A rising dollar stalls all boats (so far)

12/16/2009 4:55 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

The rising dollar (and the falling euro and yen) has been enough to stall the emerging economy stock markets that have outperformed the U.S. Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index since this huge rally began on March 9.

The “stall” is just that. Emerging economy stock market indexes have simply stopped moving up. They certainly haven’t yet tumbled enough to present opportunistic investors with a lot of bargain buys.

But considering the degree of out-performance since March 9—the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index ETF (EEM) was up 100.3% from March 9 as of the close on December 16 versus a mere 56.2% gain for the S&P 500 during that period—even a stall is a significant change.

Here’s what the stall looks like.

Since closing at 1110.32 on November 17 the Standard & Poor’s 500 has moved all the way down to 1109.18 at the close on December 16. That’s a drop of 1.14 points.

In that same period the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF has dropped 0.74 points. The Claymore/BNY Mellon BRIC ETF (EEB) is down 0.8 points. And the iShares MSCI Brazil Index ETF (EWZ) is down 0.66 points.

As I said, a stall.

I’ve written two posts lately on the reasons that the U.S. dollar is rallying against the euro and the yen. (You can read those posts on the yen here http://jubakpicks.com/2009/12/14/the-yen-looks-headed-to-replacing-the-dollar-as-the-worlds-weak-currency-of-choice/ and on the euro here http://jubakpicks.com/2009/12/16/the-euro-crisis-just-keeps-getting-worse/ .) The world is, in fact, facing two simultaneous currency crises (with a small “c” I’d add—no panic, please) and that is to the dollar’s benefit.

At a time of crisis traders and investors seek the relative greater safety of U.S.-dollar denominated investments. That isn’t yet translating into wholesale moves out of emerging economy stock markets and into dollar-denominated financial markets because 1) the two crises are both newcomers and traders seem inclined to just wait it out, and 2) traders may be inclined to sell emerging market assets but I think they’re leaving that money in cash so that they say “How high, sir?” when the market yells “Jump back in.”

If the twin currency crises continue for a few weeks, however—especially if the euro crisis continues with no signs of resolution and some signs of getting worse—the stall in emerging economy stock markets could turn into an actual decline.

I’d consider any such drop in these markets a buying opportunity since nothing in the current currency chaos changes the long-term out performance of these economies over the world’s developed economies.

I’m not rooting for a pull back. I’ve got money in emerging market stocks. But if one does develop, I plan to be ready to jump on the opportunity.

One stock I’ve got my eye on is Vale (VALE), the big Brazilian iron and nickel producer. The shares are down just 0.15 points since November 17 but they do look like they have stalled. Another stock I’m watching is Sociedad Quimica y Minera Chile (SQM).  The company produces about 65% of the lithium that comes out of the SalarAtacama region of Chile. Recoverable reserves at that lake make up 20% of the world’s known reserves. (I wrote about the company in September 8 post http://jubakpicks.com/2009/09/08/batteries-yep-good-old-batteries-are-the-technology-of-tomorrow-heres-how-to-invest/ ) The shares are down 0.16 points since November 17.

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