European Stocks on My Radar

This article is part of our Rising Stars Portfolios series.

If you've been following my Motley Fool real-money portfolio, you'll notice that I try to keep track of macroeconomic events and draw conclusions about how certain equities might perform. In early November, I recommended that readers purchase shares of Nucor (NYSE: NUE  ) because of the attractive dividend, seasoned management, and the company's ability to flourish in and out of a nascent recovery.

Not exactly a global recovery, is it?
Today, however, I'm looking beyond the U.S. and across the Atlantic. You don't have to be an economist (really, you barely need to be alive!) to be aware of the sovereign debt crisis that has been nagging the euro zone. About six months ago, Greece had to be bailed out by a joint EU/IMF rescue package to avoid a potential sovereign debt default. Since that time financial institutions like National Bank of Greece (NYSE: NBG  ) have plunged by more than 30%; even Greek companies with minimal domestic exposure like Paragon Shipping (Nasdaq: PRGN  ) have seen shares drop by more than 15%.

However, today Greece is just a small blip on the radar. Ireland has moved to front and center of all the attention, now infamous for an exhaustive property bubble and lax lending, which has ultimately led to losing its reputation as the "Celtic Tiger" with unlimited growth potential.

Just a few days ago, the Irish government accepted a $110 billion rescue package from the EU/IMF, which also includes bilateral loans from the U.K., Sweden, and Denmark. Investors have been dumping Irish bonds faster than a Michael Vick scramble, thus sending yields soaring and equities plunging (both Allied Irish Banks (NYSE: AIB  ) and Bank of Ireland (NYSE: IRE  ) have dropped by more than 20% in the past six days!).

And so the dominoes fall
It's only natural for frightened investors to look ahead with timid eyes and scream, "look, Portugal and Spain are next"! And thus begins the vicious cycle of booming interest rate spreads and the looming possibility of a country's inability to service its debt. In fact, last week, I penned an article wondering if Spain would be the next to put out its hand in the bread line.

Not that Spain doesn't have massive problems of its own (unemployment and a dawdling exit from the recession, to name a few), but my conclusion was that a Spanish bailout is highly improbable.

From that conclusion, I decided to check out some Spanish stocks I was familiar with and see how bad of a beating they were taking in the markets. The two I'd like to highlight (and thus are on my radar) are Telefonica (NYSE: TEF  ) and Banco Santander (NYSE: STD  ) .

Telefonica is Spain's dominant telecom provider, yet it has very significant operations in the rest of Europe and most importantly, in Latin America. On Aug. 8, I urged readers to buy shares when the stock was at $68; yesterday, it closed at $64. Read my prior recommendation to get a better grasp of why I think this is a great company at a cheap, cheap price.

In late July, five Spanish savings banks failed the European stress tests. Combined with two Greek banks that also failed, the seven failing EU banks fell $4.5 billion short on capital requirements. Spanish banks, in general, suffer from non-performing construction and mortgage loans; this is especially true for cajas, or savings banks. However, the largest and most diversified bank in Spain, Santander, passed the stress tests with flying colors.

Although Brazil will contribute more to Santander's profits than Spain will for the first time this year, the stock has dropped by 25% in just one month because of worries about the Spanish economy. And this is still one of the greatest banks, I believe, and one that you should possibly buy today.

Stay tuned to read my next article and find out which stock is going to make it into my real-money portfolio!

This article is part of our Rising Star Portfolios series, where we give some of our most promising stock analysts cold, hard cash to manage on the Fool's behalf. We'd like you to track our performance and benefit from these real-money, real-time free stock picks. Click here to see all of our Rising Star analysts (and their portfolios).

Jordan DiPietro owns shares of National Bank of Greece and Telefonica. Nucor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of National Bank of Greece, Nucor, and Telefonica. 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 Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (8)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2010, at 11:00 PM, MegaEurope wrote:

    "However, the largest and most diversified bank in Europe, Santander, passed the stress tests with flying colors."

    Actually, HSBC and BNP Paribas are the largest European banks by assets - and certainly HSBC has a strong case for most diversified.

    If you are only counting European assets (not American) then Sberbank, Lloyds and a few others might be bigger than Santander as well.

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2010, at 11:06 AM, TMFPhillyDot wrote:

    @MegaEurope,

    I apologize for the error; it should be fixed shortly. It was meant to say Spain instead of Europe.

    Thanks for the catch!

    Best,

    Jordan (TMFPhillyDot)

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