There is a good reason investors have been clamoring to invest in emerging markets.
With the West spinning its wheels, the truth is there's a good deal of money to be made in these markets in 2012.
One emerging market I like is Thailand.
That's true even though Thailand has only been in the news recently for its terrible floods, which have disrupted supply chains worldwide.
That's understandable; the floods drove down Thai gross domestic product by no less than 9% in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Nevertheless, the level of global disruption caused by these floods indicates just how crucial Thailand has become to the world economy.
And since the place is now well run, and looks to be set to have a nice catch-up year in 2012, with further decent growth in 2013, as investors we'd be wise look carefully there.
Thailand: A Real Emerging MarketHere's why things have changed for the better in Thailand.
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Emerging Market Dividend Stocks Give Investors the Best of Both Worlds
In today's market, dividend investing is the best way to achieve a decent income stream without taking on too much risk.
On the other hand, this is also true: emerging markets give investors the benefit of the world's fastest economic growth.
Investors would be wise then to combine these two strategies by buying emerging markets stocks that pay steady dividends.
In practice, this is more difficult than it ought to be - but it's not impossible.
In fact, as you'll learn later I have found numerous ways to profit from this best of both worlds strategy.
What You Need to Know About Emerging Market Dividend StocksDividend-paying stocks in emerging markets have the same advantages as they do in the U.S. market.
Just like here in The States, a sizeable dividend from overseas is not only money in your pocket, it's also evidence that the management is working in your interests as a shareholder.
And by paying dividends investors can be sure that at least some of the earnings the company is generating are real and not the result of an accounting flim-flam.
If a company in a fast-growing emerging market is able to pay a decent dividend and participate in local growth, then you can anticipate very good returns indeed, since the dividend itself is likely to grow on the back of the company's rapidly increasing profits.
Of course, there are always risks in emerging market investing, but a good yield gives your holding a solidity that isn't present in companies with mere paper earnings.
But here's what you need to know...
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These Two Emerging Markets Just Got A Lot More Enticing
With U.S. economic growth on the wane and the European Union (EU) on the brink of collapse, there's never been a better time to increase your exposure to emerging markets.
And two fast-growing developing economies just became a lot more enticing.
I'm talking about Colombia and South Korea - both of which just signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with the United States.
Both treaties date back to the last days of the Bush administration - when bilateral trade deals were fashionable - but had gotten hung up in Congress.
To some extent, free trade agreements merely deflect trade from other paths. However, since the EU has signed a trade deal with South Korea and is negotiating one with Colombia, there are both defensive and trade-building reasons for these deals.
South Korea is a trillion-dollar economy and one of the United States' most important trading partners, with two-way trade totaling $74 billion in 2008. And Colombia's potential as a trading partner is enhanced by its geographical position - close to both the East and West Coast U.S. markets.
Both countries are growing quite fast. In fact, Colombia is expected to clock growth of more than 5% in 2011 and 2012.
The Biggest BeneficiariesThe South Korean deal offers the most potential to U.S. exporters, as the deal is expected to add about $10 billion to U.S. exports and gross domestic product (GDP).
U.S. exporters of agricultural products, which are projected to double from their current $2.8 billion, will be the primary beneficiaries. However, U.S. auto manufacturers and banks will also have a chance to break into the market.
On the other side, Korean exporters of cars, trucks and computer equipment will benefit from better access to the U.S. market.
Colombia has a thriving agricultural sector, but U.S. meat exports should jump significantly. Pork exports, for example, are forecast to grow 72%. IT companies and chemicals producers also will gain improved access to the Colombian market. But the greatest potential will be unlocked in the heavy equipment sector, as Colombia races to develop its mineral resources.
Reduced sanitary inspection barriers will improve the trade flow both ways. That will increase demand for Colombian coffee and flowers. But the big breakthrough will be in Colombia's energy sector, as the country's oil is an increasingly important export to the United States.
Now let's take a look at some of the specific companies that will cash in on these deals.
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Emerging Markets Forecast: Which Ones to Hold, and Which Ones to Fold
Late last year, as part of Money Morning's "Outlook 2011" economic-forecast series, I suggested investing in emerging markets that were relatively cheaply priced, and whose economies seem poised to do well in 2011.
My favorite recommendation, Chile, gave a mediocre performance, down 3.2% on the year.
On the other hand, I recommended Russia at several different points last year. That's not a market that I normally favor. But I'd been suggesting that low Price/Earnings (P/E) ratios and a commodity or energy orientation in an economy would be the keys to finding successful emerging markets in 2011.
