Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
Technology Investor. Harry Newton
9:00 AM EST, Wednesday, January 28, 2009:
Lord give me just one more boom.
I promise I won't piss this one away.
So goes a favorite
bumper sticker in Calgary, Canada. Calgary is an oil town. It has boomed and
busted with the best of them. Diversification is not in the Calgary vocabulary.
"Why should it be?" asked a savvy investor, " Oil has been
so good to us. Especially when it was $147."
The Obama honeymoon
is over. Or, more precisely, the economists in the Obama administration seem
to know as much (or as little) as the previous administration. How stupid
for our new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to pick a fight with China
-- and to give them the same stupid advice about letting their currency appreciate
that the last administration did. See today's Bloomberg
story -- "Geithners Yuan Call Rejected as Horrible
Advice at Davos." We rely on China to buy our treasurys. If it
weren't for China, the interest on our national debt would have bankrupted
us eons ago.
Which it may
us to us. What do we do? Obvious conclusions: Stay out of equities.
Short the obvious ones (Capital One), Mark my words: This market will be lower
by the end of 2009. But it will be characterized by oodles of dead cat bounces.
Put your money in FDIC-insured CDs. Buy some gold. And wait this one out.
Now to more
gloom and doom. I bring you last Friday's Roubini Wall Street Journal piece.
Very well written and very well depressing:
the World Economy to Suffer Through 2009
Political risk is a bigger factor than ever.
By IAN BREMMER
and NOURIEL ROUBINI
experts are now saying that though this will be a turbulent year for global
markets, the worst of the financial crisis is now behind us. Would it were
so. We believe that 2009 will be tougher than many anticipate.
We enter the
new year grappling with the most serious global economic and financial crisis
since the Great Depression. The U.S. economy is, at best, halfway through
a recession that began in December 2007 and will prove the longest and most
severe of the postwar period. Credit losses of close to $3 trillion are
leaving the U.S. banking and financial system insolvent. And the credit
crunch will persist as households, financial firms and corporations with
high debt ratios and solvency problems undergo a sharp deleveraging process.
Worse, all of the world's advanced economies are in recession. Many emerging
markets, including China, face the threat of a hard landing. Some fear that
these conditions will produce a dangerous spike in inflation, but the greater
risk is for a kind of global "stag-deflation": a toxic combination
of economic stagnation, recession and falling prices. We're likely to see
vulnerable European markets (Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria), key Latin American
markets (Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador and Mexico), Asian countries (Pakistan,
Indonesia and South Korea), and countries like Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic
states facing severe financial pressure.
will have limited effect as insolvency problems constrain the effectiveness
of monetary stimulus, and the risk of rising interest rates (following the
issuance of a wave of public debt) erodes the growth effects of fiscal stimulus
packages. Only when insolvent banks are shut down, others are cleaned up,
and the debt level of insolvent households is reduced will conditions ease.
Between now and then, we can expect further downside risks to equity markets
and other risky assets, given the likelihood that markets will continue
to be jolted by worse-than-expected financial news.
The U.S. twin
fiscal and current-account deficits will rise over the next two years as
the country runs trillion dollar-plus fiscal deficits. We're all aware that
foreign actors have financed most of this debt over the past several years.
During the 1980s, the U.S. also faced the burdens of twin deficits, but
relied on financing from key strategic partners like Japan and Germany.
This time, the situation is more worrisome because today's financing comes
not from U.S. allies, but from strategic rivals like Russia, China and a
number of relatively unstable petrostates. This leaves the U.S. perilously
dependent on the kindness of strangers.
good news in this interdependence. The mutually assured economic destruction
that this relationship implies ensures that China can't simply pull the
plug on all this financing without suffering a considerable amount of self-inflicted
pain. Reducing its financing of Washington would, among other things, put
significant upward pressure on the value of China's currency, sharply undermining
its export sector and, therefore, the country's economic growth.
But over time,
the ability and willingness of China and others to finance U.S. deficits
will diminish as they begin to run fiscal deficits of their own. They'll
need to use their financial resources at home just as a tsunami of U.S.
Treasury bond issuances peaks.
make matters worse, primarily because governments in both the rich and the
developing worlds are intervening in their economies more broadly and deeply
than at any time since the end of World War II. Policy makers around the
world are hard at work crafting stimulus packages filled with subsidies
and protections they hope will breathe new life into their domestic economies,
and preparing to rewrite the rules and regulations that govern global markets.
Why is this
dangerous? At the G-20 summit a few weeks ago, world leaders pledged to
address the crisis by coordinating their economic policy responses. That's
not going to happen, because politicians design stimulus packages with political
motives -- to satisfy the needs of their constituents -- not to address
imbalances in the global economy. This is as true in Washington as in Beijing.
That's why politics will drive the global economy more directly (and less
efficiently) in 2009 than at any point in decades. Its politics that is
creating the biggest risk for markets this year.
This is part
of a worrisome long- term trend. In China and Russia, where histories of
command economics predispose governments toward what we've come to call
state capitalism, the phenomenon is especially obvious. National oil companies,
other state-owned enterprises, and sovereign wealth funds have brought politicians
and political bureaucrats into economic decision-making on a scale we haven't
seen in a very long time.
Now the U.S.
has gotten in on the game. New York, once the financial capital of the world,
is no longer even the financial capital of the U.S. That honor falls on
Washington, where lawmakers are now injecting populist politics into economics
decisions. Companies and sectors that should be left to drown are being
floated lifeboats. This drama is also playing out across Europe and Asia.
As engines of economic growth, Shanghai is losing ground to Beijing, Mumbai
to Delhi, and Dubai to Abu Dhabi.
will also face the more traditional forms of political risk in 2009. Militancy
in an increasingly unstable and financially fragile Pakistan will continue
to spill across borders into Afghanistan and India. National elections in
Israel and Iran risk bringing the international conflict over Iran's nuclear
program to a boil, injecting new volatility into oil markets. The impact
of the financial crisis on Russia's economy could produce significant levels
of unrest across the country. And Iraq may face renewed civil violence,
as recently dormant militia groups compete to fill the vacuum left by departing
first global recession is just getting started.
president of Eurasia Group, is co-author of the forthcoming book "The
Fat Tail: The Power of Political Knowledge for Strategic Investing"
(Oxford University Press). Mr. Roubini is a professor of economics at New
York University's Stern School of Business and chairman of RGE Monitor.
Open Tennis continues. The huge time difference
between us and Australia makes this ideal for TiVo. M = Men, W = Women, D
= Doubles. All times EST. The tennis is unbelievably exciting. Sadly, every
one of the players is better than I am. My wife points out they're also younger.
I'm repeating yesterday's jokes for three reasons. First,
they were so good. Second, I don't have any better ones this morning. Third,
I played tennis at 7 AM. I ran short of time.
spam is rare. But this one is the best.
A woman proudly told her friend, "I'm responsible for making
my husband a millionaire."
he before he married you?" the friend asked.
wife, "A billionaire."
the old days
A tour guide was showing a tourist around Washington, D. C. The guide pointed
out the place where George Washington supposedly threw a dollar across the
"That's impossible," said the tourist. "No one could throw
a coin that far!"
"You have to remember," answered the guide. "A dollar went
a lot farther in those days."
This column is about my personal search for the perfect
investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered
with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor.
I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three
reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column
is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect
Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas,
concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address
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