Quality access to international marketsMon, Feb 3, 8:04 AM ET, by , BlackRock
On an almost daily basis, mainstream and financial news inundate us with reminders of geopolitical and economic uncertainties roiling the world. Investors are ever more confused about the potential impacts of these upheavals on their portfolios. As a result, many investors, perhaps inadvertently, have become even more entrenched in home-country biases. In fact, a recent study (by my colleagues Andrew Ang, PhD, who is the head of BlackRock's Factor Based Strategies Group, and Patrick Nolan) analyzed nearly 10,000 portfolios and observed that investors chronically overweight U.S. equities and lack meaningful factor tilts in their portfolios.
Yet, by shunning international markets and factors, investors are missing out on a potential diversifier in their portfolios, and an opportunity for long-term growth potential and added portfolio resilience.
Diversified quality exposure to international markets
One way to access international markets while navigating geopolitical and economic unknowns is through investing in a diversified group of high-quality companies via the quality factor. Investing in the quality factor offers above-average exposure to these highly profitable companies with stable earnings and low indebtedness. The quality factor has also historically been more resilient in challenging market environments while still providing much-needed upside market participation. Given prospects for a slowing or weakening global economy, the quality factor may be an attractive investment strategy for deploying capital in international markets.
The iShares Edge MSCI Intl Quality Factor ETF (Ticker: IQLT) is one quality strategy that provides investors with diversified, efficient access to international markets. The strategy seeks to track the MSCI World ex USA Sector Neutral Quality Index, which selects companies with high return on equity (ROE), low leverage, and low earnings variability while still providing diversification across sectors and countries.
Enhanced return potential
In addition to seeking diversification, investors may also deploy an international quality strategy for the potential to enhance investment returns over time. After all, the quality factor, in addition to the value, low size and momentum factors, is a potentially return-enhancing factor and may be deployed within a portfolio to seek outperformance over the broader market. Â We observe that international quality has historically outperformed the broader market over time in the chart below. In fact, international quality has outperformed the broader market by an annualized return of 1.9% with similar risk, providing investors not only with enhanced returns, but also with attractive risk-adjusted returns.
Resiliency for uncertain markets
Interestingly, the quality factor has historically sourced much of its long-term out-performance from its resilient characteristics. To better understand the factor's behavior, we observe the performance of international quality in both positive and negative markets using upside and downside capture ratios. International quality's lower downside capture demonstrates that international quality has historically outperformed in down markets – meaning that when the broader market posted a negative monthly return, the strategy declined less than the market. At the same time, the quality factor has historically participated in 99% of the upside indicating that the strategy has roughly kept pace with the broader market when the broader market posted a positive monthly return. Overall, this observation confirms that international quality has historically derived much of its outperformance through its ability to provide investors with much needed outperformance in periods of market stress and demonstrates the factor's resilience.
Quality for the long-term
In a slow growth, uncertain political environment, investing internationally can be challenging even for the most experienced investors. Factors like Quality, may offer a diversified and efficient way to capitalize on potential opportunities outside one's home market while also building resilience into a portfolio in the event of future bumps in the road. As such, deploying an international quality strategy may be appropriate for investors aiming to diversify their portfolios amid market uncertainty.
Holly Framsted, CFA, is the Head of US Factor ETFs within BlackRock's ETF and Index Investment Group and is a regular contributor to The Blog. Elizabeth Turner, CFA, Vice President and Omar Karhani, Associate contributed to this post.
 International quality represented by the MSCI World ex USA Sector Neutral Quality Index. The Index's inception date is 10/21/2014.
 The broader market is represented by the MSCI World ex USA Index.
 Source: Morningstar Direct, annualized excess return from 10/21/2014 to 12/31/2019. Annualized standard deviation is 11.77 and 12.01 for the MSCI Word ex USA Sector Neutral Quality Index and the MSCI World ex USA Index respectively from 10/21/2014 to 12/31/2019.Carefully consider the Funds' investment objectives, risk factors, and charges and expenses before investing. This and other information can be found in the Funds' prospectuses or, if available, the summary prospectuses which may be obtained by visiting www.iShares.com or www.blackrock.com. Read the prospectus carefully before investing. Investing involves risks, including possible loss of principal. There can be no assurance that performance will be enhanced or risk will be reduced for funds that seek to provide exposure to certain quantitative investment characteristics ("factors").Â Exposure to such investment factors may detract from performance in some market environments, perhaps for extended periods. In such circumstances, a fund may seek to maintain exposure to the targeted investment factors and not adjust to target different factors, which could result in losses. Diversification and asset allocation may not protect against market risk or loss of principal. This material represents an assessment of the market environment as of the date indicated; is subject to change; and is not intended to be a forecast of future events or a guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice regarding the funds or any issuer or security in particular. This document contains general information only and does not take into account an individual's financial circumstances. This information should not be relied upon as a primary basis for an investment decision. Rather, an assessment should be made as to whether the information is appropriate in individual circumstances and consideration should be given to talking to a financial advisor before making an investment decision. This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The opinions expressed are as of the date indicated and may change as subsequent conditions vary. The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from proprietary and nonproprietary sources deemed by BlackRock to be reliable, are not necessarily all-inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. As such, no warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions (including responsibility to any person by reason of negligence) is accepted by BlackRock, its officers, employees or agents. This material may contain âforward-lookingâ information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections and forecasts. There is no guarantee that any of these views will come to pass. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the viewer. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Index performance is shown for illustrative purposes only. You cannot invest directly in an index. The iShares Funds are distributed by BlackRock Investments, LLC (together with its affiliates, âBlackRockâ). The iShares Funds are not sponsored, endorsed, issued, sold or promoted by MSCI Inc., nor does this company make any representation regarding the advisability of investing in the Funds. BlackRock is not affiliated with MSCI Inc. Â©2020 BlackRock, Inc. All rights reserved. iSHARES and BLACKROCK are registered trademarks of BlackRock, Inc., or its subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere. All other marks are the property of their respective owners. ICRMH0120U-1059777-1/1
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