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Cheap Russian Stocks Still Not Worth Risk, TIAA-CREF's Muromcew Says

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - President Obama said Tuesday his most recent round of sanctions against Russia will have an "even bigger bite" than anything previously delivered. Nevertheless, TIAA-CREF emerging markets portfolio manager Alexander Muromcew said emerging market investors should not use his latest threat to snack on already cheap Russian stocks. 

"Russia is the cheapest market in the emerging markets universe, so I think it's too cheap to sell if you already own stocks there," said Muromcew. "Nevertheless, we don't recommend buying Russian stocks now given the political risk of these new sanctions and the additional risk that they will push Russia into a recession."

The SPDR S&P Russia ETF (RBL) is down over 10% since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed over Ukraine on July 17 by a surface-to-air missile fired from the territory controlled by pro-Russia separatists. The trailing twelve month PE on that particular ETF is 6, or nearly a third of the multiple of Indian stocks, which Muromcew calls a far better bet for emerging market investors, especially since the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister in May.

"The country is really teed up for some good reform and he is a very strong, goal-results oriented leader," said Muromcew, whose TIAA-CREF Emerging Markets Equity Fund (TEMRX) is up 5.8% so far this year. "It won't filter through to earnings this fiscal year, and you'll have to look for it next fiscal year. But India is not a market that you want to be in-and-out of because this is a very sound three year secular growth story."

Aside from Russia, Muromcew is also wary of Mexican stocks, calling them "one of the most expensive markets in the emerging markets universe right now".

"I think right now, it's a source of cash," said Murmcew, who had previously been more bullish on Mexico. "The big GDP growth that's been expected since the new President was elected has not yet materialized."

Likewise, Muromcew has turned luke warm on South African equities due to politics, despite the snapback in gold mining stocks this year.

"The gold miners are more of a gold play rather than a South Africa specific issue. I was hoping that we were going to see more of a turn-around in the South African macro post the elections and that just hasn't come to pass," said Muromcew.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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