Market Overview

The Fight For Shatsky Ridge: How to Play it With ETFs

Cold weather. Corruption. Vodka. That's a brief list of things Russia has a lot of, but the "R" in the BRIC acronym also has a lot of oil. A lot. In fact, while Russia isn't an OPEC member, it is the world's largest oil producer and in 2011, the country pumped an average of almost 10.3 million barrels per day. For those keeping score at home, that's a post-Soviet Union era record, according to Bloomberg News.

Expect the 10 million barrels per day figure to be the norm, particularly if Prime Minister Vladimir Putin wins Russia's presidential election in March. Russia wants to pump more oil and it is home to lush reserves. That's why BP (NYSE: BP) so desperately wanted to make work a partnership to tap Russia's Arctic reserves with OAO Rosneft, the country's largest oil producer. And that's why Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) was so willing to replace BP in that partnership.

But there are other bountiful reserves in Russia. Out in the Black Sea, there's an area known as the Shatsky Ridge that Rosneft claims is home six billion barrels of recoverable. Sounds enticing and Rosneft said late last year "a new fight" for Shatsky Ridge has started.

What that means is Rosneft will need the help of Western partners to get the oil found in the Shatsky Ridge. Here are the ETFs that qualify as Shatsky plays.

SPDR S&P Russia ETF (NYSE: RBL) Let's be honest, it's going to be Russian companies calling the shots at Shatsky and potential Western partners know that. Secondly, all Russia-specific ETFs are dominated by the energy sector, but none as much as the SPDR S&P Russia ETF, which devotes 52% of its weight to the sector. After losing 25% last year, RBL could be a buy above $26.

Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSE: XLE) The Energy Select Sector SPDR presents a dichotomy on playing the Shatsky Ridge. Dow component Chevron (NYSE: CVX), XLE's second-largest holding, bailed on the project after squabbles with Rosneft. However, Exxon Mobil, XLE's largest holding, has been mentioned as a possible contender to get involved in Shatsky. Remember, Exxon and Rosneft have already announced the Kara Sea partnership. Exxon and Chevron account for about 35% of XLE's weight.

SPDR S&P International Energy Sector ETF (NYSE: IPW) The SPDR S&P International Energy Sector ETF remains one of our favorite stealth sector plays and it's a great Shatsky play as well. Total (NYSE: TOT) has expressed interest in Shatsky and Rosneft is rumored to have held talks with Eni (NYSE: E) about the project as well. That's over 13% of the ETF's weight right there and it's hard to rule Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A) out of the Shatsky conversation either. Europe's largest oil company accounts for over 16% of IPW's weight.

iShares S&P Global Energy ETF (NYSE: IXC) The iShares S&P Global Energy ETF is the primary rival to IPW, but the iShares offering has superior volume. It's also optionable and finished last year slightly higher, claims that cannot be made by IPW. Regardless, IXC is a great way to get Shatsky exposure as Exxon, Shell, Total and Eni combine for about 31% of the ETF's weight. IXC is worth a look above $39.

EGShares Energy GEMS ETF (NYSE: OGEM) The EGShares Energy GEMS ETF allocates almost 31% of its country weight to Russia and for the investor that loves state-run oil stocks, but just can't make a decision, this is the ETF for you.

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