It's Going to be a Rough Year for Russia ETFs

On a day when oil prices surged 8%, the Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSEArca: RSX) soared nearly 7%, helping further steady the largest Russia exchange traded fund trading in the U.S. RSX is now flat over the past month after slumping toward the end of last year.

Last month, the ruble slumped to an all-time low against the U.S. dollar, prompting some market observers to up criticism of the country’s central bank for doing more to defend the currency. Those factors and others are causing global investors to lose patience with Russian equities. On a technical basis, some traders could see opportunity in RSX because the ETF’s recent slide has made it deeply oversold.

Recent price action in RSX is encouraging, particularly when considering market observers widely expect Russia’s worst post-Soviet era recession to extend throughout this year. Onlookers remain cautious over the market outlook. While President Vladimir Putin and other Russian politicians argue that the worst is over, the economy is expected to remain in a recession for the year. Russia’s GDP is expected to contract again this year, extending what is becoming a lengthy recession.

“The weak ruble should cushion the blow to public finances as it raises the ruble value of the government’s dollar-denominated oil receipts. But it wouldn’t be enough to fully offset the drop in oil prices. Despite a fiscal squeeze equivalent to 1% of GDP this year, we expect the federal budget deficit to widen to 4% of GDP. This means that further tightening will be needed over the coming years,” according to a Capital Economics note posted by Teresa Rivas of Barron’s.

Investors could also be lured back to RSX and Russian stocks due to some of the emerging world’s cheapest valuations. Still, Russia is one of the world’s largest energy producers outside of the Organization of Petroleum Countries (OPEC).