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Europe: For the brave investor, opportunities beckon

Rebounding financial stocks such as Lloyds have helped Dynamic European Value fund outperform its peers this year.

Stefan Wermuth/REUTERS

What are we looking for?

How European stock funds are navigating the region's debt woes and slowing economies.

Investors got some good news last summer when European Central Bank president Mario Draghi pledged to do whatever it takes to deal with the debt crisis. But more bad news reared its head recently when data indicated that the euro zone had slipped into a double-dip recession.

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The screen

We looked at the best and worst returns among European equity funds for the first 10 months of this year.

U.S. dollar, segregated, pooled and duplicate versions of the funds were excluded.

What did we find?

For the brave, Europe has been decent place to make money this year.

Even most of the laggards among the European funds fared better than the Canadian stock market.

Dynamic European Value, which lost 30 per cent in 2011, emerged at the head of the pack with a 23.4-per-cent gain. Chou Europe and Fidelity Europe, followed closely with 19.1-per-cent and 18.7-per-cent returns, respectively.

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The Dynamic fund suffered last year because it owned some financial stocks that took a big hit and mid-cap stocks that got sold off indiscriminately, says its portfolio manager Chuk Wong of GCIC Ltd. The contrarian investor, who had raised cash to 12 per cent by the end of 2011, has pared down that position to 2 per cent by snapping up bargain stocks.

The fund's winners this year have included global companies such as Duerr AG, a supplier of equipment for auto plant paintshops, and Spectris PLC, a maker of production-testing gear. Rebounding financials such as BNP Paribas SA and Lloyds Banking Group PLC, as well as emerging market plays like Turkey's Garanti Bank and airline Turk Hava Yollari, have also helped peformance. Whitbread PLC, which runs budget hotels and the Costa coffee chain, has had a nice run too.

Even though Europe's economy continues to be weak, it's still possible to make money from stocks of companies with customers around the world, Mr. Wong said. "We also know that the banking system has a lot of issues, but it doesn't mean every single bank is in trouble … Lloyds is a turnaround story, and BNP Paribas is the best bank in France."

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