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Nine comments within an hour or two of a posting is not bad except perhaps for some personalities being dragged in unnecessarily.

My list was a statement of statistical fact based on 2001 Stock Capital Indexes worldwide and does not indicate relative economic strength country to country. However, perhaps I should now offer some comment.

I would suggest that the reasons that the first two (China and Russia) have appear to have done so well has not been so much a true reflection of those economies, but in fact is as result of the development of new and, as yet, fairly unsophisticated stock markets as capitalism begins to function in those two countries. Many citizens and organizations wish to get on the bandwagon that these new stockmarkets provide and the massive rise in their capital indexes may be more from too many people trying to buy too few stocks than from truly developing economic factors. A sort of rampant market inflation. As the markets develop and more industries are listed, pragmatism will set in and the pace of the increase in the relative value of their markets will probably slow, and may even decline.

Aussie G in reply to my posting said "WOW! Lets start investing on the Chinese market." Do I detect a hint of sarcasm? I have been to China recently and the development in that country, especially in the south is nothing short of spectacular. Certainly the economy is still heavily over-controlled by the authorities, but there is no doubt in my mind that China is coming further into contact with the real world economically and, by necessity, is adopting the systems of economic capitalism. One day China will be the greatest economic power in Asia and probably second in the world to the United States. It may possibly become the biggest customer of New Zealand and Australia - especially in primary production.

Then it will be fashionable to invest in China!

South Korea has always been a major manufacturer and bit of an Asian powerhouse along with Taiwan and Thailand. The figures attributed to these three are probably a more accurate reflection of their strongly gowing economies. I believe that South Africa has been doing a bit of catching up since the abandonment of apartheid threw that country into turmoil. After all South Africa is by far the richest country in continental Africa.

Next on the list is New Zealand and Australia. Both countries have benefitted from their lower currencies relative to the US Dollar, the Pound and the Euro. They have by-passed the recessions of other parts of the world by being able to trade their economies profitably on that one main factor. The US blames 9/11 on it's recession. It had a major effect, but the economy was heading downhill before that. Britain tried to blame everything from foot and mouth and BSE to the weather and the Royal Family.

The simple fact is that when one pound costs AUD$3.00, NZ$3.30, US$1.80, Rand13.00 and so on, people reduce trading with them or no longer travel there because it is too damned expensive compared to elsewhere. How many British cars do you see on Aussie and N.Z roads compared to even just 10 years ago? The yanks would rather travel to the cheaper Pacific - when they get over their fear of flying! On the McDonalds Scale a Big Mac in Kensington High Street costs 3 Pounds 50 pence - in downtown Wellington NZ$3.70. It's really a no contest situation in our favour for trading.

To summarise: I think the first two countries on the list can be discounted as a statistical aberrations - at this stage! The older Asian manufacturing economies will be there again in the future as those countries are prone to recover and grow very quickly from any set-back. I would expect to see Malaysia and Singapore join the better performers on the index soon - maybe this year.

The real question is that having done so well in comparison to the other Western economies, can New Zealand and Australia keep it up? My opinion is that they can, provided their currencies remain stable and do not value upwards too quickly, the economies are allowed to expand and trade without too much governmental impediments, and the United States climbs out of it's recession in the second half of this year as is being predicted.

That's my ten cents worth! Lets look forward positively to a prosperous year in our own markets.

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