The outcome of a dramatic coup in Australia shocked investors on Thursday, as the once-popular Kevin Rudd was replaced as Prime Minister by his deputy Julia Gillard. The ouster ended a two-and-a-half year reign for the man who helped bring his party to power after an 11 year drought as the minority government. The move comes after Rudd had refused to budge on a controversial ‘super tax’ on resource firms that would have been up to as much as 40% of profits and would have provided close to $9 billion to the government. The tax was vehemently opposed by miners who felt that the fee would stifle growth, curtail investment, and increase unemployment across the country.
This news of a shift in leadership has put the fate of resource firms into focus. Initially, investors were optimistic that the new regime would consider axing the tax, although those hopes have faded somewhat. Although Gillard has called for negotiations with the mining industries over the tax, she also said that “Australians are entitled to a fairer share of our inheritance, the mineral wealth that lies in our grounds.” She and her new deputy Wayne Swan have also been a major proponent of forcing miners to pay a bigger share of their profits in order to help bring the country into a fiscal surplus by 2013. However, many are forecasting that the government will be likely to postpone any further pursuit of the unpopular tax until after an election, which is likely to happen later this year.
While many resource firms were buoyed by the news in trading in Australia earlier, dual listed companies sank back in New York trading. Below, we profile ETFs that could be impacted by the ultimate resolution of the mining tax controversy in Australia [also see Will Resource Tax Sink Australia ETF?].
Jefferies TR/J CRB Global Industrial Metals Equity Index Fund (CRBI)
Australia is one of the top three producers of iron ore, nickel, and zinc, ensuring that any developments in the country will have a huge impact on these important industrial minerals. One way to focus in on industrial metal miners is by taking a further look at CRBI, which tracks the Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB In-The-Ground Global Industrial Metals Equity Index. This benchmark focuses on companies engaged in the production and distribution of base/industrial metals such as copper, aluminum, iron ore, and steel. Among its top holdings are mining giants Rio Tinto (7.8%) and BHP Billition (7.2%), which are among the firms that will be most heavily impacted by the taxes [also see Jefferies ETFs: New Options For Commodity Exposure].
Market Vectors TR Gold Miners Fund (GDX)
Australia is one of the top four producers of gold, so look for GDX to be in focus if the tax is either imposed or abandoned. GDX offers indirect exposure to gold bullion through gold miner stocks, tracking the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index. This index is comprised of companies engaged in gold mining across all market capitalization levels. Among its top holdings are Barrick Gold Corp (16.2%), which has significant operations in Australia, as well as Newmont Mining Corp (10.4%), which has several mines in the western and northern portions of the country. The fund has performed very well in the past few months as sovereign debt crises across Europe have increased the demand for gold. GDX is up almost 40% over the past 52 weeks and is up 14.5% thus far in 2010 [see more fundamentals of GDX here].
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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.