The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region is well known for its growth potential among market participants who seek to diversify their exposure within emerging markets. ASEAN originally consisted of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. It then expanded to include Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Within ASEAN, the World Bank classifies Singapore and Brunei in the high-income category, while the others fall under the middle-income group. For emerging markets exposure, middle-income markets with relatively higher growth and a sizable GDP generally have an attractive diversification benefit. Within the middle-income ASEAN markets, the GDPs of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam were well over USD 100 billion in 2009 and have been growing steadily (see Exhibit 1). Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of these five markets.
The global competitiveness index (which determines the level of productivity, the state of public institutions, and the technical conditions) of these five markets has either remained stable or improved since 2008-2009 (see Exhibit 2). An improvement in rank points to a favorable business and political environment in relation to other markets.
The market capitalization of the listed domestic companies as a percentage of GDP has been growing steadily and was more than 50% for all the markets in 2017 (see Exhibit 3). The growth of the stock markets kept pace with the growth in the GDPs of these markets, indicating a balanced development of the public market in relation to the overall capital market.
Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) make up another standard group of emerging markets that may provide diversification benefits. The emerging ASEAN markets had no more than 70% correlation with individual BRICS markets (see Exhibit 4), demonstrating the possible diversification benefit from treating it as a separate asset class.
Based on these observations, it’s no surprise that market participants looking for growth potential and diversification have shown increased interest in emerging ASEAN markets.