ETF Investors Seek Out Europe's Most Indebted Places

Tourists sit on rocks with a view of the Parthenon temple in Athens. Photograph by Angelos Tzortzinis/Bloomberg

While much of Europe is on holiday, investors in the continent's most debt-laden countries are getting relief from its debt crisis. This past month has seen a surge in the exchange-traded funds that track Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain, four of five beleaguered economies that, with the addition of Portugal (which doesn't have an ETF), have been given the acronym "PIIGS."

Stocks in each of the countries rose more than 5 percent in the past month. That tops the MSCI Europe Index's 1.5 percent gain and the S&P 500 's 2 percent loss. The investor perception of Europe is starting to change, as many think its nascent recovery has legs. In addition, credit risk may have bottomed out for these formerly shamed countries, allowing for a higher bounce-back than in the broader market.

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