After the close of U.S. markets Tuesday, Bloomberg reported
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will not be sworn in on Thursday
January 10. The likely reason is his ailing health. Chavez has been
in Cuba for several weeks recovering from a fourth procedure to
Last week, it was reported that
Chavez's situation was delicate.
One leading physician even said the Venezuelan leader was leading
his last days.
Until this week, concerns over the Venezuelan succession plan
have not been a hindrance to the country's bonds or the small
amount of U.S.-listed
that offer exposure to Venezuelan debt, the only way for most
American investors to access the South American OPEC member.
However, on Monday, bonds issued by Petroleos de Venezuela, the
country's state-run oil producer, sank on succession fears. PDVSA's
debt due 2017 plunged 1.88 cents to 99.09 cents on the dollar
That bond issue is featured in the Market Vectors Emerging
Markets High Yield Bond ETF (NYSE:
), an ETF that features an 8.73 percent weight to Venezuela.
Another Petroleos De Venezuela issue, this one maturing in 2014
with a 4.9 percent coupon, is also found among HYEM's top-10
lineup. The ETF eked a positive finish on Tuesday on light
To this point, market participants have seemed resigned to the
fact that if Chavez could not be sworn in on January 10, Vice
President Nicolas Maduro would assume the presidency. Worth noting
is that Venezuela's constitution mandates that new elections must
be held within 30 days if Chavez is not sworn in on January 10.
It could be the specter of Maduro, who Chavez has told
Venezuelans to vote for if something should happen to him, taking
over that has roiled Venezuelan bonds. The iShares Emerging Markets
High Yield Bond Fund (NYSE:
), which now features an allocation of almost 17.5 percent to
Venezuela, touched a new all-time high early Monday, but sold-off
throughout the day and closed lower on Tuesday.
Over the past five trading days, the Market Vectors LatAm
Aggregate Bond ETF (NYSE:
), the the only other ETF with noticeable direct Venezuela
exposure, is lower by about one percent.
The recent decline in Venezuelan bonds could pressure these
ETFs, but the upside is a buying opportunity could emerge on hopes
Venezuelans will see Chavez not taking office again as an
opportunity to elect a pro-free market regime.
Venezuela needs to do that because the company's status as an
OPEC member belies faltering production and the fact that Petroleos
de Venezuela is by many accounts a decrepit company. In 2011, the
country had the second-largest oil reserves in the world and
reserves could be as high as 316 billion barrels when factoring in
the Orinoco Belt,
according to the Energy Information
Problem is Venezuela's oil is nationalized and Chavez did more
to scare Western oil companies operating there than to welcome
their much-needed investments and technology.
Should Venezuela make the transition from leftist regime to some
semblance of a free market country, then another ETF becomes an
interesting way to profit from that trend: The iShares S&P
Global Energy Sector Index Fund (NYSE:
At least five of IXC's top-10 holdings - Exxon Mobil (NYSE:
), Chevron (NYSE:
), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:
), BP (NYSE:
) and Eni (NYSE:
) - have some exposure to Venezuela. That implies a new,
non-leftist regime there could be a boon for more than just bonds.
It could be good news for some of the most familiar oil stocks as
For more on Venezuela and ETFs, click
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