-- It's easy to spot the European men on the beach: Just look for the Speedo swimsuits. But for investors, trying to find European exposure in a portfolio takes a bit more sleuthing.
Investors are justifiably concerned about events in Europe and what they might mean for their money.
But rather than just blindly fretting about Europe, savvy investors know it's best to quantify their exposure so they know how much they're risking in the embattled region. Investment professionals don't necessarily advise investors to make drastic changes to their portfolios. Due to events in Europe, though, it's good to know what you own.
"The situation seems unstable in Europe," says Paul Christopher, international strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors. "One thing for investors to do is check their holdings. That's a useful exercise."
Yet, pinpointing how reliant individual investments such as stocks, mutual funds, ETFs and money market funds are on Europe isn't as easy as looking up a stock price. While the information is available, it takes a bit of knowledge of where to look.
Below are some pointers on how to put a number on your portfolio's European exposure:
•Be prepared to search. Don't assume just because you own shares in a company you can figure out how much of its business comes from overseas. Only half of the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 disclose the percentage of revenue from foreign sources, says Howard Silverblatt of S&P. And an even smaller percentage break out the slice of revenue from Europe, he says.
Making things even more complicated: There's no standard way for companies to disclose foreign sales. Some group all non-U.S. sales while others, such as General Electric, break out European sales and show details for some units.
Investors can start the search with the company's quarterly statement, called the 10-Q, for free at the Securities and Exchange Commission website, www.sec.gov. Scroll down on the page until you see the "Search for Company Filings" link under the blue "Filings & Forms" heading. Enter the name of the company, follow the prompts and locate the 10-Q. If the company doesn't disclose European sales in the 10-Q, try the annual report, known as the 10-K.
•Know the benchmarks. Even if you find how much revenue a company hauls in from Europe, that information doesn't tell you much by itself. The comparisons are what matter. Just as you compare how a stock has performed vs. the S&P 500 to know how it did, you can compare a company's European revenue vs. the broad market index.
Based on the 50% of companies that reported the information for their most recent fiscal years, 46% of S&P 500 companies' revenue comes from foreign sales, Silverblatt says. Of that, 29% comes from Europe, meaning that roughly 14 cents of every $1 in sales by S&P 500 companies comes from Europe. "That's more exposure than most people realize," Silverblatt says.
•Examine your mutual funds and exchange traded funds. Mutual funds and ETFs can often be overweighted in shares of European companies even though it's not reflected in the name. Websites including USATODAY.com's Money section, Reuters.com and Morningstar will show you a geographic breakdown of where the companies owned by a fund are based.
Results can be telling. While the iShares MSCI EAFE Value Index fund owns stocks in Europe, Australia and the Far East, as the acronym implies, a majority, 67%, of the fund is invested in British, French, German, Spanish and Italian stocks. "The fund name doesn't always reflect the portfolio," says Lauren Young, editor at Reuters.
•Don't be fooled by domicile. There's a growing debate about how meaningful the nation in which a company is based is to investors, says Christine Benz of Morningstar. To that point, essentially all the stocks in the S&P 500 are based in the U.S., but still, more than a tenth of revenue comes from Europe. Big American companies such as McDonald's and Coca-Cola get more than half their revenue from abroad, she says.
•Remember that "safe" money might be parked in Europe. Prime money market funds, which don't invest in U.S. government securities, are big owners of European bank debt, says Axel Merk of Merk Funds. These so-called prime money market funds reduced their exposure to European bank debt to 42.1% at the end of August, Fitch Ratings says, from 47.2% at the end of July.
Investors should study the prospectus from their money fund to see how it compares, Merk says. It's not that investors should panic. After all, the odds of the European banks being bailed out if things get worse are good, he says. But, still, investors are taking greater risk if they're heavily exposed to Europe and should make sure they're aware and getting paid for that risk, he says.
Especially at a time when Europe is just the latest crisis in a string of shocks to the financial system: "People have to take charge as investors," he says.