Use Russia's support of Syria to benefit your portfolio

Russian President Putin steals the show on how to deal with Syria, reminding us Russia is becoming an economic force to be reckoned with.

By TheStreet Staff Sep 13, 2013 11:25AM

thestreet logoPresident of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia (© Mikhail Kireev/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)By Marc Courtenay


To say that Russia has so far upstaged the United States in the midst of the so-called "Syrian Crisis" would not be an overstatement.


After Secretary of State John Kerry let slip some "rhetorical" and "hypothetical" comments on how Syria could avoid a U.S. offensive attack by giving up its chemical weapons, something remarkable occurred.


At a news conference afterward in London Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave Kerry's idea the Old Russian bear hug. By golly within a few days Syria endorsed it and everyone who is against attacking Syria breathed a sigh of profound relief ... at least for the time being.


Kerry and Lavrov will convene a conference in Geneva Thursday with hopes for progress and a chance to raise their glasses in a toast for peace. No matter what the discussion will be lively.


The United States will be looking for a Russian proposal that should disclose more details about what Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be willing to do about turning over his chemical weapons to an authority like the United Nations.


All this drama serves to remind us that Russia is becoming a big player once again on the world stage. That may be the reason famed investors like Jim Rogers have begun looking at investments in Russia this year.


You may recall that Rogers co-founded the legendary Quantum Fund with George Soros. It helped both men become extremely wealthy.


The potential for Russian resourcefulness brought to mind an article that Dr. Steve Sjuggerud shared with his readers of his Daily Wealth in June.


Sjuggerud pointed out that in Rogers' neighborhood Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't thought of with affection. Yet that hasn't quenched Rogers' interest in examining investments in Russia.


"Maybe [Putin] doesn't like being treated as a KGB thug," Rogers says. "He understands there has not been great prosperity in Russia in the past few years ... I have the view that international capital is welcome in Russia. And if you go there and you invest, you will find opportunities."


Sjuggerud believes that one reason Rogers is stoked about the investment theme in Russia is because it's been a despised, mistrusted economic environment for a long time. This is in the process of changing before the entire world as the Syrian gambit unfolds.


Earlier this year Rogers was quoted saying, "Everybody hates Russia for many good reasons... including me for a long time. That's usually a place that you should look, when people hate a market. And so I am looking."


Fast forward to today. On Tuesday UBS named its top energy picks for 2013. On the list were two Russian companies; Lukoil and Novatek, which trade in European and U.K. exchanges.


UBS indicated that Lukoil is the "standout value play in Russia," while Novatek offers an opportunity for shareholder value. Yet my perspective is when it comes to investing in Russia, be diversified.


In his article Sjuggerud suggested for those who want a diversified way to invest in Russia might consider the Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX) which closed at $24.85 that same day in June.


A little more than three months later the ETF closed Tuesday at $28.11. That's more than a 13% increase, but Sjuggerud stated in June that he thought regarding RSX that "... from these levels, I believe we could make a 75% return in Russia over the next 12 months." Why not!


The top 10 holdings of Market Vectors Russia ETF make up almost 61% of the ETF and Lukoil is one of them. The ETF also pays a dividend which appears to be slightly less than 3%.


Another even more diversified way to have investment exposure to Russia as well as China, Brazil and some of the top dividend-paying, emerging market companies is with the WisdomTree Emerging Markets Equity (DEM).


Four of the top holdings with the ETF are large Russian companies like Gazprom, Lukoil and Norilsk Nickel.


At the latest price of $52.59 DEM is up almost 15% from the 52-week low on June 24 of $45.81. Here's a 1-year price chart of both RSX and DEM. Both ETFs seem volatile, so if you decide to buy shares of either let the price come to you. 



If you buy these ETFs do consider setting a stealth trailing stop loss to protect you from the unforeseen.


Putin has won a temporary reprieve for his Syrian ally from the threatened missile attack by the United States and its allies. Now he has to use his Russian diplomacy and influence to persuade Assad to comply with the terms of the deal to turn over Syria's entire chemical weapons arsenal.


If anyone can persuade Syria's leadership to cooperate it is the most powerful man in Russia. Those closest to the situation have stated in interviews that this process is strengthening Russia's world image.


No wonder Rogers is bullish on Russia's future and its economy. Rogers is one of the great international investors who won't set his sights on a target unless the rewards are brilliantly obvious.


That's precisely why earlier this year he started doing the unthinkable and began looking for opportunities in Russia.


With Putin's efforts to change his image to that of an international purveyor of peace, the Syrian crisis may end up being the catalyst for other changes in perceptions about Russia.


Those investors who discern that the resurgent BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- including Russia, are starting to shape the course of international events may also have the chance to experience new ways to profit in the months ahead.


At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.


More from


Sep 13, 2013 7:57PM
Why not invest in Russia, Obama has invested in them? Are we looking at what Obama meant when he was overheard telling Putin "after the election, I will have more leeway". No verbatim.
Sep 13, 2013 7:42PM
They only have one stock, it's called- Putin. The symbol is- KGB. It's motto is-- what goes to Putin stays in Putin.
Sep 13, 2013 2:08PM
Really invest in fallout shelters and gas masks?
Sep 14, 2013 8:50PM
My money is on Putin .... BO does not have a clue.
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