Scoring the Investing World Cup

Last week concluded our Investing World Cup series. If you missed it, we Foolish writers dueled over the investing merits of our chosen regions of the world. Several of the matches proved excruciatingly close.

Officially, the editors called the championship bout a tie between Western Europe (coached by Jim Gillies) and India and Southeast Asia (coached by me). Competitively, that burns me. (I like to win.) But, as an investor, I find the ruling completely appropriate.

Investing is a team sport
How could I not? After all, investing is a team sport. There's no such thing as a one-stock or one-fund portfolio. As with soccer, every well-designed investing strategy features an offense (i.e., growth) and a defense (i.e., value and dividends). An appropriate blend of both leads to outsized returns. Here's my breakdown of the attackers and defenders from our seven matches:

Attack

Defense

China

Western Europe

Africa and Mideast

Developed Asia

Eastern Europe

North America (Non-U.S.)

South America

India and SE Asia



A strong attack ...
Investors seek growth to generate big returns with minimal risk. For the underdeveloped nations of China and India, which combined account for roughly one-third of the Earth's population, such opportunities exist in abundance. We profiled many of them in our duels.

For example, Rick Munarriz made a compelling case for NetEase (Nasdaq: NTES  ) in his opening-round match. The online gamer has more than 1.3 million subscribers and posted a breathtaking 58% net margin this past quarter. Is it any wonder why this stock is besting the S&P 500 by more than 65% since joining the Motley Fool Rule Breakers portfolio?

Or what about Embraer (NYSE: ERJ  ) , which Stephen Simpson profiled in his opening salvo? The Brazilian jetmaker is selling to many of the major U.S. carriers, has an up-and-coming executive-jet business, and faces weak competition. No wonder its shares have pummeled the market.

... works only when backed by a strong defense
Still, growth stocks are risky. Take Embraer again. Had you bought shares five years ago, you'd be disappointed today. That's how it is sometimes. Growth comes and goes, which is why investing in growth stocks requires both a trained mind and a lot of patience.

But many investors lack both, which is why value stocks are just as important. Back to the soccer analogy: Good offense doesn't win without a good defense. Value is like defense for your portfolio, and we had many excellent value arguments throughout our duels. I thought some of the best came from my first-round opponent and Foolish friend Seth Jayson. He argued that Mexican stocks such as Industrias Bachoco (NYSE: IBA  ) , which trades below book value, could provide ample cheap ballast for any portfolio. I'll add that the 3.5% dividend yield doesn't hurt, either.

Diversity is key
Ready to put these ideas into action? Good. Let's take a look under the hood of one of the most successful international mutual funds ever created, the Dodge & Cox International Stock (FUND: DODFX  ) , a Motley Fool Champion Funds selection.

A check of the most recent statement of portfolio holdings shows a heavy emphasis on well-known brands such as Nestle and Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) . But skip down a bit, and you'll find unprofitable German chipmaker Infineon Technologies (NYSE: IFX  ) . Shocked? Don't be. Even value guys like the managers at Dodge & Cox can appreciate the occasional informed speculation. And for what it's worth, a long-term resurgence in chip sales is expected.

A Foolish free kick
Contests like the Investing World Cup are conducted in the spirit of Foolish fun. You shouldn't take any of our various articles to be formal recommendations. (We only actually endorse those stocks that happen to be newsletter picks.) Nevertheless, I hope that in reading what we had to say, you've come to realize that international investing isn't as different as it seems. Growth and value can still be found anywhere.

In the end, it's just like soccer: Designing the perfect international investing strategy requires fast-growing attackers and value-priced defenders. Make sure you favor neither as you make your selections. And if you need help, please consider our inaugural international stock report, Around the World in 80 Minutes. It's chock-full of our best global ideas from our top analysts.

See you back here in four years, when Ireland earns its first World Cup title since, um, ever. And Fool on!

NetEase is aMotley Fool Rule Breakerspick. Embraer is aMotley Fool Stock Advisorselection. And Dodge & Cox International Stock is aMotley Fool Champion Fundsrecommendation.Try any of these services free for 30 days by clicking on the preceding links.

Fool contributorTim Beyerswill drink to your health if you ask him nicely. Or even if you don't. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Foolprofile. The Motley Fool has an ironcladdisclosure policy.


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