Energy ETFs Want a Neves Win in Brazil

On Oct. 26, Brazilians will decide between President Dilma Rousseff and upstart challenger Aecio Neves as the country’s next president. Global oil companies, from exploration and production firms to services providers, probably wish they had a vote and if they did, they would likely support Neves.

Brazil is home to some of the largest non-OPEC oil reserves in the world, but burdensome government policies have made those reserves difficult to tap for U.S. and European oil majors. Neves has promised “to auction exploration licenses more frequently, raise fuel prices and ease made-in-Brazil requirements mirror recommendations from the industry,” report Sabrina Valle and Juan Pablo Spinetto for Bloomberg.

Since Jan. 2011 when Rousseff took power, Brazil’s state-run oil giant Petrobras (NYSE: PBR), the largest holding in the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWZ), is the worst-performing major oil stock in the world.

Underscoring the sensitivity of EWZ and Petrobras to Neves/Rousseff polling data, the stock and the ETF surged early last week after Neves emerged as Rousseff’s challenger following the Oct. 5 first round election. However, EWZ and Petrobras plunged on Friday as new polls showed Neves and Rousseff in a statistical dead heat. [A Neves Rally for Brazil ETFs]

Under previous regimes, including Rousseff’s, Brazil has mandated that Petrobras be the only or primary operator at the country’s most desirable oil finds. Some analysts and market observers expect Neves to alter that policy.

Still, investors should note that any alteration to Brazil’s oil policies will not materialize quickly and that the impact for ETFs such as the iShares Global Energy ETF (NYSEArca: IXC) and the SPDR S&P International Energy Sector ETF (NYSEArca: IPW) could also take a while to be realized. Mexico provides a lesson.