SHIP OF FOOLS?

An unlikely saviour has presented himself at a time when institutional and part-time investors dread to switch on the TV news each morning.

Yes, in a sea of red ink across global markets amid almost unprecedented doom and gloom forecasts, Doctor Doom himself Nouriel Roubini has emerged as the Kon Tiki to cling to as the waves rise.

For those of you not familiar with Roubini, he has been predicting the end of the world (in financial terms at least, we are not aware that he is related to the Camping family), for a few years now. And one day, he will probably be right!

However Roubini, ever the contrarian, last week declared his affection for some of the emerging markets, just as many investors are heading for the exits.

What was his rationale? Well, it wasn’t just any old emerging market which took his attention – he argued that it made much more sense to invest in Indonesia and even India rather than following the flock and pouring money into the Chinese behemoth.

His argument goes that a country like Indonesia have a much more developed internal domestic market as a percentage of GDP compared to the other orthodox ‘tigers’. Of course, China has a much bigger domestic market in terms of basic numbers but we are about to see how much the Chinese economy STILL relies on consumption in the US and Europe.

Indonesia, for example, relies much more on increasing domestic demand and a growing local consumer market and this should not only insulate the economy from the full force of a global downturn but provide a rare example of ‘low correlation’ to interlinked global markets in which its almost impossible to escape nowadays (2010 – Indonesia stock market +46%, MSCI emerging markets index +16%).

The idea of Roubinis itself is not new, in fact it was back in 2005 that Goldman Sachs coined the phrase ‘Next 11’, to succeed the BRIC economies. These N11 economys’ growth would be driven by domestic demand – as each of them have a minimum of 50million people, and are as diverse as South Korea and Iran, but with low debt/gdp ratios in common.

You may not have heard of this term but plenty people are already investing in them, for example in Castlestone Managements’ Next 11 Fund, and as corporate governance improves and liquidity constraints disappear, it seems that this might be the next big thing.

However in these stormy waters, will the N11 be the boat that stays afloat for your portfolio or will it sink without trace? Time will tell..