2002 has seen an Asia resurgent, more stable, and in many ways the most exciting regional consumer market worldwide. Mid year, while North American economies teeter between the moribund and a very tentative recovery and European markets remain volatile and showing no clear direction, Asian economies have shown substantive gains. With few exceptions it's an upbeat region right now, though continued growth does indeed depend on a turnaround in other international economies.
Stock markets are almost all on the upside over 12 months, China continues to shine, Japan as the most influential Asian economy at last seems to be showing some signs of having reached the bottom and on the way to a slow recovery, and the sick monolith of Asia - Indonesia - has posted a quiet but substantive recovery. While the US Dow Jones and NASDAQ are way down in percentage terms over 12 months, the story is the opposite in Asia. Tokyo is 10% up, Karachi 41%, Bangkok 40%,and Seoul 17%, the latter building in strong growth even the year before. Even Kuala Lumpur (up 9%), Manila (10%), in recession recovery mode - Singapore (2.5%) and from a long way back - Jakarta (30%) are in growth mode over the past 12 months. It would be correct to say that foreign investment, fuelled by lacklustre markets overseas, is behind much of the relative bouyancy. But it is more correct to say that a substantive factor also is local and regional investment.
China and South Korea are by far the economic stars of the past few years. This year saw China's GDP grow by over 7.5% and South Korea by 3.7%. Perhaps the only disappointment at present is Hong Kong, struggling over their changed role as the traditional conduit of international business and trade with China.
See the separate country sections for more detail.
Rod Davies, Orient Pacific Century Market Research