Asian stocks have soared this year. Now the average Asian fund sells for a price-earnings multiple of 13, compared to a figure of 10 for European funds, according to Morningstar. Are the highflyers due to crash? Perhaps. But the booming markets of China and other Asian emerging countries have not yet reached bubble territory, said Robert Horrocks, chief investment officer of Matthews Funds.
“If you invest now, you may not benefit from much more multiple expansion, but the stocks should rise along with earnings,” Horrocks said today in an interview at Registered Rep.’s Manhattan offices.
Horrocks said that Asian stocks will be boosted by strong growth throughout the region. While Asian exporters have been hurt by the global recession, domestic economies have continued to expand as millions of consumers enter the middle class for the first time. Horrocks described the phenomenon as “mass consumption.”
To ride the expansion, Horrocks is emphasizing financial and technology companies that are serving the new generation of consumers. A favorite holding is Baidu, the Chinese Google. The company is growing rapidly as search traffic climbs.
Investors who want to move slowly into Asian markets should consider Matthews Asian Growth & Income (MACSX), which has returned 13.8 percent annually during the 10 years ending in August, outdoing 82 percent of its competitors. The fund holds a mix of dividend stocks and convertible issues. The Matthews fund tends to lose less than competitors during downturns—and lag during bull periods.
Make no mistake, Asian markets remain volatile. But by using a cautious fund like Matthews Asian Growth & Income, investors may be able to participate in the Asian boom while taking only limited risk.