Currently, the Russian market is up 19.2% in dollar terms, the best performance of any market except Hungary (which also satisfied my "low P/E" criterion, as it is recovering from a very deep recession).
In this installment of the current Money Morning "Quarterly Report" series, let's take a tour of the world's emerging-market economies. We'll study their most recent performance, and we'll identify the best investment candidates for the months to come.
We separate the potential winners from losers. Read on to see which is which...
Second Quarter Forecast: Three Predictions, Three Ways to Profit
With the first quarter of 2011 behind us, there's a lot to take away and learn from - especially when it comes to the direction of oil prices, interest rates and stocks.
Granted, we're right now navigating one of the most uncertain periods in modern global history. But if you're a trader or an investor, knowing how markets have been reacting to recent news and events provides you with some valuable insights that you can use going forward.
And after we address each of these three topics - oil prices, interest rates and stocks - we'll be able to recommend some specific moves that investors should consider.
So let's look at each topic more closely.
For three ways to profit from these trends, please read on...
U.S. Industrial Stocks Now Back on Top, As Emerging Markets Falter
Stocks tiptoed through a typically introspective, no drama December week in the past five days, with the Dow Jones Industrials rising 0.7%, and the Nasdaq, S&P 500, and Russell 2000 all rising about a third of a percent.
While an 0.3% gain doesn't sound like much for a week, it is actually a great result. If the market were up 0.3% every week for 52 weeks, it would be up 17% for the year without dividends, which is about double the long-term average. And just to round out that idea, if the market were up 17% every year for 10 years, it would end the decade up 380%. Small amounts add up due to the magic of compounding.
The market was not fully in gear across all industries. The deep cyclicals performed best, led by steelmakers, which were up 6.5% as a group. Leading the way was mini-mill Nucor Corp. (NYSE: NUE), which rose 7% for the week after offering a bright forecast for the first half of 2010. Consumer staples were another plus, led by food makers such as Hansen's Natural Corp. (NASDAQ: HANS) and Boston Beer Co. Inc. (NYSE: SAM), up 7.5% and 13% for the week.
Retailers and financials fell back the most during the week led by the 18% plotz of Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY). Consumer spending is actually on track, as I'll discuss in a moment, so this was mostly a BBY problem not a problem for the whole industry.
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M&A Set to Accelerate in 2011 After a Late November Surge
A flurry of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in late November could presage the biggest surge in deals since the economy tanked three years ago.
In just the last week, nearly $25 billion in M&A deals were announced. BP PLC's (NYSE ADR: BP) sale of its majority stake in Pan American Energy, which went for $7.1 billion, was at the top of the list. With that sale, BP will have secured about $21 billion of the $30 billion it hoped to raise from asset sales to help cover damages from its oil spill disaster.
Find Solace in Emerging Market Stocks Amid U.S. Economic Turmoil
Maybe you've noticed that many of the stocks rising through the ranks of the broader market lately have a foreign accent.
The Claymore/AlphaShares China Small Cap exchange-traded fund (ETF) (NYSE: HAO), MV MarketVectors Indonesia Index ETF (IDX), and the PowerShares Emerging Markets Sovereign Debt ETF (NYSE: PCY) are just a few of the ETFs I've recommended in the past that are leading the market higher.
Similarly, Swiss instrument maker Mettler-Toledo International Inc. (NYSE: MTD) and Chilean fertilizer maker Sociedad Quimica y Minera (NYSE: SQM) have helped carry our Strategic Advantage "StrataGem" portfolio higher.
Look to Emerging Markets as the Federal Reserve Diminishes the Dollar
The main thrust of the past two months has been the renewed collapse of the U.S. dollar.
The dollar has been on a one-way elevator ride to the ground floor since August, when U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke first warned that quantitative easing was on the horizon.
Most recently, the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) last meeting telegraphed further monetary stimulus.
''In light of the considerable uncertainty about the current trajectory for the economy, some members saw merit in accumulating further information before reaching a decision about providing additional monetary stimulus," the minutes read. "In addition, members wanted to consider further the most effective framework for calibrating and communicating any additional steps to provide such stimulus. Several members noted that unless the pace of economic recovery strengthened or underlying inflation moved back toward a level consistent with the Committee's mandate, they would consider it appropriate to take action soon."
Concerns about inflation being too low almost guarantees additional quantitative easing unless the recovery gets a big shot in the arm before the next meeting in early November.