Did you sell in May? Do you plan to come back on Labor Day (in the U.S.) or on St. Leger's Day (in the U.K.)? If so, let's see how you did and whether what's ahead is really worth coming back to.
This year, there's one week's difference between Labor Day (this coming Monday) and St. Leger Stakes, which is on Sept. 10. The famous horse racing event in England that was at the origin of one of the stock market's most enduring adages is the longest and the last of the British flat-track racing season.
Let's assume you sold in May and are coming back today. If you sold the S&P 500, you missed out on a rally of nearly 6%. London's FTSE 100 rallied by more than 11% -- but then the pound has depreciated vs. the dollar by around the same percentage, so you probably didn't miss a lot if you're an American investor.
The only major index you didn't miss out on, (on the contrary, you gained if you stayed away) is Italy's FTSE MIB, which was down nearly 5% in the period. That is mainly on fears about the health of Italian banks, plagued by large non-performing loans.
The big question on investors' minds as they come back from various holidays is whether stocks still go up from here.
They might, but approach carefully. With the Federal Reserve eager to pull the trigger on raising interest rates, of course tomorrow's jobs number will be watched even more closely than it usually is. A rate hike in September depends on the economy showing the ability to create jobs at a good pace.
For investors, it might be a good idea to spread the risk a little bit by looking outside the U.S., and Europe could be a good bet.
Data from capital flows tracker EPFR quoted by the Wall Street Journal show that European equities have seen outflows for 29-straight weeks. Year to date, European equities saw outflows of $86 billion. This means about 70% of the money that poured into the asset class last year has pulled out.
But with the Fed on the brink of raising interest rates and uncertainty mounting in the U.S. because of the presidential election, parking some funds in Europe could be a sensible idea.
Adventurous investors could even consider Italy, but it would be a very risky bet that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will win his constitutional referendum in October or November. The iShares MSCI Italy Capped ETF (EWI) , down nearly 18% year to date, is the best way to get general exposure.
A relatively safer bet would be German stocks. The eurozone's biggest economy is ticking along rather nicely and benefits from the European Central Bank's continuing monetary easing. The iShares MSCI Germany ETF (EWG) gives you access to 85% of Germany's stock market, with exposure to big and mid-size companies.France and Spain, whose economies are slowly improving, are worth a look too. The main ETFs for them are the iShares MSCI France ETF ( EWQ) and the iShares MSCI Spain Capped ETF ( EWP) .