(Bloomberg) -- As emerging-market stocks spiral toward a bear market, one of the asset class’s longtime bulls says now is the time to buy.
Research Affiliates, a sub-adviser to money managers such as Pacific Investment Management Co., is reiterating its recommendation to buy developing-nation equities, countering warnings from Harvard economist Carmen Reinhart, Allianz SE chief economic adviser Mohamed El-Erian and others about fragility in the developing world. The firm first said in February 2016 that emerging markets would be the “trade of a decade,” and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index has returned 52 percent since then.
External debt, foreign-exchange reserves and current account balances show developing nations at low risk of a widespread funding crisis, analysts Chris Brightman, Michele Mazzoleni and Jonathan Treussard wrote in a report.
“When fear reigns supreme, it’s time to buy, not sell," they said.
The benchmark index is now down 18 percent from a bull-market peak reached in January, and emerging-market equities look “cheap” by almost every measure -- from CAPE to price-to-book ratio, price-to-sales ratio and market cap to gross domestic product, according to Research Affiliates. The Newport Beach, California-based firm predicts annual average real returns of 6.3 percent over the next decade, the best of any asset class.
Research Affiliates cites five positive signs for emerging-market stocks:
- 1) The global economy has become more stable as inflation has trended into the low single digits from double digits in decades past.
- 2) Emerging-market countries are wealthier and financially healthier. The average reserve level is near 25 percent of GDP, more than triple the level from 1960.
- 3) The most vulnerable countries, such as Turkey and Argentina, represent just a small fraction of the value of developing-nation stock markets.
- 4) Relative valuations discount a great deal of bad news.
- 5) Investors often respond with fear to market corrections in emerging markets when the same move in the U.S. would lead to buying the dip.
Here are a few of their other key takeaways:
- China, South Korea, Taiwan, India and Russia, which compose about three-fifths of the MSCI EM Index, have little to no risk of a funding crisis given their low external-debt-to-GDP ratios and ample reserves. Most also run current account surpluses.
- Less than 20 percent of the MSCI EM Index looks to be at elevated risk (notably Turkey and Indonesia) of a funding crisis, while another 20 percent (including Brazil, Mexico and South Africa) faces moderate risk.
- By these same three measures, the U.S. fares poorly with external debt to GDP higher than the worst EM countries and a persistent current account deficit. Still, it’s in no immediate danger of a funding crisis.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.