Syria Tension Creates Opportunity in Stocks

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Global political risk has been raised a notch, with the specter of a possible Western strike against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad weighing on equity markets worldwide. U.S. stocks opened lower this morning, with the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) and the narrower, price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) down 0.83% and 0.57%, respectively, as of 10:10 a.m. EDT.

Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the culpability of the Assad regime in the use of chemical weapons was "undeniable," calling last Wednesday's attack a "moral obscenity." Perhaps unsurprisingly, Russia is protesting that there is no evidence of the Syrian regime's responsibility -- President Putin made this very clear in a 30-minute call with British prime minister David Cameron yesterday night.

What might investors expect from this episode? The stage is set for a spike in volatility, lower stock prices, and a correction in emerging-market equities -- particularly in those countries that are closest to Syria.

In the context of the broader underperformance of emerging markets this year, this could produce some interesting buying opportunities. I, for one, am starting to think the iShares Turkey MSCI Investable Market Index ETF (NYSEMKT: TUR  ) looks quite attractive, indeed. At this morning's opening price of $48.81 (a 52-week low), the fund is valued at just 10.8 times earnings per share.

Meanwhile, one company with heavy international exposure that isn't struggling is Tiffany (NYSE: TIF  ) . The jeweler reported quarterly profit this morning, and the numbers look solid -- particularly outside the U.S., in fact.

Globally, same-store sales rose 5%, consistent with the consensus forecast, despite being flat in the U.S. However, this was not a story of high-growth versus low-growth economies: Even in "moribund" Europe, same-store sales rose 7%. Still, Asia ex-Japan was the clear champion for Tiffany's, with a stunning 14% increase.

Those gains helped the company achieve $0.83 per share in quarterly earnings and, more importantly, raise its guidance range for the full fiscal year to a range of $3.50 to $3.60 -- at a time when many U.S. companies are lowering their guidance for the year. Likes Tiffany's jewelry, that kind of performance commands a premium; based on yesterday's closing price, Tiffany's stock is valued at 22.6 times the estimate for the next 12 months' EPS -- no screaming bargain, by any means.

With the American markets reaching new highs, investors and pundits alike are skeptical about future growth. They shouldn't be. Many global regions are still stuck in neutral, and their resurgence could result in windfall profits for select companies. A recent Motley Fool report, "3 Strong Buys for a Global Economic Recovery," outlines three companies that could take off when the global economy gains steam. Click here to read the full report!


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