If I told you that an asset made up of a balanced array of many different sectors—and large capitalization stocks global in nature—had delivered a 4% price drop over nearly 20 years, it’s a good guess you’d be mighty surprised. Guess what well known major global asset has managed this ignominious feat?

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The Stoxx Europe 600 index, that’s what. 

This index, made up of 600 large, mid and small capitalization stocks across 17 countries of the European region—not all of them participants in the euro—isn’t an exact analog to the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, but it is a reference index for the region. It’s the cream of Europe’s publicly-traded companies. Nestle, Barclays, BMW, etc., are part of it.

Since 1999, the Stoxx 600, which closed around 391 recently, is up 3% in euro terms and 15% in dollars. Yes, up just 3%. The S&P 500 index is up over 100% over that time. Even worse, the Stoxx 600 remains down 4% below March 2000 highs of 407, in the middle of the dot.com boom.

There are several long-term lessons here, but it isn’t to avoid Europe altogether. There are growing companies in Europe, and the trick is to find them. Moreover, avoiding Europe might be inadvisable in terms of putting together a diverse group of assets.

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