There has been a sharp increase in terrorist attacks and deaths in the last five years. Right wing politicians would be quick to point out that terrorism-related deaths have gone up by more than 400% since President Obama took office. Earlier this year, Boko Haram was reported to have carried out the deadliest attacks in its history. The Guardian reported that there might be as many as 2,000 deaths due to that one attack alone. If the numbers don’t shock you enough, the savage and indiscriminate nature of these attacks will. Every time an incident like this happens, we question our faith in humanity and our hearts go out to the families who lost their loved ones.
After the recent attacks in Paris on November 13, which saw 120 people killed, the Western world has come to realize that they may not be immune to the problem anymore. The U.S.’s “not our problem” policy worked for a few years but seems to have reached an expiry date. At the time of writing, there are coalition/coordination talks between the unlikeliest superpowers: the U.S. and Russia. Terrorism has major political and economical consequences. In this article, we will explore what those implications might be and what investors can do to counter the risk.
Why You Need to Take Action Now
The Paris attacks were a “9/11-like trajectory changing” moment for the fight against global terrorism. Belgium and France have been on high alert in the 10 days since the attacks. Hillary Clinton, the leading U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate, recently pointed to a “new phase” and broadening of the U.S.’s efforts. She clearly feels that she can no longer endorse President Obama’s terrorism policy on defeating ISIS and serve as the next U.S. President. Every Republican leader has endorsed varying degrees of U.S. military leadership. The G20 summit in Turkey this past November was supposed to be about climate change but ended up being about terrorism. The UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to rally his country’s political will to join the airstrikes against ISIS. This event has brought the unlikeliest of the countries together.
Clearly, global leaders are preparing to take action together. This is a world-shaping moment in front of us as they feel strongly about changing the trajectory of terrorist attacks, which have been on the rise since 2010.
What Are the Economic Implications of Action Against ISIS?
U.S.-led coalitions have conducted more than 8,000 airstrikes on ISIS, and while the airstrikes have weakened them, the war is far from over. It is estimated that ISIS earns $500 million per year from oil alone, and they have other substantial revenue sources as well. The CIA estimate of around 30,000 men fighting for ISIS has been challenged by Fuad Hussein, chief of staff for the Kurdish President Massoud Barzani. In a recent interview with The Independent, he pointed to potentially hundreds of thousands of fighters working for ISIS. All this points to the prediction that this is going to be a long, drawn out war.
Below, we highlight a few potential events that might take place in the next 12 months and what investors can do about them:
Increased Spending on Defence:
This means technology, personnel, research, operations and maintenance. Already, “war”-related stocks are starting to pick up steam. This may not be a bad time to go long on some of these stocks or mutual funds like FSDAX.
Oil prices traditionally spike on fears of supply disruptions caused by military conflict. Oil prices have bounced back more than 4% since the Paris attacks. The core fundamentals of oil supply and demand remains weak and the rally probably won’t last long. However, if this turns out to be an aggressively involved war (higher demand), and the airstrikes keep damaging ISIS’s oil business, prices might go up in the short to medium term. Examples of oil mutual funds are UNG and USO.
The European Airline, Hotel and Tourism Industry:
The industry is expected to take a hit due to the fear and uncertainty that has prevailed since the Paris attacks. Stocks like InterContinental Hotels, Accor, Eurotunnel, Air France-KLM, and Ryanair have all fallen since the attacks. If there are more speculative or real attacks on France or the United Kingdom, these stocks are going to fall further. Investors with exposure to these areas may want to reduce their weightings or enter into short positions to hedge against the risks.
The Bottom Line
All unconventional wars have the potential to be stretched out for years. It remains to be seen how effective the international coordination and coalitions prove to be against ISIS. Whether the airstrikes have motivated more people to join ISIS or reduced their willpower is yet to be ascertained. In the meantime, during war times several businesses and sectors have reacted in unique ways. Investors following the war against ISIS closely may be able to maneuver smartly around the stocks (or other instruments) that are affected. This may allow investors to not only cover their risks but also increase portfolio value. It is surely a depressing way to invest but it is better than sitting on the sidelines losing money.