Money managers and analysts seem to come up with acronyms for new hot countries to peddle to their investing customers the way real estate brokers do for new hot neighborhoods (have you heard of DUMBO in New York -- that's Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass?).
In the investing world, the latest example is the six-letter doozy CIVETS.
The acronym denotes the nations Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa, identified by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2009 as the countries with the best chance of high, long-term growth.
CIVETS possesses large, young populations, diverse economies, relatively sophisticated financial systems and controlled inflation. The name is based on the civet, an unassuming African and Asian mammal prized for both its fragrant musk and ability to digest coffee cherries to create kopi luwak, one of the world's most expensive coffees.
CIVETS isn't as large and established as BRIC -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- popularized by Jim O'Neill of Goldman Sachs. But for this reason, it gives investors a less-crowded field and chance for higher growth rates.
Indeed, Dennis P. Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, warned a Florida audience on Wednesday that weakness in BRIC economies poses a threat to the global economy.
Another connected global risk is the apparent slowdown occurring in a number of large emerging economies -- notably in the economies of China, India and Brazil, he said.
In May 2011, HSBC Global Asset Management launched the HSBC GIF CIVETS fund to specifically target the countries.
We're not saying take CIVETS and ignore the others, said Soren Beck Peterson, investment director of HSBC's CIVETS Fund. This is another way of diversifying.
Here's a look at each of the countries that make up CIVETS, with their strengths and weaknesses.
Colombia has a reputation for kidnappings and murder tied to the drug trade, but crime has fallen, and the government has spent more on infrastructure projects and welcomed businesses, boosting growth. President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, who assumed office in 2010, signed a free trade agreement with the U.S. and has attracted foreign direct investment of over $15 billion in 2011, a 50 percent increase compared to the prior year.
Colombia has grown to become Latin America's fourth-largest oil producer and the U.S.'s third largest oil supplier. Its other exports include coffee and emeralds. Its GDP grew by 5.9 percent in 2011 compared to the prior year, according to government statistics group DANE.
There's a very pro-business policy, said Peterson. The downside is that the country's stocks are generally expensive.
HSBC's Colombia stock pick: Bancolombia (NYSE: CIB)
The country's largest bank by assets has 5 million clients and 720 branches. It should benefit from healthy expansion in Colombia from oil and mining, said Peterson, and its return on equity is 19 percent annually over the last eight years, including during the global financial crisis.
Indonesia, the fourth most populous country, has a massive consumer base and is known for its cheap labor costs, one of the lowest in Asia. The country had 6.5 percent GDP growth in 2011, the fastest rate in 15 years, and foreigners invested $20 billion in 2011, up from $17 billion in the prior year. But lower demand for exports could slow the economy in 2012, the government said. In response to potential slowdown, the central bank cut its interest rate in February to boost growth.
A May report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific said that the country is expected to weather the global slowdown and continue expanding. But Peterson said that it's an expensive market for stocks and the 2011 returns were only around 4 percent.
HSBC's Indonesia stock pick: Bank Rakyat (PINK: BKRKY)
Bank Rakyat is the country's third-largest bank by assets and has the largest branch network. It focuses on micro-financing in rural areas, and its loans are forecast to grow more than 20 percent. Return on investment has been more than 30 percent in the past five years.
Vietnam is transitioning from a communist system towards capitalism. One of its assets is its low labor costs and manufacturing potential, attracting foreign companies who are facing higher costs in China. In April, Nokia Corp (NYSE: NOK) broke ground on its first manufacturing facility in the Bac Ninh province, with plans to produce 45 million phones by the end of 2014.
Vietnam's GDP growth in 2011 was 5.89, below the government's 6 percent expectation. Its first quarter GDP growth slowed to a three-year low as domestic consumer demand weakened. Inflation slowed to 14.15 percent to March but remains a concern, and businesses have pushed for lower interest rates.
The country only makes up around 2 percent of HSBC's portfolio, but the rise of manufacturing could make the country future-proof and make it a growth center for years to come, said Peterson.
HSBC's Vietnam stock pick: Vinamilk (London: VNF)
Vinamilk, owned by PXP Vietnam Fund Ltd., is the largest dairy company in the country, selling liquid, condensed and powder milk, along with yogurt, ice cream and cheese. HSBC believes that it will benefit from Vietnam's rise in annual dairy consumption, which lags behind the Asian average. The company's return on equity has been around 33 percent.
The Arab Spring and ensuing political turmoil disrupted Egypt's reliable economy in 2011, with GDP growing only 1.8 percent, down from 5.1 percent in the prior year. A major drag has been the drop in foreign investment, which has been discouraged by the unrest. But Egypt retains its advantage of geography, connecting Europe and Africa through the Suez Canal, and the economy is expected to recover by 2013.
It's still going to face difficult political and economic adjustment, said Peterson, but he noted that overall earnings per share are expected to grow by 17 percent in 2012. You can find the attractive stocks.
HSBC's Egypt stock pick: Commercial International Bank (PINK:CIBEY)
The country's largest bank by deposits works mainly with top-tier corporations with low credit risk. It has retail penetration of under 10 percent in Egypt and has plenty of room to grow, as well as a good management team and strong balance sheet, said HSBC.
Although Turkey is a neighbor of troubled Greece, it emerged from the financial crisis on much stronger footing, thanks to tough banking regulations. Its big asset is location. While it doesn't have the oil and natural gas holdings of some members of the Middle East, Turkey provides a crucial link in the supply chain.
In 2011, Turkey had GDP growth of 8.3 percent, and it has been an attractive target for both foreign investors and tourists. But critics warn that much of the country's growth has been fueled by an unsustainable reliance on imports and credit-reliant consumer spending.
HSBC's Turkey stock pick: Turk Hava Yollari (FRA:TU5)
Turkey's largest airline controls 70 percent of domestic flights and 60 percent of international flights. Its competitive advantages include more modern planes and low wages compared to legacy airlines, but its expansion plans could suffer from lower-than-expected demand, said HSBC.
Africa's largest economy has been the continent's preeminent market for foreigners. A key industry is mining: South Africa is the world's largest producer of platinum and a huge source of gold, diamonds and coal.
But its dependence on Europe, which buys around a third of South Africa's manufactured exports, could hurt as the region grapples with fiscal crisis. In February, the South African government lowered its 2012 GDP growth forecast to 2.7 percent, a drop from the estimated 3.1 percent growth in 2011. It also has high unemployment of 23.9 percent.
HSBC's South Africa stock pick: Sasol Ltd. (NYSE: SSL)
Sasol is an integrated energy and chemicals company. Its Synfuels division has been a cash generator in South Africa, and it is using gas-to-liquid and coal-to-liquid technology to expand overseas. The company's return on equity is projected to be 21 percent in the next 12 months.