But someone else is moving in.
China's trade with Latin American countries has surged over the past few years, weakening the region's economic relationship with the United States. Now some of those nations - especially Brazil - want to strengthen U.S. ties to reduce their dependence on the world's second-largest economy.
And it has underscored an important lesson for investors: In Latin America, the political climate is really the No. 1 factor in determining where to invest for the long run.
In short, when looking to invest in Latin America, let politics be your guide to profits.
To find out how investors can cash in on this emerging economic powerhouse read on...
I hope you are participating. And if you're not, don't worry - there's still time to get in and make a profit before the mainstream catches on.
Let's take a look at a few of my favorite plays right now, beginning with Singapore and Thailand - two economies I told investors to keep an eye on earlier this month.
That began to change in the 1950s, with the advent of international and global mutual funds, and access further expanded over the next three decades with the introduction of single-country closed-end funds. Today, thanks to the recent explosion in exchange-traded funds (ETFs), investing in overseas stocks is now almost as easy as targeting a given market sector here at home.
In fact, although it has been a mere 17 years since the first ETF began trading in the United States (in 1993), the most recent count finds more than 290 international, regional and foreign-country-focused funds listed on the various U.S. exchanges - enough to entice any investor with even a modest yen for overseas portfolio exposure.
Most recently, it's been the "dreadfully run" group that seems to be attracting new members: Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have subscribed to the economic and political doctrines of Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.
However, two elections this year have created a new category of Latin American country - the "truly well run" class - and installed the first two members: Chile and Colombia. As investors, we should rejoice, make them part of our portfolio, and keep an eagle eye out for other countries that may join this promising new category - the "good guys."
In typical fashion, Deere continues to be conservative in guidance. And as I will explain below, the agricultural cycle this year is poised for a large upside surprise, as it is at the very beginning of a prolonged secular pickup.
The bottom line of Deere's performance last quarter is a prelude of things to come. Agriculture is zooming, and thus machinery in that sector is - and will continue - to command premium pricing. At the same time, global inflation is picking up slightly, but is still very subdued, which will help margins some more.
Investors who need proof need only consider recent events. Iron ore prices are at record levels, and the annual-price-setting arrangement has broken down. Venezuela President Hugo Chávez has signed "dark side" agreements with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for Russian companies to develop Venezuela's oil-and-mineral resources. China may have invested $1 trillion or so in U.S. Treasuries, but the Asian giant's only truly successful investment so far has been the 17% stake it took in Canadian-resources player Teck Resources Ltd. (NYSE: TCK).
Welcome to the commodities new world order. These events serve notice that - as we put the global financial crisis behind us - the commodity "haves" will set the agenda ... while the commodity "have nots" will fall farther and farther behind.
But everyone else has heard of them, too, which is why their markets have been bid up very high in the past year. Their prospects remain excellent, but you're paying a lot for them.
From time to time, however, a country that has been off investors' radar screens has a few good years, and begins to creep onto them. In such countries, risk may be high, but values at least remain reasonable.
That's why it might be worth investing in Peru.
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For the first time since Thomson Reuters began keeping track in 1976, fewer merger and acquisition (M&A) deals were done in the United States in the first six weeks of 2010 than in emerging-markets.
During that stretch, emerging markets such as India, Mexico, Brazil and China accounted for 43% of global M&A volume with $91.2 billion worth of deals. That outpaced the United States, which completed roughly $55 billion in deals, accounting for a 29.5% share.
Surprisingly, Mexico alone did more volume, with 19.1% of the market versus Europe's 17.1% share.
This adds to a trend that's been developing over the last few months. While the NASDAQ has managed an impressive breakout from its multi-month trading range, it's doing this on the back of fewer and fewer stocks based on the number that are over their 50-day moving average. Part of the problem is the lack of clear market leadership.
One of the reasons that the bull cycle of the past year has been so strong is that it had a rotating cast of leaders: First banks, then retailers, then tech, then energy, then materials, and so on.
- Global commodities prices will continue to move higher.
- Emerging economies will outgrow their richer, more-mature counterparts.
- And the countries that were stingy with their monetary and fiscal bailout plans will now reap the benefits; they will outpace the countries that slashed their interest rates to zero and allowed their deficits to soar.
I'm talking about Chile.