Investing in foreign stocks provides access to a world of opportunities outside the United States, which may help boost returns and manage risk in your portfolio. However, it's important to understand the unique risk/return characteristics of foreign investments before sending a portion of your money overseas.
Reasons to go abroad
Here are some of the potential benefits of international investing.
Additional diversification. Other countries may be at a different stage in the business cycle than the U.S. economy. They could recover more quickly (or more slowly) from a recession.
Long-term growth potential. Some of the world's most rapidly growing economies are located in emerging markets that may be reaping the benefits of new technologies, a growing consumer base, or natural resources that are in high demand.
Possible hedge against a weaker dollar. The U.S. dollar has been strong in recent years, but having some investments denominated in foreign currencies may help offset (or even take advantage of) any future dips in its value.
Reasons to proceed with caution
Here are just some of the potential risks.
Politics and economic policies. A nation's political structure, leadership, and regulations may affect the government's influence on the economy and the financial markets.
Currency exchange. Just as a weak U.S. dollar could work for you, additional strengthening in the dollar could work against you. That's because any investment gains and principal denominated in a foreign currency may lose value when exchanged back.
Financial reporting. Many developing countries do not follow rigorous U.S. accounting standards, which often makes it more difficult to have a true picture of company and industry performance.
Some international investments may offer the chance for greater returns, but as with other investments, stronger potential comes with a greater level of risk. For example, over the past 30 years, foreign stocks have outperformed U.S. stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives 11 times. However, they have also underperformed 11 times, tying cash for the highest number of lowest-performing years during the same time period.
|Number of highest-performing years, 1989-2018
|Number of lowest-performing years, 1989-2018
If you decide to spread some of your investment dollars around the world, be prepared to hold tight during bouts of market volatility. And remember to rebalance your portfolio periodically to help align your asset allocation with your long-term investment strategy.
Performance is from January 1, 1989, to December 31, 2018. Cash is represented by the Citigroup 3-month Treasury Bill Index. Bonds are represented by the Citigroup Corporate Bond Composite Index. U.S. stocks are represented by the S&P 500 Composite Price Index. Foreign stocks are represented by the MSCI EAFE Price Index. All indexes are unmanaged, accurate reflections of the performance of the asset classes shown. Returns reflect past performance, which does not indicate future results. Taxes, fees, brokerage commissions, and other expenses are not reflected. Investors cannot invest directly in any index.
The principal value of cash alternatives may fluctuate with market conditions. Cash alternatives are subject to liquidity and credit risks. It is possible to lose money with this type of investment. The return and principal value of stocks may fluctuate with market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. U.S. Treasury securities are guaranteed by the federal government as to the timely payment of principal and interest, whereas corporate bonds are not. The principal value of bonds may fluctuate with market conditions. Bonds are subject to inflation, interest rate, and credit risks. Bonds redeemed prior to maturity may be worth more or less than their original cost. Diversification is a strategy used to help manage investment risk; it does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.