If the U.S. economy and the global economy were truly in good shape, why is the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) performing so admirably in 2014? If  U.S. economic expansion as well as gross world product were actually succeeding, why is Vanguard Extended Duration Treasury (EDV) the envy of capital appreciation seekers? Lastly, if geopolitical tensions are genuinely easing in Ukraine, why are European ETFs still underperforming other regional stock assets?

Europe Still Failing To Launch        
            Monday % (3:00 EST)
SDPR S&P Emerging Middle East Africa (GAF)   3.1%
iShares S&P Latin America (ILF)     1.6%
iShares MSCI Asia excl Japan (AAXJ)     1.0%
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)         0.4%
Vanguard Europe (VGK)       0.3%

We can take the first two questions together. Neither the current set of circumstances in the U.S, nor the world at large, suggest genuine economic improvement. Stateside, for example, inflation-adjusted median family income has dipped during the five-plus year recovery and more working-aged-individuals have left the workforce than have joined it. Central bank monetary policy to reduce lending rates gets the award for boosting stock and real estate assets. However, now that the U.S. Federal Reserve is set to exit emergency-level stimulus, investors have been seeking ways to protect themselves. Enter GLD and EDV.

The third question is a shot across the media bow. Visit any financial web site to discover that Monday’s follow-up stock rally is supposedly attributable to Russia backing away a bit from Ukraine. News of this nature could be expected to bolster the fortunes of European equities more than all others. Instead, European stocks are the least successful performers on the world stage. The reason? Italy has fallen back into a recession, while both France and Germany are showing signs of respective slowdowns. France (EWQ) and Germany (EWG) are each below respective trendlines; both have corrected by at least 10%.

EWQ 50 200

Granted, wars around the globe – Iraq, Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, Algeria – have created more demand for safe havens like gold and U.S. Treasuries. Yet before the escalation of these conflicts, long-term yields were falling and gold prices were either climbing or holding steady. Poor performing commodities via PowerShares DB Commodities (DBC) and European woes are more directly tied to economic contraction concerns across the globe.

On the other hand, there is one clear-cut case where investors are looking beyond worries and embracing possibilities. Emerging markets. Get a gander of the stock assets appearing on the new 52-week high list.

52-Week High List: Climbing The “Great Wall” Of Worry  
            Monday % (3:00 EST)
Guggenheim Chian Small Cap (HAO)     1.3%
Guggenheim China All-Cap (YAO)     1.2%
iShares MSCI Chna Index (MCHI)     1.2%
SPDR S&P China (GXC)       1.2%
iShares China Small Cap (ECNS)     0.9%
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)         0.4%

Attractive valuations and technical uptrends are beginning to supersede phrases like “hard landing.” And that’s just in Asia where China has a over-sized impact on an ability to trade by its neighbors. Perhaps ironically, beaten-down Latin American shares are also trending higher. Although iShares Latin America (ILF) has managed to climb above a 200-day moving average on several occasions over the past three years, the fact that an investor can buy ILF for less than its cost in August 2011 may be a value-oriented indication of risk-reward fund flow in the months ahead.

ILF 200

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Disclosure StatementETF Expert is a web log (”blog”) that makes the world of ETFs easier to understand. Gary Gordon, MS, CFP is the president of Pacific Park Financial, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC. Gary Gordon, Pacific Park Financial, Inc., and/or its clients may hold positions in the ETFsmutual funds, and/or any investment asset mentioned above. The commentary does not constitute individualized investment advice. The opinions offered herein are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities. At times, issuers of exchange-traded products compensate Pacific Park Financial, Inc. or its subsidiaries for advertising at the ETF Expert web site. ETF Expert content is created independently of any advertising relationship.

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