India for Diversification



I have noticed many concept pages for China as an investment. For investors, however, India may be a better choice as there is less of a correlation with the developed world. China was a good investment story several years ago, but may be too much of a speculative bubble at this time. If you are new to investing in emerging markets, I would wait until after the 2008 Beijing Olympics before getting into China and only then via a closed-end fund such as the Templeton Dragon Fund (TDF) or others of similar styles.

One way of getting a grasp of a country's level of domestic demand versus export demand is using the Trade-to-GDP ratio. A low ratio indicates that the local economy consumes a proportionally larger amount of goods and services, whereas a high ratio indicates an economy that is more export-driven.

Image:Trade Ratio.jpg

Mutual Funds versus Individual Companies

When investing in emerging markets, the question is whether to go with a closed-end or mutual fund, or to select individual companies that trade on overseas markets. Closed-end funds are often the only way to get involved in the newest of emerging markets (e.g., Vietnam) and trade on exchanges like stocks (i.e., can be bought or sold during the day, may be shorted). The disadvantage is that the price can differ from the Net Asset Value due to demand-supply considerations. Buying at a discount to the NAV is not always advisable since it may indicate a lack of liquidity or that the fund is out-of-favour for good reasons.

Over the past several years Indian companies have become listed on U.S. exchanges, usually as American Depository Receipts (ADRs) and provide albeit narrow exposure to the Indian market. For example, one can buy Tata Motors (TTM), an ADR which gives exposure to the growing demand for automobiles by Indian consumers. With recently announced plans to set up production facilities in Thailand, TTM will also provide investors with exposure to another emerging market.

The growing worldwide reach of Indian companies will also provide investors with one might call "back-investing". If Tata is successful with their plans to purchase the Land Rover and Jaguar units from Ford, shareholders in TTM will gain additional exposure to western, developed world markets.

Infosys Technologies Ltd (INFY) is an Indian company that is a play on the global outsourcing movement. They also have plans to move into Southeast Asian countries which will give shareholders further exposure to other emerging markets.

The India Fund (IFN) provides exposure to some of India's best companies and passes through dividends, giving a very nice dividend yield, unlike most U.S. mutual funds.

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