BRIC stands for investor pain in 2013, and here’s why

One of the big surprises in global finance during the first half has been the market blowout in the BRIC countries. That investing acronym (as in Brazil, Russia, India, China) used to be synonymous with vibrant growth, of the sort the mature, developed economies supposedly could no longer achieve. Now it is short hand for market misery.

And emerging market investors are rushing to the exits, according to this illuminating story by Bloomberg. During the first half of 2013, investors pulled $13.9 billion from equity mutual funds that are invested in these four countries, according to EPFR Global. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 Index (SPX) is having a banner year.

BKF Chart

BKF data by YCharts

Here’s what is ailing the big four emerging markets:

Brazil: The country has been the scene of massive protests over rising prices, corruption and shoddy public services. The county is now also facing its third consecutive year of slower-than-forecast economic growth. The inflation rate hit 6.7% in June, up from 5.8% in January. The benchmark Brazil Ibovespa Index is off 26% on the year.

Russia: Micex Index (INDEXCF) is down nearly 9% on the year. On top of that, Russia’s stock market capitalization has fallen to a four-year low of $631 billion, down about 50% from two years ago. Russia’s central bank chairman recently warned of “abnormally high” capital outflows.

India: Foreigners have dumped record amounts (some $4 billion) of the country’s sovereign debt during the second quarter. The Indian economy is growing at its slowest pace in a decade.

China:  The economy grew 7.7 percent in the first three months, and Beijing hopes 2013 growth could hit 7.5 percent. Impressive? Not for China—that’s the slowest growth in 23 years. The Shanghai Stock Composite Index recently returned to the lows it set back during the depths of the global financial crisis in early 2009.

Is the investor exodus overblown? Well, there’s no denying that these big emerging economies continue to play a meaningful role in the world economy.  The BRICS alone have been responsible for 55% of global growth since the end of 2009, the Economist points out. The 23 countries that make up the developed world contributed just 20% to that growth.

It’s also worth considering that the combined GDP of the four BRIC nations hit $14.5 trillion in 2012. That’s not far off from the $15.7 trillion the U.S. economy generated.