The new year has been kind to foreign stocks so far. Although all the major regions of the world are posting year-to-date gains through yesterday’s close (Jan. 29), equity markets in Latin America and Eastern Europe/Russia are well ahead of the rest of the field, based on a set of exchange-traded products.
The top year-to-date performer at the moment: iShares Latin America 40 (ILF). The ETF has popped 11.0% so far in 2019. The fund is near its highest close since last May, more than reversing the sell-off that weighed on ILF in late-2018.
A close second-place performer year to date is Central and Eastern Europe Fund (CEE), a closed-end fund that offers the only US exchange-listed play on Europe’s eastern markets and Russia in one portfolio. A solid rally has also lifted this fund by just a few basis points shy of 11%; CEE ended the trading session near its highest close since last April.
Global equity markets overall are firmly in positive territory so far in 2019, based on Vanguard Total World Stock (VT). The ETF is up roughly 6% in January through yesterday’s close.
US stocks are up year to date, but American equities are currently posting the softest gain in 2019 vs. the other major regions of the world. SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) is up 5.4% in 2019 as of Jan. 29.
Although the year is off to a bullish start, prices appear to be climbing a wall of worry. As Bloomberg reports,
Lackluster corporate earnings in January have added to concerns about the health of the global economy, and all eyes will be on tech giants including Facebook and Microsoft when they report today. That will be the backdrop for the Fed’s policy decision and its assessment of the U.S. economy, while the arrival of Chinese negotiators in Washington for talks to resolve the ongoing trade dispute adds another layer of complexity.
“Such is the extent of uncertainty across global markets at the moment that investor sentiment is struggling to gain any meaningful traction,” Simon Ballard, a macro strategist at First Abu Dhabi Bank, said in a note. “The overarching veil of caution suggests that near-term positive momentum potential will likely remain limited. It is still very much global trade and the global rates outlook that sit at the heart of investor focus.”