From Russia, With Cash

06/24/2008 12:00 am EST

Focus: ETFS

Nicholas Vardy

Editor, Oxford Wealth Accelerator

Nicholas Vardy, editor of Global Bull Market Alert, says Russia is one of the world’s best performing markets, and he recommends an ETF that is tied to its fortunes.

In a year wracked by economic uncertainty and stumbling global stock markets, Russia has been an unlikely standout performer. Even as China is now down by more than 50%, bad boy Russia's performance has been second only to Brazil this year and it actually has outperformed its BRIC rival by a hair during the past three months.

Despite Russia's reputation as a country rife with corruption, scant respect for genuine democracy and the rule of law, it's always hard to argue with success. The Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSEArca: RSX) is a bet that Russia's buoyant stock market performance this year is set to continue.

Scan the Russian press, and it quickly becomes apparent that the contrast between the collective economic mood of Russia and the US couldn't be sharper. While US drivers cringe at $4.00-per-gallon gas, Russia celebrates high oil prices as the source of its newfound wealth. To add insult to injury, Forbesconfirms that Moscow now boasts more billionaires than New York City.

Vladimir Putin's political shenanigans notwithstanding, it's hard to deny Russian economic achievements. Soaring global demand for its precious commodities and a rising middle class whose disposable income has exploded during the past few years have fueled Russia's decade-long economic boom. During that period, Russia's nominal gross domestic product soared to $1.7 trillion in 2007 from less than $200 billion in 1999. 

While the US struggles to skirt recession, Russia's government expects GDP to hit 7.6% for 2008. That's within striking range of India's projected growth rate of 8.5% this year. Ebullient Russian policymakers have set themselves a goal for becoming one of the world's top five economies by 2020, even as Goldman Sachs predicts that Russia's economy will overtake Great Britain, France, and Germany during the next few decades to become the biggest economy in Europe.

And after the Olympics in Beijing this summer, expect attention to turn toward Russia as it gets set to take the world stage in six years when it will be hosting the Winter Olympics in 2014. In preparation for the games, Russia is planning to invest $200 billion in its own crumbling infrastructure.

The single best way to play Russia's economy and stock market is through the Market Vectors Russia ETF. RSX is weighted most heavily in oil and gas (40%), metals (25%), telecom (13%), and finance (11%). Its largest individual weightings are in Lukoil (10%), Russia's second-largest oil producer, and Gazprom (8%), the world's largest gas company. VimpelCom, Russia's second-largest mobile provider, followed by telecoms Mobile TeleSystems and Rostelecom, make up the ETF's next largest holdings.

So, buy the Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX) at market today and place your stop at $49.50. (It closed below $55 Monday—Editor.) For potentially even bigger gains, buy the November $60 call options (RSXKK.X).

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