Singapore a Risky Venture

In past columns, I have discussed the importance of diversifying your stock assets outside of the U.S. It allows you to benefit from growing markets in emerging countries. The safest and easiest way to do this is through professionally managed mutual funds.

 I have talked about booming markets in India and South Korea, as well as the rebound in Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index. The Nikkei 225 is up 50.34% from its 52-week low. That is a lot better than the numbers we have seen in U.S. indexes. Just allocating a small amount of your assets to growing markets that are in an uptrend can return huge. Even investing in the commodities heavy S&P/TSX Composite would have seen some excellent returns, as the Canadian barometer of the top 200 companies has been stellar because of the strength in commodities such as gold, metals, and energies.

 In the Asia region, the dominant economies are China and Japan. But, there is also what is often referred to as the ‘Four Little Tigers.’ This group comprises of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea and were given this tag line because of their strength in the export market.

 A region that is booming as far as the stock market is Singapore, where the Straits Times Index is at a six-year high, up 17.54% from its 52-week low. The index has outperformed the comparative performance of the DOW, NASDAQ and S&P 500 over the past five years.

 And, for such a small country, Singapore’s trading growth has been excellent. With a land area that is little more than 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC and with only about 4.43 million people (estimate as of July 2005), Singapore is impressive. Its port is one of the world’s busiest as far as the tonnage. Its people also have prosperity unlike that of China, with the average per capita GDP in line with the top countries of Western Europe.

 The Straits Times Index comprises of 43 companies, which are probably not known to American investors. Some of the listed companies include fringe Chinese stocks. Key companies include Great Eastern Holdings Ltd. and China-based Star Pharmaceutical Ltd.

 But, for investing purposes, I do not advise investing in Singapore companies individually unless you are an expert in that region or deal with an advisor that has specific and expertise knowledge of Singapore companies. The risk is significantly higher and it is difficult to invest in Singapore companies. I do not believe any Singapore companies trade in the U.S. as ADRs. I highly advise professionally managed mutual funds that invest some of its assets in Singapore stocks as a way to enter market.