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Know Your ETF's Euro Exposure

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The slide in the euro vs. the U.S. dollar has been huge this year and it may not be finished. Whether it falls further or rebounds, it's important to know how much exposure you have to the euro in your ETFs, in case you want to over- or underweight exposure.

Investors in foreign ETFs have two components to their return. One is the return in local currency of the asset the fund holds, such as stocks or bonds. The second is the currency return. For example, year to date, an American investor sees the MSCI U.S. Index is up 1.9%, while the foreign MSCI EMU Index is down 21.0%. To an investor whose base currency is euros, the foreign MSCI U.S. Index is up 18.5% and the MSCI EMU Index is down 8.1%.

There are a whole slew of Europe ETFs that offer direct exposure, such as iShares MSCI EMU Index (EZU), Vanguard European ET (VGK) , etc. There is no ETF for Europe similar to the WisdomTree Japan Hedged Equity (DXJ), which hedges yen risk to isolate the local stock market return. There is, however, the WisdomTree International Hedged Equity (HEDJ), which offers similar international exposure as the MSCI EAFE, but with the currency exposure hedged.

When it comes to individual countries, several do not have direct euro exposure. iShares MSCI United Kingdom (EWU), iShares MSCI Sweden (EWD) and iShares MSCI Switzerland (EWL) are three countries that still retain their own currency. EWD has a small gain in 2010, while the rest are negative. Market Vectors Poland (PLND) has also suffered, although it is outperforming eurozone ETFs. Also doing well is SPDR S&P Emerging Europe (GUR).

You're not going to completely hide from euro problems in these funds, since many firms in these ETFs do business in Europe, but you'll likely suffer a smaller decline thanks to avoiding euro currency exposure. But that's as long as it remains a currency and debt crisis. If it becomes an economic crisis, the spillover into the rest of Europe will be unavoidable.

After Europe ETFs, the greatest euro exposure comes from all-world, ex-U.S. indices. These are typically heavily invested in Japan and the U.K., followed by the eurozone countries, plus Sweden and Switzerland. Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US ETF (VEU) has 25% eurozone exposure and 45% total European exposure. The iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA) has similar exposure. Vanguard Europe Pacific (VEA) has 65% Europe exposure, with more than a third in the eurozone. While there are several ex-U.S. and ex-Japan ETFs, there is no ex-E.U. option for investors in the U.S.

Stock quotes in this article: EFA, VEU, TAN 

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