Dollars and Sense: Should you dump your foreign investments?

There’s been a lot of media musing about the state of the greenback: Have we finally hit bottom or is there more downside still to come? The chart of the UUP (the US Dollar ETF) shows that it sure seems to be rebounding despite being down today. If the price can make it through $24 resistance, it’s reasonable to expect further strengthening.

The dollar is sensitive to commodities–gold and oil in particular–as well as to interest rates. The dollar reacts inversely to commodities, so if commodities rise, the dollar falls, and vice versa. Rising short term interest rates tend to be good for the greenback since it attracts foreign investors to US markets. (Since US equities and treasuries are dollar-denominated, foreign investors must convert their currency into the greenback in order to buy them.) But the reverse is also true: A US investor can lose money on those foreign investments based on currencies that are falling with respect to the greenback, even if those assets are appreciating. Why? Because eventually the assets will be sold and the proceeds converted back into dollars. Depending on the exchange rate, the investor can end up with a much smaller than expected profit or even a loss!

Okay. I have some foreign holdings–what should I do?
Assuming that the dollar is indeed strengthening what should you do if you have a portfolio that includes a mix of international stocks and funds? Here are my recommendations based on what the charts of various currency and country ETFs are telling me:

Buy: There isn’t one country ETF in the world that I would buy right now. The markets that are currently underperforming the least are the US (although the recent rally may be short-lived as evidenced by topping tails on the weekly charts) and our south of the border amigo, Mexico.

Hold: All of the following countries’ charts are sitting at major support levels. If I held assets in any of these, I’d be watching them closely and on the ready to lighten up or unload on any sort of breakdown. [Note: The country ETF and currency ETF (if it has one) are in brackets.]
Australia (EWA, FXA)
Brazil (EWZ)
Canada (EWC, FXC)
China (FXI)–on the verge of breaking down
Mexico (EWW, FXM)–best of breed
Singapore (EWS)
South Africa (EZA)–very close to breaking below head & shoulders level
Taiwan (EWT)
US (QQQQ, DIA, IWM, SPY: UUP)–IWM (Russell 2000) and the Qs (Nasdaq 100) look the best

Sell: Although most of the stocks below have been underperforming for a while, there’s nothing in their charts that signal a turnaround any time soon. (The below includes all of Europe.)
Belgium (EWK, FXE)
Chile (ECH)
France (EWQ, FXE)
Germany (EWG, FXE)
Great Britain (EWU, FXB)
Hong Kong (EWH)
Italy (EWI, FXE)
Japan (EWJ, FXY)
Malaysia (EWM)
Russia (RSX)
S. Korea (EWY)
Spain (EWP, FXE)
Sweden (EWD, FXS)
Emerging Markets (EEM)–this ETF tracks the more developing countries; it is not a frontier fund

Many of these ETFs have their short and double-short counterparts, but I wouldn’t be too hasty to jump into them as most have risen substantially in a short period of time. For right now, sitting on the sidelines isn’t such a bad idea especially if you’d rather be watching the Olympics than the market.

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