Commodities

Tesla just pre-sold a whopping 325,000 Tesla Model 3s.

Yup, excited buyers gave the company $325 million in an interest-free loan for a car they haven’t seen, or who’s factory still hasn’t been built yet.

Image of Tesla Model 3 in steel grey

The excitement is understandable.

And it’s remarkable that a car company with no advertising, and no dealers can get people to stand in line for hours to buy a car that won’t be ready for over a year. Most of the people in line will have to wait 2 years, and probably won’t receive the $7,500 tax credit for electric cars either.

The key component to the car is the battery. Tesla is still building the gigawatt battery plant in Nevada, and is expected to be a large consumer of global Lithium ion production.

By the time Elon Musk’s prediction of rolling out 500,000 cars rolls around, it will most likely absorb the entire world’s annual Lithium production!

Unsurprisingly, prices for Lithium has soared, doubling this year.

Lithium carbonate spot price chart

This chart from the Economist shows prices up 3 fold from the long-term average of $5,000 per tonne. There are also rumors out of China that prices might double again from here.

If Tesla is absorbing the entire global production what are the other electric car manufacturers going to do, not to mention the makers of power tools, household appliances and rechargeable batteries, that all use Lithium ion as well.

Sounds likes it’s time for a short-term speculation in Lithium exploration/production companies!

While gambling on these sort of things rarely work out, if you’re so inclined, you might want to check out Global X’s Lithium ETF, which invests in the full lithium cycle, from mining and refining the metal, through battery production.

The fund isn’t exactly cheap, with a 0.77% expense ratio, and it owns 25 different companies, with Tesla (TSLA) being one of them. Also, two companies consist of 28% of the fund – FMC Corp and Sociedad Quimica Y Minera De Chile (or The Chemical and Mining Company of Chile, cutely called SQM).

According to Morningstar analysis, FMC is undervalued by about 20%, and SQM is overvalued by 25%. While valuations are highly subjective, Morningstar is a good quality resource at a cheap price.

I’ll probably pass on this fund, despite the fact that it’s an interesting opportunity.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview with Jim Rogers on why he prefers investing in China over India.

High oil prices, inflation, food prices etc have hit countries like India very hard. How should counties like India tackle the situation?
• Inflation affects everyone. Not just India. We pay the same price for copper. Copper price is the same in Australia, Germany and the US and India. India is not getting any worse than other countries. Except for the fact that the Indian government spends periodically more money in controlling inflation. The problem with India is that your politicians are worse than American politicians. You know Indian politicians believe and argue that the cause for inflation is commodities trading. How absurd is that.

Recently India banned Futures trading in some commodities like rice, wheat, rubber, potato etc to control price rise and inflation.
• It is the same tactic that politicians have done for hundreds of years everywhere in the world. Politicians would blame for anything wrong on three groups of people. They blame financiers/financial types. They blame foreigners: It is always good to blame foreigners. And they blame the Press. They blame you guys for commodity inflation in India. If the Press is not writing about inflation, we would not have a problem, politicians would say. It is absolutely insanity.

India banned Futures trading in some commodities without any logic or reasoning and study. And it has not done anything good for commodities in India or in the rest of the world. The commodity prices are still up and up. India needs to understand that there is no easy solution to high prices. As prices go up, people use less of anything and people would continue to produce more and that has always been there in the boom market. I read that India produces lots of foodgrains and do not have storage facilities and tonnes of rice and wheat are destroyed in public sector storage facilities.

How sad it is. It is terrible thing to happen. So let India do things to protect commodities rather than ban Futures trading in them. By banning commodities in boom market, the Indian government is making things worse. Look at China. The Chinese instituted price controls. Price controls have been around for thousands of years. They always make things worse. If you tell somebody that rice is only Rs 2, you have no other ways.

If you tell a farmer that you can sell rice only for Rs 2, he will tell I am not going to produce any more rice. Farming is hard work. I cannot make any money with price controls by producing and selling rice for Rs 2. So then you have less rice and shortage of rice. Even Romans had price controls, it never worked. So the Indian government is making things worse for India. It has been making things worse for the people in the last 50 or 60 years.

Some politicians in India blame commodity Futures trading as the reason for price rise; inflation is a big political issue in India.
•By banning commodity Futures, food prices would not go down. Because people sell in any prices they want to in Futures. So banning Futures is a senseless decision. In commodities market, we know what the price of wheat is. There is a public price for wheat according to demand and supply world over. So India banning Futures does not have any effect on wheat market. Indian government instead of being transparent and serious is creating lots of black market by banning Futures trading. It is going to make lots of people desperate. Politicians have been doing the same thing for many years, all over the world. Not just in India. It is worst for all of us.

What is the reason for the global food crisis now?
• The number of hectares of global wheat farming has declined over the years. The inventories of food are in the lowers ebb now in the last 50-60 years. In the last 30 years, farming has been in a terrible state. There is a terrible shortage of farmers now across the world. Young people do not go for farming. They study computers and get jobs. All the farmers in the world are old now. They are all men. Young people do not go to farms these days because farming is a hard physical job.

Seeds, fertilizers, tractors…there is a shortage for these stuff. We have a shortage of even tractor tyres now. That is the reason why we have shortage of food and there is a food crisis. It is not again speculators who have created the food shortage. Speculators take delivery of wheat. They don’t hoard wheat; it is the government that is hoarding wheat. It is the governments that are making the prices higher. Argentina says you cannot export wheat. A lot of counties say you cannot export wheat. The governments should call farmers to produce more and invite more people to farming by offering incentives.

