By Steven Orlowski
Foreign Policy Magazine (FP) recently outlined some emerging markets that have outperformed investor mainstays like China and India.
Seoul, South Korea: high-rise city
I couldn't agree more with the analysis, even if two of the seven do not qualify as emerging markets. The countries highlighted in the piece and my best picks for ETF exposure to these regions follows:
- South Korea is pretty well known in and out of emerging markets circles as an up-and-coming economy. FP cites increased government research and development as well as an "emphasis on innovation, combined with generous subsidies, not to mention a policy of keeping the won low to boost exports." Low domestic consumption and high indebtedness are recent concerns for South Korea, but the long term outlook is positive. The iShares MSCI South Kores Index ETF (NYSEARCA:EWY) has done fairly well over the last three years. Except for excess volatility in late 2010 and the first half of 2011, the ETF has been trending nicely.
- Poland has long been ignored but in recent years has proven to be worth more than a quick look. According to FP, "The country's economy grew 15.8% between 2008 and 2011, while the European Union's cumulative economy shrank by half a percent. In 2009, the worst year of the crisis, Poland's was the only E.U. economy that didn't contract." The Market Vectors Poland ETF (NYSEARCA:PLND) fared well before the crisis in Europe really took hold but has tracked the E.U. decline in mid-2011. Over the summer of 2012 the ETF has appreciated by about 30%.
- FP used the term "emerging powerhouses" in the article clearly to defy the limitations of "emerging markets." I don't know anyone who considers Canada an emerging market, but the country has done well. The iShares Canada Index ETF (NYSEARCA:EWC) reflects that success in part due to its resource-rich economy.
- The second non-emerging market on the list is Sweden, which has also prospered. According to FP, "Sweden was Europe's second fastest-growing economy in 2011 (after tiny Estonia), and the krona has consistently risen against the euro." The iShares Sweden Index ETF (NYSEARCA:EWD) has prospered, but like many regions suffered from volatility with the EU.
5. Indonesia is one of the real emerging markets and one which deserves recognition. FP says 80% of Indonesians "believe their country has the potential to become a global superpower, and they recently overtook Indians as the world's most bullish consumers… Indonesia has maintained annual growth rates of over 4.5% throughout the recession and had the second-highest growth rate in the G-20 (after China) last year." The iShares MSCI Indonesia Investable Market Index Fund (NYSEARCA:EIDO) has been less affected by problems elsewhere; the ETF is up more than 50% from 2010 lows.
6. Turkey is next and as Emerging Money has argued, is a country to be watched. FP reports, "Over the past decade, Turkey, with relatively little exposure to the European financial crisis, has managed to nearly triple its GDP and its per capita income." The iShares MSCI Turkey Index Fund (NYSEARCA:TUR) got pummeled in 2011 but has been on the rebound this year, up 50%.
7. Lastly, but possibly the best story, is Mexico. Among other things FP cites growth that "exceeded even that of much-ballyhooed Brazil last year. More than 700,000 new jobs were created in Mexico in 2010 as factories exported record quantities of appliances, challenging China for a share of the U.S. market." The iShares Mexico Investable Market Index Fund (NYSEARCA:EWW) has the prettiest chart of the seven countries profiled. Even with the global volatility of 2011 EWW has prospered. Trading near the top of the range, Mexico will need to continue its positive transformation and overcome some of its daunting negatives - drugs and corruption.
The bottom line is these countries should all be on the list of considerations, if not holdings, of every internationally minded investor. The emerging markets qualifiers appear on the top of the country allocations of many frontier and emerging markets funds. Opportunities abound, even in a world of uncertainty.