Ins and Outs of Emerging Markets Investing: Market Behavior and Evolution
Emerging markets are an important part of a well-diversified global equity portfolio. However, recent history reminds us that they can be volatile and can perform differently than developed markets. In this article, we provide a longer historical perspective on the performance of emerging markets and the countries that constitute them. We also describe the emerging markets opportunity set and how it has evolved in recent years.
RECENT PERFORMANCE IN PERSPECTIVE
In recent years, the returns of emerging markets have lagged behind those of developed markets. As shown in Exhibit 1, over the past 10 years (2010–2019) the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (net div.) had an annualized compound return of 3.7%, compared to 5.3% for the MSCI World ex USA Index (net div.) and 13.6% for the S&P 500 Index. While recent returns have been disappointing, it is not uncommon to see extended periods when emerging markets perform differently than developed markets. For example, just looking back to the prior decade (2000–2009), emerging markets strongly outperformed developed markets, with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (net div.) posting an annualized compound return of 9.8%, compared to 1.6% for the MSCI World ex USA Index and –0.95% for the S&P 500 Index.
The magnitude of the return differences from year to year can be large. For example, relative to the US, the biggest underperformance in the past 10 years was in 2013, when emerging markets underperformed by over 34 percentage points. Exhibit 2 helps to put this difference into historical context: between 1988 and 2019, emerging markets outperformed US stocks by 34 percentage points or more per year four times (1993, 1999, 2007, and 2009) and underperformed US stocks by that same magnitude four times (1995, 1997, 1998, and 2013).