One possible reason for the improvement is the result of a number of emerging market elections, which have seen voters call for reforms. Prime examples include the emphatic election victory of Narendra Modi in India and the appointment of Joko Widodo in Indonesia.
Neil Denman, global emerging markets fund manager at Polar Capital, points out: “Year to date the winners in emerging markets from a country perspective are Indonesia, India and Turkey, and the one area that links all of these is elections.
“We’ve seen in the past 12 months emerging markets performing in line with the MSCI World index in US dollar terms, which is a bit of a change in that we’ve had four years of underperformance. Since 2010 emerging markets have not really been the place to invest.”
However, he notes that since March 2014 “we’ve started to see some outperformance, and it’s a reasonably longer stretch of outperformance”.
Of course, the macroeconomic and geopolitical landscape is not all rosy, with Russia and Ukraine topping the newsflow in terms of concerns regarding emerging markets, the latest of which is the tit-for-tat sanctions between Russia and the west.
Andrew Lister, co-chief investment officer at Advance Emerging Capital, points out that in spite of the negative headlines across the emerging markets, both emerging markets and frontier indices have been making good ground in 2014, with the MSCI Frontier Markets producing a stellar 21.14 per cent for the year to date, according to FE Analytics data.
He notes: “It is reassuring in one sense but a little bit concerning in another when you have all these headlines and markets are willing to shrug them off. In emerging markets Russia is obviously the biggest one [concern], and long term it is probably an opportunity. You don’t invest in Russia expecting to have a smooth return profile or expect to do so without hitting speed bumps along the way.
“The market has a long history of not really helping itself with its own politics, and this is another one of those occasions. But what you get in exchange for investing in Russia is some achingly good value assets. What we hear a lot of at the moment is that Russia is a value trap, but it has never been a market that has ever really been expensive, but it has been a market where historically you’ve made incredible returns if you’re willing to take on that headline geographic risk.”
While the geopolitical landscape is raising concerns, the main drivers of the region, the Brics – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – are making their first steps in setting up emerging market institutions, such as a Brics Bank and a contingent reserve arrangement, which will rival the World Bank and the IMF.
With stronger performance likely to tempt many investors back into the once unloved area, the question will be whether the ambitions of the Brics nations and sweeping reform agendas will be enough to sustain the momentum.
Nyree Stewart is features editor at Investment Adviser