Good morning, Vietnam!

Vietnamese equities surged in January - One of the top-performing markets.

Lee Davidson 21 February, 2013 | 0:00
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Good morning, Vietnam! In the month of January Vietnamese equities soared by nearly 24%. In the ETF market in Asia (and in fact in Europe too), Vietnamese equities are extremely underrepresented with only one ETF, the db x-trackers FTSE Vietnam UCITS ETF (03087 listed in Hong Kong; HD9 listed in Singapore; also listed in various markets in Europe), offering exposure. Vietnamese equities were supported by a host of factors including an influx of foreign direct investment, expectations for a rebound in GDP growth and recent success at reining in excessive inflation.


Vietnam first began to sow the seeds of economic growth in 1986 with efforts to encourage the development of private businesses and foreign investment. The liberalisation of Vietnam's foreign trade policy continued into the current century as the country signed a bilateral trade agreement with the US in 2000 and officially joined the WTO in 2007.


Inflows of foreign capital and private enterprise formation have helped Vietnam slowly transition from a centrally-planned agrarian economy to a more viable, export-oriented economy. Undoubtedly, these policies, amongst others, were instrumental in spurring the last 25 years of economic growth, culminating in a stable 6%-8% GDP growth rate since 2002. In recent years, however, Vietnam's GDP growth has been trending downwards, faltering from a three-year peak of 6.8% in 2010 to 5.9% in 2011. In 2012, the State Bank of Vietnam saw growth deteriorate further to 5.1%-- the slowest pace in 13 years. That said, widespread market expectations are pointing to Vietnam’s GDP growth picking back up in 2013 in the region of 5.5%-6.0%.


Further contributing to the bullish atmosphere has been Vietnam’s recent success at reining in excessive inflation. Currently, inflation is down to 7.01%, off its peak of 23% as recently as August 2011. However, longer-term investors may not want to throw caution to the wind as the inconsistency of Vietnamese monetary policy in dealing with inflation may be cause for concern. In February 2011, Vietnam unveiled Resolution 11, which was aimed at fighting inflation and supporting its currency with contractionary monetary and fiscal policies. Following the announcement, the State Bank of Vietnam incrementally raised rates to eventually reach 15% by July 2011 from the previous 7% at the start of November 2010. Inexplicably, after July 2011 Vietnam began to cut rates. The IMF and economists criticised the Vietnamese government for making confusing and contradictory statements about the direction of rates. Following these criticisms, Vietnam responded by raising the benchmark refinancing rate back up to 15% by the end of 2011, before instituting another series of interest rate cuts in 2012. In December, Vietnam implemented their sixth interest rate cut of 2012 bringing the key lending rate to 9% at the time of writing.


Investors, therefore, should be cautious when considering Vietnamese equities as economists suggest that Vietnam's central bank is quickly losing credibility with its unpredictable rate decisions.



Lee Davidson is an ETF analyst with Morningstar Europe.

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Lee Davidson

Lee Davidson  is Head of Manager and Quantitative Research.

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