Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dr. Marc Faber's commentary on Barron's 2008 Roundtable

Dr. Marc Faber was featured again in Barron's 2008 Round table discussion on the stock market. ( See What Now? )

Of course the most interesting bit from that article was the part on the shipping industry.

  • My next recommendation is a shipping short. I turned bearish about home-building stocks in 2005, and felt the troubles in the housing market would hurt the subprime-lending industry and spread to other sectors of the economy -- in particular, consumption. Private consumption now accounts for more than 70% of U.S. GDP, which is why I'm negative about the U.S. economy. The problems here will also affect other economies. The Chinese stock market is closely correlated with the Baltic Dry Index, a shipping index. Tanker rates have plunged, but the Baltic Dry Index is still in the sky. If you can't short the index, short DryShips [DRYS]. The BDI has fallen 28% since Jan. 7. Faber suggests remaining short DryShips.

BDI is still in the sky!

Is there any justification in what's been said by Dr. Faber?

If I would refer back to the posting, Update on the Baltic Index, the BDI chart posted on that posting says it all.

Look at the pre 2003 numbers and one would note that over that DECADE, the BDI was below 2000. Now if I would refer to Bloomberg ( see here ), I would note that the BDI fell another 1.35% or 77.0 to 5615. And 5615 is very much higher than the 2000 level. ( I actually would ass-u-me that perhaps 3000 would probably be a fair level for the BDI). So what do you reckon? Is there justification for Dr. Faber to call a short in this shipping industry?

Here are some other commentary worth noting:

  • Faber: We aren't dealing purely with market forces today, but with an economy that is largely manipulated by central banks, which create excess liquidity by cutting interest rates dramatically and letting credit growth accelerate dramatically. I'd like to read a quote from a German newspaper published in 1923, when Germany was dealing with hyperinflation: 'There have been extraordinary rises in the quotations for all shares, the chief cause being the catastrophic change in the economic situation.' In other words, you could have a slump in the economy, yet share markets could go up simply because of excessive liquidity and interest rates being cut, theoretically, to zero.

    Since 2002, all asset prices have risen substantially. Against this backdrop, I'll focus on pair trades -- assets that will perform better in the next three to six months relative to others. The U.S. is in a bear market, and earnings will disappoint here and worldwide. Cost pressures will diminish profit margins. The stock market doesn't have a bubble valuation, though the Standard & Poor's 500 is selling at a higher price-earnings multiple than is evident. Take out the energy sector and the S&P has a P/E of 20, not 15. If earnings decline -- partly because the energy sector won't have higher earnings this year than last, and also because the financial sector has diminishing earnings and the economy is in a recession -- then the S&P isn't cheap.

  • I didn't say Europe is cheap. Stocks in the U.S. probably are cheaper than 10-year Treasuries. Cash has been a disastrous investment for the past 40 years because the purchasing power of money has diminished. I don't find any great values in the stock market now. If people want to buy stocks, stick to the recommendations I made last year. [You'll find them listed free of charge on Barron's Online,, under the 2007 Roundtable Report Card.]
    I still like gold, cotton and sugar. My new recommendation is to short the British pound against the yen. The pound, as Felix explained, is overvalued. It doesn't have a lot of upside potential compared to the dollar. It is probably less risky to short it against the yen than the dollar. [The pound has fallen 3.3% against the yen since Jan. 7. Faber remains short the pound.]
    You can also short the euro against the yen. The euro is a relatively expensive currency and European economies aren't going to perform well. Europe also had a lot of excesses, and the ECB [European Central Bank] will cut rates dramatically. Central-bank monetary policies are leading to the competitive devaluation of currencies.

In regards to the USD.

  • Faber: It has reached extremes. It also has depreciated considerably against the euro. Today, I would buy the dollar.
    At the moment, there is a war: The private sector is cutting credit and the central banks are cutting interest rates because they are desperate to revitalize credit growth. In the long run, the central banks will win, but in the next six to 12 months, relative credit contraction isn't going to be good for any asset class. In a year's time, the S&P 500 will be lower than it is today.

Not liking the Japanese markets at all

  • Faber: Two trades today are totally out of favor. One is betting on the dollar, and the other is buying Japanese shares. I go to seminars, and whereas 10, 15 years ago there were hundreds of people attending the Japanese sessions, today there are hundreds attending sessions on investing in Vietnam. Nobody goes to the Japanese sessions anymore. It's remarkable that people talk about equity valuations being low in the U.S. compared with bond yields, while valuations in Japan are very low compared to the Japanese bond yield. Buy the Japanese stock market on a correction of 10% or so.


  • Faber: Many countries have opened up following the breakdowns of communism and socialism. China began opening in 1978, proceeding at different times and in different sectors. The same has occurred since the late '90s in India, and more recently, Vietnam. One country in Asia hasn't begun to attract a lot of attention, but has great potential. It is Cambodia. You can't play Cambodia now, but some Cambodia funds will be launched this year.
    Eastern Europe has climbed the value scale. There isn't a big difference anymore between, say, Slovenia and Austria. Go further east, into Ukraine, and you'll find big opportunities in real estate, in particular agricultural land.
    Basically, investors should avoid correlated assets such as the S&P 500 and the FTSE index, emerging markets, art prices and real estate in financial centers. I'm ultra-bearish about the financial sector, as it will contract for many years, not just one year. I wouldn't buy
    Citigroup [C] here, or Merrill Lynch [MER]. And as much as I like Abby, I wouldn't buy Goldman Sachs [GS]. I anticipate the day when half of Wall Street will be looking for jobs as drivers of tractors and combine machines.