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How to Invest Overseas - Intelligently!
In recent months, many advisors have talked a lot about the wisdom of investing overseas, but most have failed to really address the way to do that. For new investors, investing in the U.S. is challenging enough, but investing across borders is often even more daunting.
Many major issues need to be addressed, but the first step is deciding how to buy and sell. Here are some possibilities:
1. Direct purchase in foreign markets. The most straightforward way to invest in foreign markets is by buying shares directly in the regional or national markets. This approach has some drawbacks, however. First, one must buy through an account with a broker who is registered in that nation. For Canadian shares, this is relatively easy, since many U.S. brokers connect with the Toronto exchange. But going beyond that zone leaves us with few, and expensive, choices. Plus, shares on many foreign exchanges are not subject to the same reporting requirements as those on the NYSE or even the NASDAQ. Thus, we may not know enough about the financial status of many international companies available in this way. Also, since these shares sell in foreign currency, we must calculate all the exchange rates.
2. ADR's. American Depository Receipts are foreign stocks (actually, certificates representing those stocks) selling on American markets. As such, they are required to fulfill all the reporting requirements and laws that U.S. stocks are, and hence are much more transparent. Plus, the shares are priced in U.S. dollars, simplifying the purchase process. ADR's are the most common method for American investors to invest in foreign stocks, and include a number of the names I have recommended in the past, including Unilever, Telefonos de Mexico, America Movil, Korea Electric, Canon, Nokia, and Bancolombia, among others.
3. American multinationals. An even simpler way to play foreign markets is to invest in American companies that do business overseas. Companies like Apple, Coke, and Procter & Gamble do almost as much business around the world as they do here in the U.S.
4. International mutual funds. Mutual funds simplify the process of investing overseas. A buyer can purchase one fund which may hold dozens of different stocks that the fund managers have researched.
5. International Index Funds: Exchange Traded Funds, such as iShares (formerly known as WEBs), are benchmark indices of foreign markets. Buying an index allows one to gain from a wide market rather than trying to research individual stocks.
6. Closed-end Country Funds. Like the index funds above, country funds focus on a particular market. The difference is that these funds are actively managed, and may often be available at a discount to the value of their shares. If one watches carefully, one can occasionally take advantage of great deals in these shares, which trade just like stocks. Some examples are the Swiss Helvetia Fund, the Brazil Fund, or the New Ireland Fund. Closed-end funds may also be available that invest across national borders, such as the Emerging Markets Telecom Fund, the Templeton Dragon Fund, or the Latin American Discovery Fund.
In the end, there are many ways to invest internationally. Use good judgment, but be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to diversify across borders. One thing is for sure: there's no longer any excuse for keeping all your eggs in one (national) basket.
Scott Pearson is an investment advisor, writer, editor, instructor, and business leader. As President and Chief Investment Officer of Value View Financial Corp., he offers investment management services to a wide variety of clients. His own newsletter, Investor's Value View, is distributed worldwide and provides general money tips and investment advice to readers both internationally, and in the U.S.
Scott Pearson can be reached directly at Scott@valueview.net or by visiting www.valueview.net
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