When farming is coming down, governments like in India are trying to introduce price control mechanisms and bring down prices, and ban Futures. So things are getting worse. Things will be bad if it goes like this way. The food crisis will get worse, if countries act like this way. There will come a time when people will not get enough food. They are going to starve. The world is going through several weather problems. There will be droughts. So things are getting worse for farmers. I promise politicians who rule us are not going to go to the fields and cultivate. Do you think your politicians will go to the fields and work hard till evening to raise more rice? No way.

US President George Bush recently commented that it is the large population in countries like India and China that are causing the food shortage and crisis.
• I don’t agree. Look how things are blown out of proportion by politicians. Why can’t the people in Asia eat and live happily? Is it the prerogative of the US that only they should eat? There are three billion people in Asia. Thirty yeas ago Mao Tse-Tung was still running China. Thirty years ago Indira Gandhi was running India. Vietnam was destroyed.

Now there are three billion people in Asia, working hard, saving and investing. They want to eat more and they should. There is nothing wrong in that. Why should the developed world say that you should not eat? That is discrimination. I hope Asia continues to consume more so that their standards of living would go higher. All the western politicians who say that Asia should not eat more, let them go to the fields and work hard and produce more wheat, rice and maize so that food prices do not go higher.

Do you think India and China are driving the global commodities prices?
• Not just India and China. Most countries are driving the global commodities prices. America consumes lots of sugar, wheat and petrol. Europe does, everybody does. If America stops using petrol, there will be lots of petrol available in the world. If Europe stops eating wheat, there will be lots of wheat available. So what I want to say is that everyone is driving the global commodities prices. Everyone in the world is driving the demand for everything.

Which is the commodity you are most bullish on these days? Gold or Crude Oil?
• I am not particularly bullish on a commodity. I am in fact bullish on all commodities. I am not a good market timer. I am a very good or a very bad sure time trader. So I have no idea. I own all the commodities. I go to commodities based on historic fundamentals.

You recently said that it is the right time to invest in agri-commodities. Is there great investing opportunities in agri-commodities?
• I have bought into agri-commodities recently. I am an admirer of agri-commodities, and I hope there are great investing opportunities there. I make plenty of mistakes. But I try to buy commodities cheap. And agri-commodities are cheap and thus hold great investing potential.

What do you think of Indian stock market? Is it overheated and overpriced?
• It was certainly overheated, and that is why it has come down crashing recently. I am not a good judge of the Indian stock markets. Sometimes I get the Indian stock markets exactly right. Sometimes I get it exactly wrong. So I am not a good judge. So, I would not buy Indian stocks because it is too high. And your government continues to do stupid things like don’t trade in commodities. So if I am a foreigner I cannot invest in Indian commodities. It is sad. Vietnam recently said all the problems is because of importing gold. So don’t import gold. So Vietnamese cannot import gold.

Most astonishing thing. So governments keep doing these kinds of things. Vietnam said their problems are because people have been buying gold. Come on, how crazy can you go? Don’t worry; politicians can go crazy at any lengths. You know America said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There were not. They spent hundreds of thousands of billions and killed tens of thousands of people to find those weapons. So politicians do a lot of crazy things.

Among the three emerging nations, Russia, India and China, which one would you rate first as an investment destination?
• China, of course.

Why not India? Can you compare China with India?
• Indians have the worst bureaucracy in the world. India learned bureaucracy from the British. Indian bureaucracy has remained stagnant. Just stagnant. They do what they think only. There is no proper education, no infrastructure in India. It is the most wonderful country in the world. I admire India’s diversity. I tell my friends, if you can only visit one country in your life time, go to India. India is an amazing country.

But as a place for investment? Oh, no, I would think twice. Even Indians who have been doing great business elsewhere in the world, and when they go back to India to do business, it has not been a good experience for them. Many of them get out of the business and go back to other countries to do business.

You have driven through India?
• I have driven through India a couple of times extensively. In 1988 and 2001. It was spectacular; it was wonderful. I loved it. I love traveling across any place. You learn a lot about that place while traveling. The highway from Kolkata to Mumbai should be one of the greatest highways in the world. But the Indian infrastructure development is so bad, that it took seven days for me to cover Mumbai and Kolkata highway. But everyday in India was an adventure, which I loved. Yes, it is a great place to travel. But if you looking for efficiency and investment, it is not the right place yet.

So it is better to go to China?
• Yeah, in China, a truck driver travels 70 km an hour average. China has the best roads in the world. On the Mumbai-Kolkata road, a truck driver goes 20 km an hour. That shows the efficiency between the nations. To cross state boarders in India, it is a nightmare. In China, it is all great. In China, they do what they say. In India, the government says lots of things, and they do not do it. Yes, smart Indians make lots of money. There are several success stories in India. India has the most beautiful women in the world, but has the worst politicians and bureaucrats.

If you haven’t read his latest book, A Bull In China, I strongly recommend it.

Jim Rogers recently gave a presentation in Vancouver, Canada where he reiterated his belief that we’re in the middle of a commodities bull market. His logic is simple: the supply of paper currencies in increasing while the supply of hard commodities like aluminum and copper is dwindling. He also believes that there will be a long-term economic shift to China.

