With tension building in Europe, a lot of investors are doing frenzied calculations. How would sanctions against Russia affect the oil market . . . or titanium . . . or fertilizer?
All of these commodities are vulnerable to a supply disruption. That’s nothing new for oil, which has lurched for decades across the simmering threat of trouble in the Middle East tangling shipping lanes or even knocking production centers offline.
We used to say the Middle East was the fulcrum that moved the entire financial universe. But that was years ago. Now, the global role of OPEC has receded while Russia and North America step up.
OPEC is no longer the kingpin. The cartel has become increasingly dominated by Saudi Arabia and its regional politics, becoming a swing player between real superpowers.
And as the overall threat level in the oil belt has cooled, the mood just doesn’t move oil prices as far as it once did. Terror attacks in the Saudi peninsula, naval skirmishes in the Persian Gulf . . . and crude barely responds.
The real shadow of instability has moved north to the border of Europe and Central Asia. That’s where Germany’s fuel comes from . . . Russian pipelines. I think the global market has yet to appreciate this fact, but hope we never have to test the theory.
What’s interesting is that suddenly Middle Eastern stocks aren’t uniquely viewed as subject to domestic or regional risk. Saudi Aramco is a $2 trillion company. And even outside the energy sector, economies without a lot of oil have a real chance to shine now.
I’m thinking a lot about Israeli companies. Over 100 are already listed on Wall Street. Only a few like CheckPoint (CHKP) and Teva (TEVA) are even in the $10 billion zone . . . the rest are small and relatively obscure.
But there are potentially great computer security companies in the mix. Biotech developers. New media companies. Even commodity players like ICL (ICL), which will definitely play a key role in the global fertilizer space if and when things get hot around Ukraine.
CyberArk (CYBR) and Elbit (ESLT) provide the brains behind modern cyber warfare. As the rest of the world gets precarious, they have a chance to come into their own.
After all, Israel is no longer one of the more dangerous parts of the world right now. The risk landscape is changing. Time for everyone’s global portfolio to do likewise.