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Emerging market stocks have always offered a viable alternative to domestic investments. However, the attractiveness for this sector recently jumped this year. Shocking geopolitical developments, concerns about the technical stability of benchmark indices, and the superior value proposition for the developing world have all contributed to the bullishness.
Right off the bat, the most-talked-about controversy is special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion with Russia. For several months, the media hyped up the divisive matter. But in the end, Mueller found nothing incriminating against President Trump. That news makes Russian companies among the best stocks for upside speculation.
Another tailwind for emerging market stocks is slowing technical momentum with domestic indices. While the Dow Jones has gained over 12% this year, the index hasn't gone anywhere since mid-February. This lack of decisiveness worries market observers, considering the fluctuating dollar and the inverting of the yield curve.
Finally, emerging market stocks represent a smarter choice for discerning investors. No matter how you look at it, the Dow is relatively close to its peak valuation. On the other hand, several developing-world names are well-off their highs. Simply put, it's more palatable to buy companies on the rise than hope an established stalwart continues to impress.
Here are the seven best stocks from the emerging market:
Among emerging market stocks, none received as much attention over the past week as publicly-traded Russian companies. Both during the presidential campaign trail and after the election, a cloud of controversy surrounded anything related to Russia. But with Mueller's investigation finding nothing, we can start the path toward reconciliation.
That begins with allowing Russians to do what they do best: energy and commodities. In this segment, no bigger name in the Motherland exists than Gazprom (OTCMKTS: OGZPY ). Primarily, I like OGZPY stock as a speculative play because it tends to operate under the radar.
Nevertheless, Gazprom is one of the best stocks in the oil and energy sectors. Geographically, it has a moat because it feeds both Europe and Asia. With oil prices steadily rising over the last several weeks, I'd take a long look at OGZPY stock.
As a Russian online payment company, Qiwi (NASDAQ: QIWI ) enjoys two benefits. First, the obvious one: QIWI stock is levered to fintech, which represents a tremendously popular industry. The second benefit is its locale.
Let me explain:
Several emerging market stocks hail from parts of the world that are off the beaten path. Naturally, they provide tourists with a more memorable trip, often at a much cheaper price. However, poor infrastructure has prevented would-be adventurers from diving in.
Qiwi's payment services help make westerners and other foreign guests comfortable in Russia and eastern Europe. Essentially, the company allows tourists to enjoy their technological creature comforts while expanding their global itinerary. This is an under-appreciated tailwind that could lift QIWI stock from its current consolidation pattern.
Icici Bank (IBN)
As things currently stand, Icici Bank (NYSE: IBN ) is one of the best stocks to buy, and not just within the developing world. Year-to-date, IBN stock is up over 11%, and in March alone, shares shot up over 15%.
But unlike other streaking names, I don't expect Icici to flame out once investor sentiment has died down. For one thing, I doubt that sentiment will meaningfully decline for any lengthy period of time. India has a population size of 1.34 billion, rivaling China's massive workforce.
Better yet, India's worker demographic skews young . That fact will become even more important as the years go by. Its regional competitors feature demographics that are conspicuously older.
Naturally, this new generation of workers will need to do their banking somewhere. That's where Icici Bank steps in, and which is why I like IBN stock for the long term.
Source: Dan Davison via Wikimedia (Modified)
I'm going to say what very few want to admit: Donald Trump is winning. But a key area where he falls short is his infamous border wall project. In the buildup to the 2016 election, the real-estate mogul promised multiple times to build the wall. But with a split government, that's a tough obstacle to pass.
Just as notably, the Mexican government has rebuffed notions that they will pay for the project. Therefore, on paper, Cemex (NYSE: CX ) doesn't appear well-positioned. Further adding to woes for CX stock is Mexico's own political turmoil. The country elected a new president late-last year who has promised much . However, critics remain skeptical about the new administration's ability to deliver.
Admittedly, the nearer-term noise doesn't do any favors for CX stock. Still, I'd concentrate on longer-term drivers, such as Mexico's young working demographic. In 2015, the median age for Mexico was 27.5 years. Moreover, it won't hit a median age of 40 years until sometime between 2045 and 2050!
In other words, Mexico is almost guaranteed to be a relevant workforce for several decades. Therefore, don't get too discouraged about prospects for CX stock.
Grupo Televisa (TV)
Speaking of a young Mexican demographic, Grupo Televisa (NYSE: TV ) is another company that can take advantage of this dynamic. Not only does TV stock represent a massive presence in its home country of Mexico, it also levers substantial influence with Spanish-speaking Americans.
Naturally, TV stock benefits from the fact that these folks have much to talk about. While Trump's "America First" message doesn't inherently help emerging market stocks, media firms feed on news, particularly the controversial variety. The President never disappoints in that department.
But another less-appreciated factor is its current content moat. When Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) attempted to break into the Mexican market with an original reality TV show, they erred badly. Featuring a whitewashed cast, Mexican audiences decried the show as out of touch with reality.
You just don't get that complaint with Grupo Televisa, which is why I like TV stock.
Source: Jeremy Vohwinkle via Flickr (Modified)
Although emerging market stocks today are much more eclectic than they've ever been, they're still largely associated with commodities. However, I don't view this as a negative. On the contrary, mining companies like Sibanye-Stillwater (NYSE: SBGL ) offer a hedge against our heavily-digitalized world.
Thanks to the magic of financial engineering, most people go about their daily lives without worrying much about the economy. But if such measures fail, panic ensues. Thus, we have a great case for at least some gold exposure, which in turn benefits SBGL stock.
But don't look at Sibanye-Stillwater as merely a showpiece for doomsday-bunker folks. Thanks to its significant operations in resource-rich South Africa, the company extracts many desired precious metals. As a result, I'd keep a close eye on SBGL stock.
BRF S.A. (BRFS)
When you think about the top names in the food-processing sector, Brazil's BRF S.A. (NYSE: BRFS ) doesn't come readily to mind. But that's only true if you're an American. If you're from virtually anywhere else, you'd probably recognize - and enjoy - the BRF brand.
Moreover, you can expect BRFS stock to remain the world's breadbasket for quite some time to come. Like other Latin American countries, Brazil features a young demographic , with a median age of approximately 33 years. The resource-rich nation won't get old until around 2040, when the median age hits nearly 42 years.
BRFS stock also represents a counterweight to the technological and digitalization revolution. While the latest app or AI innovation generates headlines, you can't eat them. Until we figure out that component, resource-related firms like BRF will still be among the best emerging market stocks to buy.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto was long gold.
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