Words from the (Investment) Wise for the Week That Was (Dec 22 - 28, 2008): Part II

By: Prieur du Plessis | Sun, Dec 28, 2008
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Bloomberg: BlackRock's Robert Doll says 2009 to be "year of repair" for stocks
"Robert Doll, chief investment officer of global equities at BlackRock, talks with Bloomberg about the outlook for the equity market in 2009."

Source: Robert Doll, Bloomberg (via YouTube), December 23, 2008.

Eoin Treacy (Fullermoney): Keep an eye on divergence from 200-day moving averages
"S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average divergence from their 200-day moving averages - We first posted this indicator on October 10. The indicator hit historically oversold levels in early October as the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrials hit important lows. The indices and indicator both continue to consolidate above their October lows and mean reversion is certainly occurring.

"Although both indices are likely to be well off their lows by the time it occurs; sustained moves above their moving averages will indicate that a new uptrend has commenced."

Source: Eoin Tracy, Fullermoney, December 22, 2008.

Financial Times: Tokyo talks tough on yen intervention
"In a marked sharpening of Tokyo's language on the yen, senior government officials highlighted the possibility of intervention to stem the Japanese currency's rise against the dollar.

"Takeo Kawamura, the cabinet chief secretary, told a news conference that the government was closely watching the yen's movements, saying: 'We have conducted currency intervention in the past, and we will take appropriate measures, which include [intervention].'"

Source: Mure Dickie and Lindsay Whipp, Financial Times, December 18, 2008.

Richard Russell (Dow Theory Letters): How much is US dollar worth?
"I'm reading more and more about the viability of the dollar, if you can produce an item at no cost through a computer, what's that item worth? Why is the dollar worth anything at all? Because the US government mandates that the dollar is legal tender and can be used to settle all debt. Can the government back its fiat money? The dollar is worth something only because the US government says it is. 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help you.' That sentence is now considered a joke, but then why should anyone take the government's pronouncement that the dollar is 'legal tender' seriously?

"Then why do people trust Federal Reserve Notes or fiat dollars? Why do people work for, and save fiat dollar? The answer is that many generations (since 1971) have grown up with fiat dollars - they don't know anything else. It never occurs to them that Federal Reserve Notes have absolutely nothing behind them but a government decree."

Source: Richard Russell, Dow Theory Letters, December 23 & 26, 2008.

Business Report: Don't bet on decline of SA rand
"UBS withdrew its recommendation that investors hedge against further declines in the South African rand versus the dollar, euro and yen as a lift in 'risk appetite' shores up emerging-market assets.

"The Zurich-based bank is closing bets that the rand may weaken further at the 'start' of 2009, as policy makers in the world's major economies lower borrowing costs to ease the effects of a global recession, Roderick Ngotho, UBS's currency strategist for emerging Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said in a report last week.

"'We feel there could be a short-term pick-up in risk appetite at the start of next year due to the central bank actions we've seen,' Ngotho said.

"'In an environment where liquidity is relatively thin, the rand could appreciate along with other currencies in emerging Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the short term.'

"The deficit on South Africa's current account, which widened to 7.9% of GDP in the third quarter, remained a 'persistent vulnerability' for the rand, Ngotho said. South Africa relies on foreign purchases of its stocks and bonds to fund the shortfall, inflows that reversed this year as investors sold emerging market assets amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

"Foreign investors have sold almost R67 billion more than they bought of South African assets this year, data from its stock and bond exchanges show.

"'Inflows into South Africa's capital account may fall short of the financing required for the current account deficit in 2009,' Ngotho said. 'The deficit would then need to be corrected by a sharply weaker currency.'

"The government may need to access some other source of multilateral financing to fund the deficit and prevent the rand from weakening further, according to UBS. South Africa would qualify to borrow more than $13 billion under the International Monetary Fund's short-term loan facility, the report said."

Source: Garth Theunissen, Business Report, December 22, 2008.

Javier Blas (Financial Times): Has Opec stopped the slide?
"Was Opec successful in stopping the slide in oil prices? It depends on how you analyse the numbers.

"A look at the Nymex front-month West Texas Intermediate contract, the oil market's main benchmark, gives the impression of Opec failure. It plunged from $43.60 a barrel ahead of the meeting to close at a 4½-year low of $33.87 at the end of last week. A drop of $10 sounds very much like a vote of no confidence in the cartel.

