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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

About GDP Weighting and Emerging Market Allocations in Portfolios

from today's FT

my bolds and comment in blue

Emerging nations: a beacon of opportunity

By Jerome Booth
Published: October 25 2010 19:19 | Last updated: October 25 2010 19:19
If you are looking for a market bubble do not look to emerging markets. The US and Europe remain a huge super-bubble. Emerging markets, by contrast, are safe. Putting one’s head in the sand and denying this reality has the attraction of plentiful company, but constitutes the opposite of prudence. Remember, lemmings also like to crowd together and the collective name for them is a “suicide”.
Unlike Europe and the US, emerging markets do not have a credit crunch, in essence a multi-year, very painful, deleveraging – that is, wealth destruction. But if you have not experienced 30 years of rising financial leverage, the past 10 to excess, you cannot get a credit crunch. Emerging markets are in a very different cycle to the developed world now, with inflationary not deflationary pressures....

although I have a preference for emerging markets equities over debt I share some of the reasoning here:

The size of the emerging debt market is thus driven by demand, which is growing in an iterative way because of behavioural constraints. I am a big believer in GDP weighting – cap-weighted indices of publicly listed securities (typically misnamed “investible”) are a very poor representation of global investment opportunities. A better measure of global economic activity – and hence the full universe of investment opportunities – is past income – GDP, and that implies 50 per cent allocations to emerging markets.
Also the largest problem in the institutional investment industry arguably is misaligned incentives, which causes massive herding. It is the combination of these two deficiencies, combined with prejudice about emerging markets and inexcusably deficient concepts of risk and uncertainty that lead to gradual allocation.
A pension fund manager told me recently: yes, he agreed that GDP weighting was sensible and he was massively underweight, and yes, the industry suffered from herding where everyone was watching their peers, but he still had to be in the herd, though he could be at the edge of the herd. The result is that institutional investors invest a fraction of what they think is appropriate in emerging debt until their peers catch up and the result is gradual allocation over a period of many years. This is currently happening with many different types of investor peer groups all over the globe. Hence we have a gradual structural shift, not a temporary reversible move.

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