"Hoisted by his own petard" is a Shakespearean idiom, coined by the great bard in Hamlet. It means to be hurt by one's plot intended for another, a term that derives from explosive devices hoisted over fortress walls during Medieval battles. These bombs often went awry and destroyed the assailant.
Russian President Vladimir Putin comes to mind. As the ever-widening Russia scandal engulfs President Trump's administration and Putin's cyber warfare increasingly comes to light, the former KGB colonel could face a backlash from the Western powers he is trying to divide. Below is the best way to profit from Russia's day of reckoning.
To be sure, after more than two years of suffering under the protracted oil and gas price recession, the Russian economy is getting a lift from energy's resurgence. Problem is, oil and gas prices remain volatile and the slightest crumb of bad news could send them reeling again.
Putin never undertook the difficult task of diversifying the Russian economy; the country remains a petro-state (and kleptocracy) that's dangerously reliant on the fickle gyrations of the energy patch. Even Saudi Arabia has taken steps to move away from its over-dependence on fossil fuels. Despite the OPEC production cut accord that has helped buoy prices, the world remains awash in a glut of oil and renewable energy's rise is unstoppable.
Approximately half of Russia's budget stems from taxes on oil and gas, which means budget cuts and tax increases are inevitable whenever energy dips. The benchmark VanEck Vectors Russia ETF (RSX) - Get Report has jumped 29.5% over the past 12 months, as oil and gas prices recovered. However, amid the deepening Trump-Russia scandal, the exchange-traded fund has declined 2.59% year to date.
RSX also is barely above its post-2008-crisis low. Over the past five years, it has declined 32.4%, compared to a 68.6% gain for the S&P 500.
Western oil companies with major stakes in Russia, notably BP (BP) - Get Report , Exxon Mobil (XOM) - Get Report , Royal Dutch Shell (RYDAF) , and Total (TOT) - Get Report , recently pulled back their investments in the country and remain skittish about returning.
Under Putin in 2016, real income for Russians plummeted for the third consecutive year and poverty spiked by 15%. Russians now spend about 50% of their household income on food. Russia's gross domestic product declined from $2.23 trillion in 2013 to $1.33 trillion in 2015, a 40% decrease. In 2016, it dropped by another 0.6%. Some analysts seem to think the Russian economy is on the verge of a turnaround, but don't you believe it.
Shorting Russia increasingly looks like a shrewd investment move.
The best way is by investing in Direxion Daily Russia Bear 3X ETF (RUSS) - Get Report , an inverse ETF that seeks daily investment results 300% of the opposite of the performance of the Market Vectors Russia Index. With net assets of $44.48 million, the fund's year-to-date return is 12.86%. The expense ratio is a reasonable 0.95%.
Russiagate isn't going away, nor is the discord that Putin is sowing with all of Western Europe. Putin wanted a friend in the White House, but his meddling in the 2016 election is exacting at an increasingly heavy price. Meanwhile, rising energy prices only mask the inherent weaknesses of the Russian economy. Bet against the Bear.
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John Persinos is an analyst with Investing Daily. At the time of publication, he owned none of the stocks mentioned.