I read an Associated Press article the other day that had me slapping my forehead and uttering "Doh!" It referred to the events of Sept. 11, which, of course were quite familiar to me. But I hadn't thought about this insight the article offered: Since those events, while our own economy has faltered, the economies in Persian Gulf nations have been booming.
Since late 2001, economies in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries -- Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia -- have soared, with stock markets up a collective 400%. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 24% over that period. Most of the credit for the wealth is due to the near-tripling of oil prices since 2001 to current levels of more than $67 a barrel. ... Before Sept. 11, World Bank figures show Middle Eastern oil exporting countries were plowing as much as $25 billion a year into U.S. investments. For the three years of 2001-03, the figure reached $1.2 billion.
What's going on? Soon after the towers fell, Arabs and Arab-Americans who were investors in our economy pulled much of their money out. This was a reasonable reaction for those who feared anti-Arab backlashes and even a possible freezing of Arab assets in the U.S. Much of that money went back into Arab economies.
The article initially reminded me of how much I lack clairvoyance when it comes to investing (and pretty much everything else). But then I realized that it didn't require psychic powers to grasp what was going on and to take steps to share in the profits. I didn't make the connection in time to invest in Middle Eastern economies, but others did. And if they didn't catch on to this development, they caught others. I'm speaking, for example, of managers of international and foreign mutual funds.
Take, for example, the Dodge & Cox International Stock fund. Recommended last June by Shannon Zimmerman in our Champion Funds newsletter, it has advanced by more than 40% since then. Its three-year annualized return is around 25%. I know it makes sense to invest some of my assets internationally. But I don't have a good handle on where the best foreign opportunities are. That's why a fund like this one might be a good choice for me. Its recent top holdings included Royal Dutch Petroleum
If you're looking for solid mutual fund recommendations, including model portfolios geared toward conservative, moderate, and aggressive investors, do yourself a favor and try Champion Funds. You may end up participating in some economic booms that you would have otherwise missed.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.