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China heralded a new era for the emerging markets when it announced its $600 billion domestic economic stimulus package last week. This week, we finally got some details as to how and where that money would be spent.
Shanghai will be focusing on urban construction, according to Bloomberg, with Beijing planning to expand its subway system. Hubei Province is set to construct nine "eco-cities" as part of a nationwide focus on "energy conservation and environmental protection." Finally, the government has told local governments to increase their spending plans and, according to a research note from Standard Chartered Bank, fast-track any ongoing projects.
Now, you didn't have to be a rocket scientist to guess that China would continue to spend its surplus on infrastructure development (indeed, we accept the claim that much of this "stimulus" was already in the budget). But China's willingness to publicize its massive investment to the world, and perhaps even wield more of its financial muscle, has us believing that China's stimulus package will change the world. What's more, the clear commitment to green initiatives confirms our idea that green energy investment in China may be the biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century. And while big names such as General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) , and even ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) stand to benefit, we believe that a number of small Chinese and American companies will profit as well.
Then there was India
China isn't the only emerging Asian economy that sees salvation in infrastructure. India, too, hopes that extensive road construction projects will help it avoid recession, and the good news is: It just might work. The country's current network of roads -- to the extent it exists at all -- is a disaster. Roads in the country tend to be narrow, poorly maintained, plagued by accidents, and unsuited to high-speed shipping. So it won't take much for the government's $27 billion rural roads program to have significant positive impacts nationwide.
First, paved roads will help farmers get more of their produce to market, and help more rural consumers get to the market to buy that produce. That killer combination should increase domestic consumption, which is the only way a country like India -- which currently benefits hugely from Western outsourcing -- can mitigate the effects of spending and consumption declines in Europe and the United States.
And the effects thus far have been positive. Bloomberg reported that PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP ) saw some its best sales ever in India in October, and domestic manufacturers of both household goods and scooters are also seeing higher sales. New roads may even spur enough demand to help Tata Motors (NYSE: TTM ) and its affordable Nano automobile get back on track.
For every step forward...
As China and India work to insulate themselves from this global financial crisis, however, the rest of the world remains vulnerable to the same old troubles. Specifically, pirates. Yes, our friends from Somalia (who we first profiled here on Oct. 2) were back in the news this week, thanks to the successful hijacking of a 1,080-foot Saudi supertanker carrying more than $100 million worth of oil.
Now, depending on who you talk to, this is either the pirates' boldest move yet, or an incredible OPEC conspiracy to scare the world markets and prop up the price of oil. Reasonable minds should likely settle on the former, but conspiracy theories are more fun, aren't they?
Regardless, one country that is certainly not amused by the pirates is Egypt. As owner of the Suez Canal, Egypt has benefited greatly from the booming shipping activity of the past few years. The global slowdown and its effects on trade were already expected to result in lower revenues in 2009, but the problem would be compounded if ships decide that sailing around Africa is easier than cutting through the Suez, with the chance of coming face to face with the pirates.
Time to hit the road
Finally, we've been reading a lot about Mexico this week in advance of our upcoming Motley Fool Global Gains research trip to Monterrey and Mexico City at the beginning of December. This is an emerging market that was once rewarded by investors for its proximity to the United States. But given the current slowdown emanating from the United States, Mexico is now being punished for it.
Though Mexico is dealing with a range of problems, from violent drug cartels to a depreciating currency to an enormous population influx caused by a reversal in emigration patterns to the United States (on account of that aforementioned global economic slowdown), the government, as evidenced by the 2009 budget it passed this week, remains committed to spending its way to recovery. Finance minister Agustin Carstens called this the country's "anti-cyclical strategy." Like China and India, the country is focused on using public funds to build infrastructure.
Unlike in China, however, this will lead to significant deficit spending. For a country with an unstable recent economic history and a murky near-term outlook, that's a steep price to pay to diversify the economy away from oil and exports. Yet, it has to be done if Mexico hopes to lay the foundation for sustainable growth and attract new foreign investment.
The good news for Mexico is that it's home to a number of promising companies that are not only dominant domestically, such as America Movil (NYSE: AMX ) and FEMSA (NYSE: FMX ) , but also do business in Brazil, Colombia, and the rest of Latin America. As that region develops, Mexican companies have a real opportunity to grow and help the country reduce its dependence on a troubled U.S. economy.
Care to join us?
It's that discrepancy between valuations and growth potential that spurred us to make our next research trip a week of meetings with Mexican companies in December. You can get all of our research from the road, our trip preview package, and today's top emerging markets buys by joining Global Gains today free for 30 days.
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