Some Investors Choosing U.S. Over Emerging Markets

Investors appear to once again be interested in the relative safety of U.S. stocks. A Bloomberg analysis shows investors pulling money out of emerging markets while simultaneously boosting purchases of U.S. equities.

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For a long time, investors aiming for steady profits have maintained that the smart money was on emerging markets. Economic growth in Brazil, Russia, India and China, the BRIC countries as they're known, has outstripped opportunities in the U.S. But in recent months, there is evidence the trend is starting to change. NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports investors are turning back to markets in the U.S. and other developed economies.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Until recently, emerging markets seemed like a great bet. Populations were booming and resources were plentiful, says Bruce Bittle, chief investment strategist for Robert W. Baird and company.

BRUCE BITTLE: People thought that emerging markets were going to continue to grow uninterrupted for an indefinite period of time. And, of course, that hasn't been the case.

NOGUCHI: Now, the dollar is gaining in value against most of the emerging market currencies. According to mutual fund analytics firm Lipper, mutual fund investment has tapered in emerging markets in the past year, favoring US stock investments instead. And returns in the U.S. are attractive.

JOE QUINLAN: The S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has clearly outperformed the emerging market index this year.

NOGUCHI: Joe Quinlan is chief market strategist for U.S. Trust, a division of Bank of America. He says interest rates in the U.S. have been abnormally low because of the Federal Reserve's stimulus programs. They were designed to jumpstart investment domestically. But the low rates in the U.S. also had the side effect of making foreign investments more attractive. Now, with the Fed planning to wind down some of that stimulus, it makes the U.S., once again, more enticing.

And, of course, doing business in the U.S. is considered less risky, whether that's because of social unrest in Brazil or because of macroeconomic slowdowns in India and China. Arvind Subramanian is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute economics think tank.

ARVIND SUBRAMANIAN: This is the irony, right? The U.S. was the source of the problem. It unleashed kind of a financial crisis. And yet, when there's a financial crisis or any kind of crisis, the dollar and the U.S. still seem to be the safe haven.

NOGUCHI: Subramanian also says the promise of emerging economies was overblown. One more data point suggesting investors are more interested in the U.S. these days is a report out last week from Deloitte and the National Venture Capital Association. That showed U.S. entrepreneurial investments are shunning emerging markets and preferring to stay at home. Jim Atwell is a national managing partner at Deloitte. He says entrepreneurial investment often has long-term impacts.

JIM ATWELL: The majority of the job creations, if not all the job creation in the U.S., over the last 10 or so years have been based on these venture-backed companies.

NOGUCHI: But whether that will prove true depends on a lot of factors. Chief among them, whether these investment trends hold up over time. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

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