By JACK HOUGH
As world stocks plunged Friday, investors craved safety, not yield. At one point, buyers of 10-year Treasury notes accepted yields of barely 1.9%. That's a record low. It's also more than a percentage point short of the past year's inflation rate, suggesting buyers are settling for slightly negative real returns so long as their principal is safe.
Euro-zone banks are close to the opposite end of the popularity spectrum. They trade at less than half the book value of their assets, perhaps because investors doubt those assets will be worth their stated values for long. Some analysts think Greece could default on its debt as soon as this year--perhaps even this month. That could trigger a financial crisis among weak peers like Portugal and Spain and cause steep losses for stronger euro-zone countries like Germany.
All of that makes now feel like an awful time to consider buying European shares. But under the perverse logic of contrarian investing, that might make now a pretty good time for the same.
Banks? Nein. Not knowing what their assets are worth makes it difficult to say whether they're sufficiently cheap, which is a must for bottom-fishers. But European industrials sell for around nine times forecasted earnings, and if the euro continues its recent decline against the dollar, some of those industrial firms will find it easier to export their goods.
European telecoms are eight times earnings, and unlike industrials, have dim prospects for growth. But they have something else to reward investors: gigantic dividend yields. Telecoms pay about 8% in Europe as a whole and more than 10% among euro members.
Investors who are so inclined can make broad bets on European shares using iShares exchange-traded funds. There's the S&P Europe 350 Index Fund (IEV)
For stock pickers, below are listed eight European telecoms that trade as American Depository Receipts. Dividend yields average well over 9%. Kindly use this list as a starting point for further research, not a buy sheet.
|Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGY)||Germany||$ 11.68||50.8||-12||15||8.5|
|France Telecom SA (FTE)||France||$ 17.09||44.2||-17||7||11.6|
|Koninklijke KPN N.V. (KKPNY)||Netherlands||$ 13.78||20.2||-5||8||8.3|
|Portugal Telecom, SGPS (PT)||Portugal||$ 8.20||7.3||-30||8||11.4|
|Telecom Italia S.p.A. (TI)||Italy||$ 11.12||21.1||-19||12||7.6|
|Telefonica S.A. (TEF)||Spain||$ 19.09||87.3||-16||8||10.3|
|Telekom Austria AG (TKAGY)||Austria||$ 20.86||4.4||-21||16||10.3|
|Vodafone Group Plc (VOD)||U.K.||$ 26.03||133.1||5||12||5.5|
Source: Thomson Reuters