One year ago, Rick Munarriz and Tim Beyers took the concept of international investing to court. Our readers weighed in with their votes, and now we can don our 20/20 hindsight glasses to check up on the results.
As the International Bull, Tim launched the first assault by screening for the best-performing large-cap stocks in the world over the past year. His Capital IQ screen found 39 companies with market caps north of $10 billion that had also doubled in value in 12 months. Out of the top 10 gainers, only two were based in the U.S. -- Minneapolis-based Archer Daniels Midland
Tim said that his list was rather arbitrary. "It's just as likely that American stocks will dominate the next top 10 list. You know what? I don't care. And neither should you. Eliminating a potential market-beating investment on the basis of an address is as small-f foolish as it gets."
He explained his belief in a diversified portfolio, where international stocks make up one more weapon in the investor's arsenal to be used when opportunity arises. "I simply think you need to zig when others zag, and vice versa," he said. "One way to do this is to buy stocks on sale. Another is to buy into seemingly improbable growth stories. And, of course, there's international investing. All are great tools, and can be equally powerful when it comes to seeking stock market riches. Ignore them -- any of them -- at your portfolio's peril."
Rick disagreed, arguing for sharper focus over broader choice. "As an investor, diversifying a little overseas may make sense," Rick said, "but those thinking that they will be taking on greater risks in pursuit of greater returns may as well start tapping those ruby red slippers and saying, 'There's no place like home.' I can get excited about some pretty amazing overseas stocks, but I may never know them as well as the public companies around me."
Tim pounced on the familiarity concept. "Fine," he said. "Can we get a show of hands? How many of you are familiar with Nokia (NYSE: NOK)? OK, how about Toyota (NYSE: TM)? Exactly. Familiarity has nothing to do with locale, Rick.
"You could invest in General Motors (NYSE: GM) or Ford (NYSE: F) and lose your shirt. Or you could invest with market beaters like Toyota and Daimler Chrysler (NYSE: DCX) and have a better chance of getting rich. Case closed."
Down in Miami, Rick took exception to scouring the globe for stocks when there are perfectly fine ones right under our noses. "Going by his logic, I should dump my wife because I never truly got around to checking out all of the 3 billion other women out there to see if there was a better match for me. I love my wife. Stop trying to set me up with some exotic mail-order bride service when I'm completely happy, and familiar, with her."
In conclusion, Rick agreed that staying one step ahead of the market is the way to beating it. However, he'll take his grassroots advantage where he can, and leave Toyota to the Japanese locals, with their own home-field benefits.
The verdict is in
Our readers did not go easy on our great American hero. International Tim landed a massive 89% of the 290 votes cast. Rick got 7%, and 4% wanted to say something but couldn't settle on one side or the other. The popular vote goes to Denver -- or to the world.
But a year later, Tim's car-based example hasn't panned out to his advantage. Toyota is trading at the same price it did 52 weeks ago, while the two American stalwarts, Ford and GM, have appreciated by 20% and 40%, respectively. The German-American hybrid outperformed them all, with a 50% price increase.
If that was a mixed picture, re-running Tim's stock screen cleared things up in short order. According to Capital IQ, 27 stocks worldwide cleared Tim's hurdles over the past year -- and there isn't a single American issue among them.
The big winners came from Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, China, and Russia. Scandinavia also had a good showing, with one Danish rocket and two Swedish truck manufacturers pulling off large-cap doubles.
While this year's screen isn't any less arbitrary than last year's, it's another indication that someone, somewhere might outperform the United States in the open market, at any given time. I'm comfortable calling Tim the de facto victor as well, confirming the Foolishness of your votes. Huzzah!
Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here, but his wife drives a Toyota. He can give you a bit of local perspective on the market, too. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure sees all and hears all, wherever you are.