While some of the risks impacting emerging markets (EM) in 2018 have receded, the recent escalation of the trade conflict has clouded the near-term outlook for EM.
The US export ban effectively barring US companies from doing business with Huawei could have wide-ranging first and second order impacts well beyond Huawei - on Chinese, other Asian and US companies which form part of the IT value chain.
We have reduced our weight in China by lowering our exposure to China banks that had held up relatively well in 2018 during the market rout, and spread this weight across other stocks that had underperformed in the rally in early 2019. We are also carefully watching out for potential opportunities as stocks may get sold down well beyond what their fundamentals may warrant.
While the Huawei episode does cast a shadow over the IT hardware supply chain, we still like the sector from a medium- to long term perspective. The semiconductor memory sector has consolidated significantly over the past decade with only three major players remaining now. And unless we see end-demand destruction, Huawei’s loss should be others’ gain, and utilise the same supply chain.
In addition, the continued growth of IoT (Internet of things), Cloud Computing, AI (artificial intelligence) etc. are expected to provide long-term demand drivers for semiconductors.
Revenue contribution from US is small for EM companies
Companies in MSCI EM
Companies in MSCI China
It is worth noting that the revenues of companies in the MSCI EM and China indices are overwhelmingly from domestic sources – over 70% for MSCI EM and over 90% for MSCI China – with only 7% and 2% respectively directly from the US.
In addition, intra-EM trade continues to gain an increasing share of EM exports.
Intra-EM trade increasing
Share of emerging market exports within the region
And the predominant exposure in our portfolios is to domestic themes with a preference for stocks exposed to rising consumer affluence in the emerging economies - with the middle income bulge likely to remain a large opportunity for growth for several years.
China has both the ability and willingness to partly offset the impact of the trade conflict through fiscal, monetary and regulatory measures, as it has done since Q4 2018. On the average, EM countries have high real rates, fiscal balance has improved and inflation is in check. While there are some small vulnerable spots in EM, most EM countries are fundamentally healthy.
Emerging markets equities are not expensive
MSCI EM valuation at 1.5x P/B is well below its historic average of 1.8.
In the long run, EM equities have outperformed
And this is an asset class where the MSCI EM index has returned ~10% p.a. over the past ~20 years, meaningfully above the ~7.3% p.a. of the MSCI World index.
Performance of emerging market vs global equities
Five trends to watch in emerging markets
We would also like to point out a few long-term trends in EM and China, which provide selected good opportunities.
Tap into the emerging markets opportunities with UBS Asset Management
Demographics, a long-term trend driving growth in emerging markets
All of the world’s workers and consumers are coming from emerging markets
says Geoffrey Wong, Head of Emerging Markets and Asia Pacific Equities. And that is driving growth for the region.
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