China's economy, and whether it's slowing down or even crashing, is the dominant topic in many investing circles these days. Indeed, the worries about the world's No. 2 economy are overshadowing the fast-growing economies -- and stock prices -- in Latin America. The good news, some money managers say, is that investors can, with a little bit of selective stock picking, still take advantage of the growth in Chile, Brazil and other nations.
Latin American stocks, which compose about 20 percent of the emerging-market economies by market value, have been surging lately. Since the beginning of the year, the MSCI Emerging Markets Latin America index is up 10.5 percent, compared with 4.1 percent for Chinese stocks. Brazil's economy is expected to grow 3.6 percent this year, Chile's 4.7 percent and Peru's 5.6 percent. But it would be a mistake, pros say, to rely on many of the Latin American commodity firms -- oil producers, copper miners and the like -- whose stock prices have soared over the past decade. Much of their products wind up fueling China. If China's growth does indeed slow down, those commodity firms would quickly feel the effects. Instead, these pros say, aim for stocks of firms that target the burgeoning Latin American middle class.
Money-management firm T. Rowe Price has been shifting away from materials stocks to consumer firms, such as telecom company America Movil (AMOV) ,
While Latin American stocks aren't necessarily dirt cheap, Josh Stewart, comanager of the $117 million Wasatch World Innovators fund, says there are still bargains to be had. Among his favorites: Arcos Dorados (ARCO),