The World's 5 Coldest Markets

I went over the first quarter's hottest foreign stock exchanges yesterday, so I may as well follow up by taking a look at the five markets that brought up the rear.

No, the United States did not crack the list of cellar-dwellers. The Dow's 6% slide pales in comparison to what some of last year's hottest markets surrendered during the first three months of 2008.

Return in U.S. dollar

  Return in Local Currency

Turkey

(37.2%)

  (28.5%)

Cyprus

(35.0%)

  (40.0%)

Iceland

(33.8%)

  (20.1%)

India

(29.2%)

  (27.9%)

China

(26.8%)

  (27.0%)

Source: Dow Jones indexes.

Don't panic. Volatility is part of the art of country-specific investing. Just as China and India -- the world's most populous markets -- had strong runs in 2007, the deep dips to start off 2008 may simply be breathers before bullish runs.  

If you're in the mood to bottom-fish here, I have a serving suggestion. Morgan Stanley's Turkish Investment Fund (NYSE: TKF  ) -- the only closed-end fund that invests exclusively in Turkey -- is trading at a 9% premium to its Net Asset Value. A brand new exchange-traded fund -- iShares MSCI Turkey (NYSE: TUR  ) -- may be the better-priced vehicle.

I don't have any suggestions for Cyprus or Iceland -- unless you want to take a chance on Bank of Cyprus as a pink sheet. But I have plenty to say on both India and China.

Each country has several dedicated funds, but the equity prices have gotten marked down to the point where you may want to pick out individual stallions instead of banking on the entire herd through a fund.

In China, there are plenty of bellwethers to look into. Since Internet usage is growing quickly, search engine leader Baidu.com (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) is well-positioned to cash in on both the country's growth as well as its cyberspace migration. If you want more blue chip names, it's hard to go wrong with insurance giant China Life Insurance (NYSE: LFC  ) or wireless maven China Mobile (NYSE: CHL  ) ,

Then you have India. Satyam Computer Services (NYSE: SAY  ) is an IT outsourcing specialist. Yes, it seems to be a big industry in India, but Satyam is good at it and growing into a consulting firm, too. Another stock I like there is Sify (Nasdaq: SIFY  ) , even though its investors have been slammed lately by a string of missed quarterly estimates. However, as a leading provider of Internet access in India, I think Sify's heart is in the right place. Now it just needs to make sure that its financials find a way there, too.

So let the rain fall in once-hot overseas markets. Some of them needed the time to cool off, giving us intriguing opportunities at attractive prices.


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