Exchange-traded funds offer a convenient way to invest in sectors or niches that interest you. If you'd like to add more global reach to your portfolio in order to diversify geographically, the Vanguard FTSE All-World Ex-U.S. ETF (NYSE: VEU ) could save you a lot of trouble. Instead of trying to figure out which companies will perform best, you can use this ETF to invest in a lot of them simultaneously.
ETFs often sport lower expense ratios than their mutual fund cousins. The global ETF's expense ratio -- its annual fee -- is a very low 0.18%. (Vanguard is known for its low fees.) It recently yielded 3.35%, as well, which is an extra bonus.
This ETF has performed reasonably well, outperforming the world market over the past three and five years. As with most investments, of course, we can't expect outstanding performances in every quarter or year. Investors with conviction need to wait for their holdings to deliver.
With a low turnover rate of 8%, this fund isn't frantically and frequently rejiggering its holdings, as many funds do.
What's in it?
Plenty of global companies had strong performances over the past year. UK-based telecom titan Vodafone (Nasdaq: VOD ) , for example, gained 20%, despite operating in troubled Europe. It helps that it owns a 45% stake in America's Verizon Wireless, and bulls also like its pursuit of a piece of the promising mobile payments pie.
Other companies didn't do as well last year, but could see their fortunes change in the coming years. Telecom giant Telefonica (NYSE: TEF ) sank 37%, in part due to its being based in troubled Spain. Still, it generates much of its revenue from Latin America, where economies are healthier and growing faster than much of Europe. It's getting some positive attention from Wall Street, too, thanks to its having fallen so far that it now sports a bigger margin of safety and a whopping double-digit-dividend yield.
Meanwhile, in the energy arena, France-based Total (NYSE: TOT ) shed 14%, affected by gas leaks, attacks on its properties, and political instability in various locations. It's aiming to broaden its reach, exploring in locations such as off the coast of East Africa for natural gas and investing in liquefied natural gas in Australia. It has invested significantly in renewable energies, as well, and compares favorably with some major peers, in terms of value.
Then there's BP (NYSE: BP ) , down 4%, which is still plagued by the massive Gulf oil spill. The company has been selling assets to generate funds and pay down debt, and its production has been shrinking over the past few quarters, leading some analysts to downgrade it. Bulls like its investments in wind power and biofuels, as well as its cash flow and rising dividend.
The big picture
It's always good to diversify your holdings geographically, so that you're not at the mercy of any single region's economy. A well-chosen ETF can help you with that.
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