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DEFINITION of 'International ETF'

Any exchange-traded fund that invests in foreign-based securities. The focus may be global, regional (such as Latin America, Asia-Pacific, etc.) or on a specific country.

International ETFs are invested passively around an underlying index, but the index may vary substantially from one fund manager to the next. Some funds, especially those with a wide global footprint or those that invest in countries with advanced economies, can provide strong diversification by investing in hundreds of companies.

BREAKING DOWN 'International ETF'

ETFs that invest in a single foreign country may carry higher risks than international ETFs that spread their investments among many countries. If a single country undergoes a major recession or other financial hardship, an ETF that only invests in securities based there could have a major performance shortfall.

International ETFs are becoming a widespread investment vehicle for U.S. investors, as many global economies are growing at a faster rate and, thanks to rapid advances in globalization and financial regulation, their financial markets are opening to outside investment.

In general, expense ratios for international ETFs tend to be higher than the averages because of the higher costs to invest abroad.

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