I've been an Apple
But how American is the iPhone, anyway? Right on the back of mine, it says "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China." Clearly Apple wants us to know that the brains of their outfit are right here in the good ol' US-of-A. They just have it built overseas. Y'know, to keep costs down.
But wait a minute. Like a lot of complex consumer electronics, it turns out that the iPhone is assembled from components developed (at least in part) and made by several other companies. Sure, some of those companies are based in the U.S. -- Broadcom
All four of those companies played a part in the development of the iPhone, all manufacture important pieces of it, and all of them are profiting from its popularity. Clearly, the iPhone isn't just a U.S. -- or a U.S.-designed-and-Chinese-manufactured -- technology story. It's a global product, produced by -- and producing profits for -- a global set of companies.
And yet most investors who want to ride the iPhone's coattails just buy Apple stock.
You see where I'm going with this?
It isn't just about the U.S. anymore -- if it ever really was
Once upon a time, U.S. companies were the world's leaders in almost every industry. But that time started to pass around the same time that Toyota
Some are giants that are household names, like Toyota or Unilever
And some aren't giants at all. Some are regional players that just aren't well-known in the U.S. If you look, you can find plenty of emerging growth stories that haven't yet come to the world's attention in hot markets like China and India. And many -- including those four big non-U.S. iPhone suppliers I named above -- aren't listed on major U.S. exchanges.
International investing is hard. But before you go shopping …
That last point is what makes overseas investing complicated, and that's what stops many folks from making the leap outside of the U.S.'s borders. Companies listed on foreign exchanges may follow different rules around disclosure and accounting. They may not report results as frequently or as thoroughly as we'd like. They may not even report them in English!
And of course, there are currency concerns. The dollar remains strong, which means that overseas companies represent something of an opportunity for Americans, all things being equal -- but exchange rate fluctuations introduce yet another complexity into investing abroad.
And yet, there are lots of intriguing opportunities out there. How can we profit without having to learn several different accounting standards and a dozen new languages?
The pros of hiring pros
I'm not the world's biggest fan of actively managed mutual funds, but there are situations where professional stock picking offers many investors a significant advantage. Adding global exposure to a long-term stock portfolio is one of those situations -- if you can find the right fund.
Evaluating international funds is a lot like evaluating any other mutual fund -- but it's particularly important to pay attention to total expenses and turnover rate, both of which can be unreasonably high on funds that are focused outside of the U.S. The popular Fidelity Overseas Fund (FOSFX) has a turnover rate of 113%, for example -- too high for my tastes.
Amanda Kish, the Fool's fund guru, has been poking through high-performing international funds looking for one to recommend, and she recently hit on an intriguing possibility. It's a small fund, managed by a veteran team, that isn't confined to a particular style -- it can buy large caps, small caps, growth stocks, values, in any part of the world.
Unlike a lot of its competitors, it isn't focused on the U.K. and Japan, but ranges more widely -- French oilfield services company (and Foolish favorite) CGG Veritas
What's the fund? I hate to do this, but I'm out of space -- you'll have to check out Amanda's full report in the new issue of the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter to find out. But don't fret -- grab a free trial and you can read it right away at no charge. Sign-up takes just seconds and gives you 30 days of full access. Click here to get started now.
Fool contributor John Rosevear's favorite sunglasses are from a French company that hasn't (yet) been sucked into the Luxottica empire. He owns shares of Apple and CGG Veritas. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Unilever is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. CGG Veritas is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.