For much of 2013, being bearish on emerging markets was the right call. Stocks in developing economies from the BRIC nations to the ASEAN group to CIVETS and nearly any other catchy acronym proved to be major disappointments as equities in the U.S., Japan and some other developed markets soared.
Weakening currencies, slumping commodities demand and current account and fiscal deficits prompted investors to pull $13.7 billion from emerging markets bond for the year through December 18, while $6.3 billion has left emerging market equity funds over the same period, CNBC reports, citing Jefferies data.
The iShares J.P. Morgan USD Emerging Markets Bond ETF (EMB) ranks among the 10 worst ETFs in terms of 2013 outflows as do four other developing world plays, including the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) and the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (EWZ) . [Must-Know Single Country ETFs for 2014]
Benoit Anne, head of emerging markets strategy at Societe Generale, is among a small number of fund managers that are optimistic regarding emerging markets heading into 2014, CNBC reports. Benoit expects investors will focus more on compelling valuations in the new year rather than the already known current account deficit issue.
Some ETFs tracking markets with current account surpluses are inching toward the expensive side. The iShares MSCI South Korea Capped ETF’s (EWY) holdings are not as cheap today as they were in June or July. Malaysia and Taiwan, two account surplus countries are also a tad on the pricey side, but not overly so.
The iShares MSCI Taiwan ETF (EWT) and the iShares MSCI Malaysia ETF (EWM) have been decent performers in a mostly dismal year for single-country emerging markets ETFs.[These EM ETFs Could Shine in 2014]
Bull calls on emerging markets equities stand in contrast to recent comments from Goldman Sachs. Last week, the venerable Wall Street bank advised that investors with a “moderate” tolerance for risk reduce their exposure by one-third. Goldman is particularly pessimistic on China, Brazil and Russia, three of the four BRIC nations, citing overinvolvement of governments in their economies, among other issues. [Goldman's Glum View of Emerging Markets]
Fund managers that have embraced emerging markets equities have done so with inexpensive markets. Russia and China, two of the cheapest developing markets on valuation, were also rated as the most popular in a recent Bank of America-Merrill Lynch survey.
Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF
ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this post. Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of EMB.
The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.