Qualifications for Entering the Trillion-Dollar Club

Guess who has joined the trillion-dollar club? Brazil! What trillion-dollar club am I referring to? A very exclusive one, where the entrance fee is a market capitalization of at least one trillion dollars! I am talking about securities markets worldwide that have admitted only 14 members so far onto the “A” list.

Among other members of the club are the usual suspects: the U.S., Canada, the U.K., China, and Japan. Then there are less-likely members, such as Australia, Spain, and South Korea. Russia was there for a time, but it was dropped for not being able to keep up with the boys.

So, what has propelled Brazil into this peculiar kind of financial celebrity? Well, it was sort of a triple-whammy, comprised of skyrocketing commodity prices, a healthy economy that is growing at an annualized rate of 4.1%, and a strong currency. (Perhaps this reminds you of another economy, much closer to home?) Not surprisingly, foreign investors looking into global diversification have flooded the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange.

There is one more thing economists find interesting about this rather selective trillion-dollar club: There is little or no correlation between a country’s market capitalization and its gross domestic product (GDP). For example, Canada’s market cap is 112.8% of its GDP. In contrast, mainland China’s ratio is just about 14%. But if you add Hong Kong to the melee, the percentage-wise relationship between its market capitalization and GDP is 649%.

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What does that mean? If you calculate GDP from its so-called “upper loop,” which measures output versus consumption, the figure is arrived at by adding what consumers spend, what investors invest, what governments either tax or borrow, and what is leftover once a country nets its imports and exports. Obviously, countries with smaller ratios between their market caps and GDP percentages have a number of issues to work out before they can really be considered in the big leagues.

But more importantly, what does Brazil’s market capitalization have to do with the price of tea in China? Well, I have already mentioned the magic word — diversification. For investors who are looking into global exposure or exposure to emerging markets, perhaps it’s time to consider China and India as worn-out ideas and divert their attention towards countries such as Brazil. If nothing else, it seems that Brazil is currently at its optimum output level, with an economy that is robust but not overheated, with a currency that can buy stuff outside its borders, and with natural resources in abundance that everyone is willing to pay a good price for.