Emerging market equities have had a rough few years. While it isn’t difficult to intellectualize that trends are cyclical and that emerging market equities have great potential over the longer term, marrying that with the idea of current action has not been simple. However, opportunities exist, if you know where to look.
Thus far in 2015, equity returns in emerging markets (EM) have lagged those of Europe, Japan, the U.S. and the broader developed world. As EM equities battle their largest outflows, rivaling that of 2008, the trinity of excessive pessimism, attractive fundamentals and supportive macroeconomics may present unique opportunities in the region.
South Korea is heavily dependent on exports—which account for over 50% of its gross domestic product (GDP)—to drive its economic growth. Since the country is so heavily dependent on exports, I feel it has a lot to benefit or lose from currency weakness or strength, respectively.
South Korea’s market returns have been lackluster, primarily due to weaker corporate profitability as a result of competitive headwinds from corporate Japan and a strengthening won. We do not think South Korea will sit idly by and watch its competitiveness evaporate, and we are already seeing signs of government intervention, which could be just the beginning.
On Friday, April 23, I had an interesting conversation with Jeff Weniger, Investment Strategist at BMO Global Asset Management. We spoke at length about the impact of the U.S. dollar on global markets. I found our conversation about the impact of easy monetary policy on economies such as China and South Korea particularly noteworthy.
The Korean won has been on a tear as one of best-performing emerging-market currencies in 2014. And this has the Korean government and central bank officials worried that the rising Korean won is eroding the competitiveness of Korea’s exports.