The four nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) have become the poster children for emerging market investing. Rightfully so, the BRIC countries have seen tremendous growth in their economies as they have the right combination of resources. Collectively, it is estimated that these countries account for 42% of the world's population and 35% of foreign exchange reserves and gold. These provide the human and monetary capital that may help contribute to continued development and growth.
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However, moving beyond BRIC can yield some very positive catalysts for portfolio growth. Skipping the riskier frontier markets, there are plenty of opportunities in other "developed" emerging markets. Some of which may even offer more future growth than BRIC.
Finding Our Candidates
One of the major catalysts for BRIC is that of the burgeoning middle classes in these nations. While wealth is returning to the people, the majority of the population in these countries still lives on less than $2 a day. India suffers the most with nearly 75% of its total population living beneath this standard. A higher standard of current living should be added to our criterion as well as above average GDP rates. Well-established democratic forms of government should take precedence over other forms of rule.
Searching through the broad iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (NYSE:EEM) we can find some portfolio additions to add to our emerging markets exposure.
While much of the Middle East was blessed with high concentrations of oil and other natural resources, Israel was not. Without the ability to fund growth on petro-dollars, Israel has relied on its extremely educated workforce for expansion. The nation has become a world-wide technology leader, complete with its own version of Silicon Valley. Several high profile tech firms such as IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Intel (Nasdaq:INTC) have recently set up shop in the nation.
Foreign direct investment in Israel has risen to nearly $10 billion. The iShares MSCI Israel Capped Investable Market Index (NYSE:EIS) offers investors a way to gain exposure to Israel's Tel Aviv 100 Stock Index. The ETF follows 79 of Israel's top companies. The fund charges 0.63% in expenses.
As some of neighbors have moved into higher technology-based economies, Malaysia has found its niche as a major agricultural commodity producer. Palm oil, of which the nation is the world's largest producer, is a cheaper substitute for various other cooking oils. This oil also has the potential to be used in the creation of bio-fuels which could be a boom as many Chinese take on car ownership.
Aside from agriculture, the nation is a net exporter of crude oil and holds many deposits of copper and iron ore. As a former British colony, Malaysia has a fairly stable democratic government and high banking regulations. This could help explain the 38% increase in foreign direct investment in 2008. The iShares MSCI Malaysia Index (NYSE:EWM) is a liquid way to add Malaysia to a portfolio.
South Korea could be at the epicenter of the Asian market. Placed directly between fast growing China and technology superstar Japan, the nation will be continue to be a great place for investment. South Korea could only be described as one of the most technologically savvy nations on the planet. The country has one of the highest broadband access per capita rates in the world and the highest rates of scientific literacy. This push for education among its citizens has created, like Israel, one of the planets leading technology sector economies.
Combined with its strong American ties, foreign direct investment will continue as the world emerges from the recent crisis. The nation is already showing signs of growth with a positive 2.9% GDP gain this past quarter.
Again, iShares presents an opportunity for investment. The iShares MSCI South Korea Index (NYSE:EWY) has holdings in 101 different South Korean corporations with IT making up nearly 30% of assets. Like the Israel ETF, the fund charges 0.63%.
The Bottom Line
BRIC should be a part of every investor's portfolio, but there are plenty of other emerging market choices out there. Israel, Malaysia and South Korea and their respective ETFs offer a chance to participate in world growth, while eliminating some of the risks associated with BRIC. Any of these countries/funds would make a great choice for a long-term international portfolio. (For related reading, check out Go International With Foreign Index Funds.)
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