Investing in emerging markets offers plenty of rewards to patient investors who can stomach volatility. However, most portfolios these days hold too little or focus on a few key nations, such as those in the BRIC. People think "South America" and they go to Brazil (NYSE:EWZ); for Asian investments it's China (NYSE:FXI). Although BRIC contains over 40% of the world's population, there are plenty of other emerging economies that offer great investment opportunities. Investors maybe selling themselves short by creating such a narrow focus.
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Asia Has Opportunities
The growth story in China is well documented. Its impressive GDP growth, healthy balance sheet and growing consumer middle class helps make China a developing force far ahead into the future. All of that growth has some beneficial side effects. Specifically, the spill over into Asia's other nations. These "Asian Tigers," such as Singapore (NYSE:EWS), are characterized by fast-moving manufacturing economies filled with young populations. Improved living standards and rising disposable incomes have created demand for consumer goods. This spending spurred on economic development, urbanization and industrialization. Add this to the progressive monetary policies enacted by their governments during the recent crisis, and you have recipe for success.
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Taming the Tigers
Adding the members of the Asian Tigers to a portfolio used to be a complicated endeavor, only available to the most sophisticated intuitional investors. Nevertheless, the exchange traded fund (ETF) boom has made these nations available to retail investors wanting to cash in on the growth on that continent. Aside from the more traditional Asian emerging markets, there are a host of new ETFs that dive into some of the faster growing economies in the region.
As the fourth most populated nation in the world - 243 million residents in all - Indonesia can be thought of as a similar play on the growth of the international consumer. Indonesia also has a stable democracy and capitalistic based economy, which it uses to its advantage. The nation also benefits from being a net exporter of several key natural resources. Indonesia is the largest exporter of thermal-coal, to which China is the world's largest importer of this type of coal. The country is also an exporter of palm oil. This commodity is seeing increased growth as both a cooking medium as well as an alternative fuel source. Indonesia will profit greatly if, as expected, the demand for palm oil in China and India increases rapidly by 2014. Rice, rubber and coffee also are produced in the nation. The easiest way to add Indonesia to a portfolio is through the Market Vectors Indonesia ETF (NYSE:IDX). The fund is up 16.52% over the last two years.
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Of Vietnam's 87 million citizens, half are younger than 30. This incredibly young population has had dramatic effects, both politically and economically for the nation. The country's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2007 has improved Vietnam's stance in the global arena. Following protocols created by the World Bank, Vietnam has achieved some major milestones, including a 94% rate of total households with electricity and increased education reforms. Almost all children now attend primary schools and participate in literacy programs. Vietnam also benefits from lower labor costs than China, a growing middle class and has been the target of large-scale foreign direct investment. Intel Corporation (Nasdaq: INTC) recently opened its new $1 billion dollar facility in Ho Chi Minh City. The Market Vectors Vietnam ETF (NYSE:VNM) gives exposure to the largest Vietnam based companies. However, the ETF is down approximately 22% over the last two years.
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The Bottom Line
China is often the go to emerging market play for Asia, however the continent offers many other exciting opportunities that would be wise to include in a portfolio. Both Vietnam and Indonesia with their corresponding ETFs offer diversified growth within the region. Like China in previous decades, these markets may offer untapped return potential.
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