The top 18 countries to invest in

Adding a little international flavour to your portfolio could lower your risk and boost your returns.

by Norm Rothery
December 18th, 2009

Online only.

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Where in the world should you invest? The globe is a big place, and faced with dozens of countries to choose from it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Luckily, MoneySense is here to help. We’ve done the dirty work for you and crunched reams of hard data to come up with the top markets to invest in today.

Because there tends to be a big difference between emerging and developed markets, we decided to evaluate them separately. We first focus on the developed world and then explore emerging markets. But in both cases we evaluate countries (as represented by their country-specific exchange-traded funds, or ETFs) in two ways. First, we look for those that represent good values relative to their fundamentals. These are value markets which appeal primarily to investors with a longer-term outlook and a penchant for lower risk situations. Second, we highlight markets with momentum. Here we seek strong recent return patterns that appeal to action-oriented investors.

How our ratings work

The value grade

Value investors like to rummage through the bargain bin for overlooked gems. When it comes to whole countries, value can often be found in slower-growing nations that may be viewed as boring. But this lack of excitement often leads to modest prices which more than make up for a slow growth rate. Indeed, with a sufficient handicap, even the slowest tortoise can beat the fastest hare.

The momentum grade

When it comes to momentum, we want go-go markets with strong recent performance trends. The idea is to hitch a ride with the hot money while times are good. But momentum investors must be willing to move on to the next big thing with alacrity. Active traders favour the momentum approach but even buttoned-down academics are coming around to see its merits. Just be warned, the ride can be a wild one.

Where you should invest

So what did we come up with? Have a look at our interactive world map (to the left) and you’ll see the top 10 countries to invest in by value and the top 10 by momentum. For each country we have recommended an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that you can buy to easily tap into that country’s fortunes. Below you can also browse a table of our top countries and their associated ETFs. In each list, the first six are developed countries, and the remaining four are emerging markets.

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