Tehran Stock Exchange: The end of an illusion

Al-Monitor | Ali Dadpay: Many Iranian investors have recently seen the value of their portfolios drop significantly due to governmental overregulation in times of market growth.

In an economy besieged by sanctions and handicapped by corruption, the Tehran Stock Exchange offered a rare opportunity for making profits and creating wealth. That opportunity, however, has proved to be a mirage.

From a peak index of 2,065,114, the exchange — known as the TSE — fell to 1,631,941 last week, signaling a 20% drop, erasing millions of dollars of value of different portfolios and financial asset holdings. Iranian investors took to social media to share screenshots of their portfolios with all stocks in the red. Cartoonists found a new subject, while many individual investors mourned the loss of their savings in a market that many had promised to be risk-free.

There is no financial market where volatility is not a daily occurrence. There are ups and downs in any market, with indexes increasing and falling. What makes the TSE different is that its index constantly rose during spring and summer 2020 as Iran’s economy was grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the United States imposed sanctions. The TSE reached 2,065,114 by August, from 520,211 in the previous March. The market quadrupled in its value resulting in some new bizarre realities. For example, the value of Iran Khodro, Iran’s primary vehicle manufacturer producing 393,000 cars annually, became more than Groupe Renault, a French car manufacturer with more than 3.75 million vehicles in annual production and 55.5 billion euros ($65.6 billion) annual revenues. The value of the TSE reached $350 billion, equivalent to 250% of Iran’s gross domestic product.

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