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16 ways to profit from better U.S.-Cuban relations

The Caribbean nation is about to open its economy to the world

AFP/Getty Images

Cuban taxi drivers wait for passengers in their old cars in Havana.

In early 2013, I told investors it was time to buy shares that would catch a lift if U.S.-Cuban relations started to thaw.

Talk about a long wait.

That view was sharply criticized at the time. And rightly so, since it was as controversial as it was outside the box. Opposition to normal relations with Cuba was so intense among lots of conservatives and Cuban exiles, real change seemed impossible.

But lo and behold, about a month ago, stocks I suggested for this theme finally caught fire. The reason: President Barack Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease several restrictions on trade, banking and travel.

One of the stocks I suggested even doubled in the four days after Obama’s Dec. 17 announcement, to hit $14. That’s the Herzfeld Caribbean Basin FundCUBA, +1.51% the cleanest play I know of on this theme.

Since then, this closed-end fund, which invests in companies that gain from more normal relations with Cuba, made a round trip, then popped on Thursday when the government issued regulations clarifying the new policy on travel to Cuba.

The Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund may cool off again over the next few days, but the news flow that will continue to attract interest is not over.

Here’s what I mean: Some time over the next several weeks, the Treasury Department and the Commerce Department should announce more regulations that fill out many details of Obama’s policy changes.

We may even see Cuba removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. “It is totally counterintuitive to think that we would have diplomatic relations with a country that we call a state sponsor of terrorism,” says Louis Perez Jr., a University of North Carolina professor and Cuba expert.

He’s right, and taking Cuba off the terror list would be a big deal. But any of these developments will grab headlines again, refocus investor attention on Cuba, and put a bid under the Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund.

Also consider stocks, listed below, that should benefit from continued improved relations, a trend that’s in the cards given the big policy shift Obama has set in motion. It’s a huge change, and it could be the start of a whole new era in U.S.-Cuba ties.

“It’s very important, because it’s a fundamental break with the policy of the past,” says Tomas Bilbao, executive director of the Cuba Study Group, which promotes reform in Cuba. To Bilbao, it’s a “before and after” moment. That’s because Obama has “dispensed the myth that U.S. policy of isolation and sanctions was something that could not be touched, despite five decades of evidence of its failure,” Bilbao says. “This puts us on a road to normalized relations.”

Here’s a look at four sectors and 15 stocks, besides the Herzfeld fund, that could benefit.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/16-ways-to-profit-from-bett...