Here’s a condensed version of his speech, courtesy of the kind people at Agora Financial Publications.

The commodity bull market has a long way to go. This bull market is not magic. It’s not some crazy “cycle theory” I have. It does not fall out of the sky. It’s supply and demand. It’s simple stuff.

In the 80s and 90s, when people were calling you to buy mutual fund and stocks, no one called to say. “Let’s invest in a sugar plantation.” No one called and said, “Let’s invest in a lead mine.” Commodities were in a bear market and in a bear markets people do not invest in productive capacity. They never have. Perhaps they should have, but they’ve never done it throughout history and probably never will. There has been only one lead mine opened in the world the last 25 years. There’s been no major elephant oil fields [of more than a billion barrels] discovered in over 40 years.

Many of you were not even born the last time the world discovered a huge elephant oil field. Think about all the elephant fields in the world that you know about. Alaskan oil fields are in decline; Mexican oil fields are in rapid decline; the North Sea is in decline. The UK has been exporting oil for 27 years now. Within the decade, the UK is going to be a major importer of oil again. Indonesia is a member of OPEC. OPEC stands for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Indonesia is going to get thrown out because they no longer export oil, they are now net importers of oil. Malaysia has been one of the great exporting countries in the world for decades. Within the decade, Malaysia is going to be importing oil. 10 years ago, China was one of the major exporters of oil, now they are the 2nd largest importer of oil in the world. Oil fields deplete, mines depletes. This is the way the world’s been working for a few thousand years and it will always work this way. So supply has been going down for 25 years.

Meanwhile, you know what’s happening to demand. Asia’s been booming. There are three billion people in Asia. America’s growing. Most of the world has been growing for the last 25 years. So supply has gone down and demand has gone up for 25 years. That’s called a bull market.

One of the things you’ll find if you go back and do your research is that whenever stocks have done well, such as the 1980s and 90s, commodities have done badly. But conversely, you find that whenever commodities have done well, such as the 1970s, stocks have done poorly. I have a theory as to why this always works, but it doesn’t matter about my theory. The fact is that it always works this way and it’s working this way now.

So before I set off to my second trip around the world, I came to the conclusion that the bear market in commodities was coming to and end. So I started a commodities index fund. [Editor’s note: An ETN based on the Rogers International Commodity Index trades on the AMEX under the symbol: RJI.] This is an index fund. I do not manage it. It’s a basket of commodities we put in the corner. If it goes up we make money; if it goes down we lose money. But since Aug 1st 1998, when the fund started, it is up 471%.

I [mention this index] to show you that the commodity bull market is not something that will happen someday. It’s in process right now, and it’s going to go on for years to come, because supply and demand are out of balance. And by the time we get to the end of the bull market, commodities will go through the roof. There will be setbacks along the way. I don’t know when or why, but I know they are coming, cause markets always work that way. Commodities have done 15 times better than stocks in this decade and they’re going to continue that [trend].

You remember my little girls. My 5-year old never owns stocks or bonds; she only owns commodities. She’s very happy owning commodities. She doesn’t care about stocks and bonds, but she knows about gold. I assure you, she knows about gold.

Some of you probably diversify, or believe in diversification. I do not diversify; I am not a fan of diversification. This is something that stockbrokers came up with to protect themselves. But you’re not ever going to get rich diversifying. I assure you. But if you DO diversify, commodities are the best anchor because they are not going to do what the rest of your assets are going to do.

I will give you one brief case study about oil, because it’s one of the most important commodities. Some of you know that oil in Saudi Arabia is owned by a company called ARAMCO. It was nationalized in the 70s. They threw out BP and Shell and Exxon. But the last Western company to leave did an audit [of Saudi oil reserves] and came to the conclusion that Saudi Arabia had 245 billion barrels of oil. Then in 1980, after 10 years, Saudi Arabia suddenly announced that it had 260 billion barrels of oil. Every year since 1988 – 20 years in a row – Saudi Arabia has announced, “We have 260 billion barrels of oil.”

It is the damndest thing. 20 years; it never goes up; it never goes down, and they have produced 67 billion barrel of oil in this period of time. When nuts like me go to Saudi, we ask, “How can this be? How can it be that they always have 260 billion barrel of oil?” (By the way, last year they said they have 261 billion barrel of oil). And the Saudis say, “You either believe us or you don’t,” and that’s the end of the conversation.

I have never been to the Saudi oil fields, and even if I had, I wouldn’t know what I was looking at. But I do know something is wrong. I know that every oil country in the world has a reserve problem, except Saudi Arabia of course. I know that every oil company in the world has declining reserves. So I know that unless someone discovers a lot of oil quickly, the surprise to most people is going to be how high the price of oil stays and how high it goes eventually. That is the supply side. Let’s look at the demand side.

The Indians use 1/20th as much oil as their neighbors in Japan and Korea use. The Chinese use 1/10th as much per capita. There’s 2.3 billion people in India and China alone. Well, the Indians are going to get more electricity. The Indians are going to get motor scooters. They are going to start using more energy, so are the Chinese. But if the Indians just doubled the amount of oil used per capita, they would still use only 1/10th of what the Koreans use. If the Chinese doubled their oil use, they would still be using only 1/5th what the Japanese and the Koreans are using. So you can see what kind of pressures there are on the demand side for oil and energy, at a time of terrible stress on the supply side. These are simple things.

