The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) finished Monday with a modest gain, setting a new record high for the sixth time this year. But even with the Dow at unprecedented levels, the average still stands just 1% above where it started the year. By contrast, several foreign markets sport double-digit percentage gains -- and some of them will surprise you. Let's look at four markets that are dramatically outperforming the Dow Jones Industrials in 2014.
The Indian stock market is up 16% this year, beating the Dow by a wide margin. Moreover, when you consider that the Indian rupee has risen in value against the U.S. dollar, it improves the total return for U.S. investors to 22%. The primary reason for the upsurge: excitement about new Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his pro-business policies. Investors in India have high hopes that after dealing with the growing pains of rising prices and other economic burdens, Modi will help initiate infrastructure projects that could improve business conditions throughout the subcontinent. Moreover, if Modi can attract greater foreign investment into India, it could accelerate already impressive growth trends and reward investors accordingly.
The Argentine stock market is up 42% in local-currency terms so far in 2014, although the relative devaluation of its currency against the U.S. dollar has limited gains for U.S. investors to just 15%. Still, having doubled in local-currency terms in 2013, Argentina has kept up its positive momentum after a relatively poor performance in 2012. Argentina hasn't been as successful as India at keeping its economy in position for a turnaround, with inflation still running high and concerns among its people about the government's inability to bolster economic growth. Still, Argentina has worked hard to regain access to the sovereign debt markets, and success on that score could point to better times ahead for the South American nation.
Turkey's stock market has risen 15% in 2014, giving U.S. investors in iShares MSCI Turkey (NYSEMKT:TUR) a gain of almost 18% in dollar terms and far outpacing the Dow Jones Industrials. That follows a plunge late last year, as concerns about the geopolitical situation in the country and the surrounding region held back foreign investment. Yet as the situation in Turkey has stabilized, foreign investors have jumped back into the nation's stock market, with more than $1.3 billion coming into the stock exchange from foreign sources between February and April. The episode shows the turnaround potential of emerging markets as a long-neglected segment of the market, although the Turkish central bank's rate cut last week demonstrates the tug-of-war between the central bank and the Turkish government over the best policies to fight inflationary pressure.
Some developed markets have also outperformed the Dow Jones Industrials. Italy's market is up 14%, and even the euro's weakness has given U.S. investors in iShares MSCI Italy (NYSEMKT:EWI) a 12% gain. Europe has made progress toward emerging from recession, and Italy has recovered more than some of its economically healthier peers because of the close brush with sovereign-debt issues that cut confidence in the Mediterranean nation's stock market substantially. As long as the government can keep debt under control, Italy could keep outperforming the Dow.
The Dow Jones Industrials are an important measure of the stock market, but they're not the only one. Looking at international markets can give you valuable opportunities that most investors miss.