NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's been a trying period for internationally-minded investors in 2011.

With political turmoil sweeping through the Middle East and Northern Africa, debt issues gripping the European Union and Japan still struggling to recover after its devastating earthquake, finding investing solace outside the U.S. borders requires a careful eye and plenty of patience.

Although at this time the options appear slim, there are nations out there that have exhibited strength. By using ETFs, investors can keep these countries on the radar.


On a number of occasions last year, I pointed to Latin America as an attractive region for global investors. As analysts and commentators remained fixated on Europe's looming debt issues and concerns regarding the strength of China's growth picture, nations such as Brazil, Mexico and Chile managed to fly under the radar.

In 2011, the continent to the south of the U.S. has remained an attractive region for investors looking to avoid direct exposure to many of the events that are currently dominating headlines. Despite weakness during the first quarter of the year, Chile's marketplace has become a particularly impressive performer.

Investors can target this nation through the iShares MSCI Chile Investable Market Index Fund ( ECH).

As one of the world's leading copper producers, Chile has benefited as investors have scoured the globe looking for ways to take part in the broad commodities rally.

A hearty slice of ECH's portfolio is dedicated to miners and other firms in the materials sector. Utilities, however, comprise the largest slice of the fund's index. Exposure to this defensive sector will likely provide conservative investors with comfort.


As I've explained in recent weeks, Canada appears to be a promising destination for international investors. Designed to track the largest and most liquid companies from our northern neighbor, the iShares MSCI Canada Index Fund ( EWC) presents a stable way investors can tap into the nation's strengths.

On top of boasting a stable financial system, Canada has ample natural resources, making it an attractive destination for investors looking for developed market exposure to hard assets. EWC's index is topped by a combination of banks, energy firms, and miners. Royal Bank of Canada ( RV), Suncor Energy ( SU), Potash of Saskatchewan ( POT) and Barrick Gold ( ABX) are among the fund's largest individual components.


Given the continent's looming debt issues, ultra conservative investors may find Europe to be too treacherous a venture. However, for those with some tolerance for risk, there are corners of this continent that have exhibited strength recently.

For instance, as troubled nations such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece have dominated headlines, Sweden has become a standout performer. The nation's markets have continued to grow at a comfortable rate and last week the nation raised its interest rates for a sixth time.

The iShares MSCI Sweden Index Fund ( EWD) is the best option for investors looking to add Swedish exposure to their portfolios. For more on this fund, be sure to check out this week's video.


Although it stumbled slightly in the days immediately following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Thailand-tracking iShares MSCI Thailand Investable Market Index Fund ( THD) has returned to strength and enjoyed an impressive rebound. Currently, the fund is trading at brand new all-time highs.

This run-up has boded well for the fund in terms of momentum. THD is exhibiting strength in both our short and long term rankings.

Frontier nations such as Thailand can prove tricky to navigate given their inherently volatile nature. By using caution, and keeping exposure small, however, it is possible for risk tolerant investors to capture this nation's upside potential.

Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.

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At the time of publication, Dion Money Management owned iShares MSCI Canada Index Fund, iShares MSCI Sweden Index Fund and iShares MSCI Thailand Investable Market Index Fund.

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