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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

MEASURES OF THE MARKETS

Before you jump in, take time to figure things out


ECONOMIC GROWTH. GROSS NATIONAL product. Exports, reserves, market capitalization. Investors in the know never fail to look at the numbers before they leap into emerging -- or any other -- markets. They clock the fastest-growing economies, whose pace tends to rub off on enterprises and stock exchanges. Robust exports and reserves usually mean not just strong profits, but also strong currencies -- a barrier against devaluation losses for foreigners. Big market capitalization, the traded value of all listed stocks, offers liquidity to investors -- the ability to cash out when they want. And economic freedom? Well, among other conveniences, it helps ensure that you can bring your money out after you've cashed in your chips -- probably the most important number of all.

WHO'S THE FASTEST OF ALL?

Billion-dollar race to national prosperity

As Eastern Europe and Latin America leave the slow growth of the early 1990s, they'll catch up with Asia

GDP % growth, 1991-1995 avg Per-cap
GDP (PPP)
Per-cap
GNP (nom.)
China 10.2 $2,935 $540
Vietnam 8.7 $1,310 $250
Singapore 8.6 $23,565 $26,400
Thailand 8.4 $7,535 $2,680
Taiwan 7.8 $14,295 $12,265
Chile 7.5 $9,670 $4,740
South Korea 7.4 $11,750 $10,076
Indonesia 7.1 $3,705 $940
Malaysia 6.8 $9,470 $3,930
Hong Kong 6.2 $23,892 $23,200
Brazil 4.9 $5,675 $3,800
Czech Republic 3.7 $8,535 $4,565
Argentina 3.1 $8,670 $7,995
Poland 2.2 $5,910 $3,056
Philippines 2.2 $2,935 $1,130
Mexico 0.7 $7,188 $2,750
Hungary -2.3 $6,695 $4,400
Russia -13.0 $4,760 $2,400

DOLLAR QUEST

The export path to stability

Surpluses and reserves keep money stable and convertible

$ millions Exports Trade Reserves balance
Hong Kong 176,711 -33,656 63,600
China 128,110 18,050 100,859
Singapore 119,019 1,625 73,963
Taiwan 112,148 7,253 96,247
Malaysia 56,906 1,581 26,071
South Korea 33,957 365 33,031
Mexico 21,781 1,846 18,295
Russia 19,942 5,633 11,398
Thailand 14,588 -2,565 38,859
Brazil 12,328 298 56,615
Indonesia 11,629 1,957 15,490
Argentina 6,524 1,216 14,007
Poland 5,657 -133 17,608
Czech Republic 5,444 -979 12,585
Vietnam 5,220 1,905 600
Philippines 4,645 -2,537 9,777
Chile 4,014 8 14,550
Hungary 3,799 -411 9,778

CRY (ECONOMIC) FREEDOM

In bourses, big ones are often easier to exit

So you want to do your homework on emerging markets? Start by taking a look at this snapshot of economic indicators in major markets around the world. The first column measures the size of the markets, the second the appreciation -- or depreciation -- of the total value of stocks (here, Korea and Thailand are the two notable "bombed-out" places). Russia's stock growth is impressive, but in terms of market size, it is no match for Hong Kong, which is eight times larger.

The P/E (price-earnings) ratio is a company's share price divided by the current year's earnings per share. Generally, higher numbers indicate a robust, fast-growing economy, though if the figure is too high, it means the stocks are overpriced.

The economic freedom index is produced every year by the Washington-based think-tank, the Heritage Foundation. Taking into account such factors as taxation and trade barriers, the scores range from 1.0 (free) to 5.0 (repressed).

Of course, freedom and investment don't mean much if they don't improve living standards -- which they do. Generally, the freer the economy, the fewer people per car and per phone.

Market value $billions % Index rise since Jan 96 P/E ration Economic freedom index People per phone People per vehicle Major Industries
Hong Kong 468.0 19.7% 15.20 1.25 1.5 13 Textiles, clothing, electronics, toys
Malaysia 342.8 21.4% 29.02 2.60 6.1 7 Tin mining, electronics, textiles
Taiwan 291.6 61.4% 31.66 1.95 2.3 5 Electronics, textiles, footwear
Brazil 237.1 43.5% 15.59 3.35 10.0 11 Iron/steel, vehicles, textiles
Singapore 193.0 -9.3% 25.20 1.30 2.0 6 Oil refining, shipbuilding
South Korea1 42.8 -37.0% 11.99 2.45 2.1 7 Electronics, steel, chemicals
China 130.0 110.4% 18.11 3.80 29.8 150 Steel, chemicals, electronics
Mexico 113.8 26.0% 16.27 3.35 7.6 7 Oil, food processing, mining
Indonesia 99.5 12.1% 24.25 2.85 63.0 59 Oil and gas, mining
Thailand 93.5 -49.2% 12.74 2.30 15.6 16 Textiles, cement, electronics
Philippines 89.0 12.7% 18.82 2.80 38.6 32 Food, electronics, chemicals
Chile 72.4 1.0% 16.67 2.25 9.1 11 Copper, food processing
Russia 58.5 356.0% 13.28 3.65 5.9 14 Machinery, transport equipment
Argentina 48.6 33.3% 38.49 2.65 8.1 5 Food processing, motor vehicles
Czech Rep. 18.8 16.4% 16.37 2.05 5.3 3 Machinery, iron/steel, chemicals
Poland 9.1 43.2% 15.55 3.15 8.7 5 Machinery, iron/steel, shipbuilding
Hungary 6.7 66.0% 23.97 2.90 6.8 4 Machinery, engineering, textiles
Vietnam -- -- -- 4.70 67.0 216 Oil, food processing, metallurgy


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