So I would urge you are to take a lesson from my little girls. My little girls are learning Chinese. My little girls are getting out of the US dollar. My little girls own a lot of commodities. I would urge you to do the same.

While, I’m not going to be learning Chinese any time soon, I’m still holding on to my gold, silver and energy stocks. They’ve taken quite a beating this year, but I they’re still in a long-term bull market. Even though the US dollar has shown some strength in the past 2 weeks, nothing has changed in the fundamental economy. The US government is still broke, it looks like we might have a Trillion Dollar deficit by 2010, and  yet it still willing to bail-out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at the tax-payers expense.

A couple of days ago, legendary investor, commodity bull and one-time partner of George Soros, Jim Rogers, was interviewed by Betty Liu of Bloomberg’s Singapore office. It seems that Jim Rogers is also of the opinion that Fannie Mae is going to lose a lot of money along with other investment banks.

He’s still bullish on commodities like oil and food grain and he’s bearish on the US Dollar. Surprizingly, he’s also bullish on Arline stocks.

Here’s an excerpt of the relevant portions of the interview:

Financial Sector

LIU: All right. Jim, first, talk to us about the story of the week that we’ve seen so far, Lehman Brothers, you know, you’ve been very critical so far about what’s been going on on Wall Street, the accounting, all of that. Do you believe, I mean this is relevant – do you believe that Lehman Brothers is in fact in so good shape that they’ve got no liquidity problems or what’s your view on this right now?
ROGERS: Well, okay, I am still all – short all of the investment banks on Wall Street through the ETF. I know they are all in trouble. I know most of them have phony accounting. And you know, in bear markets, they all go down to eight. So, I just presume they are all going to go to eight before it’s over, before the bear market is over.
LIU: Do you believe that we could another Bear Stearns as we did in March?
ROGERS: Oh, why not, sure. There are certainly – and I’m also short Citibank and I’m also short Fannie Mae. So, you know, some of these companies have – have horrendous balance sheets and if the bear market has a ways to go, which in my view, it does, then you are going to see some really, really low prices. But, Betty, there’s nothing unusual about this, just go back and look at any previous bear market. Financial stocks sell at unbelievably low prices during bear markets. This was not going to be any – well, this one may be a little different because it’s just going to be worse for the financial companies during this bear market, because the excesses during the past five or ten years have been so horrendous in the financial communities.

LIU: All right. And Jim, you know, I want to turn back to, of course, the Fed and the banks and all of that. You were talking before about some of the stocks that you’re short on. Are you short on Lehman Brothers?
ROGERS: I’m short the ETF, Betty, the investment bank ETF, which means I’m short all of them. I am not short any specific investment banks. First of all, I have too many friends at all of those places, I don’t want to short any of them specifically. So, I am just short at the ETF, which means I am short all of them, I mean some would do well, some will do probably too badly, but the ETF in my view is going to go down a lot more.
LIU: Well, does what happened with Lehman Brothers over the past week, does it perhaps stoke your interest in shorting Lehman along with Citigroup? And Fannie, I believe is the one you talked about as well.
ROGERS: I’m already short Fannie Mae and Citibank, and have been for sometime. I’m just going to kind of stay with the ETF. It’s easier for somebody like me, who’s too lazy to spend a lot of time on any specific one, except for Citibank and Fannie Mae.

Monetary Policy

LIU: All right, Jim. So, tell us, you have also been very critical of the Fed and Ben Bernanke. I want to ask you first one thing. How do think the Fed has handled so far what’s been going on on Wall Street? You think that they helped situations or actually made things worse?
ROGERS: They made things worse, Betty. They printed huge amounts of money, which has caused great inflation which could cause the dollar to go down, and the Federal Reserve has taken on something like $400 billion of bad assets on to its balance sheet. Now, you and I as American taxpayers are going to have to pay off that debt some day. What’s Bernanke going to do? Get in his helicopter, and fly around, collecting bad debt? Is he going to start repossessing cars, repossessing houses that go bad? I mean, this is insane Betty, the Federal Reserve has $800 billion on its balance sheet. They have already committed $400 billion to bad debt. What then they are going to do next? Where are they going to get the money the next time things start going wrong?

Investment Strategy

LIU: Okay. Okay, well, given that scenario, Jim, as an investor, where are you going to put your money right now?
ROGERS: I own commodities, I have been buying agriculture, I bought airlines today. I bought a lot of airlines around the world today, both stocks and bonds. Swiss franc, Japanese yen, renminbi, these are the few things I have been buying recently.

Airlines

LIU: You bought airlines? A lot of people are very bearish on the airlines, talking about the fuel cost. Why are you buying airlines?
ROGERS: Well, Betty, you just got through the same why, everybody is very bearish. No, I don’t buy things just because people are bearish, but I fly a lot, and the planes are full. You cannot buy a new – if you order a new plane today, you couldn’t get it for several years. This Boeing and Airbus have problems. You read every day that the airlines are cutting back their capacity. Fares are going up. I mean, Betty, everybody knows about the fuel cost. Is there any airline left that doesn’t know we have fuel problems? They are adjusting for all of it.
LIU: Well, that’s true. But there’s also talk about bankruptcies in the airline industry. And you think some could go bankrupt?
ROGERS: How much more bullish in the news do you want? Twenty-four airlines have gone bankrupt this year. That’s great news. You know, five out of the seven largest American airlines went bankrupt during this decade. So, fine. Bankruptcies are signs of bottoms, not signs of tops.

