Remaining optimistic on emerging markets

The year 2023 turned out to be fairly pedestrian in terms of emerging markets’ performance. The asset class was weighed down by China, which recorded its third consecutive year of negative returns.

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The year 2023 turned out to be fairly pedestrian in terms of emerging markets’ performance. The asset class was weighed down by China, which recorded its third consecutive year of negative returns.
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“We already have (exposure) to India via our Asia and Regional strategies.” We often hear this comment from prospective clients who are considering an investment in the FSSA Indian Subcontinent strategy, but are not yet convinced that a dedicated allocation would indeed be worth it. Call us biased, but we have been arguing in favour of a standalone investment in India for many years.
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Markets will always do their best to push us to act in a short-term and emotional manner, particularly at times when events become somewhat extreme. These days all of us, market participants or not, seem almost entirely focused on uncertainty rather than promise. This is why having a strong philosophy and process is crucial.
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Sree Agarwal and Shivika Srimal, investment analysts at FSSA Investment Managers, believe there are a number of reasons to be positive on India in the long run, and shared their rationale at the FSSA Forum 2023.
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Most people in North America and Europe hold a negative view of China, according to a recent survey. This is hardly surprising given the portrayals in Western media – a Google Images search for “China” and “The Economist” returns front-cover headlines, such as: The brutal reality of dealing with China, Trade without trust, and America v China; it’s worse than you think.
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In our team, mistakes are teachable moments to be shared and learnt from. Thankfully, for us and our clients, in our history of investing in India we have managed to avoid the big ones.
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As investors focused on quality, one can easily “fall in love” with an investment and be too forgiving in certain situations, potentially missing important warning signs or sell signals. One question that we frequently get relates to a common behavioural bias for quality investors: how do we balance admiration for a company without becoming too complacent?
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In our last update, we touched on the idea of high-quality companies hiding in small market capitalisations in ASEAN . This, in our view, is due to years of declining foreign-investor interest in the region. These companies are usually not covered in great detail or indeed at all by sell-side research analysts.
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In response to the recent client interest around China’s market and the challenging performance year-to-date, we had a conversation with Martin Lau, managing partner and lead portfolio manager for the FSSA Asian Equity Plus and FSSA China Growth strategies.
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