【英语财经】美国是21世纪的“新兴市场” US revival warrants EM strategy rethink

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2014-5-29 21:32

小艾摘要: Ignore the words of investing’s greatest brand marketeer at your peril. The man who gave us emerging markets now suggests that the linchpin of growth in the world is moving back to the developed worl ...
US revival warrants EM strategy rethink
Ignore the words of investing’s greatest brand marketeer at your peril. The man who gave us emerging markets now suggests that the linchpin of growth in the world is moving back to the developed world. The implications are profound.

Antoine van Agtmael, for many years an official of the International Finance Corporation, coined the term “emerging markets” in 1982. He wanted to foster equity investing in the developing world, and end a dangerous addiction to debt.

His proposed response was for the IFC to sponsor the first ever emerging markets equity fund. Most investors, even at large institutions, lacked the resources to hunt bargains in distant markets. But a diversified portfolio of stocks from across the emerging world might solve this problem.

What, though, to call it? A debt crisis was swirling around “Lesser Developed Countries”. The initials LDC were used almost as widely as EM today, and the label could not possibly be used. Nobody was likely to buy into a “Third World Fund” either.

A weekend’s thought produced the phrase “emerging markets”. No financial branding can ever have been more successful. Mr Van Agtmael himself has been an evangelist of emerging markets, ardently suggesting that the most successful companies in EM have the smarts, after learning to survive in their home countries, to become dominant multinationals.

There is symbolism, then, in his new project to document how and why the global advantage is shifting back to the US.

There are complaints in Asia about competition from the US. Manufacturers that had moved to China are moving back to Mexico, or even to the US itself. In China, where the priority is to raise real wages (and erode competitiveness), he points out that self-satisfaction after the 2008 crisis has given way to unease. Wages have risen 400 per cent since 2001, according to Ernst & Young, while US unit labour costs have dropped 12 per cent since 1995.

Fundamentally, the US is more competitive than had been thought, while China is less so. What Mr Van Agtmael calls the “creative response” from the west has come sooner than he anticipated. The advent of robotics, 3D printing and the like, he suggests, have moved the west from manufacturing to “brainfacturing”.

As this plays out, investors are rediscovering political risk (and singling out state-owned companies for punishment), and drastically reappraising their projections for the emerging market future.

Has he given up on his positive thesis for the emerging markets? Certainly not. As he points out, long-term potential is always ignored when markets come down (just as problems are ignored when prices are rising).

It is still the emerging, and not the American, consumer who will steadily become king. Already, he points out, more cars, washing machines, televisions and mobile phones are sold in the Bric countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) than in either the EU or the US.

He also contends that slower emerging growth is not a problem – for China, it is an advantage – and he denies that the inevitable unwinding of quantitative easing in the US need cause anything like the panic that briefly gripped emerging bond and currency markets last year.

But the enthusiasm with which he charts the growth of a US “Brain Belt” to supplant its old “Rust Belt” is reminiscent of the excitement with which he once charted the rise of emerging multinationals. Innovation centres are sprouting up across the US, he points out, in places like Minneapolis, Akron or Boulder, as well as around prestigious universities. He charts more than 200 examples of “re-shoring” as companies like GE return to the US, while Apple makes Macs in the US for the first time.

For the next decade he expects growing confidence in the US (like post-1970s Japan), more innovation in manufacturing, and an epic “battle for the billions of emerging consumers”. He still expects emerging markets to grow faster.

The notion of a Brain Belt might yet be as catchy as the notion of “emerging markets”. Is that a good thing?

Van Agtmael’s “emerging markets” certainly aided his aim of opening up new markets to equity finance. It also had some negative consequences, such as a succession of attempts to impose brands on new markets with increasingly absurd results. Think of acronyms, from Brics to Civets, Mints and Biits.

This is part of a broader trend to oversimplification. People lazily assumed that all “emerging” markets would indeed emerge, that they would outperform the existing developed markets, and that they would grow in a straight line.

None of these ideas is necessarily true. There is no cause to abandon carefully chosen positions in EM (or to invest mindlessly in the “Brain Belt”). But, three decades after “emerging markets” arrived on the scene, all investors should follow Van Agtmael in accepting that the game is changing.

