International Financial Management
Important sources of international financial, economic, and legal data.
Foreign Exchange (FX) Rates
My two preferred sources for historical exchange rate data are Global Financial Data (GFD) as well as DataStream.
Stock Market Data
For market wide data, including standard market indices, market capitalization, dividend yields and price-earnings ratio, GFD is generally a good starting point. You have to be careful, though, with respect to the relevant currency indices for example are reported in (often local currency). Also, as you probably know, some indices are price indices only, that is they do not reflect dividend payments.
DataStream (in the Foster library - see the discussion under FX above) offers more control over the exact type of stock market data you can get. For example, to get the total return index (capital gains and dividends) for Germany, you would enter "TOTMKBD" into the Series/List field (in Excel -> DataStream - AFO -> Time-Series Request), followed by "RI" in the Datatype field. The first entry tells DataStream that you want data on the whole market (TOTMK) as opposed to for example just banks (BANKS) as well as that you want data for the GERMAN market (BD) - as opposed to another country. For a complete list of industry and country codes see below. The datatype information "RI" tells DataStream that you would like the total return index, as opposed just a price index (PI) or total market capitalization (MV). For a list of equity related datatypes see below. Note that by default DataStream will report returns or prices in local currency, unless you tell DataStream otherwise. If for example you would like the total return index (RI) in USD instead, enter "X(RI)~U$" as Datatype (as opposed to simply "RI" for the local currency return index).
DataStream also offers returns and other equity related information for individual firms. If interested in a specific firm, you first have to identify the firm in DataStream. To that end, use the Series Selection button from the Time-Series Request window to search for a specific firm.
Another very good source for firm-specific data, including some stock returns, but more importantly including balance sheet data, data on directors, subsidiaries, M&A activity and much more, is Mint Global by Bureau van Dijk. The best way to connect to it is via the Foster Library web site.
Probably, the single best collection of country level data, reaching from GDP, via school enrollment, to the number of days it takes to start a business, is the World Bank's World Development Indicator (WDI) database. The data base is straightforward to use: Select the countries you are interested in, the select the variables and finally specify the years. Then export the data that match your criteria.
On its web site, the World Bank has much more data available. Take a look here.
Very interesting data on country regulation with respect to accounting and corporate governance can be found on the International Financial Architecture site.
The IMF compiles an annual report on any IMF member country (so called Article IV - Consultation). These usually provide a lot of good data as well as the Fund's evaluation of the country's economic outlook. Here is a list of countries for which these reports are available.
An important dimension of investments in Emerging Markets is country risk. Several companies provide historical data as well as forecasts of political conditions for many countries a round the world. While most of these data are available through subscription only, The PRS Group that publishes the popular International Country Risk Guide (ICRG) has some information on its web site for free. Coface, another provider, has more country risk ratings and assessments on its web site. Finally, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) provides annual country ratings that you can find through a search on Factiva, a subscription based news web site. Enter the search terms "Country Risk March 2009" and possibly a country name and you should find the latest country report from the EIU.
A common measure of country risk is the USD sovereign yield spread (the difference between the interest rate promised by a foreign government and by the US government for debt of similar maturity). DataStream provides access to sovereign yield spreads that are usually calculated by JP Morgan.
In addition to FX and stock market data, Datastream provides information on many additional financial series (bonds, derivatives etc.).
Bloomberg is another powerful tool that is available through the Foster library. Here is a short intro written by a former student.
There is a long list of additional sources, including the Economist, the Financial Times, and, of course, in general google.com, especially its Scholar application.