Australia, Canada ETFs Provide Relief

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Last week, in my review of Greece's economic drama, I encouraged investors to steer clear of the region.

Although aggressive investors may be tempted to target the euro-bloc, with Greece, Italy, and other vulnerable EU members struggling to resolve their respective issues, the region as a whole remains particularly vulnerable to volatility. Ultimately, those with a stomach for risk would be better off turning to emerging markets. In a number of cases, developing nations have actually witnessed standout stability.

Conservative investors may be less willing to dive into emerging markets. Luckily for them, there are a handful of alternative advanced nations that may prove to be attractive at this time as well. Canada and Australia are two examples.

ETFs allow investors to gain ample access to the Canadian and Australian marketplaces. The iShares MSCI Canada Index Fund ( EWC) and the Guggenheim Canadian Energy Income ETF ( ENY) are two products investors can turn to in order to target this country's northern neighbor. Meanwhile, the iShares MSCI Australia Index Fund ( EWA) provides expansive exposure to the land from down under.

Despite being from two very different corners of the globe, Canada and Australia share a number of similarities. In the past, for example, the pair has enjoyed relatively stable governments and generally solid banking systems. Additionally, the two nations' economies rely heavily on commodities.

Pointing to the Canada's expansive energy and natural resource reserves, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has in the past labeled the nation an, "emerging energy superpower." Australia, meanwhile, is home to a number of the largest names hailing from the mining industry including BHP Billiton ( BHP) and Rio Tinto ( RIO). China's insatiable appetite for resources has been a major driver propelling this industry's growth.

The heavy influence that natural resources have on the Canadian and Australian marketplaces can be seen in examining the indices underlying EWC and EWA. In both funds, the energy and materials sectors together account for more than a third of their portfolios. In the case of EWA, this sector duo represents nearly half of its total assets.

In the face of looming economic turmoil and choppy global market action, EWC and EWA have shown resilience. Over the past month period, the two have managed to score more than 10% returns, handedly surpassing the EU-tracking iShares MSCI EMU Index Fund ( EZU) and perform in line with the Vanguard Total World ETF ( VT).

Although it has been the laggard of the duo, Canada appears to be the most promising option for investors looking for reliable international developed nation exposure at this time.

It has lead in the past, but looking ahead Australia's future strength will depend heavily on whether or not China can continue its breakneck economic growth. With persistent talk of a hard landing coming from economists, analysts, and market commentators, it is clear that there are plenty of lingering questions here.

Canada's economy is not without its challenges, either. On the contrary, as indicated by the nation's surprisingly dismal employment report from last week, the nation's jobs picture remains one to keep a close watch on. Despite these hurdles, however, Canada has remained a noticeably stable performer. As market sentiment continues to swing wildly from headline to headline, the nation's hardiness will likely provide welcomed relief.

Investors who have spent the past few months following the ongoing economic drama unfolding in Europe may understandably hold reservations towards the idea of venturing into foreign markets at this time. Canada and Australia, however, are examples of two international destinations that may be worth keeping an eye on.

Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.

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At the time of publication, Dion Money Management owned the iShares MSCI Canada Index Fund.

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