对最伟大的投资品牌发明者的话充耳不闻,是很危险的。当年提出“新兴市场”概念的人现在表示,推动世界经济增长的引擎正重返发达世界。其意义十分深远。

曾多年担任国际金融公司(IFC)官员的安东尼?范阿格塔米尔(Antoine van Agtmael),于1982年发明了“新兴市场”这个词。他当时想推动对发展中世界进行股权投资,结束对债务的危险依赖。

他提出的对策是由国际金融公司赞助发起成立第一只新兴市场股票基金。那时候,大多数投资者、即便是大型机构的投资者,也缺乏在遥远市场物色投资对象的资源。但一个覆盖整个新兴世界的多元化股票投资组合可能解决这一问题。

不过,该如何称呼这一地区呢?当时,一场债务危机正在“欠发达国家”(lesser developed countries)肆虐。LDC这个首字缩写几乎跟如今的EM(新兴市场)一样频繁使用,但这个标签不可能用。同时,没有人会踊跃买入一只“第三世界基金”。

经过一个周末的苦思冥想,“新兴市场”这个词出炉了。在金融界,再没有比此更成功的命名了。范阿格塔米尔本人一直是新兴市场的鼓吹者,他充满激情地表示,新兴市场里最成功的公司学会在母国生存后,有足够的智慧成为占主导地位的跨国公司。

因此,他叙述全球优势正如何及为何转回美国的新项目是具有象征意义的。

亚洲已经在抱怨来自美国的竞争。之前搬迁到中国的制造企业开始迁回墨西哥,甚至迁至美国本身。他指出,在优先任务是提高实际工资(这么做会削弱竞争力)的中国,2008年危机之后的沾沾自喜不见了,取而代之的是不安。安永(Ernst & Young)数据显示,自2001年以来中国的薪资水平上升了400%,而美国的单位劳动力成本自1995年以来下降了12%。

在根本层面上,美国比人们所认为的更具竞争力,而中国的竞争力则不如人们的印象。范阿格塔米尔所称的西方“创意回应”比他的预期来得更早。他认为,机器人、3D打印等技术的到来,已使西方从制造业转向“脑制造”(brainfacturing)。

在这一趋势出现和延续的同时,投资者正重新发现政治风险(并挑出国有企业进行惩罚),并彻底地重新评估自己对新兴市场前景的预测。

他是否已放弃了自己看好新兴市场的观点?当然没有。正如他所指出的,当市场下跌时,长期潜力总是被忽略(正如行情上升时种种问题被忽略那样)。

稳步成为王者的仍将是新兴市场、而不是美国的消费者。范阿格塔米尔指出,金砖国家(巴西、俄罗斯、印度和中国)的汽车、洗衣机、电视机和手机的销量已经大于欧盟(EU)或美国。

他还提出,新兴市场增长放缓不是问题——对中国而言反而是一种优势——并且拒绝接受如下观点:美国不可避免地退出量化宽松(QE),必然会引发去年短暂肆虐新兴世界债券与外汇市场的那种恐慌。

但是,他在描述美国“脑带”的增长以替代陈旧的“锈带”(rust-belt)时所表现出的热情,让人回想起当年他描述新兴世界跨国公司崛起时的那种激动。他指出,创新中心正在美国各地涌现出来,包括明尼阿波利斯(Minneapolis)、亚克朗市(Akron)或博尔德(Boulder)以及知名大学周围地区。他提供了200多个公司“回流”的例子,比如通用电气(GE)将业务迁回美国本土,苹果(Apple)首次在美国境内生产Mac。

展望未来10年,他预计美国的信心会增强(就像20世纪70年代之后的日本那样),制造业将会迸发更多创新,并会“为了争取数十亿的新兴市场消费者爆发一场重大战斗”。他仍预计新兴市场将更快增长。

“脑带”的概念可能会像“新兴市场”概念一样琅琅上口。这是好事吗?

范阿格塔米尔的“新兴市场”肯定对他将股权融资引入新市场的目标起到了推动作用。它也产生了一些负面后果,比如相继向新市场贴上各种标签,结果越来越荒谬。想想各种缩写吧,从Brics(金砖国家)到Civets(灵猫六国)、Mints(薄荷四国)和Biits(脆弱五国)。

这反映了一种过度简化的宏观趋势。人们懒惰地以为,所有“新兴”市场都真会脱颖而出;它们的表现都会强于现有发达市场;它们都将保持直线式增长。

这些想法未必都正确。没有理由放弃精心选择的新兴市场头寸(或盲目地投资于“脑带”)。但是,“新兴市场”登上舞台30年后,所有投资者都应当听从范阿格塔米尔的意见——游戏已开始改变。

译者/邢嵬

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