When I first met Jim O’Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist and the father of the BRIC acronym – he struck me immediately as a man with a well-honed instinct for marketing.
Well, according to the London Financial Times, O’Neill is at it again. He has designated Mexico, South Korea, Turkey and Indonesia as part of a new group of red hot— dubbed the “MIKTs.” O’Neill argues that any economy from the emerging markets world that is already 1% of global GDP or more must be “taken seriously. ” All of the MIKTs meet this criterion.
This is not the first time O’Neill has attempted to replicate the success of the BRIC acronym through a re-branding exercise. In 2005, O’Neill and his colleagues compiled a list called the “Next 11″ (N11) — countries that Goldman Sachs deemed to rival the BRICs in terms of investment prospects over the coming decades. That list consisted of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam. The MIKTs are simply the “Top 5” among this unwieldy group.
BRICs versus MIKTs: No Contest, Really…
The BRICs remain first among equals among emerging markets. China is now the world’s second-largest economy, accounting for 9.3% of global GDP. Brazil, India and Russia combined provide a further 8%. Compared to the BRICs, the MIKTs are still economic minnows. Mexico and South Korea account for 1.6% each of global GDP. Turkey and Indonesia only account for 1.2% and 1.1%, respectively. Taken together, the MIKTs barely add up to half of China.
But don’t underestimate the expected impact of such re-branding on investment returns. Over the past 10 years, investors have tripled their money in emerging markets. But they multiplied it five-fold by investing in the Goldman Sachs-designated BRICs.
Investing in the Goldman Sachs-anointed MIKTs just might give you similar results between now and 2021.
So here is the brief run-down of what may be the top-performing global markets over the next decade.
Mexico: The “Almost BRIC”
Mexico still feels slighted that, back in 2001, Jim O’Neill anointed politically corrupt, emerging-market “bad boy” Russia, and not Mexico, as the fourth member in the BRIC acronym. After all, Mexico’s economy is only slightly smaller than Russia’s. And, like Russia, it has produced its share of billionaires, most notably Carlos Slim, whose holdings in telecom giant America Movil (AMX) briefly made him richer than Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.
The surprising reality is that you would have made a lot more money in Mexico through the iShares MSCI Mexico Investable Mkt Idx (EWW) over the past five years than by investing with the gringos in the north.
Indonesia: The Fifth “BRIC?”
As the world’s largest Muslim nation with a population of almost 238 million, Indonesia is the fourth-most populous country in the world after China, India and the United States. Already among the top 20 economies in the world in terms of GDP, the Indonesian economy grew at more than 4% in 2009, making it one of only a handful of major economies to grow through the “Great Recession.” With its abundant natural resources, Indonesia recently also has benefited tremendously buy brics money from the China-driven commodities boom. As Emil Salim, a presidential adviser and former cabinet minister, summed it up: “Our target is to put another ‘I’ into BRIC… Achieving that in five years is possible.”
Indonesia has been off the radar for most investors. But the Van Eck’s Market Vectors Indonesia ETF (IDX) has been one of the top performers in the world since its launch — far outpacing the U.S. S&P 500.
South Korea: The Top “MIKT”
If there is a first among equals within the MIKTs, it is South Korea.
Half a century ago, South Korea’s economy was as poverty stricken as Upper Volta. Today, South Korea has transformed itself into the world’s 10th-largest economy. Thanks to the “miracle on the Han river” — named after the river that runs through its capital, Seoul — per capita annual income grew from $87 in 1962 to just about $20,000 today.
Since its inauspicious beginning, Korea transformed itself into a world leader in shipping, semiconductors, digital displays and consumer electronics. Today, Samsung, LGE and Hyundai are leading the pack in terms of global innovation. Once the butt of late-night TV jokes, Korean automobile manufacturers such as Hyundai have surpassed German rivals Mercedes and BMW in quality surveys.
The iShares MSCI South Korea Index (EWY) also has far outperformed the U.S. S&P 500 over the past five years
Turkey: Unheralded Success Story
Strategically ensconced between the European West and the Islamic East, Turkey is a country of just under 75 million people — roughly twice the population of California. The unheralded “economic tiger” of emerging markets, Turkey grew at an average rate of 7.5% between 2002 and 2006, faster than any other OECD country. In 2000, Turkey’s GDP stood at $250 billion. Today, it stands at more than $600 billion. According to Forbes magazine, Istanbul, Turkey’s financial capital, boasts an eye-popping 34 billionaires. That puts it fourth in the world behind Moscow, New York City, and London, ranking it ahead of Asian and U.S. giants like Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Mumbai, San Francisco, Dallas and Tokyo.
The iShares MSCI Turkey Invest Mkt Index (TUR) only launched in June 2008. But over the past two years, it has been among the world’s top performers
Acronyms matter. In November 2001, the MIKT countries accounted for 28.7% of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. Two of the newly minted MIKTs — Korea and Mexico — were bigger than any of the BRICs, including China and India. Today, the BRICs account for 48.7% of emerging markets, while the MIKT’s share has dropped to 25.1%.
Goldman’s highlighting the quartet of Mexico, Indonesia, Korea and Turkey (MIKT) may turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. When world markets topped in October 2007, the MSCI BRIC Index had gained 625% from the start of the decade, outpacing both emerging markets as a whole (399%), and developed market stocks (75.4%).
So here’s a bullet-proof investment strategy for the next 10 years:
Invest in the ETFs of the MIKTs — and hold them through thick and thin.
If you do, I bet that you’ll outperform the by-then 90-year-old Warren Buffett.