With growing, increasingly affluent populations and innovative technologies, emerging markets offer opportunity for diversification, exposure to various stages of the economic cycle, and attractive valuations. 

The top five emerging market economies— Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—are commonly referred to as the BRICS. Formalized in 2010 when these companies represented just 11% of global GDP, these countries have experienced tremendous growth since then, a trend that is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. The International Monetary Fund anticipates that by 2030, the BRICS nations will make up over 50% of global GDP. 

While the BRICS countries are enormously different in terms of economies, structures, and cultures, they all have large populations and promising futures. China and India, for example, have become major players in the technology sector. Brazil is the second largest food producer in the world, second only to the U.S. Russia and South Africa are home to rich natural resources. All are home to potential supply chains and new consumer markets.

Here’s what you should know about the world’s top emerging markets and how to invest in them. 

What are the BRICS?

As mentioned, the BRICS countries include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Brazil has a GDP of $1.868 trillion, making it the eighth-largest economy in the world. The country is also a member of Mercosur, a South American free trade area that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, which is home to three quarters of the total economic activity on the continent. Mercosur has an annual GDP of about US$5 trillion and is home to more than 250 million people.

Russia is rich in natural resources, has strong emerging industries, and a growing middle class. Russian GDP has experienced steady growth since 1998. In 2018, it increased by 1.8%, thanks to solid international growth and rising oil prices. As of 2019, its GDP is $1.64 trillion.

Russia is the dominant partner in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. These countries together boast a GDP of $5 trillion and are home to a population of 183 million. There are talks about free trade agreements with other areas, and when reached, it will no doubt change the supply chain. 

India’s GDP in 2019 was $3 trillion. Whereas politics play a role in the uncertainty of investing in some emerging economies, that’s not the case for India. Since gaining its political freedom from Britain in 1946, India established and has since successfully maintained strong parliamentary democracy. The country is the dominant partner in the South East Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The populations in these countries amount to a market of 1.6 billion people. 

China has a particularly strong manufacturing sector, and not just for “Made in China” products exported around the world. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, three fourths of China’s 6.6% GDP growth in 2018 was credited to consumption. And, its growing consumer base, with its growing wealth, wants quality. 

According to Forbes: “South Africa ranks high worldwide for investor protection and the extent of disclosure.” That fact has not been lost on foreign investors, with FDI into South Africa growing by 446% to 7.1 billion in 2018. China and Russia have both invested heavily in Africa.

In addition to being home to the most developed stock market in Africa, South Africa boasts natural resources including gold, iron, ore, coal, platinum, uranium, chromium, and manganese nickel. 

Why invest in emerging markets?

Emerging markets tend to carry a varying amount of political and economic risk, depending on the country. But, on the whole, the sector has lately outperformed more established markets in Europe and North America.

COVID-19 has made this divergence even clearer, with the asset class coming nearly all the way back to pre-pandemic levels as of October 2020. This performance was in part in lockstep with the rest of the world, but since emerging markets stocks tend to fall further in bad times, they have come roaring back even stronger than their first world peers.

Per Lazard: “Following a drawdown of nearly 35% in the first quarter and a sharp 18% recovery in the second quarter, the MSCI Emerging Markets Index rose 9.6% in the third quarter to climb nearly all the way back (96%) to its pre-COVID-19 peak.”

But, as such a large sector that’s spread across so many different countries, investing in the growth of emerging markets can’t be focused on just a few companies. Fortunately, a number of ETFs and mutual funds allow investors to access all of the asset class at one time. A search on Magnifi suggests a number of options for investors interested in the emerging markets.

Magnifi is changing the way we shop for investments, with the world’s first semantic search engine for finance that helps users discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks. Try it for yourself today. 

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