Commodities

LIU: Right. You know, staying with oil and commodities, we’ve seen a pullback in some commodities in recent months. But which commodities do you like right now, Jim, and which don’t you like?
ROGERS: Well, I mean, yes, a lot of commodities have come down pretty hard. If people are talking about a bubble, I’d like to know what they’re talking about. I mean, many commodities, nickel, zinc, lead are down 50 percent. Silver is down 80 percent from its all-time high. Sugar is down 80 percent from its all-time high. What kind of bubble is that? Cotton is down 40 percent from its all-time high. Coffee is down 60 percent from its all-time high. I have been buying agriculture recently, I’m holding off a little bit right now because it looks like Congress is determined to do something to drive down commodity prices. If they do, it’ll be a fantastic buying opportunity and I’ll buy more.
LIU: Jim, you – .
ROGERS: But what I bought most recently is more agriculture.
LIU: More agriculture? In China, did you buy?
ROGERS: I bought agriculture stocks in China. It’s not legal for – I mean, it’s almost impossible for foreigners to buy commodities – commodities and sales in China.
LIU: Right. Okay, also, you’ve said before that we’re half- way through the commodity bull run. You still think that, or I mean how long can this bull run last for?
ROGERS: Well, Betty, there are number of acres devoted to wheat farming. It’s been declining for 30 years. The inventory of food is at the lowest level in 50 or 60 years. We are burning a lot of our agricultural products in fuel tanks now, as fuel. That’s useless, that’s hopeless. Talk about a bubble, that’s a bubble. It’s crazy that we’re spending so much money burning our agricultural products as fuel. But you can go on a long time, nobody has discovered any major oil fields for over 40 years. Betty, all the oil fields in the world are in decline. I mean, there’s been one lead mine opened in the world in 25 years. The last lead smelter built in America was built in 1969. Unless somebody starts bringing on a lot more capacity soon, that bull market has got a ways to go.

Oil

LIU:All right. Jim, also talk to us about oil. You know, you’ve been very bullish on oil. We’ve had a lot of people talk about, you and I had a debate about whether or not there’s speculation in oil markets right now. You say no, others say yes, like Soros, he says it’s going to bubble. What do you know that others don’t about the oil market?
ROGERS: Look, look, Betty, there are always speculators in every market. Look at the New York Stock Exchange right now. You think there aren’t any speculators down there on the floor of the stock exchange? There are always speculators. That’s what business is all about. I submit to you that most of the people and – I don’t know about most of the people, I shouldn’t say that, but we know that the IEA, the definitive authority on oil has said that the world has an oil problem. The Saudis have told Bush that we have an oil problem. Betty, if there is lot of oil, please, would somebody tell us where it is, so we can all invest in it? The world has a serious oil problem. Now, Betty, that does not mean that oil cannot go down 50 percent. During this bull market since 1999, oil has gone down twice by 50 percent, going down by 50 percent in 2001 and again, in 2000 whatever it was, ‘05 or ‘06. So sure, you can have big reaction in any bull market. But that’s not the end of the bull market. There is no supply of oil unless you – somebody can tell us where the oil is, the bull market in oil has years to go despite new corrections which may or may not come.
LIU: Well, but you know, and I know you always hate having me ask you about – about limits or caps and all of that. But, given the supply/demand situation that you’re talking about, how high can oil go?
ROGERS: Betty, I know you – how you’re paid to ask questions like that, but I don’t know the answer. I’m not smart enough. I know that unless somebody discovers a lot of oil, the price of oil can go to $150, $200. You pick the number.

U.S. Dollar

LIU: All right, Jim. And I’ve got to turn to the dollar very quickly. What do you make of the comments by Bernanke earlier this week, noting the dollar slide, you have been very, very critical of Bernanke on this.
ROGERS: It is astonishing. Now, this is a man that under oath in Congress said, “If the price of the dollar goes down, it doesn’t affect ordinary – it doesn’t affect most Americans.” So, I almost fell out of my chair when I saw him say that. We know the man doesn’t know about markets, we know he doesn’t know about the currencies. Now, we know he doesn’t even understand civil economics, simple economics. So, I was astonished to see him, what, two or three days –
LIU: Right.
ROGERS: – suddenly said, “Well, if the dollar goes down, it affects us all.” It’s called inflation. So, somebody’s been teaching him economics. It’s about time, he should go back and take Economics 101.

Regular readers know I’ve been pretty pessimistic on the outlook of the US economy and bearish on the US dollar as well. However, since it seems like everyone is echoing the same sentiment, could it be that we’re due for a short (or medium) term spike in the US Dollar?

According to Lou Basenese, editor of the The Alpha Intelligence Alert, think it’s time to go long the USD.
Here are some of the reasons he cites:

1. Bernanke & Paulson Rediscover “Verbal Intervention.” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke finally got off their duffs to defend the dollar. Paulson got things started in Qatar on Sunday. Speaking to the leaders of the Gulf oil states, he urged the countries to think twice about abandoning their dollar peg, as “ending the peg is not the solution to the inflation problem.” And Bernanke stepped up today. Speaking, via satellite, to an international monetary conference in Spain he insisted Fed policy will be a key factor, “ensuring that the dollar remains a strong, stable currency.” After such a long silence, this week’s tag team approach is nothing but a positive development.

