George Leong: It’s amazing how investors here are nervous the Federal Reserve will eventually need to ratchet up interest rates from their current near-zero level.
Turkey’s central bank jacked up its interest rates to a whopping 12% from 7.75% in an effort to fight inflation and avoid a currency meltdown driven by our own Fed’s policies.
Years ago, there was distress in the global stock markets after currencies in the emerging markets began to tank. Of course, this is not good, as a weaker currency means less buying power by these emerging economies, which translates into less demand for goods made in industrial countries such as the United States and Europe. (Read “Time to Start Shifting Your Investment Strategy Overseas?”)
Now we are seeing some excessive selling in some emerging market currencies on concerns of further tapering by the Fed. The reason is that cheap money pumped by the Fed means lower U.S. bond yields, which forces American investors to look globally for higher yields and growth found in the emerging markets.
We are hearing about the vortex that will engulf the emerging markets and suck out the capital, creating a mass exit from these regions and driving chaos in the global markets.
While I agree the risk in the emerging markets is there, I doubt we will see a financial Armageddon surface. In fact, my feeling is I would be looking at buying the emerging markets on extreme weakness. These regions are becoming wealthier and have money to spend. For growth investors, I see a potential buying opportunity rather than a scramble for the exits.
As many of you know, I like China longer-term. While China has its issues, we have been seeing some staggering gains in many U.S.-listed Chinese American depository receipts (ADRs). But if you’re concerned about China’s near-term outlook, you can look elsewhere in the emerging markets.
In addition to China, I also like the other BRIC countries, which includes Brazil, Russia, and India. In Southeast Asia, I continue to like the four “Little Tigers,” comprising Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. There is a lot of fresh money here, just waiting to spend.
To play the emerging markets on weakness, I would look at the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets (NYSEARCA:EEM) exchange-traded fund (ETF) that comprises more than 20 global markets across Asia, Europe, South America, and South Africa. The ETF is down from its multiyear highs, as shown by the top blue horizontal line on the chart below.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
A retracement back to the top around 50 (last reached in 2007 and 2011) could translate into a 30% move from the current levels. The key is for the downside support to hold, as has been the case since 2010.