Where to Find Returns in Emerging Markets

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — There are more than 320 million new mobile phone subscribers in Africa since 2000, making telecom an industry of interest for emerging market investors but not without some reservation.

"A small number of companies and industries may represent a large portion of the market in a particular country or region and these companies and industries can be sensitive to adverse social, political, economic or regulatory developments in that country or region," said José Gerardo Morales, chartered financial analyst and chief investment officer with Mirae Asset Global Investments.

Emerging markets returned 6.1% as of June due to falling U.S. 10-year yields, the relative attractiveness of emerging markets versus European yields, and elections in Turkey, Brazil, India and Indonesia, according to a Mirae Asset Global Investments report.

"Elections and the actions of central bankers will continue to significantly impact key regions in emerging markets for the remainder of 2014," said Morales.

Markets in Latin America, the Pacific Rim and the Middle East have all had solid returns.

"The primary driver of positive performance in emerging markets this year has been a combination of falling U.S. long and intermediate-term interest rates, extremely low valuations relative to U.S. stocks, and a nearly complete abandonment of the asset class by investors last year," said David Twibell, president of the Custom Portfolio Group, which invests its clients' money in emerging markets.

Mirae's report further found that the rebound of emerging markets was facilitated by the impact of tapering by the Federal Reserve that occurred in the second half of 2013 and damage-control exercises by the central banks of Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey.

"The Euro-area linked economies of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are faring much better thus far compared with Russia, South Africa and Turkey," Morales said. "Overall, it remains imperative to retain a selective and active approach to emerging markets as we enter the second half of 2014."

The biggest risk facing emerging markets going forward is a potential Fed rate hike.

"I expect emerging markets as a whole to be very volatile over the next year or so as both developed and emerging markets come to grips with the possibility of Fed rate hikes over the coming months," Twibell told MainStreet. "A close second is a continuation and/or escalation of geopolitical unrest."

Other industries that offer the best opportunities for emerging markets investors include financial services, insurance and IT, according to Dave Ryan, executive vice president with TaTa Communications, a global provider of telecom solutions.

"The opportunities cross all sectors and are really open to any company that has a desire and goal for international expansion," Ryan told MainStreet.

Heading into 2015, experts expect emerging markets to continue to outperform.

"Emerging market stocks remain cheap relative to U.S. stocks and the economic backdrop in many areas has improved somewhat over the past few quarters," Twibell said. "That should provide some upside at least in certain areas."

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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