As the U.S. equity market soared in 2014, rising 13.69%, the MSCI Emerging Markets Index was the mouse that didn’t roar. It squeaked in at minus 1.82%.

This year, however the emerging markets index was already up more than 10% by May, proving again that this is a space with a hair-trigger temper, where hot money flows in and pushes up currencies (and vice versa), largely through indexes and ETFs. But hot money can also burn you. The Institute of International Finance says that non-resident emerging markets funds fell from a high of $1.35 trillion in 2013 to $1.1 trillion in 2014, mainly because of political turmoil in Russia.

Yet long-term emerging market growth rates are hard to ignore. Citibank has said that 70% of global growth will come from emerging market countries in the future.

When non-resident money flows in, local currencies improve. Consumer confidence in these countries soars. People buy more fast food, insurance and health care.

But then there’s a temper tantrum—a whisper about the end of quantitative easing is on Fedsters’ lips in the U.S., which spooks investors, making them fear that emerging market countries’ U.S. debt will suddenly become too expensive. Money moves out. Currencies turn white. Inflation scares local consumers and the vicious cycle proceeds apace.

But a lot of that might stem from the false sense that the emerging market space is monolithic.

The recent plunge in oil and commodity prices and more reform-minded governments in countries like India might be the crack in the façade, says Teresa Kong, a portfolio manager at Matthews Asia. Those importing cheap raw materials like oil, copper, nickel and iron ore now have a distinct advantage over those that are yanking the stuff out of the ground. Many Asian countries that use cheap raw materials and resell them as value-added material goods to an emerging middle class might be set to decouple from the Latin American and Eastern European countries.

Observers say that the demand over the last decade for added capacity to produce raw goods for huge developing economies like China’s has finally paid off and led to commodities’ cheapening. That’s an important structural sea change for the emerging markets.

“The commodities super-cycle has arguably played itself out to a large extent,” Kong says. “Commodity prices not only in oil but across the metals, across agricultural goods, have come down substantially, and if you look at the areas of the world that are really going to benefit most from this, it’s going to be Asia. And the areas of the world that are going to suffer the most are going to be, to generalize, Latin America and Russia, which are by and large commodity extractors who are selling these to grow.”

Bill Greiner, the chief investment strategist at Mariner Wealth in Leawood, Kan., says that his firm is emphasizing Asian countries for the same reasons, and he believes they will outperform South American ones over the next year (he said in April). Mariner has liked the iShares MSCI All Country Asia Ex-Japan (AAXJ), for some time. It excludes Australia and includes China. “Forty-one percent of the ETF is invested in China and Hong Kong and the other 59% is outside Hong Kong and in the other Asian Tigers. This fund has done extraordinarily well over the last year or so since we’ve owned it. … Frankly, we’re looking for an entry spot to add more of the fund to our clients’ portfolios.”

Paul Attwood, the portfolio manager of the Huntington Global Select Fund, is also banking on the themes of net energy importers thriving. More than half the constituents of the MSCI Emerging Markets index are net importers of energy—Attwood calculates 70%. He adds that governments of these countries will benefit because they have been subsidizing energy for consumers. Now that oil prices have come down by almost half since last year, those countries can now put that money to work serving their debt rather than paying for gas—“countries like Malaysia, India, Indonesia. A lot of those countries are running current account deficits,” Attwood says.

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