Last weeks developments in the Middle East once again captured the attention of investors, as escalations of protests and violence in Libya sent oil on a wild ride over the course of several days. The impact of the geopolitical tensions seem unlikely to ease at any point in the near future; while the unrest is most extreme in Libya, protests are picking up steam elsewhere, with Bahrain, Morocco, and others taking part in a wave of democratic sentiment sweeping over the region. U.S. markets largely took their cues from overseas in recent days, with investors scrambling to determine the impact of the recent spike in oil on the domestic economy [see Middle East ETFs Under Pressure].
While investors will likely be keeping an eye on the Middle East throughout the coming week as well, there are a handful of other events scheduled that could prompt big movements in the markets. Below, we profile three ETFs that are likely to be active in trading over the next five days [for more ETF insights, sign up for our free ETF newsletter]:
United States Brent Oil Fund (BNO)
Why BNO Will Be In Focus: BNO whipsawed throughout last week, spiking on concerns about a Libya-related drop in oil production early in the week and continuing a rally before pulling back in Friday’s session. While WTI has historically been a key contract for crude oil, the events of recent weeks have brought an increased focus to Brent crude that is delivered closer to the heart of the Middle East protests. Brent has historically traded at a slight discount to WTI, but in recent sessions that relationship has switched to a premium as stockpiles build in Oklahoma (where WTI is delivered) and concerns about disruptions in the oil-rich Middle East have sent prices sharply higher overseas.
Brent was recently trading at a premium of nearly $16 per barrel to WTI, and the performance of BNO in coming weeks will depend on whether that relationship holds. Many analysts have noted that oil-related products, such as gasoline, have followed Brent in recent weeks–perhaps indicating a changing of the guard in the global oil contract space. Others sense an arbitrage opportunity, betting that the relationship between the two grades of crude will shortly revert back to the historical norm. BNO figures to once again see some big price swings in coming days, and remain active as long as the political situation in the Middle East is unstable [see Crude Oil ETFs Deviate: Understanding USO vs. BNO].
iShares MSCI Ireland Capped Investable Market Index Fund (EIRL)
Why EIRL Will Be In Focus: Ireland’s economy is reeling, facing unemployment approaching 14% and stiff austerity measures that have started another wave of emigration out of the Emerald Isle. The banking sector has been a major source of the economic woes, with multiple bailouts already needed to prop up a sector that bet heavily on a pre-recession construction boom. Irish citizens went to the polls on Friday in the first parliamentary elections since receiving a $113 billion IMF bailout in November, with vote-counting beginning Saturday. The outlook of those elections should make EIRL active early in the week, as investors digest the impact the new Parliament will have on the country’s economy.
EIRL could also be active later in the coming week. Allied Irish Banks is scheduled to report earnings on Thursday, and the company’s financial results could give an indication into just how severe the problems facing the sector are. EIRL makes up only about 1% of EIRL, so the direct impact on the ETF’s price will be minimal. But if AIB gives some insights into the health of the Irish economy and its own chances of survival, it’s report would speak volumes about the outlook for EIRL.
ProShares UltraShort Euro (EUO)
Why EUO Will Be In Focus: Tensions in the Middle East have diverted attention from the cash-strapped euro zone, but Europe could be thrown back into the spotlight later this week when the European Central Bank meets to discuss policy. Markets are generally expecting the ECB to dial up its outlook on measures to tacks inflation; several members of the bank have made hawkish statements in recent weeks, and recent data releases show increased upward pressure on prices in the region. Recently, interest rate futures showed a 25 basis point rate hike in the euro zone was fully priced in by Aug. 4, with a 73 percent chance of a hike coming as early as the ECB’s July 7 meeting.
The euro could see some movement in the week ahead, which could translate into big movements from EUO. This ProShares fund is designed to profit when the euro slides relative to the dollar; its counterpart ULE would jump if the euro gained relative to the greenback. Both funds offer 200% daily leverage, amplifying exchange rate movements over a single trading session [see Three Euro ETF Options].
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.