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Switzerland: Safe Haven for ETF Investors

NEW YORK (TheStreet) --- In light of Greece's debt woes, Europe has been under a cloud of uncertainty. While I urge investors to steer clear of the EU at this time, risk-tolerant ETF investors looking to expand their portfolios' geographic reach into this region may want to put a fund like the iShares MSCI Switzerland Index Fund (EWL) on the radar.

Switzerland is outside of the troubled eurozone and, in the near term, EWL will likely behave in a more stable manner than products designed to track their euro-based neighbors.

Already, the fund has shown promise as a safe-haven for Europe-hungry investors. Over the most recent 90-day period, EWL has handedly outperformed the EU-tracking iShares MSCI EMU Index Fund (EZU). Over this time frame, shares of EWL gained 8% while EZU has dropped over 1%.

Much of EWL's vigor can be traced back to Switzerland's independence from the troubled EU. However, the fund boasts another quality that makes it a strong option specifically for the current global market choppiness.

By tracking the largest and most liquid companies hailing from Switzerland, EWL's index sets aside a particularly heavy chunk of its portfolio to companies based in defensive sectors such as consumer staples and health care. Together, these two industries account for over half of the fund's index. Food goliath Nestle, and healthcare giants Roche, and Novartis (NVS) represent three of the fund's 10 largest positions.

The Swiss marketplace appears well suited for investors looking to test the investing waters in Europe in the near term. However, it is crucial to note that there are headwinds facing this nation that may stand in the way as we look to longer time horizons.

The exodus from the crisis-ridden euro has been a boon for Switzerland's domestic currency, the Swiss franc. Over the past year, this currency player has been locked in an upward path, recently taking out previous all-time highs against the euro.

Investors looking to track the franc's climb should keep a watch on the CurrencyShares Swiss Franc Trust (FXF).

In most cases, a currency's dramatic appreciation would ignite concerns as investors and analysts debate the detrimental effects it can have on international trade as well as broader economic growth. Interestingly, however, any negativity surrounding the franc's ascent has been largely absent. Although it has highlighted concerns, Switzerland's central bank has done little to slow the franc's ascension. Last week, the Swiss National Bank opted to make no changes to its current monetary policy, essentially giving the currency the go-ahead to move higher.

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