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The Emerging Market Enigma: A bottoms up approach

By: Nicole Urken | 01/27/14 - 06:12 PM EST

NEW YORK (TheStreet)-Emerging market question marks remain front & center. And while countries like Argentina and Turkey are dominating headlines, front & center is none other than China, with worries of slowing economic growth, with the factory sector contracting in January for the first time in six months.  (HSBC's Flash Purchasing Managers' Index, PMI, for January came in at 49.6, down from last month's final reading of 50.5).

The emerging market question marks seem to be issue number one for the market right now, particularly as taper has been expected and is gradual.

So, when thinking about China: When panic sets in, we turn to company-specific data. Ultimately, broader economic read concerns will dominate headlines, but let's turn back to some positive data we have gotten from individual companies, as there has been a good deal of positive news flow:

Industrials:

Caterpillar (CAT): While some of the better-than-expected results today were due to cost saves and restructuring, the company also sees sales leveling off this year. And China was a highlight:

"Our sales in China were up more than 20% this year. They were up in the quarter. So, you know, it has not been a big negative for us"

And regarding the downtick in PMI: "Yes that has occurred... the market reactions really over the past week or 10 days or so. I think in our business it has been pretty positive. We've seen the construction-not just our sales, but kind of the overall construction equipemtn group sales in the industry ticking up year over year and over the past few months. And we saw that again in December, so I think what we've seen has been pretty good."

Honeywell (HON)

"We had organic growth of 13% in the fourth quarter in China...We also benefited from an uptick in China commercial vehicle demand, driven partially by Euro 3 pre-buy activity in anticipation of the new emissions standards in 2014."

"Actually, things feel pretty good for us in China...We did pretty well, if you take a look at the total year and the fourth quarter. When we take a look at our short cycle order rates, they are also looking pretty robust. It's pretty much across the board, across all the businesses... I think it's an economy that is going to continue to grow and grow for a long time. We've just been working very hard at positioning ourselves there to be successful."

And on whether this was Honeywell specific or macro, Dave Cote said: "I guess I'd break it into the two pieces. 'm not sure, always how reliable all the statistics are when you see industrial production and that kind of thing out of China. So, whether it's really good are really bad on the statistics, I don't know. I'd that take some of that with a bit of grain of salt. Overall, though, I would say we still see it growing. Within that, we are growing better. So, I would say it's the combination of the two."

Johnson Controls (JCI)

"And in China, we had significant growth. We keep talking about and hearing about 7%, 9% growth. But what we saw was 14% growth in the quarter as it relates to the OE market...Terrific quarter in China, and we see that momentum carrying through here into the second quarter."

Freeport-McMoRan (FCX):

"During 2013, China went through a government change, a reorientation of its economy towards internal consumption with less emphasis on exports and infrastructure development. Major spending on infrastructure continues as evidenced by the recent announcement by State Grid to increase its capital spending and that has a major impact on copper consumption there. Consumer demand remains strong. Infrastructure investment in China is a major part of this marketplace."

"We continue to be very optimistic about China. In the global copper markets are tight. In China you have, and you can see that with premiums that are paid with falling exchange stocks around the world, it just have dramatic today fall. In China you do have this copper that's in the bonded warehouses that are off exchanges, so it's depending on how that goes, depending on how these financing deals go. When you just look at the performance of the economy in China, even though there's some slowdown, the size of the economies grown to the extend that those somewhat lower percentages still translate into very substantial amounts of copper demand. We're optimistic about it. We're also realistic to know that there could be changes depending on how they manage the inventories, how these financing transactions work and just how their global activities go. We're optimistic about it, and as I said, I think in general, the market's much more optimistic about it than they were a year ago."

United Technologies (UTX):

"Asia grew about 4% with ongoing strength in China, where sales were up 9%...In China, construction starts and property transactions were strong for the year, giving rise to solid backlogs across our commercial businesses..."

The company also noted that its Otis unit should see 20% order growth in 2013


Retail

Coach (COH):

Dismal quarter with North American comps down 13.6%. But China? That was a bright spot! "China results remained resilient, with total sales growing about 25%, and comparable store sales rising at a double-digit rate...We're very pleased by the continued development of this market, which bodes well for our global travel retail business, where mainland Chinese tourist plays an increasing important role"

Proctor & Gamble (PG)

"We continue to make progress on our efforts to strengthen the growth rates in Beauty and many parts of the Beauty business are growing quite well. Personal Care shipments, for instance, increased double digits in the quarter. The strong growth, really, in all regions; up double digits in China, mid-teens in Central and Eastern Europe, and more than 25% in Latin America."

Starbucks (SBUX):

"In Q1 our rapidly expanding china Asia Pacific segment, currently comprising over 4,000 stores in 14 countries, including 209 net new stores in Q1, delivered strong revenue growth of 25% and exceptional strong comp growth of 8%...This month, Starbucks celebrated its 15th anniversary in China, a market we opened with one store in Beijing in 1999. We have more than 1,000 stores today, and China remains on track to become Starbucks' largest and most successful market outside of the U.S."

Tech:

Altera  (ALTR):

"Wireless was down slightly with LTE in China positively impacting our second half...expected to grow, with wireless up sharply on China LTE shipments..."

Xilinx (XLNX):

"Strong wireless sales associated with China LTE deployments..."

Cypress Semi (CY):

"We have said that in the past that China is a top market. It actually continues to be that in this current quarter. But overall, we're actually happy about the emerging markets. A lot of that is driven by security and mobility -- mobility specifically -- and emerging markets.""I know there's a lot of paranoia today on China. We're not seeing anything bizarre in China. Our bookings have been good in China. And our linearity in China continues to be very well, just so we can get that out of the way"


F-Five (FFIV):

"We have said that in the past that China is a top market. It actually continues to be that in this current quarter. But overall, we're actually happy about the emerging markets. A lot of that is driven by security and mobility -- mobility specifically -- and emerging markets."

Oh, and of all items for Apple (AAPL), China remains the opportunity, despite question marks.

--Written by Nicole Urken in New York.

>Contact by Email.

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