The old market adage>, attributed to Baron Rothschild, Bernard Baruch and John D. Rockefeller, is that you should "buy when there's blood in the streets." But as a torrent of money has flowed into emerging markets, countries with a history of political turmoil like Brazil and Chile -- once considered exotic by Western investors -- have become mainstream. Even China now seems ordinary, with its nearly two dozen ETFs now trading.
For a true contrarian play, consider the frontier country where, just this week, two demonstrators set themselves on fire to protest an authoritative and corrupt government (one protester later died). Egypt, like other pockets of the Arab world, has been rocked by violence. In nearby Tunisia, more than 100 protesters were killed in an uprising that toppled the government earlier this week. (See video.)
TOTAL RETURN IN 2010 LOCAL CURRENCY
On Wednesday Moody's cut Tunisia's bond ratings closer to junk status and the country's stock exchange, after falling 15% in a week, has now been closed for four straight days.
Up until fairly recently, Middle Eastern and North African markets had actually been strong performers. In 2010, select local currency returns ranged from 8.09% in Oman to 33% in Kuwait.
So, given all the violence and uncertainty, the stock investor looking for greater risk and return might ask himself just one question: "Do I feel lucky"?
Unlike South America or even China, the Middle East is still relatively inaccessible. Only a small handful of products like Market Vectors Gulf States (MES),
Middle East / North Africa Stocks 2011 YTD
Gain/Loss in USD Terms From January 2, 2010
Source: Bloomberg, Rosewood Research
Egypt, like Tunisia, is a moderate Muslim country with high unemployment (9%), inflation (10%) and an authoritative government. With a concentration in financials, telecom and industrials, the fund has dropped 8% on heavy volume this week.
Parking Near the Pyramids
Commercial International Bank (Egypt) 2 months
Nearly 7% of the assets are held in Commercial International Bank (CIBEY)
And while I don't buy weakness as a matter of philosophy, if you trust the market sages to buy when there's "blood in the streets" -- now might be your chance.
Jonathan Hoenig is managing member at Capitalistpig Hedge Fund LLC