Frontier Markets

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I meant to get to this before but a while back Dow Jones redid their country classification such that they now recognize countries as being frontier (apparently this is new for them). This is interesting and you can see below how they divide up the countries as being developed, emerging or frontier. Peculiarly Vietnam is missing from the list.

Lately I've been working with the idea that these labels are worthless. I believe the financial crisis has rendered them useless or at least almost useless. If you look at the list, what does Ireland being listed as a developed market do for you? What priority is this fact in your decision to either include Ireland in your portfolio or to avoid it? As opposed to the label wouldn't you be more concerned about their debt load, ability to service the debt, the likelihood of more bailouts, the fate of the banks, the real estate situation, the unemployment rate and probably a few other things?

On January 1st Estonia adopted the euro as its currency. It was able to do so because it met all the criteria set out for a country to in fact adopt the currency. Although the wisdom adopting the currency could be questioned it is likely to be a huge benefit for them in terms of trade and the country has one of the smallest debt loads in the world.

Candidly, aside from not knowing of a way to invest in Estonia, I have no idea whether it would make for a good investment or not but a cursory glance at, in this case, Ireland versus Estonia very quickly leads us to believe that Estonia is on firmer footing, not that Ireland couldn't be a great trade, and far more worthy of research time.

Looking at other names on there, Qatar is sitting on a mountain of natural gas, Slovakia has very cheap labor, Argentina seems likely to be involved in the world's food solution, Poland may also soon qualify to adopt the euro, Pakistan has a huge and young population and they are large producers of certain crops.

All of these countries have their positive attributes and their risk factors. Ultimately these need to be weighed against each other and a decision made about whether the country is investment worthy, this conversation assumes a willingness to go narrower than global funds.

If anything, time spent assessing developed, emerging or frontier is time wasted. If you draw the conclusion that a particular country stinks as an investment destination is there a scenario where you would buy in? The more important point is that from a diversification standpoint owning countries with different attributes will play are larger role in determining your result than the above labels.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Investing , International

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Roger Nusbaum

Roger Nusbaum

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