Will Greek Stocks Beat the Dow?

With the Greek election behind us, many investors have shifted their attention away from the small European nation toward potentially larger problems like Spain. But before leaving the topic of Greece entirely, it seemed like a good idea to look back and see how the Greek stock market has performed in comparison to the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI  ) over the past decade or so.

For the most part, the Athex Composite has seen the same general trends as the Dow and most other stock markets around the world over the past couple of decades. The Greek market soared in the late 1990s, plunged during the tech crunch, and then more than tripled from its 2003 lows before plunging again during the 2008-2009 U.S. financial crisis. The Greek stock index rebounded much more quickly during 2009, but by 2010, Greek stocks diverged from the Dow as the country-specific aspects of Europe's sovereign debt crisis began to hit home.

The relative movements in the Greek stock market have typically been more extreme on a percentage basis than the Dow. That's not because the Greek index is souped-up compared to the Dow; you'll find National Bank of Greece (NYSE: NBG  ) and Coca-Cola Hellenic (NYSE: CCH  ) are the biggest elements in the index, the same way that beverage and financial stocks play a prominent role in the Dow. Rather, the market itself has always seemed more prone to volatility, creating opportunities if you think Greece can recover from here.

If you want to buy into Greek stocks now, your options are a bit limited. Most of the stocks on the Greek exchange don't have ADRs that trade on U.S. exchanges. But the tiny Global X FTSE Greece 20 ETF (NYSE: GREK  ) tracks the FTSE Greece 20, which is similar to the Athex Composite and includes both National Bank of Greece and Coca-Cola Hellenic, along with a host of companies from sectors including telecom, industrial, and financial stocks.

It's quite premature to declare the Greek situation over, and Greek stocks are extremely speculative right now. But if the new government manages to succeed where others have failed -- admittedly a huge if -- then Greek stocks could easily outperform the Dow going forward.

Sticking with safety
Greece is still a really risky play. If you prefer more stability in your portfolio, looking to dividend-paying stocks makes a lot of sense. Please accept my invitation to read The Fool's brand-new special report, which reveals the names of the three Dow stocks dividend investors need. It's absolutely free, so just click here and get your copy today.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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