When investors look to Latin America, both Brazil and Mexico top their exposure. Broad based Latin America funds like the SPDR S&P Emerging Latin America (NYSE:GML) often have heavy allocations to those two nations - in this case over 87%. Abundant natural resources, a growing middle class and strong robust trade agreements are hallmarks of the two nations and help drive the overall investment thesis. While both Brazil and Mexico are a big part of the regions future growth going forward, investors maybe sacrificing gains if they ignore some of the other smaller opportunities in the region.
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A Growing Region
Investors looking past the two behemoths in Latin America will find a wide berth of various emerging nations offering many of the same qualities. Overall, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the Latin American region will expand by 6% throughout 2011. Its rich abundance of natural resources are helping fuel that growth and as demand for energy, materials and agriculture based commodities continues to rise at ever-increasing rates, nations with the region will see those benefits. Some analysts and experts see Latin American emerging markets outperforming Asian ones as they are more leveraged to the commodity sector.
Excluding these commodities exports, the prospects of domestic consumption fueling future GDP growth within the region are quite bullish. Commodity-dollars will help spur new improvements in infrastructure and consumerism across Latin America. The growing consumer story in South America is just as compelling as the Asia's. With a total population of in excess of 571 million residents and a combined GDP of around $6.096 trillion, Latin America, if unified would be the second largest economy on the planet. This sort of economic power makes it necessary for investors to add the region to a long term portfolio.
More than $26 billion in foreign direct investment flew into Latin America's nations outside of Brazil and Mexico in 2010. The nations of Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Peru, all stand to benefit from favorable long term trends. For investors wanting a catch all play on the region outside of Brazil, the Global X FTSE Andean 40 ETF (NYSE:AND) follows 40 different companies across the continent including Southern Copper (Nasdaq:SCCO) and Compania de Minas Buenaventura (NYSE:BVN). There are also plenty of individual country choices for investors as well.
Colombia's improving political stability is doing wonders for its economy. Moving beyond its former "Banana Republic" image of rebel infighting, Colombia's economy has been opened up to international investment and increased domestic consumer spending. As one of the fastest growing oil producers in Latin America and one of the world's largest coal exporters and lowest cost producers, the nation has begun setting up unilateral free trade agreements with various Asian and other South American countries. This includes a free trade agreement with the U.S. signed in 2006. Recently, S&P raised Colombia's debt rating one step higher to BBB-, from BB+. (To learn more about debt rating, see The Debt Ratings Debate.) Colombia's rating is on par with that of Brazil's.
Citigroup estimates that Colombia's GDP growth rate to reach 4.54% in 2011. Investors wanting to add the nation can do so with either the new Market Vectors Colombia ETF (Nasdaq:COLX) or the Global X/InterBolsa FTSE Colombia 20 ETF (NYSE:GXG). For investors looking for individual companies, both Ecopetrol (NYSE:EC) and Bancolombia (NYSE:CIB) allow for investors to participate in the nation's growing oil export and consumer revolution, respectively.
Despite, being the second largest economy in South America after Brazil, Argentina hardly gets any investor attention and that could be a bad thing. The nation stands to benefit from the growing worldwide need for food. Argentina is the second largest corn exporter and third largest soy exporter in the world. The nation is also top beef and lamb producer. Newly discovered natural gas deposits with help Argentina move towards energy independence and nation has gotten serious about debt reduction. These trade surpluses have allowed Argentina to increase its foreign exchange reserves and gold by nearly 20% per year over the past five years. The new Global X FTSE Argentina 20 ETF (Nasdaq:ARGT) gives investors a chance to participate in the nation's overall growth. While farmland company Cresud Inc. (Nasdaq:CRESY) and natural gas pipeline stock Transportadora de Gas Del Sur (NYSE:TGS) allow access to those sectors.
While Brazil and Mexico get all the investor attention in Latin America, some of the faster growing opportunities are beyond their borders. Nation's like Argentina, Colombia and Peru stand to benefit greatly from the regions expansion. Funds like iShares MSCI All Peru (NYSE:EPU) or the previously mentioned ETF's and stocks are great ways to play that long term growth.
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