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Across borders: international investing

In this article
  • Globalization offers new opportunities
  • The benefits and risks on international investing
  • International, regional and country funds
  • Domestic vs. foreign stock performance

Investing internationally has grown rapidly in recent years. The bias for investing only within our national borders is diminishing, as an increasing number of individual and institutional investors boost their international exposure to pursue their investment goals. Behind the trend toward international investing are the realizations that the global market offers greater opportunities for investment and that diversification abroad can help manage risk. Keep in mind that foreign investing is subject to certain risks, such as currency fluctuation and social and political changes.

Shift in U.S. and world market capitalizations

The Projected data for the year 2030 are calculated using the rate of growth since 1975.
Source: ChartSource®, DST Systems Inc. Market-share data is from the World Federation of Exchanges. Estimate for 2030 is based on the rate of growth of non-U.S. markets vs. the U.S. since 1975. Past performance is not a guarantee of future returns. Copyright © 2015, DST Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.(CS000175).

Globalization offers new opportunities

The above chart shows that the U.S. stock market capitalization is shrinking relative to the rest of the world.

In 2015, foreign markets represented 58% of the world's investment opportunities. It is projected that by 2030 the U.S. stock market will represent just 38% of the world market.*

*Sources: DST Systems, Inc. Market size data obtained from the World Federation of Exchanges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of a particular investment, and past performance does not guarantee future results. Individuals cannot invest directly in any index.

Expanded investing arenas: Diversification and higher return potential

The quest for diversification and potentially higher returns are driving forces behind the internationalization process. Because international markets do not always move in sync -- some may zig while the others zag -- diversification on a global scale may help offset the effect of a downturn in the U.S. market.

Investors in international securities may face additional risks, such as higher taxation, less liquidity, political problems, and currency fluctuations, that do not affect domestic investors. But despite these risks, the potential for higher returns and diversification may make these markets attractive to suitable investors.

As investors around the world become more sophisticated and aggressively explore investment opportunities, they find the global arena can offer comparable and sometimes higher returns than domestic stocks. MSCI's Europe, Australasia, Far East (EAFE) Index, which tracks 23 major world markets, posted a 7.79% average annual rate of return for the 30 years ended December 31, 2015, compared with the 10.33% average annual return of Standard & Poor's Composite Index of 500 Stocks (S&P 500).** Past performance does not guarantee future results.

**Sources: MSCI; Standard & Poor's (the 30-year period ended 12/31/15).

This difference in returns is due in part to differences in economic and market environments in countries around the world. The Japanese market throughout the 1990s, for example, was depressed due to the country's economic recession. Many Japanese stocks became undervalued, providing a buying opportunity. In 1999 the Japanese stock market bounced back, producing a gain of more than 60%.***

***Sources: MSCI; Standard & Poor's. Based on total returns of MSCI EAFE & MSCI Japan Index in U.S. dollars.

Global investing: International, regional and country funds

Many financial professionals recommend that suitable long-term investors allocate 20% to 25% of an equity portfolio to international stocks. One way you can include "international" exposure in your portfolio is to invest in stocks of U.S. companies that derive a large portion of their annual revenue from overseas markets.

You can also buy stocks of foreign companies through American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) -- traded on the New York Stock Exchange -- and through mutual funds that invest in foreign companies. ADRs are negotiable certificates that represent the shares of a publicly traded foreign company. ADRs are issued in the U.S. and their underlying shares are held in U.S. banks.

But familiarizing yourself with international markets (including the regulatory, political, and economic environments) is time consuming, and access to company information can be difficult to obtain. An easier way to invest internationally is to consider buying shares of broadly diversified international mutual funds, which invest exclusively overseas, or global funds, which may buy a mix of foreign and U.S. stocks. These types of funds offer instant diversification through an array of foreign market stocks.

For more experienced and more aggressive investors wishing to target stocks in particular regions or countries, regional or country funds are also available. These funds are designed to take advantage of specific opportunities in the world's developed and emerging markets, but they do carry an increased risk of volatility.

International Investing

This chart compares calendar-year returns on the S&P 500 and the EAFE from 1986 through 2015.
Source: ChartSource®, DST Systems, Inc. For the period from January 1, 1986, through December 31, 2015. U.S. stocks are represented by the S&P 500 index. Foreign stocks are represented by the MSCI EAFE index. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Copyright © 2016, DST Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.(CS000176).


Domestic vs. foreign relative stock performance

This second chart shows when foreign markets (EAFE) outperformed or underperformed domestic markets (S&P 500).
Source: ChartSource®, DST Systems, Inc. Based on 36-month rolling periods from the period ended January 31, 1986, through the period ended December 31, 2015. U.S. stocks represented by the S&P 500 index. Foreign stocks represented by the MSCI EAFE index. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Copyright © 2016, DST Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions. (CS000173)

International investing: A new set of risks

International investing presents unique risks and considerations. A U.S. investor's foreign-investment return depends on both the local currency's exchange value against the U.S. dollar and the stock price in the local currency.

In the past, currency fluctuations have tended to balance out over extended periods of time, although there are no guarantees this will always be the case. A long-term perspective and diversifying international investments can help manage expectations and risks.

© 2016 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the express permission of DST Systems, Inc.

Please always consider the charges, risk, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before purchasing any financial product, including mutual funds or variable annuities. For a prospectus containing this and other information, please contact a financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.

This article is provided for your informational purposes only.

Please be advised that this material is not intended as legal or tax advice.  Accordingly, any tax information provided in this material is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer.  The tax information was written to support the promotion or marketing of the transactions(s) or matter(s) addressed and you should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent advisor.

Please be advised that this materials is not intended as legal or tax advice. Accordingly, any tax information provided in this material is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The tax information was written to support the promotion or marketing of the transactions(s) or matter(s) addressed and you should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent advisor.

AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company (NY, NY) issues life insurance and annuity products. Securities offered through AXA Advisors, LLC, member FINRA, SIPC. AXA Equitable and AXA Advisors are affiliated and does not provide legal or tax advice. does not provide legal or tax advice.

GE 65979 (06/2015)