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Will Emerging-Market Slowdown Lift Stocks?

Emerging-market nations keep losing steam, according to data released today, but economists say slower growth might actually be good for some global investors.

This week Chinese officials announced plans to bring GDP growth down to 7.5% from 8%. At the same time, came word Brazil’s economy grew closer to 3% in 2011 – far less than the previously expected 5%. While a slowing economy normally isn’t encouraging news, there are some advantages to countries like China and Brazil dropping down to more sustainable levels of growth, experts say.

Too much growth in a short period of time increases the risk investors could drive prices on stocks and real estate to unsustainable levels, says John Lonski, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. Case in point: strong growth in the U.S. helped drive up home prices during the housing boom that  led to the financial crisis. “Economic growth is like blood pressure, it can be too high as well as it can be too low,” he says. “If they avoid overheating, growth becomes more sustainable.”

The reduced growth also lessens inflation worries, giving policymakers more room to cut interest rates or reduce cash reserve requirements for banks, says Matthew Tuttle, CEO of Tuttle Wealth Management in Stamford, Conn. “They’re not hamstrung with an overheating economy,” he says. Free from inflation concerns, government officials don’t have to raise interest rates, a move that tends to raise borrowing costs for corporations and weaken stock markets, he says.

To be sure, inflation pressures in emerging-market countries could still return, experts say. And there are other concerns: higher energy costs, which threaten to slow down the U.S. economy, might take a toll on emerging-market countries, says Lonski.

And given those issues, advisers say investors looking to put money in emerging markets may want not want to spread their bets evenly. For example, Steve Claiborne, vice president in market analysis for First Trust Advisors near Chicago, recommends against investing in China and instead favors Brazil, which he says should get a boom as it prepares for the 2016 Olympics. He also points to the country’s declining debt and growing middle class. Tuttle, who invests up to 30% of some clients’ portfolios in emerging-market stocks, says he prefers Brazil, Hong Kong, India and Russia.


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