Capital IdeasTM

Investment insights from Capital Group

Emerging Markets
10 trends reshaping the future of emerging markets
Valeria Vine
Investment Director
  • Major trends such as the revival in travel demand, the growth of digital platforms and the acceleration of mobile technology are spurring the prospects of emerging markets.
  • Investment opportunities can be found in select companies that are driving innovation in emerging markets, as well as those catering to the underserved customer segments.
  • Frontier markets, many of which did not experience a recession in 2020, offer an additional opportunity set for investors, particularly within fixed income.

Risks may be associated with investing in emerging markets, which are volatile and may suffer from liquidity problems.

Not the emerging markets of the 1990s

The emerging market universe today looks very different to that of the 1990s. Domestic inflationary pressures that were once these countries’ weak point have generally been steadily reduced from an average of 78% in 1990 to 5% in 2020. Government debt has risen from around 45% of GDP in 1990 to 63% in 2020, but looks manageable compared to developed countries, which have seen government debt levels jump to over 120% of GDP in 2020. Meanwhile, emerging markets have seen their aggregate current account balance move from deficit to surplus. Compared with the 1990s when several emerging market economies experienced crises, foreign exchange reserves are now generally substantial, and currency pegs are less common, giving emerging market countries more flexibility in responding to crises.1

In addition to the adoption of more orthodox fiscal and monetary policies, many emerging markets have also become more dynamic, less cyclical, and more competitive in the knowledge economy. From a variety of tech components (TSMC chips), to electronics, digital payments, e-commerce, biopharma, gaming, social media and many more areas, emerging market companies are innovating and becoming increasingly competitive on a global scale.

Meanwhile, emerging market debt has evolved from a mainly US dollar, Latin American sovereign, high-risk asset class to a much more diverse and higher quality universe, including both local currency and dollar corporate bonds from all over the world. “The increase in the breadth and depth of emerging market debt has given portfolio managers more degrees of freedom to position their portfolios in a way that benefits from their top-down views given that many of these sub-asset classes within emerging market debt have very different risk-return characteristics,” says fixed income portfolio manager Luis Freitas de Oliveira.

Over 50% of the dollar index is currently rated ‘investment grade’ by the credit rating agencies. This is despite the addition of frontier markets issuing US dollar debt at index size and also recent downgrades to multiple credits. For almost 90% of its lifetime, 70% of the local currency index has been rated investment grade by the agencies and the index currently carries an average rating of BBB.2

In this paper we share 10 themes that we believe will drive opportunities in emerging markets in the next 10 years.

1. Emerging market middle classes are driving growth in air travel

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, around 150 million people in Asia travelled for the first time each year. Over the next 20 years, the region is expected to account for around 50% of incremental air traffic3 , fuelled by the rapidly rising middle class population.

If anything, the inability of leisure seekers in Asia to travel during the pandemic has only added to the desire to do so, and there are already signs of strong pent-up demand. The situation in China is a case in point as its domestic air travel had almost returned to pre-COVID levels in late 2020 after it brought the coronavirus outbreak largely under control. However, the recent rise in coronavirus cases brought back some travel restrictions.


1. Source: IMF World Economic Outlook, as at April 2021

2. As at 28 April 2021. The local currency bond index is JPMorgan GBI-EM Global Diversified and the dollar bond index is JPMorgan EMBI Global. Source: JPMorgan

3. Source: Boeing Commercial Market Outlook 2020-2039


Risk factors you should consider before investing:
  • This material is not intended to provide investment advice or be considered a personal recommendation.
  • The value of investments and income from them can go down as well as up and you may lose some or all of your initial investment.
  • Past results are not a guide to future results.
  • If the currency in which you invest strengthens against the currency in which the underlying investments of the fund are made, the value of your investment will decrease. Currency hedging seeks to limit this, but there is no guarantee that hedging will be totally successful.
  • Depending on the strategy, risks may be associated with investing in fixed income, emerging markets and/or high-yield securities; emerging markets are volatile and may suffer from liquidity problems.

Valeria Vine is an investment specialist at Capital Group. She has 12 years of industry experience and has been with Capital Group for five years. Prior to joining Capital, Valeria worked as a management consultant at Ernst & Young. Before that, she was a senior consultant at FactSet. She holds a master's degree in banking and international finance from Cass Business School and a bachelor's degree in economics from University of Nottingham. She also holds the Chartered Financial Analyst® designation. Valeria is based in London.

Past results are not a guarantee of future results. The value of investments and income from them can go down as well as up and you may lose some or all of your initial investment. This information is not intended to provide investment, tax or other advice, or to be a solicitation to buy or sell any securities.

Statements attributed to an individual represent the opinions of that individual as of the date published and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Capital Group or its affiliates. All information is as at the date indicated unless otherwise stated. Some information may have been obtained from third parties, and as such the reliability of that information is not guaranteed.

Capital Group manages equity assets through three investment groups. These groups make investment and proxy voting decisions independently. Fixed income investment professionals provide fixed income research and investment management across the Capital organization; however, for securities with equity characteristics, they act solely on behalf of one of the three equity investment groups.