Why the Cycle Is Turning Up for Emerging Markets

Posted by Mike Burnick via Money and Markets

Share on Facebook

Tweet on Twitter


With Larry Edelson’s passing last week, I lost both a friend and a mentor. I met Larry my very first day at Weiss back in 2002. He was already a larger-than-life personality, but always took time out to mentor us with his unique view of the markets.

Larry taught me a great deal about markets and investing over the next fifteen years; about taking the long view to identify the big, macro trends. An avid student of history and the cyclical nature of markets, he taught me the value of evaluating markets from a historical perspective.

There’s really nothing new in financial markets that hasn’t happened before. While history may not repeat exactly, it does rhyme.

In fact, the recurring, cyclical nature of financial markets is a perfect reflection of its participants; millions of individual investors collectively making value judgments every single day.

Markets are much more than numbers, Larry would say, markets are people… it’s all about people.

Indeed, successful investing is mostly about studying human behavior … hope and fear, greed and envy … the emotions that make up market sentiment.

Take commodities. There is no better example of the cyclical nature of markets.

Click image for larger view

In 2007, after a nine-year long bull market in which commodities soared, especially gold, suddenly everyone wanted to own hard assets. Investors shoveled money into commodity stocks, funds and ETFs like never before.

Then along came the 2008 financial crisis. Commodities plunged nearly 50% that year, wiping out many of the newfound bulls who came late to the party. After a rebound of similar magnitude in 2009, commodities peaked in 2011, moved sideways for three years, then plunged again.

Gold crumbled first, dropping about 30% in 2013. Oil followed in 2014, as West Texas Intermediate Crude plunged from over $100 a barrel to less than $30.

After that experience, it was no surprise to find few die-hard commodity bulls left. Most had given up, thrown in the towel and moved on to other markets.

Sure enough, while few investors were paying attention, first gold bottomed in late 2015, soaring over 30% by mid-2016.

Oil followed, with gains of nearly 50% last year.

And it’s not just gold and oil. The new commodity boom is broad-based, with the S&P GSCI Index up 28% last year, its biggest gain since 2009.

Predictably, commodities markets are now popular again. In fact, bullish bets on oil, copper and cotton futures just hit all-time record highs in January. Probably just in time for the next sharp correction.

But another asset class, which has struggled through a long down-cycle of underperformance, appears to be just turning up again and is now outperforming: Emerging Markets. The cycle has turned and it has a lot to do with the revival in commodities.

Many emerging market countries rely heavily on commodity exports to fuel their economies. So it’s no surprise that Brazil is up 15.3% already this year. Argentina jumped 15.7% and Chile has gained 9% — all of them big resource exporters.

But the cyclical upswing in emerging market stocks isn’t limited to commodity countries, it too is broad-based, a very bullish sign.

Emerging Asia in particular is enjoying a cycle of outperformance, a region Larry has been consistently bullish on. China is up 11.3% year to date, India is up 11.4% and the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of Hong Kong-listed Chinese stocks has gained 8.8% — all well above the 6% gain registered by the S&P 500 Index.

Bottom line: My friend Larry Edelson knew better than most investors that: To everything (and every market) there is a season; turn, turn, turn. The cycle is just beginning to turn up for emerging market stocks with higher prices ahead.

Good investing,

Mike Burnick