Does losing AAA credit mean much to European ETFs?

Last Friday, the UK became the latest country to lose the prestigious AAA credit rating when Moody's Investors Service downgraded it to Aa1, citing sluggish economic growth and a growing debut burden.

By Benzinga Feb 25, 2013 6:45PM
By The ETF Professor

The U.K., the world's sixth-largest economy according to the CIA World Factbook, is not alone in having lost its AAA rating. Recent departures include Austria and France as well as the U.S. in 2011. Do not bet on any of those countries, or any of the others that have lost the perfect rating, to get it back anytime soon.

Canada lost its AAA rating from Standard & Poor's in 1992 and could not get it back until 2002, The Independent reported. The paper also notes that Australia lost its AAA rating in 1986 and did not get it back until 2003.

While one issue may have nothing to do with the other, as developed world government balance sheets have deteriorated, the ETF industry has grown. That means there are plenty of country ETFs with which to measure the impact of the loss of a AAA credit rating. And investors in the iShares MSCI U.K. Index Fund (EWU) will want to have a look at the following.

Note this list looks at the performance of select Europe ETFs following the first loss of the AAA rating. For example, if Moody's downgraded the country in January, but Standard & Poor's followed in April, this list measures the performance of the ETF from the first downgrade.

iShares MSCI France Index Fund (EWQ) S&P stripped France of the AAA rating in January 2012 while Moody's chimed in on the Eurozone's second-largest economy in November of that year.

EWQ, the lone France ETF, gained almost 10% in the month following the S&P downgrade, but three months later that ETF was barely in the green. Six months following the S&P downgrade, EWQ had lost 3.73 percent. On the bright side, EWQ has jumped 6.3% in the past year.

iShares MSCI Austria Capped Investable Market Index Fund (EWO) S&P took Australia's AAA rating at the same time it took the stellar rating from France.

However, the immediate performance of the iShares MSCI Austria Capped Investable Market Index Fund might deceive some investors into thinking the headlines did not matter. 

About 11 weeks following the news, EWO had surged nearly 19%.

The gains quickly wilted, though. A month later, EWO's post-downgrade gain was just 10.8%. And six months removed from the loss of the AAA rating, EWO was trading where it was pre-downgrade. To be fair, EWO, like EWQ, trades at much higher prices today than where it did before and in the months immediately following the loss of AAA credit.

iShares MSCI Spain Capped Index Fund (EWP) The performance of the iShares MSCI Capped Index Fund, in the wake of Spain no longer being an AAA nation, is arguably a case of good and bad timing. S&P made the call in early 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis. However the ETF was then positioned to take advantage of the March 2009 market bottom.

To that end, EWP was up more than 13% 90 days after the downgrade. Six months later, the ETF was up nearly 40%. Proving that all good things must come to an end, Spain's problems proved too much for EWP to handle over the past couple of years and EWP is now found residing at almost exactly the same price as where it traded a day after Spain ceased being an AAA country.

More from Benzinga
Feb 25, 2013 6:59PM

lets just keep raising gas prices ,they need to drain us for evertthing we have seems they all want to suck us dry one of these days i hope they have to drink that crap to survive



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