It appears that Middle Eastern countries, and the exchange traded funds (ETFs) that track this volatile portion of the globe have been among the least affected from the global economic crisis. How?

Despite lower oil revenues, cuts in oil input and an increase in crude supplies, the World Bank has pegged the oil exporting nations of the Middle East to grow at 2.9% in 2009, with oil averaging $47/barrel, states the Kaleej Times.  This is in comparison to growth rates of 2.1% in the developed world.

Although the World Bank believes that the Middle East has been spared from much of the global meltdown, the leaders of these countries think differently.  At the Arab summit in Qatar, global economy concerns was the talk of the town, a place where politics generally takes the gold metal, states Noha El-Hennawyand Borzou Daragahi of The Los Angeles Times.  Alliances are trying to be formed by all.

With the collapse of the U.S. financial system and housing markets, the Middle East is starting to feel the wrath.  This has forced many to come to the negotiating table and settle longtime feuds.  Syrian President Bashar Assad called for unity even when there are disagreements.

As for now, Middle Eastern consumers have gotten some relief from the downturn thanks to the sharp decline in overall food and commodity prices.  However, there are challenges ahead. Global demand for crude oil is expected to continue to decline, which will eventually lead to higher unemployment rates and even more unrest in an already economically fragile part of the nation.  All we can hope for is that the oil-rich gulf states built up huge cash and asset reserves when crude was trading at $147 a barrel, which will enable the region to weather this downturn.

  • PowerShares MENA Frontier Countries Portfolio (PMNA): down 16.1% year to date

  • WisdomTree Middle East Dividend ETF (GULF): down 14.8% year to date

Kevin Grewal contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.