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So About that Russian ETF Thing…

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Over the past 8 years, I've made a lot of calls here. Some have turned out very good (buying Facebook stock under $20) and some not so good. Then there's a whole other level that's 5 miles below the not-so-good, that's downright ugly.

It's not always to admit it, but sometimes I just have to count how many eggs I can fit on my face.

In early August I made a case that now might be the time to invest in Russian ETFs. The ETF that I suggested was Ticker:RSX. It is is only down 40% since I wrote about it. I invested in it too, but not that much.

Yep, so that's a 40% loss of money. I feel like I should probably have some kind of reaction to this as it isn't typical. I'm trying to feel something (other than empathy for the Russian people). On the investment level, I'm thinking, "It's in a retirement account that I don't plan to touch for 30 years. I am fairly sure the country will figure it out by then."

And then I used dollar cost averaging to buy more shares during yesterday's collapse. That made me feel something... made me feel quite a bit. I got anxious. Here's a country in a perfect storm of having half its economy (oil) drastically devalued. It's getting trade sanctions from the US and Europe for their handling of the Ukraine situation. The Ruble has fallen faster than Johnny Manziel's career. (Too early? Should I have gone with Tim Tebow?) And I'm fairly sure they haven't recovered from Rocky beating Drago in 1985.

I'd say I summoned all my chutzpah to make the move, but it was probably closer to my stupidity. And where it goes from here will be dependent on factors I don't control and luck. (This article is not turning into the pep talk as I had hoped.)

It's interesting to look at the markets as I wake up today. In 24 hours, the ETF has been up around 10-12% from where I bought yesterday. It isn't nearly enough to wipe out the losses, but I'm now "only" about a 20% gain from breaking even. If they right the ship even a little bit, I think they could get there fairly quickly. If it were possible to get Putin to swallow his pride and work out some kind of deal with the Ukraine, the stock would probably skyrocket. I'm not holding my breath waiting for that one. And things could still take a turn for the worse.

Today there's something even more than Russia interesting on my short 15-stock list. Remember when I wrote, Should You Invest in Frontier Markets? It seems the answer to that question should have been, "Not right now..." It's down nearly 10% today. That's fairly surprising for an index fund that is diversified in a couple dozen countries. It is highly weighted towards Quwait and best I can tell they found some new oil there. You'd think that would be a good thing, but in a world of cheap oil, perhaps the last thing need is... more oil.

The secret is what's in this Barron's article. Many of the countries in there, like Russia, export a lot of oil.

This should be a great lesson in diversification. Even diversifying across many countries can fall victim if one commodity, like oil for example, plummets. The other lesson is that, although I spent over 500 words writing about these two holdings, they combine to be about 3% of my investment accounts... and far less in terms of net worth.

Diversification taketh away, but diversification also giveth. I like it a lot better in that order.

Posted on December 17, 2014.

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4 Responses to “So About that Russian ETF Thing…”

  1. Kathy says:

    When I was young, my mother – who grew up during the depression – always said never invest anything in the stock market that you don’t plan to lose. Well, I don’t have that attitude about the U.S. market but I do have it about the BIRC countries. We have some foreign stocks but you have to be very careful of the tax treaty the U.S. has with any country. Good luck with your “double down” move yesterday.

    • Lazy Man says:

      I’m curious how your mother prepared for her retirement. I’m guessing she own her home cutting one major cost, but today, a huge number of people have the vast majority of their retirement money in the stock market. I think I’ll chalk it up to today’s markets being very, very different than those in the depression.

  2. I have a few dogs in my portfolio as well, but their effects aren’t so noticeable in my overall portfolio, which is a good thing. If they’re down, I consider it “noise”. When they’re up, I consider myself clever. You see what I did there? But joking aside, I wish you the best on your calls just as I wish the same for mine. One negative call I have is the insurance policy I took on my portfolio, and is therefore expectedly uncorrelated to the overall market. It *should* zag when the market zigs and is built to work that way. The other such call is a thankfully small buy and hold dividend play that went south due to my reaching for higher yield than I should have. Lesson learned: high yield always means higher risk. So now it’s in my speculative basket. I’m hoping that the high yield can continue long enough to partially counteract and mitigate the effects of capital losses. But like you, “I won’t be holding my breath waiting for that one.”

  3. Now could be a great time for investing in Russia. I feel the same way as you do about keeping it as a small percentage of the total portfolio though. This situation is a good application of the famous quote about buying while others are fearful and selling when others are greedy.

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