Last week, the S&P 500 endured its first weekly loss of 2013 due in large part to rampant speculation that the Federal Reserve is mulling a slowdown of or outright halt of its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying activities.
Known as quantitative easing, central bank asset-buying programs have arguably become an addictive gambit throughout parts of the developed world. At the same time, those that have been long stocks and other risky assets are not likely to complain.
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Over the past two years, the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE:SPY) has jumped nearly 15 percent, helped by various editions of quantitative easing. In the past three months, the iShares MSCI Japan Index Fund (NYSE:EWJ) has gained nine percent on hopes that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government will be able to press the Bank of Japan to engage in unlimited easing.
Examples like that (and others) might leave investors thinking that when it comes to developed market country-specific ETFs the best opportunities are found with QE nations. However, some non-easing developed market ETFs have recently delivered solid returns as the following list indicates.
iShares MSCI New Zealand Capped Investable Market Index Fund (NYSE:ENZL) New Zealand stands as one developed market that has not eased. That fact seems to be a source of pride among some of the country monetary officials and politicians.
As for as the iShares MSCI New Zealand Capped Investable Market Index Fund is concerned, arguing with New Zealand eschewing QE is impossible because the ETF has surged 19.3 percent in the past year.
Those betting on New Zealand becoming a QE nation might want to look elsewhere. Simply put, despite the strong New Zealand dollar, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand is believed to be more likely to raise interest rates than pare them.
All that said, a near-term issue investors in this ETF must monitor is currency intervention. RBNZ has warmed to intervention as a means of cooling the kiwi. Still, New Zealand appears unlikely to cut rates, let alone engage in bond-buying. ENZL offers a 30-day SEC yield of 4.17 percent as compensation for investors looking for non-U.S. developed market exposure.
Global X FTSE Norway 30 ETF (NYSE:NORW) The Global X FTSE Norway 30 ETF has been a solid performer over the past six months, gaining nearly nine percent. That compares favorably with a gain of 7.34 percent over the same time for SPY. Beyond the fact that Norway has not traveled down Quantitative Easing Boulevard, NORW has a compelling story to tell to investors.
Not only does Norway hold an AAA credit rating, the economy there is backstopped by a massive sovereign wealth fund that is often under-appreciated when it comes to the Norway investment thesis.
The biggest risk to NORW is oil prices. Norway's status as an oil exporter does mean the ETF will periodically move with oil futures, which is understandable because Statoil (NYSE:STO) accounts for 18.3 percent of NORW's weight.
Those looking for exposure to the Norwegian krone as a currency safe-haven play should consider the PowerShares DB G10 Currency Harvest Fund (NYSE:DBV), which devotes a third of its long exposure to the high-yielding currency.
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