Sure, you can read about a cabinet reshuffling anywhere, but try and sort out what it means and how it affects the markets you’ve invested your clients in. Doing so might lead you to think that Europe was some sort of economic backwater given how hard it is to find solid coverage of European markets, money, and business on any U.S.-based business-oriented sites or newspapers. To get there from here, we went to the source, Europe, in order to ferret out a relevant hot list of useful dot-com investment sites.

We’ve written previously about The Economist (www.economist.com), which features a global outlook with a Eurocentric accent. As the name implies, the magazine covers business affairs in significant depth from a mostly laissez-faire viewpoint, but it also has considerable coverage of politics and social issues, and is written for a smarter audience than the American newsweeklies. The Economist is a generally excellent magazine, in weekly printed or Web form, but most of its stories are not available for free online. (A subscription, needed to read “premium content” and archives online, is $69 per year.)

What are the best English language sources with considerable free content to keep us literate in European business news? Glad you asked.

The Financial Times (www.ft.com), is the famously orange paper from London. It’s clearly the paper of record for business news with a European focus. The latest news (up to a week) and data is free. (Subscriptions, which start at $95 per year, are required for archive searches, sector searches, and analysis and survey articles, along with some personal office features.) For our purposes here, the main-page “Business” link to “UK” or “Europe” will provide among the best and easiest to find collections of such articles.

The Times (www.timesonline.co.uk) of London offers free registration to read current articles (older articles can be purchased). It is perhaps best seen as a British daily combining the coverage of our Washington Post (national and world politics and news) and Wall Street Journal (extensive business coverage) as well as a bit of Fortune or Forbes (annual list of the rich, management and marketing issues, and so forth).

The European Central Bank, also known as the ECB (www.ecb.int), is the euro equivalent of the U.S. dollar’s Federal Reserve Board. Go straight to the “Statistics” section, where the Monthly Bulletin for June explained that a recent decision to keep euro interest rates unchanged followed a “comprehensive analysis of monetary, financial, and economic developments in the euro area.” That’s what you’d expect for any but the most benighted countries, but in this case we have over 150 pages (a PDF file download) showing the comprehensive analysis. The document includes recent monetary, financial, price, output, demand, labor market, and fiscal developments in Europe, as well as global macroeconomic projections and an editorial. It ain’t light reading, but it’s well written and extremely well presented, with many graphs and clear headings to help you find what you’re looking for. It even explains its terminology and abbreviations.

The Bank of England’s site (www.bankofengland.co.uk) similarly covers such issues as the money supply, interest rates, and other monetary and financial statistics, in its case primarily for the pound sterling. If you need arcane facts like tables of “Growth rates of narrow money,” this is the place, but the site’s “Minutes Of Monetary Policy Committee Meeting” (from the main page, click the “Monetary Policy” button, then “MPC Meeting Minutes”) isn’t as flashy as the Monthly Bulletin of the ECB. In fact, it has rather dry-looking all-text pages, but it is concise (about 25 pages) and well written, it includes the concerns and arguments of minority positions, and it also gives considerable attention to U.S. developments. The “Minutes” come out about 2 weeks after each monthly meeting, and are altogether much more informative than listening to Alan Greenspan (not that we can’t see the value of his vagueness).

While the independent news site www.eubusiness.com‘s Russia Daily and Eastern Europe Daily consists merely of short blurbs from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (covering political, security, and business/economy news), eubusiness.com also features links to AFP stories for breaking news. AFP, or Agence France Presse, is not just from France or in French, but is rather a Europe-focused, but global and multilingual, news wire. The eubusiness.com main page links to stories by category, such as: EU Institutions, Agriculture, Employment, Energy, Finance, Transport, and by Countries. Note that AFP, and other newswires, can also be reached via Yahoo!, among other sites, but not with the easy combined European and business news filtering.

EuroNews (www.euronews.net), is heavily focused on Europe (naturally) and business, with even a link for stories on the euro (the currency itself, mostly with headlines like “Euro within whisker of dollar parity”), as well as business, more general news, and “hi-tech” (science as well as technology). The “stories” are typically only about 200 word snapshots, meaning it’s a source of alerts and bullet points that you may need to track down elsewhere. EuroNews also has video clips for many stories, though we generally find these more trouble than they’re worth, even with a T1 line.

Finally, coming full circle back to our iShares S&P Europe 350 index, a Standard & Poor’s site (www.spglobal.com) covers all of its foreign equity indexes, among other things. Most important for Europe investors, the site features “Inside the Index–S&P Europe 350″ by equity analyst Kevin Gooley. It’s a short (2-page) PDF file that shows exactly how the European markets fared that day. It comes out each afternoon after Europe’s markets have closed, with returns for the 10 major sectors, news on economic statistics releases, market leaders, and other company news. In part because of the enforced brevity, the text doesn’t just list a mind-numbing collection of the day’s statistics, but skillfully combines the most market-pertinent news into various country or sector-related paragraph-length themes.

The www.spglobal.com site also links to information on the S&P Europe 350 index itself, with headings for the index’s Description, Methodology, Constituents and Data, Market Capitalization, Divisors, Corporate Actions, News, and Index Changes.