Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brazil Rallies While China Struggles

As the chart below shows, speculative money has been cautious about China since late October, but still bullish on Brazil, as indicated by the strong performance in EWZ, the iShares MSCI Brazil Index ETF. Not only is EWZ showing a gain for the year, but in an impressive display of strength, it has rallied more than 30% off of the January low. This performance puts EWZ not only well ahead of the most popular Chinese ETF, FXI, but also considerably ahead of the broad market emerging market ETF, EEM, known formally as the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

While EWZ is a great way to play the Brazilian market, there are several ADRs that are worth singling out as well. My Portfolio A1 holds Tele Norte Leste Participacoes SA (TNE) and has also been long Brasil Telecom Participacoes SA (BRP) in recent months, but there are even better plays. In fact, of the handful of long-term global holdings that I believe you could almost buy and forget about, two of my favorites are Brazilian giants. At the top of the list is Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PBR), a.k.a. Petrobras, the superbly managed national oil company that is pushing the envelope in the ultra-deep recovery space with their massive Tupi oilfield. Close behind is Vale (RIO), formerly know as Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, the metals and mining giant that recently extracted a 65% price increase in iron ore prices from Baosteel, the largest steel company in China.

In a healthy global economy, PBR and RIO are two of the best blue chip oil and iron plays out there. For those wishing a broader, more diversified play, EWZ is hard to beat, especially as Brazil continues to outpace China.

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