How Apple Could Send This Emerging Market Into Overdrive

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - 1:30pm

by Eric Winter

Don't get distracted by the alphabet soup of emerging market investing -- there are other areas to get quality foreign exposure than just through BRIC or MINT countries.

U.S. equities have bounced back since their October stumble, but the drop no doubt threw some investors for a loop. Although the bulls seem to have taken over again, I've turned some of my attention toward finding good yields and diversification elsewhere.

That means going abroad -- to one country in particular.

The island nation of Taiwan occupies a space of less than 14,000 square miles, but the sovereign state manages to rank as the 18th-largest economy in the world by GDP.

Strong ties to technology and consumer electronics have left the country with a laundry list of mature, cash-rich companies both forging their own paths and riding the coattails of hardware giants like Apple.

Despite this, Taiwan is still viewed as an emerging market, not yet fit to be bestowed with "developed" status by investing benchmarks.

Don't be swayed by the terminology, however, as the increased global shipment of smart phones helped boost GDP growth and push down the jobless rate to 3.99%.  In comparison, the U.S. jobless rate sits at 5.9%, according to September 2014 numbers.

A lot of that demand comes from Taiwan's big neighbor, China. Low-end and start-up smart phone makers like Xiaomi, Inc. increasingly rely on many of the same parts supplied to Apple. Nonetheless, the tech giant still rules the roost, as the Apple brand carries a retention rate of 84% with consumers in China, forcing Samsung and Xiaomi to come in at a distant second and third, respectively.

With demand off the charts for Apple's latest set of products, I dug into its supply chain, revealing 42 business partners in Taiwan.  Realizing that building a position in some or all would be a headache, I uncovered an excellent alternative: iShares MSCI Taiwan (NYSE: EWT).

EWT is an exchange-traded fund intended to mimic benchmarks from MSCI, a large index manager known for its global equity portfolios. In operation for more than 14 years, EWT has exposure to 106 Taiwanese companies, including a hefty list of Apple (and other smartphone) parts manufacturers and assemblers.

Here's a spotlight of some key members of Apple's supply chain that have a large presence in the ETF:

A number of Apple-specific catalysts are driving these companies, pushing some to unprecedented quarters and increasing profits year over year.

Holiday shopping expectations, strong sales in China, lower price points for previous iPhone models (like the 5C) and significant backlogs for the iPhone 6 should continue to prop up the revenues of many of these suppliers.

This recent rash of earnings releases have already spelled success. Foxconn Technology Group reported an 11% rise in third-quarter profit on November 13. Just a few weeks prior, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing bulldozed analyst expectations by delivering a record net profit for the same three months.

From a technical standpoint, the ETF looks impressive.  EWT broke through its five-year resistance in August and is hovering around those levels after a small pull-back. Could the upcoming holiday season help the ETF make new highs with consumers loading up on new tech products?

Risks To Consider: As mentioned above, Taiwan was denied "developed market" status by MSCI in June. It's the sixth year in a row that Taiwan has been snubbed, but not necessarily for overly negative reasons.  It remains difficult for foreign investors to gain access to Taiwan's financial markets, and the nation hasn't made enough steps to change that to warrant a bump up in MSCI's eyes.  However, Taiwan is better economically poised than many of its Asian counterparts being touted as the area's next big emerging market.

Also, be aware that the ETF's annual expense fee is 0.61%, meaning EWT will cost you $6.10 annually for every $1,000 you own.

Action To Take --> I understand it's a stretch to charge Apple with lifting Taiwan out of its emerging market designation. But the country's strong support from smartphone makers like Apple and Samsung has had an astounding impact thus far. And the number of companies tapping the island nation's resources is growing. Consider a long-term position in EWT to get exposure to the who's who of the world's consumer electronics supply chain.

Taiwan is not the only international investment you should be considering. High-Yield International is your best source for investing trends, opportunities and sky-high yields abroad. In fact, 79% of the world's highest-yielding stocks are overseas. For more information about international investing, click here.

Eric Winter does not personally hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.
StreetAuthority LLC does not hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.