I’m a voracious reader, but have an odd habit.
Instead of reading a new book from beginning to end, I normally have four or five books going at once. The reason is that I get a bit bored after a few chapters and like to mix things up.
But sometimes a book is so interesting, I go full steam and finish the book one, two, three.
This is the case with Karim Rahemtulla’s new book, Where in the World Should I Invest: An Insider’s Guide to Making Money Around the Globe.
Most investment books are long on figures and short on entertainment. Karim has pulled off a neat trick combining hard facts with an informal, insider-on-the-ground investment tour of emerging and frontier markets around the world. And he does it in a vivid conversational style.
You will become Karim’s buddy as he takes you on a whirlwind insider tour of great cities like Istanbul, Saigon, Shanghai, Moscow, Bombay and Cairo, and then describes great growth opportunities in Singapore, Cambodia, Chile, Mexico, Panama and Argentina. You will not only learn firsthand what drives these markets, but also what the people, sites and culture are like. Even learn where to get the best bargains, the best food and the coolest places to hang your hat while in town.
This is important because when investing in emerging markets, the numbers are obviously important, but so is having a feel for a country’s culture, history, economy and stock market.
This book is also well worth reading for the following three reasons:
- Nicely Balanced – Many so-called emerging market experts are always bullish and avoid the realities of investing in these frontier markets. While offering superior growth prospects, there are always two faces to emerging markets. The reality is that many emerging markets face the challenges of dysfunctional governments, corruption, intractable poverty and volatility. Karim points out all the opportunities, but is frank on each market’s shortcomings.
- Well Organized – Most investment books drown the reader with information without any guidance on how to take action. Karim sums up his discussion of each market with a snappy summing up that highlights strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. I have used a similar strategy I call a “balance sheet” approach looking at a market’s assets and liabilities.
- Smart Strategy – I couldn’t agree more with many of the book’s tips about how to best capture growth while managing risk. First, a trading approach will work far better than buy and hold. Second, because many markets (China and Brazil are exceptions) offer only a few companies listed on U.S. markets, blending company stocks with country-specific exchange-traded funds (ETFs) represents a smart strategy for most investors. Karim highlights the best of both as he roams the globe looking for adventure and profits. Third, by far the best time to make a killing in these markets is when they’re in the midst of a crisis. Next best is when the market is just out of favor, and down and out.
A good example of this strategy is Vietnam, or the Market Vectors Vietnam ETF (NYSE: VNM, Stock Forum). This market lost almost half its value in 2011, but has snapped back 36% so far in 2012.
Vietnam eems to be Karim’s favorite pick in Southeast Asia because of its young and hard-working population, location at the center of this dynamic region, and its growing destination as a manufacturing center.
While all this rings true, I have a hard time getting beyond its authoritarian government with a bent towards central planning. My favorite in the region for some time has been the budding democracy of Indonesia, or the Aberdeen Indonesia Fund, Inc. (AMEX: IF, Stock Forum). The Jakarta stock market has yielded an average annual return over the past decade of just over 25%.
I will recap my case for Indonesia next week when I profile the brand-spanking-new Van Eck Market Vectors Small-Cap Indonesia ETF (NYSE: IDXJ, Stock Forum).
Most importantly, while I focus on emerging markets and have visited many of the countries that Karim discusses, I learned quite a bit from this book. It has already joined my emerging market reference library and will be consulted frequently.
I hope this book will encourage you to get out and visit these intriguing investment destinations. Reading this book is the next best thing.