After a rough end to 2013, emerging markets have surged in the first half of 2014, as evidenced by the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) gaining 14% from its February lows. So Is there still time to get in on the action? Hugh Johnson of HJ Advisors says no.
"When I see leading indicators going down and I see consensus forecasts going down it tells me that even though their stock market looks attractive or cheap the thing to do is to stay away ... you may be catching a falling knife," says Johnson, about emerging markets. "I find that to be true in a lot of emerging market countries and as a result ... I've been underweighting ... the emerging markets in portfolios."
Johnson points to countries like Brazil (EWZ), Russia (RSX), India (EPI), Indonesia (IDX), Turkey (TUR) and South Africa (EZA) where he sees consistent deterioration in economic forecasts. "There will be a time to buy emerging markets again but this is not it," he cautions.
There is, however, one exception; or at least Johnson hopes so. It's China. "It's actually not as bad as some of the others but it's still a problem," he says of the world's second largest economy.
"The leading indicators for China are still deteriorating and you also see the consensus estimates coming down.... I think they manage their economy very effectively so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping we don't see growth that's gonna be below 7%. Then it qualifies as a recession."
If that happens, Johnson says, exports to China and financial flows from China to the U.S. will be impacted. Until then, China is in better shape than other emerging markets around the globe, says Johnson.