Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Marc Faber, Q&A on India investing

Faber says he won't put money in India at this point, but is positive on its economy in long term. Excerpts:

The Fed clearly has indicated that after QE2, no QE3. One is getting a sense that the cost of capital is moving up. Do you think the risk-off trade could start again?

No further stimulus. We have to qualify that statement. I think they will end QE2 and not tighten monetary conditions, but there could be a relative tightening the way we had it after the end of QE1 until QE2 was announced last August. So for the next three months or so, asset markets will continue to drift lower. Traditionally the month of May is very weak.

Also June and then from June on, we have some seasonal strength developing until the end of July, early August and then we have weak September-October months, seasonally speaking. The markets are oversold at the present time. We could re-bounce somewhat from herein to the end of July and then have another ground draft in October-November, but my forecast is very simple. If the S&P were to drop from here by, say, another 10-20%, for sure, for sure you will get QE3. There is no doubt about this.

How big a risk then is a crisis in the US economy for markets like us?

It depends on how you define a real crisis. Basically we had a boom into 2007, but the boom did not really help the average person in the United States. The boom was concentrated in asset prices and the financial sector and well-to-do people. The workers did not benefit much. Then we have the crisis in 2008, unemployment goes up and since then, employment has hardly gained, but we have the boom in emerging economies because of the money printing and the transmission mechanism.

So a crisis in the US, we are to some extent still in crisis for the workers, for the lower middle class, and we had a recovery in asset prices, notably equities, but not real estate, which essentially means the Bernanke would have liked to see rising real estate prices. So whether we will have a further crisis, I am not so sure, but the global financial system will eventually blow up because we have not solved the problems, we have postponed them.

In 2008, the financial sector went bankrupt and the government stepped in with bailouts and as a result of that, government's debt everywhere have gone through the roof and made governments more vulnerable to themselves failing one day, especially in the United States, in my opinion. Jim Chanos always says China is Dubai times a thousand. In my view, the US is Greece like a thousand times.


When it comes to India, how much cash should an investor actually hold at this point in time if you were to construct a portfolio in Indian equities?

First of all, I would not put all my money in any emerging economy or in any country. I would have a geographical diversification. I would also have a diversification in assets, some commodities, some equities, some bonds, some cash and some real estate. So I would not put all my money into India to start with.

Given an option to invest in India, what are the kind of stocks you would like to own -- growth-oriented stocks, concept stocks or high dividend-yielding stocks?

Markets have peaked out and I think we are in a correction period. We had a huge move in India from the lows in 2009 to the recent highs, and we are coming down now. We may drop another 10-20%, who knows? Longer term I am reasonably positive for the Indian economy or very positive for the Indian economy. But what disturbs me nowadays are less economic factors than geopolitical factors because the friendship between India and America has been renewed and expanded and that is a threat to China and so China is getting closer. They have always been close to Pakistan and that creates a new set of tensions. We could have a lot of volatility in asset markets as a result of geopolitical trends.

Your take on gold and how much of a bull are you still on that commodity?

First of all it is true that gold has gone up from $252 in 1999 to now $1550 an ounce. However, at the same time over this 11-year period, the quantity of money in the world and the quantity of credit in the world has exploded. So that I could make a case that actually maybe gold is cheaper today than it was in 1999 adjusted for the increase in the quantity of money and credit.

Secondly, today we have many more people that have become affluent, just think of the well-to-do people in India, then Indian middle class, the middle class in China, the well-to-do people in China, it has exploded over the last 11 years. And all these people I guarantee you, they are all essentially flooded with US dollars and so for them to take a little bit of their money and park it into gold is a no-brainer in the long run. I go to many conferences every year.

They usually ask the audience even at resource conferences, how many of you have more than 5% of their portfolio assets in gold? I have been at a conference in Singapore two days ago, among 500 people involved in real estate, not one had more than 5% of his assets in gold. I guess most of them did not have any gold at all, and so if someone tells me it is a bubble, I can tell you in year 1999-2000, the whole world was gambling in NASDAQ stocks, in telecom stocks and the media companies everywhere in the world. Now most people that I know have actually already sold their gold.


What about emerging market stocks? And within the emerging market basket, what do you like -- cyclicals, defensives?

Broadly-based international portfolio should have at least 50% of its assets in emerging economies. We are talking about stock portfolios. The question is do you buy today or you wait? I do not know when the markets will bottom out. I do not know when the QE3 will be implemented, but I would say in Asia, you have a lot of shares that have a dividend yield of between 4 and 7%. You have zero interest rates on deposits. So I do not think there is a huge downside risk in equities. Now can they go down 20-30%? Yes, but if you cannot take the pain of downside volatility in the order of 20-30%, then do not even get up in the morning from your bed, stay in bed.

What are you pricing in when it comes to Greece and the debt crisis over there? Is it boom or is it just gloom?

Greece is a bust, it is as simple as that. If it was a company, it would go into bankruptcy, into liquidation, into restructuring and the bond holders or the creditors would have to take huge haircuts, probably in the order of 70-80%. But here comes the government, of course the government and the IMF and the ECB, they know everything better than anybody else. So they bail it out. This is the problem I just explained. The financial system went bust. Now the governments are extending the credit and as a result, their credit worthiness is declining and eventually a lot of countries will go bust because they help the weak companies or the weak country survive.




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