2. The “Smart Money” is Cashing In. The smart money – Wall Street institutions – tends to be a great leading indicator. If you can figure out what they’re doing in time. Right now they’re sending a clear signal – take profits on your bearish dollar bets. Case in point, as the dollar met heavy selling on May 21, the smart money took almost $100 million in profits out of Currency Shares Euro Trust (NYSE: FXE). Enough to top the Wall Street Journal’s “Selling on Strength” screen. And this isn’t the first time the ETF recently made the list. All told, the increased selling activity indicates the smart money fears we may never see such high prices again.

3. George Soros Changed His Mind. Even the smartest investors are entitled to a mulligan. After bouncing roughly 3% off the March lows, in recent weeks, George Soros told the Wall Street Journal he is now “neutral” on the dollar. And expects it to strengthen over the next 12 to 18 months. Accordingly, he “greatly reduced his bets against the greenback.” Bottom line – we should pay attention when this hedge-fund phenom changes his mind. Here’s why, copied and pasted from my first article in defense of the dollar…

“A trader named Jean-Manuel Rozan once spent an entire afternoon arguing about the stock market with George Soros. Soros was vehemently bearish, and he had an elaborate theory to explain why, which turned out to be entirely wrong. The stock market boomed.”

“Two years later, Rozan ran into Soros at a tennis tournament. ‘Do you remember our conversation?’ Rozan asked. ‘I recall it very well,’ Soros replied. ‘I changed my mind, and made an absolute fortune.'”

My guess is he will make a fortune on this change of heart, too.

4. The Fed is Done. Okay. Maybe one more cut looms on the horizon. But after that, it’s time to get back to fighting inflation and hiking rates. Futures traders awoke to this same reality once revised GDP numbers were released May 29. They ratcheted up their bets that the Fed would raise rates in late October, putting the odds at 88%. Before the release, odds of an October hike stood at 70%. As I said last time, the Fed will hike again. Soon. And such moves will immediately strengthen the dollar.
5. Busted Rhymes and Tattered Clothing. The crickets are chirping among the rappers and super models. It’s been a long time since we’ve heard (even rumors) about the world’s fashionistas and rhyme-slingers extolling the virtues of the euro over the dollar. In other words, when pop-culture embraced the dollar hating, it signaled the inflection point. And it’s time for them to get caught on the wrong side of the trade for such foolish speculation.

6. The Retail Investor is (Blindly) Headed for the Slaughter. Sad as it may be, the retail investor tends to always show up late to the profit party. Right now they’re headed to the slaughter. The proof – the number and popularity of currency ETFs literally exploded in recent years. As one long-time advisor told an IndexUniverse.com reporter, “I’ve never seen this much interest in currency ETFs before…There’s just a pile of money coming into these funds now.” And that pile, according to my research, sits around $4 billion, despite most of the ETFs being less than two years old. This reminds me of my days back at Morgan Stanley. Whenever management decided to launch our own Small Cap Growth Fund for example, because the asset class was so “hot,” the asset class was too hot. It was time to recommend our clients take profits. And now that betting against the dollar is fashionable on Main Street, it’s time we head the other direction or risk getting burned like the rest of the performance chasers.

7. New President = Clean Slate. Whether Barrack “Haven’t-Been-to-Iraq-In-A-While” Obama or John “I-Have-Anger-Issues” McCain gets the nod, a new president will get a clean slate to establish their very own dollar policy. At least temporarily. And thanks to record crude prices, expect the new Commander-in-chief to move from the current administration’s weak lip service to more meaningful actions in support of the dollar.

8. We’re Still Not Decoupled. At least not from Europe. Doubts about euro-zone growth continue to pop up. The latest – a weaker than expected composite purchasing managers index reading, compiled by the Royal Bank of Scotland and NTC Economics. The measure from across the 15-nation euro-zone slumped to 51.1 in May, the worst in nearly five years. Bottom line – the European Central Bank is in a pinch. It can’t hike rates in the face of a slowdown. And it can’t cut rates with inflation running around 3.5%. In the end, the stalemate buys the dollar time to narrow the interest rate gap.

9. Institutions are Secretly Hedging their Bets. It’s not news that international stock funds significantly outperformed U.S.-focused funds over the last seven years. Or that the dollar decline aided their outperformance. However, few realize these very same funds are now protecting their portfolios against a dollar rally. Three of the top money managers in the business (Harris Associates, Dodge & Cox and Henderson Global Investors) are now hedging up to 55% of their currency exposure. A big jump, considering the international funds from Henderson and Dodge & Cox never hedged their exposure since opening in 2001.
And last but not Least…

10. The Dollar Decline is Getting Too Long in the Tooth. As I said before, “the cyclicality of the markets instructs us that the pendulum will eventually swing back the other way.” Combine that with Einstein’s theory of relativity and one thing is clear: Although the “real” value of our flat currency may never recover, its relative value certainly will. And with the worst of the financial crisis probably behind us, I stand by my conviction. The worst of the dollar weakness is behind us, too.

Consider this my second warning that the dollar will rise. And soon. That makes now perhaps the last opportunity to position your portfolios for maximum gain.

Good investing,

Lou Basenese

If you do feel like going long, Rydex Strengthening Dollar 2x Strategy (RYSBX) is a good way to enter this trade.

