Monday, August 21, 2006

Israel vs. Hezbollah: The Markets React

(From the National Review Online.)

A Vote for Civilization in the Middle East
Tracking Arab large-caps through the Israel-Hezbollah crisis.

By Jerry Bowyer

After the battle for southern Lebanon ended, the battle to dominate the global post-war spin room immediately began. Pundits are fine, but when BuzzCharts really wants to know whether a region is moving towards chaos or towards civilization, it looks to the marketplace. Reporters can poll the “Arab street” all they want, but to find out what the locals really believe, you have to watch one of the most powerful ballots a man can cast — his nest egg.

By that measure, the Israel-Hezbollah crisis of 2006 yields some surprising results. BuzzCharts looked at an index of 50 large publicly traded companies which do business in the Arab world, mostly banks and utilities. We then synced it with the timeline of the conflict, marking out major advances and setbacks in Israel’s war against Hezbollah.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the Israeli stock exchange rallied and fell in step with Israel’s fortunes in the war. But as the above chart shows, the Arab Titans index did the same, rising and falling in step with Israel’s success. Why? Because Israel’s counter-attacks were not the destabilizing factor in the region. Hezbollah’s failed-state warlordism was.

Israel’s attack was part of the solution. That’s because the conflict isn’t between Arab and Jew; it’s between civilization and chaos. The complex web of information that constitutes Saudi bankers, Kuwaiti phone execs, and their shareholders seems to have been voting that civilization is either winning, or that it must win.