With the U.S. economy experiencing two quarters of slowing growth, it's no wonder why investors have become enamored with emerging markets. After all, these nation's feature all the right components - such as double-digit growth rates, exploding populations and vast natural resources - to make them ideal investments for the upcoming decades. Nonetheless, recent accounting and corporate governance issues, high inflation rates, political conflicts and other risks have many investors feeling anxious about direct investment in these markets. For these investors, all is not lost. Plenty of emerging market exposure can be had in your own back yard. (If you are interested in emerging markets, see Re-Evaluating Emerging Markets.)
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For long-term portfolio growth, exposure to developing economies is key. However, gaining that exposure is now easier than just buying a fund like the PowerShares India (NYSE:PIN). As the planet's economy grows ever more interconnected, companies from various developed countries have increasingly looked beyond their own mature economies for bigger growth opportunities abroad. Currently, just over 25% of sales within the S&P 500 now come from these faster-growing emerging markets. That number is growing each quarter and is one of main reasons for the recent double-digit profit growth despite the slowing GDP growth in the United States.
As well as being cheaper on a price-to-earnings metric, developed market stocks benefiting from global growth tend to be lower volatility and are more liquid than those in emerging markets. For example, the total market cap of consumer companies in emerging markets is around $500 billion. This compares to the $4.7 trillion market cap for consumer corporations based in the developed world. In addition, U.S. companies must comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and often have longer operating histories. (To help you with investing, read Equity Valuation In Emerging Markets.)
Bring on the Blue Chips
With the S&P 500 trading at price-to-earnings ratio still lower than its average, now could be a great time to add some domestic emerging market exposure. Many of the firms that have significant and growing presence in emerging markets are large, steady blue chips. For example, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) has almost a 90% hold on the South African soft-drink market. By digging a little deeper into a firm's financial statements and focusing on strong brands, we can find some great investments. Here are some of the top domestic picks to play emerging market growth.
There's no doubt about it, citizens in Asia love to gamble and Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) could be one of the best ways to tap that love affair. With properties in both Singapore and China's Macau casino region, Sands has seen more than 83% of revenue coming from these properties during the first six months of 2011. The company invested nearly $14 billion into Asia in 2011 and is the only operator that will introduce a new hotel into the Macau market during the next two years. Similarly, Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq:WYNN) has hitched its fortunes to China as well.
With infrastructure spending on the rise for much of the emerging world, firms that provide these products will continue see gains. More than 64% of sales come from outside of North America for dump truck and construction equipment maker Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT). The company saw sales throughout 2011 grow by 39% in Asia and 56% in Latin America. Mining equipment manufacturer Joy Global (Nasdaq:JOYG) has also seen its international star shine.
Finally, emerging market consumers have a growing appetite for American-style fast food. Both Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) and McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) have seen their emerging market sales explode over the last few years and coffee giant Starbucks (Nasdaq:SBUX) has plans triple its store count in mainland China to 1,500 locations by 2015.
The Bottom Line
Emerging markets undoubtedly will be the growth engines of the future. For investors, playing that growth doesn't necessary mean direct investment. Some of the best opportunities are in domestic large-cap blue chips with ever-increasing exposure. The previous picks along with consumer products company Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) are ideal choices. (For more, check out The Risks Of Investing In Emerging Markets.)
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