Market Outlook

Similar to most other major global markets, 2015 was also largely a year to forget on the frontier. The few bright spots of meaningfully positive local returns (Argentina and Romania) were largely overwhelmed by further currency weakness relative to the U.S. Dollar. Looking ahead for 2016, we see a global sense of skittishness and thin growth leadership as extending to the frontier markets as well, though their lesser lack of integration and correlation with global markets will separate some markets more than others. To that end, the asset concentration within the small universe of global frontier markets managers is our top concern across frontier markets for 2016. Thus at the broadest level, we recommend underweighting global frontier markets vis a vis other clearer opportunities in Japanese equities, but see some genuine opportunities in the frontier universe relative to emerging markets. Otherwise our views here largely reflect our recommendations for medium-term allocations within the frontier universe. As in emerging markets, we expect U.S. dollar strength to continue, and indeed may even be exacerbated by local currency weakness in selected markets (e.g. Nigeria). Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC are making headlines for their regional confrontations, both hot and cold, fiscal struggles and influence in the oil market, but also for some peculiar reforms to the stock market. Nigeria is both cheap and expensive in different parts, and could be poised for a truly volatile 2016. Indeed much of the big African stocks seem expensive compared to their European, Asian, or Latin American counterparts, and these stocks seem poised at best for stagnation in 2016 and possibly a significant de-rating. But the universe is not without its bright spots and we see very positive macro fundamentals and micro market catalysts in Argentina, Vietnam, and Frontier Europe (ex Kazakhstan).

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