Hugo Chavez

As Chavez Ails, the Market Gets Bullish on Venezuela

Ready for the strongman to exit, stage very-far left

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Is Chavismo, the brand of export-ready, nose-thumbing leftism practiced by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, much possible with him no longer in power?

Unlikely, says the market, which has bid up Venezuelan debt, sending benchmark yields to a five-year low, on speculation that the ex-paratrooper will be unable to complete his third term after acknowledging the return of his cancer. The country's bonds are up 45 percent this year, the second-best showing in all emerging markets, next to tiny Côte d'Ivoire. The Caracas stock exchange—oxymoronic, if you think about it—is up nearly 300 percent year-to-date.

Since taking office in 1998, Chavez, 58, has expropriated more than 1,000 companies and pushed through price controls to turn South America's biggest oil producer into an example of socialism.