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Investors Punish Italy ETF

Together, these stories show that Italy is gaining attention in a way that it hadn't before. It was lumped together with other troubled counties via the PIGS acronym, but Italy was in the shadow of Greece, Spain and Portugal because Italy's situation isn't as bleak. The country's budget deficit is not far out of the bounds of the Maastricht Treaty, which limits annual deficits to 3%, and no one is looking for a sovereign default or a banking crisis.

Although Italy has mostly stayed out of the headlines, investors have been punishing the iShares MSCI Italy (EWI) ETF. Over the past three months, EWI is the second worst performing Europe ETF, ahead of only iShares MSCI Spain (EWP). In terms of long-term momentum, EWI is one of the weakest international country ETFs.

Going forward, EWI and EWP will be the most volatile European country ETFs in the near term. They are under pressure due to Greece's problems and should Greece fall, one or the other will become the next nation at the center of global attention, with a weaker euro dragging returns on all European assets.

On the flip side, some of this pressure is already priced into these ETFs. A positive outcome for Greece would be most bullish for EWI and EWP because negativity is already priced into shares. Over the past three months, for instance, the losses in EWI and EWP are about double those of iShares MSCI Belgium (EWK) (EWK).

More broadly speaking, if Italy adds increasing weight to the worries of investors, it will add more selling pressure to the euro, which will drag on the returns of all ETFs holding assets priced in euros.

-- Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.
At the time of publication, Dion does not have positions in any of the equities mentioned.

Don Dion is president and founder of Dion Money Management, a fee-based investment advisory firm to affluent individuals, families and nonprofit organizations, where he is responsible for setting investment policy, creating custom portfolios and overseeing the performance of client accounts. Founded in 1996 and based in Williamstown, Mass., Dion Money Management manages assets for clients in 49 states and 11 countries. Dion is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts and Maine and has more than 25 years' experience working in the financial markets, having founded and run two publicly traded companies before establishing Dion Money Management.

Dion also is publisher of the Fidelity Independent Adviser family of newsletters, which provides to a broad range of investors his commentary on the financial markets, with a specific emphasis on mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. With more than 100,000 subscribers in the U.S. and 29 other countries, Fidelity Independent Adviser publishes six monthly newsletters and three weekly newsletters. Its flagship publication, Fidelity Independent Adviser, has been published monthly for 11 years and reaches 40,000 subscribers.
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