If the dollar does strengthen, there’s a good chance my commodity investments (includes gold and oil stocks) and foreign currency ETFs will decline. I might use RYSBX to hedge against the rising dollar.

Oil just broke through $115 per barrel today. While this may come as a shock to many , I’ve been preparing for it for the past 2 years. All the signs of an oil shortage have been visible in the media, but most people have either been ignoring it, been in denial or been too focused on what Paris Hilton or Brittany Spears have been up to!

China and India together have  a third of the world’s 6.66 billion people. If 10% of these 2.2 Billion people start buying cars, that’s 220 million new cars on the planet ready to start guzzling more gasoline. I think thats the current number of cars in the US, so effectively the demand on oil is set to double over the next few years. And along with Tata Motors new $2,500 car, you can be sure that eventually atleast 20% or more of India’s and China’s population will be driving cars instead of cycles or mopeds that give 247 miles/gallon. That 247 number is  not an exaggeration. Owners of Suburbans should refrain from crying right now.

Based on the growing prosperity in just these two countries, the demand for the world’s resources is growing at a furious pace. Unfortunately, oil is a key component of prosperity and the global supply of it is somewhat stagnant. Despite a few  new oil fields being found here and there, new reserves are not keeping up with the depletion. According to one report, all the oil in Alaska would last the US for only 6 months.

If you think that gas prices are high at over $3.50 per gallon (I just paid $3.95 for mid-grade for my wife’s Acura TSX), wait until summer. There are reports that the refineries are absorbing the cost of high oil prices right now (and some of them have hedging contracts in place to mitigate this high price), but within a few months they’ll be passing this burden on to the consumers. Oil prices at the pump could very well hit $5 and if this trend continues, it could hit $8/gallon. 

In the UK, petrol (that’s what the rest of the world calls gas) costs about 1 pound per litre, which equates to $7.50-8.00 per gallon. Now you Suburban owners can cry now if you like. Or you can start investing in oil related investments like Canroys and oil drilling programs.

gold bullion coins, krugerrands, maple leafs, australian gold nuggets, american golden eagle

Based on continuing weakness in the dollar, gold briefly breeched the $1000 level yesterday along with oil hitting an all time high of $111 per barrel. I had a really strong suspicion that we’d see $1000 gold by mid-March.

Despite what Bernanke and Paulson said last summer, the housing bubble has spread to other parts of the economy and subprime mess has not been contained. In a last ditch effort to prevent banks from collapsing, the Federal Reserve announced a bailout of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other banks, promising to exchange bogus mortgages for Treasuries during a 28 day window. They named this Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF) but it’s just a good old bail-out.

Of course, the stock markets loved this move because it means the Fed is going to prevent banks from failing. However, this $200 Billion bail-out doesn’t come without a cost. The Fed is going to have to print an extra $200 Billion to cover this deficit. But it was a clever move, because Bernanke didn’t have to cut interest rates before the 17th of March, when he’s slated to do so anyway. Another move like that might have created a panic in the markets instead!

Bloomberg reported today that OPEC is going to make about $927 Billion dollars from the sale of oil this year. That’s almost $1 Trillion dollars! Worldwide, sovereign wealth funds (SWF) are thought to be worth about $2.8 Trillion. Considering that the combined wealth of global nationalized assets is about $12 Trillion, that’s really impressive. It probably means that SWFs and OPEC will start buying up pieces of America, since they really can’t do much else with all those US Dollars. Of course, they could buy Treasuries, but it seems like everyone’s now realizing that they’re useless as the dollar keeps on devaluing. Meanwhile, the US government is helpless against stopping the sale of US assets. Our own SWF is negative $9 Trillion, so we have some catching up to do before we can actually buy anything. I think the government’s best bet is to make all those Trillion worthless by printing more and more dollars. Bernanke knows this and so far he’s doing a bang up job. Of course, this leads to severe inflation, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Considering how wrong our economic advisers have been so far, I think it’s safe to assume the 0.3% GDP growth that’s forecast for the year is a tad optimistic. While everyone’s still denying it, I think we’re already in a recession and along with inflation, that amounts to a 70s style stagflation scenario.

Considering that consumer spending has slowed down and is likely to continue, US companies are going to go through some tough times. How do you protect your stock investments then? You can’t sell them and move to cash, because the US dollar is sliding too. Coupled with inflation, your wealth is going to slowly (or maybe not so slowly) erode over the next several years.

Here are some investment ideas:

1. Diversify into foreign currencies: I like Australian Dollars, Swiss francs, Japanese Yen. Jim Rogers likes Chinese Remnimbi and Warren Buffett like the Brazilian Real. Take your pick.

2. Buy US giants with international exposure: Consumer staples have historically done very well over the past 60 years, regardless of the economic scenario. I like stocks with a decent dividend yield like Pfeizer (PFE), Johnson and Johnson (JNJ), Merck (MRK), Unilever (UNL), Proctor & Gamble (PG), Kraft Foods (KFT) and Anheuser-Busch (BUD).

