For many years, the world’s most popular emerging markets have been the so-called BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
But given that Russia is no longer a market that Westerners can access following the invasion of Ukraine, it might be time for investors to stop lumping all of the emerging markets together.
“The BRICS had their day in the sun and that has faded,” said Eric Winograd, senior economist at AllianceBernstein.
Several major US index providers have removed Russian stocks from indexes at a price of “zero” or “effectively zero.” Trading shares of several leading US-listed Russian companies, such as search engine Yandex and telecom MTS, have been halted. And the Moscow Stock Exchange has been closed since February 25, the day after the invasion.
“The idea that a country as large as Russia can be removed from indexes is a big deal,” Winograd said.
It seems likely that Russia will not be included in top emerging markets funds anytime soon. Even for those Westerners still willing to invest in Russian assets, it’s not clear what comes next.
“Some investors are asking about exposure to Russia in emerging markets funds. With indexes starting to exclude Russia, it’s still a wait-and-see game,” said Mychal Campos, head of investing at Betterment.
For investors looking to get exposure to emerging markets, Winograd said, each country should be looked at individually.
“The name of the game will be differentiation. Don’t invest in emerging markets based on an acronym,” Winograd said. “It’s always strange to say that Argentina and South Korea are the same thing, for example. They’re not.”
Forget the BRICS and look at TICKS or MIST?
To stick with the acronyms, the shutdown of the Russian stock market has essentially turned the BRICS into the BICS — and that could be a permanent change, said Rahul Sen Sharma, managing partner with Indxx, a global index provider.
“Will investors ever embrace Russia again? If there is no liquidity, it’s a moot point. But it’s also hard to believe that people will rush into Russia anytime soon,” Sen Sharma told CNN Business.
Sen Sharma said some investors may start to look at other emerging markets to replace Russia, such as Taiwan and South Korea. The BRICS could become the TICKS.
He added that Poland, Turkey and Mexico are intriguing, as are the Philippines and Indonesia. You could dub Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey the MIST markets. “People love their acronyms,” Sen Sharma joked.
Of course, any emerging market in Europe — think Poland — is inherently risky because of how close it is geographically to Russia and Ukraine. So other Central and Eastern European nations may be a hard sell for Western investors.
Other experts argue that investors are looking more at individual companies in emerging markets and less at the countries themselves.
“A typical investor sees emerging markets as a class of stocks. It’s a piece of a portfolio,” said Callie Cox, US investment analyst at eToro.
“The emerging markets landscape has been changing for awhile,” Cox added, noting that many investors have been skeptical of Russia since its annexation of Crimea in 2014. “There has been more anxiety.”