With the S&P 500 trading at just about the same level as it was a year ago, 2015 has turned out to be a very tough year for investors.
After enduring the sharpest correction since 2011, both U.S. and international markets bounced strongly.
Yet, as last week's sharp pullback confirmed, they are still remarkably unsteady.
Of the 47 global stock markets that I follow on a daily basis, only 15 markets out of the 47 are up in 2015, with the U.S. stock market barely eking out a gain. And a mere five global stock markets have posted gains over the past three months.
Still, there are a handful of markets that have eked out double-digit percentage gains as we head into the home stretch and the last six weeks of trading in 2015.
What is perhaps the most surprising is that three of these markets — Denmark, Ireland and Belgium — have been strong performers over the past five years, with all three ranking among the top five performing global markets during the past half-decade.
What are some of the best stocks in these markets?
1. iShares MSCI Denmark (EDEN) — up 16.02%
Francis Fukuyama, the author of the classic "The End of History," once told me that the eternal question among political scientists around the world is: "Why can't we all be more like Denmark?" Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders agreed, invoking Denmark and other Scandinavian countries as examples that the United States should aspire to emulate. That explains the curious ticker symbol — EDEN — for the Danish exchange-traded fund (ETF).
Investors in Denmark may be coming around to Fukuyama's view, given the performance of the iShares MSCI Denmark Capped (EDEN) over the past few years. One reason for EDEN's consistently impressive returns is its 35% exposure to the healthcare sector. The ETF's largest holding, Danish pharmaceuticals giant Novo Nordisk (NVO), accounts for close to 22% of the fund's weight.
The Danish economy is expected to grow by 1.6% this year, by 2.0% next year and by 1.8% in 2017. The European Union (EU) Commission forecasts unemployment in Denmark will also continue to decline from 6.1% this year to 5.8% in 2016 and to 5.5% in 2017. EDEN also benefits from Denmark pegging its krone to the euro, which provides the country's currency with unique stability.