If you're an emerging markets investor, it's time to tango: Argentina may be officially designated an emerging market.
The country was downgraded to a frontier market in 2009, as it suffered through high inflation, fiscal consolidation, and recession. This move put the nation on the "do not invest" list among many institutional money managers. But after twelve years of the same political party running the country, and anti-investor friendly policies, Argentina has a new ruling party and president. A successful businessman and former mayor of Bueno Aires, Mauricio Macri is introducing market-friendly policies, which have some investors believing the country will be upgraded. Already, S&P has boosted its country rating from CCC+ to B-.
Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), which manages EM benchmark, will ultimately decide whether Argentina will become an emerging market in 2017. And if it does indeed include the country in the index, Argentina's market will likely get a boost.
Right now there are six stocks that fulfill the MSCI requirements in terms of liquidity, market capitalization, and other metrics. All of them trade in the US: Banco Marco, Banco Galicia, Adecoagro, BBVA Banco Frances, Pampa Energia, and YPF. All of these stocks should trade up, as more institutional investors start coming around to the Argentina upgrade story. These six stocks would comprise a 0.4% weighting in the broader MSCI EM Index, based on current levels, and 3% in the MSCI Latin American Index. In addition, there are two other stocks that may make the cut too: Aluar and Edenor, which would mean a slightly higher weighting for Argentina in the benchmarks.
Significant capital inflows are expected if Argentina is upgraded, perhaps more than $3 billion, according to some market experts. The Argentine market trades just north of $70 million a day, so the influx of capital would be meaningful, buoying these six stocks, as well as smaller ones.
Macri is certainly trying to get investors to notice Argentina. His administration proposed a $6.5 billion settlement, which is a 25% haircut in value, to creditors that have been suing the nation which defaulted on its sovereign bonds in 2002. Already, two of the six creditors have accepted the agreement, which might create momentum for more bond holders to accept the terms. It looks promising that a deal will get done, closing a woeful chapter in Argentina's financial history. Macri has the mandate of the people and is enjoying a 70% approval rating, and his reforms may make Argentina the next best emerging market in which to invest.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned. Kabir Sehgal is the author of New York Times bestseller Coined: The Rich Life of Money And How Its History Has Shaped Us and The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk. He is also a Grammy-winning producer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.