3. Invest in agriculture: Bush’s moronic plan to reduce our reliance on foreign oil by substituting ethanol has only resulted in a surge corn prices. The economic growth in countries like China, India, Russia and Brazil is increasing the size of the world’s middle class. These people will be improving their diet and adding more meat and veggies. They’ll also be drinking more milk. There’s already surge in global prices of all of these soft commodities. There are quite a few ETFs that will help you profit from these trends, like PowerShares Agriculture (DBA) which consists of 30% soy, 28% wheat, 23% corn, 16% sugar, Van Eck Agribusiness (MOO) [8% Monsanto, 8% Mosaic, 8% Komatsu, 8% Potash Corp] and PowerShares Commodity (DBC) [33% crude oil, 20% heating oil, 14% wheat, 11% aluminum, 10% corn, 10% gold].

Along with this, a demand for fertilizer will result in compannies like Potash Corp (POT) doing very well. If you’d like to invest in milk, American Dairy (ADY) and Dairy Crest (DCG) are too suggestions, but I haven’t done much research on them.

4. Buy Gold: I don’t think it’s too late to start investing in gold. You can buy gold coins and bars, the gold ETF (GLD) or mining stocks (GDX).

5. Invest in Metals: The global boom is creating a huge increase in the demand for metals like copper, iron, aluminum, zinc, etc. Mining stocks like BHP and RIO have done very well. Indian company, Sterlite (STL) also looks like it has good long term prospects.

6. Invest in Infrastructure: Not only is America’s infrastructure collapsing, but global growth makes betting on infrastructure a safe bet. I like Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP).

7. Invest in Oil and Gas: Major oil companies like Exxon-Mobile(XOM) have served its investors well for decades. I’ve also invested in direct oil drilling programs, which go out and drill wells with your money and give you a share of the proceeds. I also like Canadian Royalty Trusts that invest in oil fields. There a few new ETFs that buy heating oil and gasoline futures. I’d stay away from these as their performance is as yet unknown and they might be subject to backwardation and contango.

8. Invest in Water: Water pipes all over the US are breaking. Built after WWII, these pipes had a lifespan off about 50 years. As the nation replaces these pipes over the next several years, cast-iron pipe companies are set to make a killing. Check out NorthWest Pipe (NWPX) and the water ETF (PHO).

I don’t know about the rest of US, but Nevada and Southern California are going to face a huge water shortage in the next decade. Most of the water comes from Lake Mead and the tremendous population growth in Las Vegas and Henderson has tapped the limits on the lake’s capacity. Check out this photo:

Lake Mead Hoover Dam

Dont’ you think a company that owned the water rights in Nevada and California would make a decent amount of cash over the next few years.


As I’ve been saying for a while, the US Dollar is headed for a slump. Peter Schiff thinks the dollar could lose 50% of its value.

He’s very pessimistic on the state of the economy and the housing market and recommends buying Gold, which he thinks could hit $2,500/Oz.

He also suggests buying foreign dividend-paying stocks, foreign commercial property stocks, foreign government & corporate bonds and investing in commodities.

Check out this short informative video:

Here’s an interesting link on how to profit from dollar devaluation and inflation.

Jim Rogers, co-founder of Quantum Fund along with George Soros, achieved 4,000% returns in the 80’s. He’s famous for being bearish on the US economy and the US Dollar. However, he’s currently bullish on the Dollar, saying that everyone is negative on it.

In his opinion, when too many people take one side of a trade, the opposite is likely to happen. The Dollar has been in a bear market since 2002, but it turned bullish during 2005. He thinks its over-sold and in the short-term at least, due for a correction.

While I’m not buying any Dollars, I could definitely use a spike in the USD for my entry point into Australian Dollars.

Many claim the dollar’s weakness is helping offset a dropoff in U.S. economic demand that’s come from a recession in the housing market. Goods priced in dollars are cheaper in Europe or Australia, and manufacturing in the U.S. becomes more attractive for companies that export goods. That helps preserve jobs in the U.S.

But a debased currency is a hefty price to pay for growth, and not an easily reversible one, says Rogers. It breeds inflation and weak purchasing power, which ultimately undermines any short-term boost in growth. He reiterated his belief that the U.S. dollar is bound for a decline similar to the British pound’s 50% decline in the early 1980s.

He’s not very impressed with Bernanke lowering the interest rates either.

“The fool went and cut interest rates with the stock market down 6%,” he says of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. “What’s he going to do when stocks are down 30%?”

He says Bernanke and the Fed are ignoring obvious evidence of inflation in food, education and entertainment prices.

“This is a man who’s made a career learning about printing money and now we’ve handed him the printing press,” he says, likening Bernanke to his predecessor Alan Greenspan in their penchant for saving the markets by cutting rates and inflating asset bubbles.

Rogers is a believer in the global growth story, particularly China’s. He said he’s sold out of all his emerging market investments except for his investments in China, claiming the other emerging nations have “been exploited by 20,000 MBAs running around looking for markets.”

Rogers hopes he’ll be able to pass down his Chinese stocks to his 4-year-old daughter, but adds he may be forced to sell.

“If a bubble develops in China in the next year or two, I’ll have to sell because bubbles end badly,” says Rogers, pointing to Japan, where stocks remain well below their levels of over a decade ago. But he believes Chinese stocks would have to double before he’d feel forced to sell.

The self-proclaimed “inactive investor” is not buying much these days. He’s bullish on commodities, though he agreed he’d be hard pressed to find anything to buy at these levels. If he’d buy any commodity it would be in the agricultural space rather than the metals, though he declined to specify one. He’s short the U.S. investment banks along with the dollar.

Next to China, Rogers says he’s long gold.

I’ll undoubtedly buy more gold,” he says, predicting it will double from here in the next few years.