The first of this month marked the four-year anniversary of the publication of a Goldman Sachs report that popularized BRIC, the acronym for a quartet of rapidly growing emerging market economies: Brazil, Russia, India and China. That report, entitled ``Dreaming With BRICs: The Path to 2050,'' predicted that the BRIC economies would account for more of the world's economy than France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. combined by 2033.
Four years later, BRIC markets have shot skyward. In dollar terms, the Brazilian Bovespa index has risen six-fold since the report was published, while benchmarks of Russian, Indian and Chinese shares have more than tripled. The Dow Jones BRIC 50, a benchmark of the most actively traded blue-chip companies in the BRIC countries, has notched an annualized three-year return of 57 percent (through September 28). By comparison, the MSCI Emerging markets index has recorded an annualized return of 41 percent over the same period
Is there still time to profit from the BRIC game, or is it time to be getting out? Are these markets overheated, or is there some value left there? Of course, markets are unpredictable. But a number of equity analysts are calling the BRIC markets bubble markets. They say there may be some room for growth yet, but that it's a risky bet, because values need to come way down.
Russia is apparently the cheapest BRIC market at this stage, according to JP Morgan data released in September, with shares trading at price to earnings (PE) ratios of 9.5 times. By comparison, Chinese PEs were at 18.9, Indian PEs at 18.2 and Brazilian PEs at 12.2. What has kept these markets surging higher, in part, are strong global liquidity and runaway demand for commodities. The risks to their strength include a rise in inflation or a fall in commodity prices, analysts say.
One advisor is trimming his positions in these markets. “Those countries’ indexes have gone vertical,” he says. While he has faith in the long-term strength of both, he’s on the sidelines right now. “I’ve sold my last China position,” he says, adding that “a cautious investor would be watching this like a hawk.”
One trader, who wished to remain anonymous, singled out fertilizer producers in particular (click here to see a chart) as good ways to benefit from the strength of BRIC economies without investing directly in the countries themselves. The idea is that as the four countries continue to industrialize, they will need to import more grain.
Over at Raymond James & Associates, chief economist Scott Brown says he expects there will be some correction in India and China, but nothing catastrophic. He is also impressed by the new resilience of emerging markets: “It used to be when the U.S. got a cold like the current credit troubles, emerging market countries would get pneumonia. That’s not the case anymore,” he says.
Eric Park, an LPL advisor in Washington, Mo., says he’s standing by an old adage when it comes to how hot some of the emerging markets have become: “If you wouldn’t vacation there, you probably shouldn’t invest there,” he says. Without naming countries, he says the scenario is the same—no developed economic infrastructure and a narrow dependence on sales of commodities. “There are too many dollars chasing the assets in these Third World developing countries.”