Are Aberdeen Asset Management plc, Rio Tinto plc or Standard Chartered PLC The Best Way To Play Emerging Markets Today?

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As memories of January's global stock market rout recede many investors may be tempted by emerging markets again. These three FTSE 100 stocks are already cashing in on renewed positive sentiment. Should you buy them?


Aberdeen's Assets

On March 16 I wrote that emerging markets-focused fund manager Aberdeen Asset Management(LSE: ADN) "looks tempting for emerging market bulls, terrifying for bears", and so far the bulls have got it right. The stock is up 12% since I wrote that and a whopping 45% since its January lows, as Asian fears recede.

There was a great buying opportunity for those tough enough to take it and there is scope for further upside with the stock trading at 10.31 times earnings. It would be bovine to suggest that Aberdeen's anguish is now behind it, especially with earnings per share (EPS) forecast to drop by a hefty 36% in the year to 30 September. But at least the emerging markets froth has been blown away, and with forecast EPS growth of a steady 3% in 2017 there may be more sense in today's valuation.

Aberdeen was hit hard by net inflows last year and we await to see what level of damage January's rout inflicted and whether the recent recovery will tempt investors to return at the same pace. Probably not, I'm afraid. However, the yield is juicy at 6.30% and if oil continues to trade higher markets will also climb and Aberdeen could fly.

Rio Bravo

Mining giant Rio Tinto(LSE: RIO) is also up around 47% over the last three months as the rising emerging market tide floats another boat. Rio has helped its own cause by successfully following the commodity survival playbook of slashing costs and ramping production to offset falling prices. A healthier balance sheet than most in the sector also helps.

Strong first-quarter production numbers have given it a real kicker, with double-digit year-on-year production growth for both iron ore and aluminium. Chief executive Sam Walsh is maintaining the company's focus on "delivering further cost and productivity improvements, disciplined capital management and maximising free cash flow, to ensure that Rio Tinto remains strong".

Rio has avoided the extreme volatility endured by shakier rivals such as Anglo American and Glencore. Relative stability risky sector should not be dismissed lightly, and neither should Rio's 6.03% yield.

Chartered's Accounts

Asia focused bank Standard Chartered(LSE: STAN) cannot claim to be an innocent victim of the Asian meltdown as it was partly the architect of its own misfortune. It chose to increase its risk appetite at precisely the wrong time and paid the price in spiralling bad debts. New boss Bill Winters has little choice but to dump riskier assets, cut operating costs and rebuild the bank's capital, but this is also likely to curb future growth prospects.

The dividend has gone, the P/E ratio is an unnerving -118 and anyone tempted by the prospect of 117% jump in EPS in 2017 must understand this is only the start of the fightback. While 16% share growth in the last three months is promising, Standard Chartered has a long way to go. If you are prepared to hang on for five or 10 years, it should get there in the end.

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Harvey Jones has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Aberdeen Asset Management and Rio Tinto. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.