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TheStreet Open House

Investors Seek Shelter in Swiss ETFs

Stock quotes in this article: EWL, FXF, IEV

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Switzerland and the Swiss franc remain economic bright spots amidst the otherwise troubled European continent.

ETF investors have the ability to access this nation and its currency using the iShares MSCI Switzerland Index Fund (EWL) and the CurrencyShares Swiss Franc Trust (FXF).

Throughout the recent spell of economic turmoil, EWL has fallen along with other European nation-focused funds. However, comparing the fund's most recent three months performance to that of a broad eurozone fund such as the iShares MSCI EMU Index (EZU), EWL's performance has been several percentage points better. One reason has been the investors exiting eurozone banks for the safety of Swizterland, which has lifted the Swiss franc.

iShares Switzerland provides investors with the opportunity to profit from the performance of the broad Swiss market by tracking a basket of some of the largest publicly traded companies based in the nation.

According to the fund's sector breakdown, EWL is a relatively defensive fund, with health care and consumer staples firms representing the two largest slices of the fund's total portfolio. Together, these two sectors account for over 50% of its total assets.

In total, EWL's index consists of 38 individual holdings. However, the fund is particularly heavily weighted towards its top positions which include Nestle (NSRGY), Roche, and Novartis (NVS). Together, these three firms represent 45% of the fund's total index.

Given the fund's heavy exposure to staples and health care, it is evident that the success of EWL hinges on the state of Switzerland and the rest of the globe's consumer sector.

In recent weeks, however, one of the crucial factors behind the Switzerland's ability to weather the current economic headwinds facing the rest of Europe has been the strength from its currency, the Swiss Franc.

Although the nation borders EU giants France, Germany and Italy, Switzerland remains independent from the European Monetary Union and continues to rely on the Swiss franc as its currency.

In recent months, the euro has struggled as members of the currency bloc continue to battle against their respective looming debt issues. Seeing the euro's decline against the franc as a threat to its economy and exports, the Swiss National Bank had been taking dramatic action. Up until recently, the bank had been selling francs to buy euros in hopes of providing some support for the troubled currency.

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