2 Bright Spots for Investors in Latin America: Colombia and Peru

by | Oct 9, 2015

Economic news out of Latin America is grim: Brazil is in the midst of a recession and Argentina has experienced its own financial troubles. Commodity prices have plunged, and capital outflows from the region have increased this year. But there are two bright spots in the Andean region, which is composed of five countries that share the Andean Mountain range and a common heritage. Both Colombia and Peru have seen positive catalysts in the last few weeks. Let’s consider how to invest in these two emerging markets.

Colombia: Peace Deal Nears

Colombian officials and leaders of FARC, an insurgent group that has resorted to kidnapping and other violent acts, are making progress towards a peace deal. Both sides met recently in Havana and reached an agreement on how to prosecute criminal acts committed by the military and guerillas. Both sides are working towards signing a final peace treaty on March 23, 2016. If a deal is reached, it would bode well for business and investment sentiment, perhaps lowering the country’s political risk premium. In particular, the energy and infrastructure sectors would likely benefit, as these companies grow more confident that their facilities won’t be targets for the FARC in the future.

Even though the plunge in commodity prices have slowed Colombia’s economy and inflation is brisk (higher than the central bank’s target), Colombia stands to benefit from a peace deal. Already its market has started to improve in the last month with the MSCI Colombia (ICOL) up over 1% versus Latin America which was down 2%. In the last month, foreigners also invested $250 million in local equities (though most of this was a block trade). If you are looking to gain exposure to the market, consider a Colombian ETF.

Peru: Avoids Downgrade to Frontier Status

Morgan Stanley Capital International did not downgrade Peru from emerging market to frontier market status. It was considering the downgrade because of liquidity constraints in Peru’s market. Such a downgrade would have made the market off-limits to some global emerging market investors. Peru has committed to introduce reforms to boost market liquidity.

Even though the decline in commodity prices have negatively affected Peru’s economy, news of the country keeping its emerging market status should translate to inflows from institutional investors. In order to capitalize on this opportunity, consider a Peru ETF like iShares MSCI All Peru Capped ETF (EPU) or Credicorp (BAP) , a U.S. listed stock of a Peruvian financial services firm. In the last month, the stock has recovered from the 20% decline it experienced earlier this year. The stock was also recently upgraded by Morgan Stanley‘s investment equity research analyst.

[This article was also published in TheStreet]

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. Kabir Sehgal is the author of New York Times bestseller Coined: The Rich Life of Money And How Its History Has Shaped Us. He is also a Grammy winning producer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.