Are you looking to buy stocks cheaply? Try these emerging market ETFs
Say you are a billionaire who wants to buy a few NHL hockey teams: the first team has won the Stanley Cup several years in a row. However, most of the players on the winning team are getting older. They slow down, don’t check as hard, and their wages keep going up.
Several other teams, however, are selling cheaply. One young team in particular is getting faster every year. The Stanley Cup champions fear the speed of this team, their control abilities and their organized play that puts the pucks in the net.
The first team represents the US stock market: a group of aging players with exorbitant salaries. The Cycle-Adjusted Price / Earnings Ratio (CAPE) – which compares the current prices of stocks with their average annual earnings over the past 10 years – provides the most accurate estimate of future returns. When a country’s stock market is trading well above its historic CAPE ratio, it usually signals a weak decade ahead. When the CAPE ratio is well below a country’s historical average, it bodes well for performance over the next 10 years.
For example, in the book by Larry Swedroe and Kevin Grogan, Reduce the risk of black swans, the authors explain that when CAPE ratios historically exceed 25 times earnings, US stocks barely beat inflation in the next 10 years. In other words, based on today’s ratings, they are skating on thin ice.
According to Barclay’s investment bank, as of April 30, US stocks were trading at a staggering 36.8 times earnings. This does not mean that US stocks will experience an immediate winless streak. They could continue to fly by 2025. But if they do, the chances will be even higher of losing more than they gain from 2025 to 2031. Or, they could collapse soon and then lead to a slow recovery until 2031. The CAPE ratio does not accurately predict the performance of stocks in any given year. But when you measure 10 years in advance, he’s a weird fortune teller.
In 2020, faced with the pandemic, the performance of the American stock market surprised almost everyone. But further from the headlines, some much cheaper markets have scored more goals.
According to JP Morgan Wealth Management, emerging markets gained 18.5% in 2020 compared to 18.4% for the S&P 500, measured in US dollars. Chinese, Taiwanese and South Korean stocks gained a whopping 40 percent on average last year, also in US dollars. Despite this surge, they are still much cheaper than US stocks.
According to Barclay’s investment bank, the Chinese stock market traded at a CAPE ratio of just 19.5 times earnings in early May. Most of the time, when a stock (or stock market) offers strong business growth, it accompanies higher price / earnings multiples (PEs).
Think high-growth tech stock versus low-growth bank stock: Tech stocks typically have higher PE ratios because investors have higher expectations. But when China is trading at a CAPE ratio of 19.5 times earnings, it’s like shares of Amazon.com Inc. or Apple Inc. trading at lower multiples than Wells Fargo & Co. . or Citigroup Inc.
To take advantage of this aberration, you can buy the iShares MSCI China ETF (MCHI-Q). It gained 27.78% last year, beating the S&P 500 index by more than 9%.
According to Siblis Research, the three most expensive stock markets in the world are the United States, India and Japan. The three cheapest are Poland, Russia and Turkey. If you have the iron stomach and patience of a Buddha, you might want to bet on these great bargains. Polish stocks are trading at a CAPE ratio of around 10.9 times earnings. According to Morningstar, the price of the iShares MSCI Poland ETF (EPOL-A) is cheaper today than it was 10 years ago.
Russian stocks are also trading cheaply, with a CAPE ratio of around 10 times earnings. The iShares MSCI Russia (ERUS-A) comprises Russian stocks and its dividend yield exceeds 4 percent. Turkey completes the cheapest market with a CAPE ratio of just 7.83 times earnings. The iShares MSCI Turkey ETF (TUR-Q) tracks Turkish stocks, which are also cheaper today than they were ten years ago.
These three ETFs could beat the US stock index over the next 10 years, but few investors are likely to have the courage to wait. If those cheap ETFs don’t perform well over the next five or six years, even battle-worn thugs could throw in the towel. This is one of the things that makes investing so difficult: We are looking for immediate results, often at the expense of long term gains.
Building a globally diversified ETF portfolio is, however, easier on the nerves. In doing so, you would be exposed to the global stock markets. When one market weakens, another could soar. That is why it is better to own them all. If, however, you still want to roll the dice, don’t double up on US stocks now. Instead, consider what’s on sale.