Reeling from acts of terrorism and ever-increasing incidents of violence, Egypt is a nation that can hardly afford to sustain bad news. Tourism, the lifeblood of the national economy, has been taking a serious hit since the start of the 2010 decade. Uprisings and a major coup d’état have unsurprisingly kept visitors from coming anywhere near the region. Now, with the EgyptAir crash, which many experts — including the Egyptian government — have speculated as an act of terror, the economy surely faces another downward slide.
The latest incident is sadly the third in less than a one-year time period involving Egypt. In October of last year, a Russian passenger plane was bombed after it departed a Red Sea resort town. The terrorist organization Islamic State claimed responsibility. In another incident, an Egyptian national hijacked an EgyptAir flight. No one was hurt and the man eventually surrendered to authorities. Still, it places a giant exclamation mark towards the instability of the embattled nation.
It also doesn’t help matters that Egypt is right in the middle of an escalating warzone. It borders Libya to the east — where various factions are fighting for control in the wake of a power vacuum — and Sudan to the south. It also shares a land border with Israel, and Saudi Arabia, which has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons, is right across the Red Sea. In addition to the threat of geopolitical flashpoints, Egypt also requires a tourist visa for holders of U.S. passports. It simply brings up another reason why tourists will look elsewhere for their vacation plans.
As a financial investment, there are more questions than answers. The Vectors Egypt Index (NYSEARCA:EGPT) is, at this time, the only direct security that tracks the Egyptian markets. Since peaking in September of 2014, EGPT is down 47%. Year-to-date, EGPT is basically flat, down less than 1%.
To contrarians, that may signal an opportunity. Over the past three months, the ETF is up double-digits to 14%. However, a cautious approach may be best for potential buyers. If you look at the SPDR S&P Emerging Middle East & Africa (NYSEARCA:GAF), you find similar longer-term volatility. True, the GAF is up nearly 5% YTD. At the same time, it’s a very choppy ride. This condition is virtually guaranteed to worsen as the region geopolitically is a complete nightmare.
The rule of the contrarian is to buy the blood on the streets — metaphorically. When the underlying condition is literal in nature, it’s a whole new ballgame.