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BRIC states fade into MIST

For over a decade, the BRIC states have held sway over swaths of the world economy. But another set of nations, united under the acronym MIST, is ready to knock a brick out of the economic wall.

People who want to get their message across quickly - and make their way into the headlines - would be well advised to come up with a short and snappy abbreviation or acronym for their whole idea.

It worked 11 years ago for Jim O'Neill, an asset manager at Goldman Sachs, when he coined the term BRIC - the now-ubiquitous acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China. Fund managers and investment consultants grabbed onto the term as a way of getting their customers to invest in those four countries, which were undergoing astonishing growth at the time.

For many people, the investments made a decade ago have paid off. These four emerging markets are responsible for nearly half of the last 10 years' worth of global economic growth. But chinks are beginning to appear in the armor of these former economic warriors. Brazil is suffering from a strong currency, Russia is struggling to enact reforms, India is dragged down by corruption and China is no longer growing fast enough to create new jobs.

BRICs hit a wall of MIST

The difficulties the four countries are coping with have led economic experts to believe the time has come for a new set of countries to replace the BRIC nations.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese President Hu Jintao and South Africa's President Jacob Zuma pose for a photograph during the BRICS summit in New Delhi March 29, 2012. Photo: REUTERS/Yekaterina Shtukina/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

Is the BRIC wall crumbling?

"There is a hype attached to certain countries," Rolf Langhammer, vice president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, told DW. "People think these countries are the next growth motors after the first motors, the OECD states, and the second motors, the BRIC states, begin to stall."

In the race to coin the next term for the countries that will support the global economic system, O'Neill has touted the "next 11." He has several other authorities' predictions in mind.

The magazine "The Economist" has invented the term CIVETS, standing for Columbia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa. The mutual fund group Fidelity has minted MINT - Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey - while the Bloomberg news agency has told people to stare into the MIST to see where growth will come from. MIST would be Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey.

"The so-called 'next 11' unites the countries that each produce 1.5 percent of the gross world product," Langhammer said. "But most of them still have a long road ahead in terms of integrating into the global economy. They have potential but are very heterogeneous."

The MIST countries are particularly heterogeneous. Mexico is growing faster than Brazil, but is largely dependent on trade with the United States. Indonesia has raw materials and a young population, but its political system has been labeled fragile. South Korea is not really an emerging country anymore, its population is graying and growth rates are falling. And in Turkey the economy is experiencing strong growth, but much of it relies on foreign investment that could disappear if the global economy is hit by another crisis.

The big risks

"They are interesting places for investment, but there is a high degree of volatility, of uncertainty and risk attached to them," Langhammer said, adding that he was unsure the new acronym MIST would last.

Finding value in the MIST countries requires investors to peer into a haze that could quickly evaporate.

A misty landscape Copyright: DW / Maksim Nelioubin

The MIST offers opportunities - and risks - to investors and the global economy

"They are very closely tied to the BRIC countries. Indonesia, for example, is a key raw material exporter for China," Langhammer said. "If China's growth slows down, then the trees that make up Indonesia's raw materials won't continue to prop up the economy."

Several economies, especially in Asia, are tightly interwoven with each other in terms of trade and the movement of capital.

"If the Asian BRIC countries suffer than the following generation of emerging nations won't have it as goog either," Langhammer said.

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