The 5 Fastest-Growing Countries in the World

The recession took a sledgehammer to global economic growth, particularly in advanced economies such as Europe, Japan, and the United States. It's been a tough road back for many of these leading nations -- and for some, like Europe's hardest-hit countries including Italy and Spain, growth's remained elusive five years after the 2008 financial crisis's climax. While some economies are bouncing back slowly, let's look at the best economic outlooks going forward. Just which nations are the five fastest growing countries in the world?

Using data from the International Monetary Fund and based on projected 2014 nominal GDP growth rates for the 50 largest economies in the world, let's start off with No. 5 on our list.

5. Peru, 5.7% GDP growth
Peru's been touted as one of South America's fastest-growing economies in years, and the country's economic strides have lifted it to become the 39th largest economy in the world, according to IMF data, adjusted for purchasing power parity. Even though the Peruvian government has backslid on some of its loftier economic growth projections for the future, this country still looks to be the pearl of South America going forward, and its place among the world's five fastest-growing countries has been built atop one dominant industry that's ignored its worldwide decline: mining.

Yanacocha gold mine, Peru. Source: Wikimedia Commons, user Elbuenminero.

However, the sector hasn't been as kind to investors this year as it has to Peru's economy. Peru's largest mining firm, Compania de Minas Buenaventura (NYSE: BVN  ) , has seen its stock fall a whopping 70% on the year. Buenaventura's dealt with problems from a workers' strike back in October to plunging sales and earnings recently. However, JPMorgan Chase analysts opined after the company's third quarter results that the miner of gold and other metals could be due for a long-term turnaround by finishing several projects this year, including a manganese plant that should help to push down rising costs.

Several other major companies have stakes in Peru's dominant mining industry, including Vale (NYSE: VALE  ) . Vale has sold off assets and cut back on investments recently to keep its profits rolling along in light of the mining industry's collapse, but the company hasn't sacrificed its stronghold in Peru. In fact, Peru is one of four countries that Vale's targeting with 85% of its mineral exploration, along with Canada, Australia, and Brazil. Considering Peru's growth outlook -- and the big role mining's played in its climb -- it looks like a smart move for Vale and its investors.

4. Bangladesh, 6% GDP growth
Bangladesh is the eighth largest country on the planet in terms of population, and that's helped the country climb into the ranks of the world's top 50 economies. But this country's growth has come behind the textile industry, as Bangladesh has emerged as a cheap labor source compared with the likes of traditional labor hotspot China.

However, this fast-growing country is nowhere near as friendly to investors as stable Peru is. Bangladesh is still navigating progress in its industries, and violence and political friction (including the recent opposition party's boycott of a coming general election) could threaten the country's thriving growth in the future. There's considerable potential for Bangladesh's economy if the country can implement successful economic and civic progress while strengthening trade ties with neighboring economic powers like India, but until such events happen -- and they're no certainty -- investors should stay cautious around a teetering state like this.

3. Philippines, 6% GDP growth
The Philippines, a member of the blossoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, has become a big player in the region recently because of its regional spats with power player China over control and influence in the South China Sea. However, this country's more than just an opponent for Asia's top economy: It's a growth story all on its own, and the Philippines has quietly risen to become the 31st largest economy in the world, ahead of developed nations such as Austria, Sweden, and Singapore. While the IMF projects the Philippines's economic growth to slow down to 5.5% in the years following 2014, this country's still on pace to emerge as a top player in fast-growing Asia.

However, the country's growth projection might not live up to its hype in the new year. The Philippines still suffers from poor infrastructure in many parts of the country, a hindrance to business and growth. Easy credit has also led to inflating housing and consumer prices.

However, the country's dominant business process outsourcing industry, or BPO, should keep on churning out growth for the Philippines. Many top BPO and IT firms operate out of the country, including Accenture (NYSE: ACN  ) . Accenture targeted BPO as one of its key growth markets in its recent 10-K annual filing, and overall outsourcing revenue rose 7% year over year at the company in its most recent fiscal year. The Philippines' economy might not be sturdy enough to trust across every sector, but for Accenture and other BPO leaders, it's hard to pass up.

2. China, 7.3% GDP growth
It's hard to leave out China on a list like this, even with the country's fall from its double-digit economic growth of years past. Still, the country has ascended to the No. 2 spot among world economies behind only the USA, and between a major urbanization push, a growing middle class, and China's recent commitment in its recent Third Plenum economic conference to support private business and market forces, this world power looks to keep its growth churning along at a high rate.

Nanjing Road, Shanghai. Source: Wikimedia Commons, user Miaow Miaow.

That hasn't helped investors so much this year, particularly as Hong Kong's Hang Seng stock index has gained only around 2% year to date -- much of that from a recent rally in the past few months, considering the Hang Seng's losses earlier in 2013. Nonetheless, a few industries are ready to break out in a big way in China, with Internet and online business in particular well positioned to capitalize on the country's growing middle class.

Internet search engine Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU  ) has been one of the top China stocks to post actual strong gains this year, jumping 60% since the start of 2013. While Baidu's been feeling pressure from smaller growing rivals, this company still controlled more than 61% of Chinese search engine traffic as of October. That's down more than two percentage points year over year, but considering Baidu's planned push overseas into Thailand in 2014, as well as its ambitions to move into fast-growing Indonesia, among other economies, this Chinese tech giant looks like a long-term winner and one of this growing economy's more promising plays for investors.

1. Nigeria, 7.4% GDP growth
Nigeria is the 30th largest economy in the world, according to the IMF, and like Bangladesh, it's heavily a result of its population: This country is the seventh most populous nation in the world and quickly is becoming a power player in Africa's greater economy. Oil and the energy sector, in particular, have fueled Nigeria's gains, with the Niger River delta a massive bastion of oil reserves. Despite the country's political instability and location in a socially unstable location of the globe, the country's leadership in Africa's oil sector has made it a hot target for the world's biggest oil majors.

However, several oil giants recently have looked to sell off assets in the region as Nigeria promotes domestic ownership of energy reserves. Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) sold three oil blocks for $900 million back in November, the latest of a string of sales from companies including Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips. Chevron's still the third-largest energy producer in the country, and the company has said it's committed to Nigeria, but a shift from foreign to domestic companies could be coming for this growing African energy giant.

Nonetheless, Nigeria's energy dominance is going nowhere. The country has considerable ground to make up before it can think about joining the ranks of more advanced emerging economies such as Brazil and China, butin the meantime, the country's oil and natural gas will be a friend to investors.

Keeping an eye on the long-term growth
The world's five fastest-growing countries are a mixed lot, and one thing's clear: There's no one formula to achieving growth. From single industry-dominant states such as Nigeria to urbanizing powers such as China to vulnerable economies such as Bangladesh, economic growth is a fickle business for investors. States that play it right -- such as China -- can become huge growth opportunities. But it's critical to keep your eyes open and, as with all investments, stick to business fundamentals. There are great companies out there in the world's top-growing economies, but don't be tricked by flashes in the pan. The long term, as China has proved, is the best growth opportunity for both investors and nations.

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