Vietnam: Emerging Markets Standout

03/11/2014 10:00 am EST

Focus: GLOBAL

CHAD FRASER

, MPL COMMUNICATIONS INC

The early part of 2014 has been tough for emerging markets, as some have seen plunging currencies and some have been plagued by political unrest; Vietnam, however, has mostly avoided the turmoil, suggests Chad Fraser in Investing Daily.

Its currency, the dong, has traded at around 21,000 to the dollar for about two years. Its inflation rate was 6.0% in 2013, still high by Western standards, but down from 6.8% in 2012, and well below the government's 8% target.

The country's gross domestic product rose 5.42% in 2013, up from 5.25% in 2012, and ahead of the 5.3% economists expected. Forecasts call for 5.5% growth this year.

The country's workforce is also well-educated: 93% of the population is literate, according to the World Bank, and 98% of primary-school-aged children are enrolled, based on 2011 figures from Unicef.

Over the course of this year, the government also plans to raise foreign ownership limits in many of the country's industries from 49% to 60%. That should help it attract more foreign investment, says Shepherd.

While Vietnam is an attractive market for 2014, it remains relatively difficult for individual investors to access. One option is through the Market Vectors Vietnam ETF (VNM).

The exchange traded fund holds nearly 37.0% of its $417.8 million in assets in Vietnam's financial sector, where earnings have been improving on a year-over-year basis, largely thanks to slowing bad debt growth.

Another 24.6% of its assets are in the country's energy sector, and the remainder are spread across smaller allocations of less than 12% to consumer stocks, utilities, industrial, and materials companies. The ETF's expense ratio is 0.76%.

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