European markets have been under the microscope for several months now, as the entire continent has seemingly teetered on the brink of fiscal and economic chaos. Many of the battered economies are starting the long road to recovery, taking steps to stabilize financial markets and bring swelling budget deficits under control. But anxiety continues to run high throughout Europe, with many investors not yet convinced that sufficient steps have been taken to right the ship.
With lingering worries over the economic slowdown, employment figures have become a critical measure of progress; in much of the developed world, job creation has been slow to materialize. England is one economy that still holds a rather high unemployment rate of 7.8%, but is expected to drop that figure in the coming months. Cutting down unemployment starts with tackling jobless claims, the number of people who claim unemployment benefits, but are actively seeking work. In July, the country was able to slash jobless claims by 3,800, creating a more positive outlook for the overall economy [see also Non-Euro Europe ETF Options].
Today, the British government will announce the jobless claims for the month of August; the figure is expected to drop by 3,000. If the report comes in as expected, it could be good news for British equities, as it will signal that the economy is growing, with more jobs being filled in the past month. But if these numbers do not fulfill expectations, it could spell trouble for UK markets, as it will reignite fears that the recovery may be coming to a halt [see also ETFs vs. Index Funds: What’s The Difference?].
With anxiety running high ahead of this announcement, the iShares MSCI United Kingdom Index Fund (EWU) should be active in Wednesday trading. This fund tracks the performance of the British equity market, focusing on the financials (22.7%) and energy (17.9%) sectors of the market. EWU’s top holdings feature major firms like Royal Dutch Shell, AstraZeneca, and British American Tobacco. The ETF holds just over 100 securities, the majority of which focus on giant market capitalization companies [see all of EWU's holdings here]. This year EWU has just about broken even, a rather impressive performance considering some of the performances turned in by other funds in the Europe Equities ETFdb Category.
[For more ETF insights, sign up for our free ETF newsletter]
Disclosure: Photo courtesy of Simon Wakefield. No positions at time of writing.