NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The global economy may be slowing, but Rajesh Gandhi, portfolio manager for the American Century International Growth Fund (TWIEX) - Get American Century International Growth Investor Class Report, is still finding companies with strong growth potential, especially in Asia.
The $1.4 billion fund, which garners three stars from
, is down 3.26% in the year to date, still beating 68% of its rivals. While performance averaging the past three and five years is erratic, the fund's ranking has stayed in the mid-to-high 60s.
Welcome to TheStreet.com's Fund Manager Five Spot, where America's top mutual fund managers give their best stock picks and views on the market in a five-question format.
Where in the world are you finding the most attractive stocks right now?
We are constantly looking for companies that are exhibiting improvement or acceleration in their fundamentals. Ironically, one of the areas that we are finding opportunities in is Japan. Even in the context of a weak economy and what looks like weak consumer trends, there is a company that we like in Japan called
. It's a furniture retailer with the majority of their business in Japan. It is effectively the IKEA of Japan. They are growing new space at 10% to 12% per year. It very much reminds me of what
did in the U.S. over the last few decades by driving local operators out of the market by bringing scale and efficiency to the customer and delivering lower prices.
Top Chinese Consumer Stocks
China has overtaken Japan as the world's second-largest economy. What are you doing in the emerging markets right now?
We like the emerging markets for many reasons. Some of them are quite obvious. It's where the secular growth is. It's where the investment is going in. The manufacturing sectors in China and India are performing very strongly.
Nevertheless, the consumer is also quite strong. The trends we see in terms of consumption are quite strong. We recently heard about wage inflation in China, and while that's bad for some export-based companies, it's great for the consumer stocks and consumer plays. Incomes are going up. One play we have on the emerging market consumer is
. It's a Swiss-based luxury goods company. People know it for the Swatch brand, but the core is high-end luxury watches. Their Omega brand has a very strong market share in China, growing well over 20% in revenue terms.
Speaking of consumer goods companies, you also own LVMH. Why do you like this company?
It's another luxury play, very similar to Swatch. The
brand, which represents almost two-thirds of the company's operating profit, has very strong growth out of Asia. The Louis Vuitton brand has been operating in the Chinese market for well over 20 years. It's a well entrenched, well recognized brand, but it has tons of growth opportunities. They are opening stores in some of the second- and third-tier cities in China, yet there is still room for growth in the first-tier cities.
People are taking cruises, but that's a different play. Carnival's business is dominated in the U.S. and in Europe. Carnival offers value. In consumer markets like the U.S. and Europe where the consumer is under pressure and there is high unemployment, consumers still take their one-week vacations in August. Cruising in general offers value. It's a package deal and in many cases consumers don't have to fly to the port to hop on a cruise. It's all-inclusive and it's a great experience.
Buying a Mercedes is not for the value shopper, however. Tell me why you like Daimler (DDAIF) .
We like Daimler because of the growth at Mercedes. It's a margin story. The margins at Mercedes have improved significantly, and that's not only on the back of strong growth. It's a beneficiary of the weak euro. And the weak euro has not only helped Daimler, but Europe as a whole.
Reported by Gregg Greenberg in New York
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