If you're like me, I'll bet you're at least a little bit intrigued by investing in rapid-growth overseas markets. You've heard a lot about the BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China.
They're growing like weeds, exporting everything that isn't nailed down. They have growing consumer economies; it's almost like turning back the clock to early Industrial Age America, where almost any investment paid off and even bad ideas worked in a booming economy.
Of course, I don't advocate bad investing ideas in the
The Millionaire Zone
. But I am sure taken by these growth stories. And one in particular curries my favor -- India.
Why India above the others?
Quite simply, political vagaries make me shy away from Brazil and Russia. I don't understand those countries or their economies that well, and I don't invest in things I don't understand.
So why India over China? I know China is growing faster. But I believe India has two distinct structural advantages that make its economy more diverse and bring steadier demand for its goods and services.
The first advantage is language. Most Indian citizens are bilingual (or multilingual) with English as their second language. This is a huge advantage in a world economy that does much of its business in English.
Secondly, and perhaps as a result, India has developed a strong service economy, with services that can be exported. Sure, there are call centers, but there's also rapid growth in highly valued services like accounting, engineering and product design.
Click here for the video version of this story from Jennifer Openshaw.
Beyond that, India's consumer economy and middle class are further along than China. Estimates call for a middle class of some 900 million by 2010, and the government, partly in response, is opening up retail markets to foreign companies. Tax reforms and reasonable inflation (5%) round out the picture.
So how does one invest in India? Here are four ways:
- ADRs. American depositary receipts, or ADRs, are shares traded on domestic exchanges representing a like value of foreign shares. You can emphasize companies serving the Indian market or those that export their wares overseas. HDFC Bank (HDB) - Get HDFC Bank Ltd. Report thrives on both local infrastructure and consumer growth, while Satyam Computer( SAY) provides local IT infrastructure and services. Solid export businesses include familiar call center operators Wipro (WIT) - Get Wipro Ltd. Report and Infosys (INFY) - Get Infosys Ltd. Report.
- ETFs. Exchange-traded funds are a more diversified if slightly more expensive way to play. The iPath MSCI India ETF (INP) follows all Indian securities and works for a long-term play. Are you worried about another hit to emerging markets, like what happened in February? The fact that Indian markets only dropped 5% while China plunged more than 10% should give comfort.
- Closed-end funds. Closed-end funds offer a little more active management -- professional stock selection. Two that fit are the Morgan Stanley India Investment Fund (IIF) - Get Morgan Stanley India Investment Fund Inc. Report and the Blackstone India Fund (IFN) - Get The India Fund Inc. Report. The 11.9% discount to net asset value makes the Blackstone fund especially appealing right now.
- U.S. companies. Those who read my columns (including this one on S&P 500 exporters) know that one of my favorite ways to play overseas is to find domestic companies that sell a lot abroad. For India, I know that Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report, McDonald's (MCD) - Get McDonald's Corporation Report and even Wal-Mart (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report do big business with, and in, India.
Now, this may not be the most revealing or complete list you've seen. In fact, I left out the whole spectrum of Indian companies, large and small, that don't trade in the U.S. There is, however, a lot of promise, and
Yahoo! Finance India and the
Bombay Stock Exchange portals are worth at least a look.
However you decide to play, India is sure to add some heat to your investment masala.
Jennifer Openshaw, a passionate advocate for helping Americans improve their finances and build their personal fortunes, is CEO of
The Millionaire Zone and America Online's personal finance editor. In addition to appearing regularly on TV shows such as "Oprah" and "Good Morning America" and on CNN, Openshaw is host of ABC Radio's "Winning Advice" and serves as an adviser to some of America's top corporations. Her new book,
"The Millionaire Zone," hit bookstores in April 2007.