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Banco Santander, S.A. (ADR) (SAN), National Bank of Greece (ADR) (NBG): These Are the World’s 10 Most Pessimistic Countries

Have you ever heard the phrase that “Happiness is contagious”? The thought here is that if you surround yourself with happy people who are enjoying life, then you, too, will be brought up to their level. In fact, a study conducted in 2008 at my alma mater, the University of California, San Diego, confirmed that happiness is indeed contagious.

The catch is most people forget that emotions are a two-way street. If you surround yourself with negativity, no matter how happy you are presently, you’re likely to be brought down.

You might think this is nothing more than an “office scenario” to encourage a positive attitude in the workplace, but it has plenty of real-world application with regard to how businesses view expansion into new territories and how investors may see their decision as to whether to invest within specific countries.

Source: Hobvias Sudoneighm, Flickr.

The sad results
Earlier this week, Gallup released its findings on the most optimistic and most pessimistic nation’s in the world. For its poll, Gallup utilized the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale to question respondents in 150 countries about where they feel they are now compared to where they see themselves five years from now (assuming a ladder where 10 is the best and 0 is the worst). The results themselves weren’t all too surprising, but they do lend credence to some intriguing investing ideas that you may not have already considered.

Without further ado, here are the 10 most pessimistic countries in the world, according to Gallup’s findings:

Country % Pessimists
Greece 38%
Czech Republic 33%
Slovenia 32%
Hungary 29%
Haiti 26%
Taiwan 26%
Spain 25%
Cyprus 25%
Poland 25%
Singapore 24%

Source: Gallup.

Note the trends
Much of this list wasn’t a surprise with Greece taking the top spot for a second year in a row as expected. Honestly, how cheery do you expect citizens to be when their country has had to take multiple bailouts and unemployment levels have spiked to a region high of 27%? But there are some notable trends worth keeping an eye on here that can give you an investing edge.

The first is that many of the world’s most pessimistic countries tend to be clustered in Europe. Greece, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary, Spain, Cyprus, and Poland are six of the first nine most pessimistic countries. If misery loves company, it could be a long time before big business digs itself out of the trenches in Europe.

For investors with more of a penchant for risk who are willing to bet against individual companies, they might consider angling a short sale against a large EU banking giant such as Banco Santander, S.A. (ADR) (NYSE:SAN) or focus on a Greece-based bank like the National Bank of Greece (ADR) (NYSE:NBG).

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