Introducing EAFE

July 23, 2007

One more minor point and I'll get off of my international soapbox. I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: When are they going to start reporting on the returns of the MSCI EAFE index on the evening news?

The Dow was up X%, the S&P 500 was up Y% and the MSCI EAFE was up Z%.

U.S. investors have somewhere close to 20% of their money invested overseas, and earlier this year, the Washington Post reported that a stunning 77 cents of every new dollar invested was chasing returns (I mean investing) in the international space.  And yet , even when you go to a sophisticated site like Yahoo! Finance, you get the Dow, the Nasdaq, the S&P 500 and the 10-year Bond. Wither international?

Some may point out that EAFE doesn't price live during the trading day, as huge swaths of its market are closed. That's true, of course, but there are two easy solutions: either you run a static EAFE showing yesterday's prices or you run prices for the iShares EFA ETF. The ETF wouldn't be perfect: it has expense ratio and tracking error and such.  But with 6 million shares trading every day, I think it has the liquidity to offer accurate price discovery, and the expense ratio is only a small and fixed drag on performance. In the end, I think, the pricing of EFA offers a solid best estimate of the value of the international markets when those markets are closed.

Note: I'm not saying MSCI EAFE is the best benchmark of international returns, or that EFA is the best international ETF. But EAFE is certainly the dominant international index, and EFA certainly has the liquidity to make a claim on price discovery.

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