Monday, February 22, 2010

China, India…or Peru? Don't Overlook Quiet Emerging-market Stars

The recent sovereign debt scares in Dubai, Greece and other developed and emerging markets have rattled many investors, but some countries are weathering the storm. Peru is one of them. For most of the last decade, the country went from being one of Latin America's perennial laggards to one of its superstars. Peru was one of the only nations in the western hemisphere to register positive economic growth in 2009, and the EU recently said that it is bullish on the country's job growth prospects. Since 2003, Peru's annual economic growth rate has averaged 7% and GDP per capita has doubled, prompting some observers to call it "the next Chile".

The economies of emerging giants such as China, India and Brazil tend to grab the headlines because of their eye-catching growth statistics and huge populations, but there are a number of quieter economic success stories that are often overlooked. In addition to Peru, less prominent emerging markets such as Indonesia, Tunisia and Botswana have racked up years of solid economic growth, aided by prudent macroeconomic management, relative political stability and skillful exploitation of natural resources. Many of these countries have been able to avoid the asset bubbles and subsequent crashes that have afflicted some of the more well-known emerging markets since the beginning of the global financial crisis.

Multinational companies often devote a great deal of resources to markets with the fastest growth rates and biggest populations, but fewer pay attention to the long-term policies that countries adopt to lay the foundation for sustainable growth. Intel did just that several years ago when it located a major chip plant in Vietnam after reviewing the country's education curriculum and ability to produce a skilled workforce, among other factors. Examining countries' future market potential in addition to short-term indicators can help identify markets that may be below the radar, but which offer solid returns over the long term.

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