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Iranian stocks are falling, despite nuclear deal

Seven weeks after Iran signed a nuclear deal that should result in a lifting of economic sanctions that have crippled it for years, the country has seen its stock market do something surprising: drop.

A trader speaks with a stock market official beneath the electronic board at the Tehran Stock Exchange, Sept. 15, 2010.
Caren Firouz | Reuters
A trader speaks with a stock market official beneath the electronic board at the Tehran Stock Exchange, Sept. 15, 2010.

The Tehran Stock Exchange is down 6.7 percent since July 14, the day the deal between Iran and a group of global powers including the United States was finalized.

The managing director of one of Tehran's biggest investment houses admits that the decline surprised him. Ramin Rabii of Turquoise Partners said that "as soon as the nuclear deal was announced, we saw a brief rise, then many investors in Iran took that as an opportunity to take profits, and that had a big and immediate impact."

Another big reason for the downturn is the fall in the price of global commodities. Brent crude is down 10 percent since the day the deal was announced. Roughly 70 percent of the companies on the Tehran Stock Exchange are sensitive to the price of oil and metals.

Even with relief from international sanctions, Iran's recovery could take a long time, because the economy is linked so closely with the price of oil. "Economic diversification should be a key goal for the Iranian government," said Alireza Nader, senior policy analyst at Rand Corp. Nader said volatility in Tehran's market doesn't surprise him.

Who's investing in Iran?

Despite the market drop, interest in Iranian stocks has picked up dramatically since the deal. Rabii said investors from the United Kingdom, Russia, Singapore and Switzerland have put new money into the Tehran exchange through his firm.

In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned companies seeking business in Iran that sanctions remain in effect until that country complies with its obligations under the nuclear deal. And that, he said, could take some time.

On the ground in Iran, however, business activity is indeed picking up. European and Asian companies have held talks with potential Iranian partners about ventures there, though it's unclear whether deals have actually been signed.

Despite the optimism and potential for investors doing business in Iran, concerns remain.

"The stock market fall has been a big shock for everyone in Iran, and outside investors," Rabii said.

But he said he believes that as foreign economic activity increases and global commodity prices recover, Iran will benefit.