Asian specialist funds managers are backing the market quite heavily in the absence of good news in most other parts of the region.

There are six single-country open-ended funds to choose from and a variety of Asian emerging markets funds, some of which favour the Phil-ippines. The single country funds include umbrella sub-funds from BGI (now run by Axa in Asia), Indocam, Nikko and Thornton (now run by Dresdner RCM).

Performance over three years is all fairly similar. The top performer is Nikko, re-turning just over 40%. 1996 was a good year but the fluctuating fortunes of the market and the region have not helped managers produce anything like consistent performance.

Of the emerging markets funds with significant exposure to the Philippines, the RHB Newly Industrialised Economies Fund has almost an 18% weighting. The manager, Christopher Wong (ex of GT) for the firm Rashid Hussein will make use of op-portunistic plays and is not averse to taking a contrarian view, hence his relatively high weighting, although other Asian managers are now catching on to the trend. But one crucial aspect that ac-counts for the fund's outperformance is its high cash weighting during 1998.

Of the other managers with significant exposure to the Philippines, while they appear to have confidence in the country, their weightings elsewhere are higher. Invesco's William Barron, for example, has 11% of his Asean Development fund in the Philippines, but 20% in Malaysia and 24% in Indonesia. The narrower focus of the fund has something to do with this, but nonetheless, Barron appears not to be taking too big a bet on the Philippines. Richard Newell