Thanks to the recent rally, you may be feeling pretty good about yourself. After all, as of Thursday's close, every Dow member was up in value since March 9, with middle-of-the-pack companies such as Home Depot (NYSE: HD), Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), and Merck (NYSE: MRK) posting gains of 40% or more!
If you're new to the market, you may be thinking that this stock picking stuff is easy money.
It's not -- and this recent rally cannot continue. It's not in the
nature of U.S. large caps to offer such steady, significant returns.
This market is seriously out of whack.
That makes no sense
And while Fed chairman
Ben Bernanke has declared the recession "very likely over,"
unemployment still hovers close to 10%, the credit markets are still
anemic, and consumer activity -- as with "Cash for Clunkers" -- is
being subsidized by the government.
You may say, "Yeah, but the market is forward-looking." Sure it is, but it's not that forward-looking. Tack on the inflation that's likely to result from rampant deficit spending and, well, tread carefully in U.S. stocks.
What you can do
It's for these reasons that we continue to look outside the U.S. for compelling stock ideas at Motley Fool Global Gains, and why we're particularly excited about the opportunities in China, Brazil, India, Chile, and Peru.
Stocks in these countries today offer better valuations relative to
their future growth prospects -- and many have been left behind by the
recent rally. And the advantages over the U.S. aren't necessarily the
same from country to country.
India has a younger workforce; Chile a large budget surplus and
abundant natural resources; China a massive population with significant
personal savings; Brazil and Peru growing resource economies that are
developing stronger and stronger ties with China. Thus, these countries
can hold up to some degree even as the U.S. falters, though complete
decoupling is unlikely.
China's tiny Yanglin Soybean, for example, is
actually down almost 40% since March 9 and now trades for a paltry 0.2
times revenue and 4.3 times EBITDA. Yet this is a company that pays no
taxes to the Chinese government, since it's been classified as a Key
Leading Enterprise in Agriculture and is helping that country achieve
its strategic goal of becoming food independent.
But if you look up Yanglin Soybean, you may be scared off. It trades
over the counter, the stock is illiquid, and the board has no
independent directors. There's no way to be sure that the company cares
a lick for outside shareholders.
It's time to take off the training wheels
These are legitimate concerns. But I've already tried to assuage them. So today I point you to Baupost Group's Seth Klarman's 1997 letter to shareholders:
I frequently hear the argument that the rules are
different overseas: the accounting murky, the annual reports
unreadable, the currencies sometimes unhedgable. All of these points
are fair, but, rather than being arguments to avoid foreign markets,
they are instead arguments to embrace them. After all, as an investor
you never have perfect information, and the biggest profits are always
available (just as they have been in the U.S.) when competition and
information are scarce. The payoff to fundamental analysis rises proportionately with the difficulty of performing it.
Yes, I added that emphasis, because it's such a key point. Klarman goes on to say that the highest return -- the real money -- is made in markets where information is scarce and management teams are not yet obviously shareholder-oriented.
The logical conclusion
Think about that and
decide what kind of investor you're willing and able to be. If you're
satisfied with average returns, buy an index fund and enjoy the 5% or
so annual gains you'll reap from core holdings in companies such as PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP).
And yes, you're getting those same kinds of big, staid megacaps even
when you purchase an emerging-markets index fund. Top holdings in
Vanguard's offering include Infosys and Sasol (NYSE: SSL).
If you're looking for more, come join us at Global Gains,
where we study the foreign markets for inefficiencies and strive to
pick up fast-growing, little-known names like Yanglin Soybean for dirt
cheap price tags after doing intense due diligence. Click here for a free 30-day trial, complete with all of our recommendations. There's no obligation to subscribe.
© 2009 UCLICK, L.L.C