Just because you ignore something doesn't mean it will go away. At least that's the view of the American Society of Civil Engineers. They've been repeatedly sounding the alarms regarding our nation's rapidly-crumbling infrastructure, and their calls to action only grow louder.
In their most recent quadrennial report card these engineers handed out a grade of D+, and estimate it would take $3.6 trillion to get our schools, roads, ports, highways and railroads up to snuff.
Though Washington remains in denial about this huge problem, it will inevitably require hundreds of billions of dollars just to keep our infrastructure report card from getting any worse.
Yet since my last look at this theme, a new investment reality has taken root. While the United States will eventually start investing in infrastructure, some countries aren't deferring this badly-needed investment. They're spending a lot of money on infrastructure right now.
China has been an ongoing source of major infrastructure investment, but many investors may be surprised to learn that India is finally addressing its own badly-depleted infrastructure. My colleague Amy Calistri shared her insights on the topic in her May issue of StreetAuthority's premium service Stock of the Month. And she added a savvy ETF pick on this theme to her portfolio.
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India is under strain. Sure 7% GDP growth is impressive, but polluted airways and waterways, clogged ports and sporadic power outages put a lid on future growth prospects. Businesses are clamoring for a government response and so are Indian consumers. As Amy recently noted, "nearly 300 million people in India (25% of the country's population) are without electricity. In fact, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected primarily for his promise to improve India's basic infrastructure."
Amy looked at the broad array of mutual funds and ETFs targeting India and concluded that there is one fund that is far and away the best way to invest in this theme. (Unfortunately, I can't reveal the name of this stock out of fairness to paying subscribers.) This fund's portfolio contains an impressive array of India's leading infrastructure-facing companies, the kind of companies with long track records, good government connections and solid positioning for robust demand for next year and the next decade.
Yet here's the unusual thing about this well-built fund: It hasn't really been a hit with investors thus far. Since it was launched back in 2011, it has been on a steady downward drift. Blame goes to past periods of disappointing economic reports out of India. Yet as Amy notes, India is clearly turning a corner. And India's government is dedicated to sharply higher levels of infrastructure spending. That sets the stage for a solid rebound for the fund.
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While the outlook for India is bright and getting brighter, the outlook for another BRIC country -- Brazil -- continues to worsen. That country is dealing with epic levels of fraud and mismanagement, and investor confidence in that country has been worn down to a nub. Yet through crisis comes opportunity. Many Brazilians are so frustrated with the nation's government and business leaders, that they're in a "throw the bums out" mood. The net result: the next wave of officials and executives are being swept into government and corner offices.
And these future leaders are fully aware of Brazil's other big problem: infrastructure. Simply put, Brazil will never truly be a global economic power until it has world class ports, roads and bridges. That's why I continue to track the best ways to invest in this long-term theme. The EGShares Brazil Infrastructure ETF (NYSE: BRXX) is too small (in terms of assets) for many investors to consider at the moment, but if assets in this fund begin to grow, then you may want to consider getting in early. Shares of this fund have been clobbered in the past few years, but there's a simple catalyst to get them moving higher.
Roughly two months ago, China announced plans to invest $50 billion in Brazilian infrastructure. A month later, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff announced plans to attract other funds into this long-term need. As these funds start to flow, so will global investor interest.
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Risks To Consider: Emerging markets are still subject to the investor sentiment dictated by global investors in the U.S. and elsewhere. So any crisis in developed economies will hamper confidence among seemingly riskier markets like India and Brazil.
Action To Take --> India's economic momentum should be aided by infrastructure investments, which should then beget further economic momentum. The virtuous cycle makes Amy's recommended fund a savvy long-term choice. For now, put Brazil on your watch list.
As I mentioned above, Amy Calistri recently added an India-focused fund to her Stock of the Month portfolio. The newsletter is dedicated to promoting investing discipline -- for every stock she adds, one must be removed. The fact that this fund was added should stand testament to her faith in India and its potential to improve in the coming months. To learn how to gain access to her research, insights and this stock pick, click here.