolution Securities Ltd. "The most controversial area surrounds the treatment of the banks' sovereign debt holdings."
Hungary's Spat with the IMF and EU Could Signal Another Crisis to Come
The biggest financial news story out of the Europe this summer is getting very little play in the U.S. mainstream press. However, it has the potential to torpedo the European Union (EU), and has disastrous implications for borrowing costs worldwide.
Basically, a miniature banking crisis is festering in Hungary. If it isn't contained, it could grow into a genuine crisis that infects the secondary lending markets around the world.
Hungary is supposed to have about $30 billion in domestic liquidity for exchange, the equivalent of about five months of capital in its national account. But it won't be getting additional funds from the EU machine in Brussels, or the International Monetary Fund (IMF), anytime soon.
Money Morning Mailbag: Jaded Investors Cast Wary Eye On Scope of Bank Stress Tests
The results of Europe's bank stress tests are due July 23. But the question remains whether the tests will shed enough light on the banking sector to restore investor confidence.Readers who are already on guard from Wall Street manipulation and stalled financial reform have pulled back from volatile markets and are skeptical about the effectiveness of bank stress tests:
"All these stress tests mean that we are peeling away layers of the onions, but chances are we are not going to get the full clarity that we as investors deserve," Neil Dwane, chief investment officer for Europe at equities specialist firm RCM, told The New York Times.
Uncertainty Undermining the Global Economic Recovery
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said yesterday (Thursday) that the global economic recovery is losing steam because uncertainty in financial markets is keeping businesses and consumers from investing in future growth.
In a revision to its World Economic Outlook released yesterday in Hong Kong, the IMF said worldwide economic expansion will decline to 4.3% next year from 2010's 4.6% pace. The forecast for 2010 was revised upwards by 0.4 percentage points to reflect faster-than-anticipated growth earlier this year.
However, "downside risks have risen sharply," the IMF warned, referring to European governments' debt problems and volatility in financial markets.
U.S. Economy: Headed For a Second-Half Slowdown
Constant stock market volatility, a crippled job market and the troubles plaguing the European markets are starting to take their toll on the U.S. economy. After the major market rally of 2009, is the U.S. economy headed for a second-half slowdown... or, worse, the dreaded double-dip recession? Read this report to find out exactly whatâ€™s in store for the U.S. economy...
Money Morning Midyear Forecast: The U.S. Economy is Headed For a Second-Half Slowdown
Most textbook economists say that the U.S. economy is engaged in a broad-based recovery. But while there's a consensus that there's no "double-dip" recession on the horizon, the evidence suggests the nation's economy is headed for a slowdown in the second half of 2010.
The reason: In a market that derives 70% of its growth from consumer spending, the last half of this year will be all about those consumers - and about the economy's inability to generate enough jobs to keep the nation's cash registers ringing.
If you add to that concern the end of the various government stimulus efforts, possible fallout from the Eurozone debt contagion, and oil in the Gulf of Mexico defiling the shores of four states, you end up with an economic outlook that's clouded with uncertainty.
And that uncertainty will continue to stifle hiring and will result in another round of consumer belt-tightening - and a continued economic malaise.
Is it Time to Bet Against the U.S. Dollar?
The U.S. dollar has been one of the world's strongest currencies in the first part of 2010. But, is the greenback really the bet choice for safety, quality and security? Read this report to find out why it's time to bet against the dollar...
How to Profit From Europe's Stealthy Resurgence
European countries - both inside and outside the Eurozone - are slashing their budget deficits.
Greece, Portugal and Spain - three of the so-called "PIGS" - have to do so, of course. But Germany - generally reckoned to be in excellent shape - is also cutting its deficit, as is France, which hasn't run a budget surplus in 40 years. Britain, too, with no need to protect the euro (it's not a Eurozone member) just introduced a budget that cut the deficit by $140 billion over four years.
U.S. President Barack Obama and other Keynesians warn that Europe may push its own economy - or even the global economy - back into recession.
But here's the surprising reality: Europe may gain from its fiscal pain - and its deficit-trimming actions offer the best hope for a lengthy recovery.
To see which European countries are expected to rebound - and which ones to invest in - please read on...