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Canada: Investing Hot Spot?

One of the few places that may seem safe for investing right now is, well, Canada, Cramer said Monday. Given the pervasive negativity in the markets, that’s certainly how it seems.

Because even despite a massive $1 trillion bailout package from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, there are still plenty of people who doubt Europe’s debt problems are a thing of the past. Cramer’s not one of them per se, but he knows how this foreboding weighs on investors. Factor in fears of China’s allegedly ready-to-burst asset bubble and the effect that financial regulation could have on American banks, and some of the most likely places to put your money are crossed off the list.

But there’s still Canada. In particular, the country’s banks.

“There’s no rioting in Ottawa,” Cramer said. “You aren’t constantly hearing about the weakness of the loonie or Canadian bond woes – because the loonie’s not weak … and the woes are nonexistent.”

That’s why Cramer recommended Bank of Montreal and its 4.8% dividend yield.

“If you believe everything is dependent on Europe and our banks are totally hung, as the bear would certainly have you believe,” he said, “can you imagine how Bank of Montreal can come stomping down into the United States and take share left and right?”

Canadian banks withstood the financial crisis a lot better than their US peers. In fact, Cramer called Canada “perhaps the world’s most stable financial system,” thanks to strict regulatory supervision and oversight. He thinks the Canadian banking came out of the downturn in better shape than it entered, with their core products both more profitable and lower risk than they were two years ago. At the same time, provisions for loan losses are expected to decline this year, credit conditions are improving, the Canadian economy is recovering, larger financials like Bank of Montreal have taken share, and their balance sheets are very strong.

As for BMO itself, Canada’s fourth-largest bank by market cap has more exposure to falling loan losses than its intranational brethren thanks to its US exposure, which represents 22% of its loan book through the company’s Harris Financial subsidiary. And that greater exposure means Bank of Montreal will have the highest year-over-year earnings-per-share growth among the Canadian banks in 2011 as its US business, which got hit a lot harder, improves.

BMO announces its fiscal second-quarter results on Wednesday, May 26, and Cramer recommended starting a position before then. Don’t buy all at once, though. If it sells off for some reason, you can buy more at a better price after the report. And the yield would have grown then, too.

“This is the one to buy,” Cramer said of BMO, “even as everything in the US, Europe and China remains for sale as the negativity builds and the pessimism reigns supreme” in these three markets.

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