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Commodity Investing Shell Shocked
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Investors shrugged off worries over sluggish Chinese growth and persistent problems in the Eurozone to propel the S&P 500 to a record close. The market moved higher once Wall Street digested Ben Bernanke’s midweek remarks and solid earnings reports from JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. The Bernanke bounce followed his dovish comments where he suggested that U.S. monetary policy would remain accommodative for the “foreseeable future” and that a scaling back, or “tapering,” of the Fed’s quantitative easing program was not the same thing as policy tightening.

The markets seemed to have gotten the message pushing U.S. stocks beyond record levels set in May. Adding to the buoyant mood of traders was the suggestion by Mr. Bernanke that if markets swung too far toward rising rates that the Fed would respond if the higher rates threatened the Fed’s employment or inflation targets.

The U.S. market is on a roll, but the stock markets of the BRICS ( Brazil, Russia , India and China) have been left in the dust. The hottest investment concept on the planet used to be that outsized investment returns could be garnered by buying shares of companies in the fast growing emerging markets, now it’s been relegated to the investment scrap heap.

From 2003 to 2012, the MSCI Emerging Markets index rose nearly 17 percent a year on average in U.S. dollar terms. The easy-money policies of the Fed has been a boon to investments in emerging markets—and news that the Fed was thinking of withdrawing stimulus ricocheted around the world.

BRICS investing has been dealt a formidable one-two punch as slow growth and political corruption has hobbled the growth prospects of countries such as Brazil and China. Year to date Brazil’s Bovespa Index is down 25.3%, Russia’s RTS Index is down 11.89%, the Shanghai composite index is off 10.12%, while India’s Sensex is up a meagre 2.72% so far this year.

In China, the government is trying to apply the brakes to runaway credit growth, while Brazil and Turkey are experiencing mass protests and Egypt is facing a political crisis. China’s weak export performance and a drop in some key exports such as oil have also spooked investors. Once the hottest investment concept, BRICS investing has crash landed, sending investors scrambling for the relative safety of the U.S.

Since May 23, investors have yanked $38.6 billion out of stock and bond funds that focused on emerging markets. And in a single week in June, investors withdrew a record $5.6 billion from emerging market bond funds, the highest weekly total on record. The outflows have sent stocks and currencies tumbling with both the Turkish lira and Indian rupee hitting record lows against the U.S. dollar. China’s Shanghai composite index fell to its lowest point since 2009 in late June and other emerging markets have suffered sharp declines. While the Dow Jones industrial average is up more than 18 percent this year, the MSCI Emerging Markets Index has fallen by 10.4 percent.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has jumped on the bandwagon noting that in the emerging markets there have been continuing growth disappointments driven by factors such as infrastructure bottlenecks and lower commodity prices. The IMF also predicts that growth this year in South Africa, Russia and Brazil should expand by between 2 and 2.5 percent—not much different than in the U.S. where per capita income is many times higher.

With emerging markets in a slump and bond yields backing up, U.S. equities appear to be the place for savvy investors. With economic growth in the U.S. speeding up and investors repatriating money back from abroad, it's time for U.S. investors to buckle up and enjoy the ride.

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