I took 16 of the developed countries with the largest investable markets and compared their current economic freedom score with their returns over the past 1, 3, 5 and 10 years. Only four of these countries are ranked in the free category: Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and Switzerland. New Zealand is also among the most free countries in the world, but easily investable indexes were only added recently. Canada moved from free to mostly free this year. Two years ago the United States fell out as well.
The nations in my analysis included 16 different developed countries representing 85% of the world’s investable markets and 98% of the developed countries. Freedom scores ranged from #1 in freedom Hong Kong at 89.9 to #92 ranked mostly unfree Italy at 58.8.
The five year annualized returns were mostly negative with the MSCI EAFE index down 4.72%. Emerging markets was up 2.40% and the United States was down 0.25%.
The five countries with the most economic freedom (Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Switzerland and Canada) however were up 2.15% beating the MSCI EAFE Index by 6.87%. Remember that the United States is currently ranked 10th in economic freedom. Here is a chart showing each country’s 5 year returns:
Freedom investing boosted returns significantly over the past five years. Looking at the 5-year returns of all 16 of the developed countries in the analysis verses their current freedom index show the following correlation:
The equation of the trend line shows that every point on the freedom index was worth 0.62% annual return over the past year.
We believe this is one of the times when your asset allocation should tilt foreign and overweight the handful of countries with high economic freedom. Although many economists acknowledge that freedom matters, few investment strategies take advantage of this fact.
Disclosures: Our firm has been over weighting countries with the most economic freedom for several years. New subscribers to our blog receive free access to a 1.75 hour video presentation on “Where in the World to Invest?“