Canadian ETF Beckons Investors

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In the past, I have lauded Canada as an attractive destination for conservative investors looking for safe developed market exposure. Boasting a strong financial system and a relatively stable government, the Canadian markets have managed to hold up relatively well compared to troubled regions like the European Union.

Along with Latin America , our neighbor to the north could prove to be attractive as we gear up for the final weeks of this year. However as evidenced by the recent spattering of news, caution is still warranted for ETF investors hoping to venturing into this corner of the developed world

At the start of the week, investors received some disappointing news regarding the near-term prospects for Canada's economy. On Monday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development announced that it had taken the axe to the nation's growth forecasts. The group pointed to easing growth in the U.S. and a strong Canadian dollar as being among the most glaring hurdles.

The mood towards Canada is not entirely glum. On the contrary, the OECD helped to ease some of the alarm resulting from its downward revision, mentioning that the expected 2.2% GDP expansion in Canada's economy in 2011 will still make it a top performer among the Group of Seven nations.

It will take time to determine whether Canada lives up to the predictions by the OECD. In the nearer term, I encourage investors to keep a close watch over the earnings calendar.

During the latter half of this week, investors will gain important insight into the state of the Canadian marketplace when a group of top banks, including Royal Bank of Canada ( RY), Toronto-Dominion Bank ( TD), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce ( CM) and Bank of Nova Scotia ( BNS) are scheduled to report earnings. The excitement will spill over into the first full week of December when the Bank of Montreal ( BMO) is expected to report its quarterly earnings numbers and outlook next Tuesday.

Many have expressed concerns that the firmness of the Canadian financial system has been tested by the deluge of troubling macroeconomic turbulence that has plagued the global markets in recent months. The Globe and Mail notes that while analysts have been quick to say that a repeat of 2008 is not in the cards, the outlook for this sector is cloudy as continued economic headwinds from regions like the EU remain a cause for concern.

As I noted in Monday's "Five ETFs to Watch," the iShares MSCI Canada Index Fund ( EWC) has managed to perform relatively well compared to other non-U.S. developed market ETFs. With nearly one-third of the fund's portfolio set aside for financials, the performances of these banking heavyweights can play a notable role in determining whether or not EWC can hold onto this leadership position.

It may not be the best time to dive headfirst into a fund like EWC. However, I encourage investors to keep Canada on the radar. With regions like the European Union swinging wildly from headline to headline, our northern neighbor appears to be standing out as the least-worst developed market option for internationally minded investors.

Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.

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At the time of publication, Dion Money Management did not own any equities mentioned.

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