America's economy is in the tank, leaving many stocks at rock-bottom prices. But if you don't want to stomach the U.S. stock market and would rather jump across the pond to see if things will get better in Europe, now is a good time as stocks are also falling there.

Although Europe is also in a recession, there are plenty of companies there that fund managers think will weather the storm, according to a MarketWatch story. And if nothing else, at least you can brag to your friends that you own some of Europe, or some of its stocks.

The story quotes Keith Walter, a New York-based co-manager of the Artio Global Equity Fund, as saying that defensive stocks that typically hold up under difficult economic conditions, such as food, utilities and drug firms, are the best bets for 2009. He recommends companies with strong balance sheets, low leverage, not reliant on Wall Street for financing, and a history of paying strong dividends -- the average dividend yield for the European index is 6.6%.


Here are some of the European stocks recommended:

1. Total SA, France's biggest oil and gas company, is the largest holding in Walter's Artio Global fund. It has a 5.7% dividend yield.

2. Sanofi-Aventis of France is the world's third-largest drug maker by prescription sales and is another bellwether for Walter.

3. Nestle SA, a Swiss-based food and beverage company with global exposure, consistent earnings and a strong dividend yield.

4. Royal Dutch Shell PLC, an energy company with a solid balance sheet, low debt, profit and plentiful cash flow.

5. Tesco PLC, the U.K. grocery giant. If you've been to Great Britain, you've probably seen a Tesco store. They're everywhere.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.aaroncrowe.net


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