Americans today have a tendency to forget that in the late 19th century and the early part of the 20th century the United States of America was considered to be an “emerging market”. Investments in the United States were considered to be highly risky from the perspective of investors in Europe. Based on history, seeing the words 'emerging market' or 'developing market' should actually intrigue investors.
Countries such as China, Brazil, Russia, India, and many others have experienced incredible economic growth in recent decades. As recently as 1975, China's entire output of steel could not match the output of one large steel mill in the US or Germany. How things have changed!
We still tend to think of emerging markets,such as China, as occupying a place down on the food chain of the global economy. We tend to think of these places as merely sources of cheap labor. But more and more, emerging markets are home to world-class companies in all sort of industries.
The world has changed in a profound way over the past few decades, but the typical American investor doesn't fully appreciate this fully. In 1988, there were only 20 emerging market companies with sales of over $1 billion. Today, there are over 270 companies with sales of over $1 billion, and nearly 50 companies with more than $10 billion in sales.
How does an individual invest to take advantage of these global trends? There are three routes an individual investor can take to invest in emerging markets. An investor can purchase a emerging markets mutual fund from a well-respected mutual fund company with a wealth of international investing experience such as Franklin Templeton or T Rowe Price. An investor can establish an investing plan with these companies for as little as $50 every calendar quarter.
An investor can also open an account with an online brokerage firm such as E-Trade to pursue the other two routes - buying ETFs or individual stocks. There are a myriad of ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) which focus on emerging markets. An investor can purchase ETFs which focus on a single country such as China or Brazil. An investor can also purchase ETFs which focus on a particular region such as Latin America. There are also several ETFs which focus on types of stocks - large cap, small cap, etc.
With a little research, an investor could also put together a portfolio of emerging market stocks. There are numerous interesting emerging market companies which can be bought right here in the US through a discount broker. An example would be Petrobras of Brazil(PBR) which is the only major oil company in the world that is actually adding to its oil reserves thanks to huge oil discoveries offshore Brazil.
As mentioned in last week's article on the Harvard and Yale endowment funds, these successful long-term investors have approximately 15% of their monies devoted to emerging markets. You should also not be afraid to invest in these markets.