In Emerging Markets For Dummies, I have a summary of each of the markets in the MSCI Emerging Markets and Frontier indexes. Since publication in January, no markets have changes as much as those of the Middle East and North Africa, so I’m writing updates. The first installment: Bahrain.
Type of government: Constitutional monarchy
Major industries: Aluminum smelting, fertilizers, insurance, iron pelletization, Islamic and offshore banking, petroleum processing and refining, ship repair, tourism
Median age of population: 30.9 years
GDP per capita: $40,300
MSCI 2010 equity market return: in local currency, -21.43% ; in US dollars, -21.42%
Currency: Bahraini dinar
English-language newspaper: Gulf Daily News
Bahrain is in the MSCI Frontier Markets index. It’s a tiny country, with about 1.2 million residents, both citizens and expatriates. It was long considered to be one of the most stable and open countries in the Middle East, which makes it a popular site for the regional offices of different multi-national corporations. The opposition, mostly Shia Muslims who opposed the Sunni ruling family, was mostly small and quiet. Until this spring. The Shia opposition was inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Middle East and launched full-scale protests, with lots of violence and mayhem following. The government is still in place. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the country now, which makes it a high-risk situation for investors. You need to watch the news carefully to see how it plays out.