As an independent trader of stocks, bonds and commodities who tells me he was up more than 100% last year and is humming again in 2011, Caise Hassan's thoughts on the financial markets would seem to be worth a lot more than his views on the Mideast turmoil.
Maybe not. Chicago-born Hassan, the 38-year-old son of Palestinian-born parents, makes a point of keeping close tabs on what's happening throughout the Persian Gulf. And he doesn't have to travel too far to do it since he and his family live in Amman, Jordan.
The ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak may be good news for the country's 80-million populace, but is it good news for the U.S. stock market? Or bad news? And what about the Mideast, in general?
While there are some worriers, it all seems to be an irrelevant issue for now as far as most of Wall Street goes. Except for a one-day drop of 166 points on January 28 in response to the Egyptian riots, the market has pretty much been on an upswing throughout the revolution. In other words, the Egyptian uprising was a ho-hum and most Wall Streeters seem to think it will likely to remain that way despite the unknowns of what's ahead.
In particular, no one knows what the country's new leadership will look like, whether it may be infiltrated by Islamic radicals and the Israeli-hating Muslim Brotherhood and if Egypt's peace treaty with Israel will remain intact.
Hassan thinks it would be foolhardy for Wall Street to assume that all is now okay in Egypt since he believes it will likely take a year to form a stabilized government.
Like many Mideast watchers, he sees aftershocks and a good deal more turmoil ahead in the region, given the economic plight of many of its residents. One down, more to come! That's basically his view of the change in Egypt's leadership. His outlook calls for more Mideast strife from uprisings in a number of other countries, notably Bahrain, Syria, Jordan and Algeria. He believes this cleansing process -- as some call it -- of the region's dictators could seriously impact the U.S. market on a number of counts. In particular, Hassan points to possible interruptions in the steady flow of oil from the Mideast and the ability of the U.S. to sell its products, such as military hardware and consulting services, to Gulf countries whose monarchs may be overthrown and provide us with about 18% of our oil.
For starters, he sees the prospects that Jordan -- beset by poverty, lack of jobs and a vicious secret police -- is highly vulnerable to deep social unrest, and, in fact, thinks we could see the same kind of riots that plagued Egypt in a matter of months. In this case, he believes, they would be bloodier since there are a lot of unhappy armed groups there.
"Moderate" Jordan, observes Hassan, is receiving more than $400 million in aid that ostensibly is going toward the development and democratization of a country that is, more realistically, he contends, is being used to tame its people and shield from accountability a heinous monarch (King Abdullah, the 11) whose most notable achievements are blowing tens of millions in Vegas casinos and adding luxury cars to the billion-dollar collection begun by his equally reckless father.
He also notes that if the popular forces in Egypt (unions. professional associations and the Muslim Brotherhood) form a government, it is unlikely the new regime will keep buying $2 billion in military goods and services from the U.S. and that could cause a tinge on arms contractors' balance sheets. An even greater profit danger, he points out, looms if revolutions spread. That is, if governments from Morocco to the Gulf stop buying planes and bullets, the tech sector will be reeling.
What about the assorted financial markets? Hassan thinks the U.S. stock market has more to go, especially with Bernanke hinting he will print more money. The commodity markets, he believes, are nowhere near oversold in the long term, and that certain commodities, like gold and silver, have a lot of room to run over the next few years no matter what happens. He notes that if governments in the Middle East get overthrown, oil will go up. And if they don't, the Chinese will buy it at $80 a barrel.
So what's the bottom line on the explosive Mideast. situation? Maybe Samuel Morse of Morse code fame sums it up best with his observation "What hath God wrought?"
What do you think? E-mail me at Dandordan@aol.com.