18 July 2009

Commodities is the place to be, says Jim Rogers

14 Jul 2009, 0013 hrs IST, Andy Mukherjee, ET Now

In an exclusive interview with ET NOW , Mr Rogers reiterated his view that a currency crisis could happen any time in the near future. But he’s not sure yet who’s going to pay the price — pound sterling, US dollar or even the rupee. Excerpts: ( Watch )

The commodities rally seems to have paused. The Rogers International Commodity Index has come off 13% since June 12. This pullback, essentially as I can see, is because of tin, energy and silver even as some of those agri commodities like orange juice, sugar and cotton have done well. What are your expectations going forward for commodities?

That's the way I know you know about commodities. You read The Economic Times and your ET TV. So, you know that the markets always have corrections whether they are going up or down. Nothing goes straight up or down forever. So, it's having a normal correction. In my view, the best place to be is in real assetscommodities, because if the world is going to recover, they (commodities) will recover first because of the shortages and if the world economy is not going to recover, they are still the best place to be, because governments around the world are printing huge amounts of money. So, if you got to own something, I don't much to own besides commodities.

In India, we are getting worried about the monsoon. We are looking out of our windows and not finding any clouds, and there is also talk about El Nino weather formation. Is this something you would advise investors to keep an eye on?

Of course, I would. The world's inventories of food are at the lowest they have been in decades. We haven't have had any serious weather problems around the world for several decades as a matter of fact. So, with fairly good weather, we have been having bad harvest or we have been consuming more than we have been producing. Can you imagine what's going to happen to the price of agriculture if we have bad weather around the world?

The last time we met here in Mumbai you had a sachet of sugar in your pocket and you pulled it out to underscore your point of impending shortage about agri commodities. You have been right about sugar as far as we can see from the price charts. What are you hiding today in your pockets? A silver coin, a hip flask full of crude oil, may be?

I do actually have a silver coin in my pocket. I don't know how you knew. I also have a gold coin, but the silver one is probably my better play. If I were a bright young man, I would be buying sugar now and silver, given the state of the world. That's not a recommendation, but I am just saying I do own some silver. Silver is cheaper than many things on a historic basis and I do own some silver. The dollar has fallen almost 10% since the beginning of the stocks rally in March. Commodities have risen 94% of the time that the dollar has fallen. A very strong correlation. Do we expect the dollar decline and the commodity run-up, therefore, to continue? It's not always a strong correlation. You are right; there has been (a correlation) in recent months, recent years even. But no, there are many times when the dollar and commodities go entirely separate ways. So, don't get it into your head, and I know many times that the press do have it in their head that commodities and dollars go opposite ways. I am not terribly bullish on the dollar in long term. US dollars are a terribly flawed currency and down the road I hope I don't own any US dollars. I still own some of them at the moment, but it's not getting better for the US. The dollar any way is getting worse. The fundamental for commodities continue to improve. The fundamentals for the US dollar do not continue to improve. They are deteriorating.

Are you still sticking to your prediction of a currency crisis sometime in a year or two?

Yes. The world is full of currency imbalances and economic trade imbalances would have to be resolved or corrected, one way or the other. Unfortunately, given the state of politicians and it's not just the current state of politicians, but politicians throughout history have usually got things wrong. So, we are going to have some problems in the currency market. I don't know when. May be not. I may be wrong. But having seen that sort of thing before in history somebody would have to pay the price whether it's the pound sterling or the US dollar or the rupee, I have no clue. No idea where it’s going to stop, but we are going to have problems in the currency markets.

What’s your view on global equities now? Do you think emerging markets’ premium over developed country markets has gone a way too high?

I don't pay any attention to things like emerging markets premium. You talk about it on TV, but every market is different. Why can't I just go out and buy emerging markets when it is likely to go broke. Every market is different, every country is different, every economy is different and every sector of the economies is different. Just because you are in an emerging country does not mean you are going to make money if you get the wrong sector. I have not bought any stocks anywhere in the world in the last couple of years except China. I did buy some Chinese shares back in October-November. I have not been buying anything other than that for some time. I have been worried about the world economy, about the world stock markets. If you got to be somewhere and if there is going to be a recovery, it will show up in commodities best of all, and if there is not going to be any recovery, commodities are still a better place to be.

So what are you buying nowadays?

If you want to put in your money somewhere, put it in commodities. That's the only thing I bought recently. I have bought some yen and swiss francs. If you know enough about currencies to figure out who is going to benefit, if I am right about the currency turmoil coming, then you can buy some of the currencies and if you think that the rupee is the place to be, then you can buy some rupees.

Long-term inflation expectations in the US as reflected by the five-year forward breaking rates on treasury inflation protected securities. Those have hardened considerably since the beginning of the year. That's also your view, right? Too much money in the financial systems and monetary authorities the world over don't have a credible plan to withdraw liquidity?

I cannot conceive of lending money to the US government for 30 years in US dollars for 3, 4, 5 or 6% interest. It's just inconceivable to me that I would let them have my money for 30 years and they would pay me back someday in US dollars at such a low rate of interest. I expect problems in the bond market. I don't know when. I am not sure about the bond market. I was short in the bond market, but I got out. I expect to see serious problems in the bond market down the road.

In the near term, markets seem to be more concerned about growth than they are about inflation. The difference between the 10-year and the two-year bond yield in the US has narrowed some 40 basis points since early June. Unlike you Jim, people are actually going out and buying long maturity treasuries because they don't see growth, don't see inflation. So, what do say to these bond buyers? Good luck?

When you see anomalies like this in the market, you are supposed to take advantage . The spread is very low. So, why would anybody buy a 10-year when he can buy a two-year ? Not worth the extra risk to go out 10 years. I would urge people to keep their wits. Now, granted Mr Bernanke and the US are buying a lot of government paper and driving the price up. That's why I am not sure. He has got more buying power than I do, at least for the foreseeable future. So, you are seeing longer bonds going up. That gives you an opportunity to get out if you own them or think about selling them short if you don't own them and know how to sell short.


Ben Bernanke: Hero or villian?

He's an idiot. ( Watch )

US stocks: Buy now or stay away?

I'm not buying them.

US banking stocks: Short them or stay away?

I'm doing neither. I am watching. They're down a whole lot.

US bonds: Short them or stay away?

I'm doing neither right now. My next move will probably be to sell them short.

In Asia: Sri Lankan stocks or Indian equities?

I'd rather buy Sri Lanka than India.

Chinese stocks or Indian stocks?

I'm not buying either at the moment. I don't own any Indian stocks. I own Chinese shares which I am not selling. The Indian... I wouldn't buy either.

Gold or silver?

I'd rather buy silver today. I own both and I'm not selling either.

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