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03 Aug 2021 - Have Emerging Market Funds Passed Their Used-By Date? Part II
By: Premium China Funds Management

Have Emerging Market Funds Passed Their Used-By Date? Part II

Premium China Funds Management

July 2021


Click here for Part I of this series


In this second part we will consider the current standing of the larger EM countries and then review long term performance of the various indices and, and in the process demonstrate that active management is very effective in less efficient markets.

Let's turn now to the state of the larger EM countries. It is surprising to many just how big the largest emerging markets are already.  China and India together are already bigger than the US or Europe.  

The main emerging market powerhouses are China and India.

  • Together, these two countries are home to over 35% of the world's labour force and population.
  • In 2018, their combined gross domestic product (about US$28.1 trillion) was greater than that of either [1]:
    • the European Union ($18.8 trillion) or the
    • United States ($20.5 trillion).

In any discussion of emerging markets, the powerful influence of these two super-giants must be kept in mind.

Whilst countries like India and China are still in the EM index, it is worth looking at the next table which compares them to the framework introduced earlier and considers just how emerging they still are.  Putting aside the geopolitical and trade factors which can cloud the conversation it is, we believe, reasonable to view a few of the EM countries as no longer emerging, or at least getting close to that stage of their journey as a nation.

If we take a historical and visual look at Emerging markets and Asia ex-Japan we can see  in the image below how Asia ex-Japan used to be a niche subset of Emerging markets, compared to Developing markets (DM)

That, in our view, is no longer the case.  Almost unnoticed, Asia ex-Japan has become the dominant (80%) part of EM.

Where we are starting from today - and are heading very quickly - is shown in the following images where we recategorise Developed markets as The Western economies (including Japan) and separate Asia ex-Japan and the Frontier markets/commodity countries.

This contention carries compelling investment implications.    The underpinning of these changes in large part is a theme that will have at least a full decade of strong growth as the poor of Asia climb into middle class.   

Strategic allocations and portfolio construction need to catch up and to rethink the use of emerging market funds.  As a minimum we suggest that advisers take 80% of EM into an Asia ex-Japan specialist and add to that a Global resource/commodity specialist. 

The obvious question following our contention is; "what do the numbers say?"  The chart below, whilst busy, tells a compelling story.  Note: Saudi Arabia is not included as it does not have a long enough history but over five years its story is consistent with our contention.

Some key observation to assist in understanding the implications of this chart:

  • At the bottom is MSCI Brazil.
  • The second from bottom is MSCI Emerging Market index excluding Asia.  This index provides long term support for a contention from Part One that the non-Asia components of EM indices are performance detractors.
  • Moving up you can see a quite well-correlated South Africa and Russia.
  • Next there is the MSCI full EM index.
  • Above that - as would be expected given the underperforming countries - is the Asia ex-Japan Index.
  • The top line shows the value of a specialist active manager in a less efficient market.

In summary, investing in an Emerging Markets Fund is primarily an investment in Asia ex-Japan, and the remaining approximately 20% has detracted from long term performance by comparison.  We therefore contend that it is a better outcome for clients to use a specialist Asia ex-Japan that has a strong China capability and if the commodity exposure from EM funds is desired we argue a specialist in either Global Resources and/or Commodities is more effective.


[1] Source: Emerging Market Countries and their 5 Defining Characteristics; Kimberley Adao www.thebalance.com; Aug 2020


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Premium Asia Income FundPremium Asia Property FundPremium China FundPremium Asia Fund

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