"This view is, however, misleading. The Nymex WTI front-month benchmark - in this case, the January contract - expired last Friday, distorting prices. The February contract, which on Monday became the market's benchmark, was far more stable, losing $2 to $42.36.

"But even this measure is incomplete. To attain a fairer view, it is necessary to dig deeper into the world of physical crude oil contracts.

"As the cartel pumps mostly lower quality, heavy sour crude, the cuts will affect those grades first. It is there where the market should look for clues about the impact.

"It seems to be working. The price difference between lower quality, heavy sour crude, such as Dubai - the Middle East benchmark - and higher quality, light, sweet oil, such as WTI, has narrowed sharply, pointing to a tighter market.

"Opec still faces a daunting job delivering its promised cuts amid fast-weakening demand, but investors should not disregard the cartel because the WTI January contract was weak.

"For the time being, the physical market is giving Opec a cautious thumbs up."

Source: Javier Blas, Financial Times, December 21, 2008.

CNBC: Dennis Gartman - downward barrel
Discussing oil droppping below $40, with Dennis Gartman of The Gartman Letter.

Source: CNBC, December 23, 2008.

Richard Russell (Dow Theory Letters): Finally, gold shares showing outperformance
"I've been saying all along that somewhere the gold shares will believe in rising gold rather than a sinking stock market. The evidence is seen on the chart below. Here we see GDX divided by Gold, the ratio is finally surging in favor of GDX the gold shares. You can see that the downtrend has been reversed and I expect the gold shares to move with gold from now on. Relative strength trends tend to last a long time."

Source: Richard Russell, Dow Theory Letters, December 26, 2008.

Commodity Online: NCDEX to launch global contracts in gold & silver
"NCDEX is all to launch Gold & Silver International futures contracts on the exchange on Monday, December 29, 2008.

"A press statement issued from NCDEX said that these contracts named Gold International and Silver International can be bought and sold in lots of one kg and 30 kg respectively.

"The contract size has been defined keeping in view the Indian consumer and the recent price trends. These contracts will be physically settled at Ahmedabad. Contracts would be settled on the basis of international prices in rupee denomination.

"On account of persistent market demand and keeping in mind the fact that India is a big importer of bullion, NCDEX has now introduced these new contracts, the statement said."

Source: Commodity Online, December 27, 2008.

David Fuller (Fullermoney): Planinum is best value precious metal
"Markets are only efficient to the extent that they reflect sentiment. Today, many savvy investors want some gold in their portfolios. We agree and this site has previously discussed at length the reasons for doing so. A minority of precious metal enthusiasts also want silver, which Fullermoney has long argued, performs like high-beta gold. We too like silver.

"Some of us also think that platinum is the best value precious metal today. I will let this ratio chart do the talking.

"Today, the price of platinum is only slightly higher than that of gold. Consequently, platinum is trading near its lowest level relative to gold for at least 22 years. (Bloomberg does not have earlier data on platinum prices.) In this decade to date, platinum has traded at more than 2.2 times the price of gold on three occasions. Therefore in terms of relative values, we especially like platinum today.

"Inevitably, there are reasons for such wide price swings. Almost all of the platinum produced today comes from South Africa. Supply disruptions, most recently due to power outages, caused the earlier scrambles for scarce supplies of platinum. This is not a problem today, at least not at the moment. Instead, people have shunned platinum because the global automobile industry is in a slump. This reduces demand for platinum used in the manufacturing of catalytic converters.

"That factor is certainly reflected by today's low price for platinum relative to gold. I believe investors are overlooking the possibility of supply disruptions in South Africa. Meanwhile, the white metal's price has flat lined in probable base formation development."

Source: David Fuller, Fullermoney, December 24, 2008.

Financial Times: China battles unemployment to deter unrest
"Tackling unemployment among university graduates will be China's priority next year as the economy falters, Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, said at the weekend.

"The attention given by state media to Mr Wen's visit to a Beijing university was the latest sign of the government's increasing fear of widespread unrest as growth declines much faster than expected.

"'We have made finding jobs for university students our top priority and will come out with some measures to make sure all graduates have somewhere constructive to direct their energy,' Mr Wen told students at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

"He said the government was also extremely concerned about migrant workers who had been laid off in the cities. By the end of November, 10 million migrant workers had lost their jobs nationwide and 4.85 million of those had returned home, according to government figures.

"A survey last week by a government think tank estimated the number of recent graduates who have been unable to find work at 1.5 million. Tertiary institutions are expected to churn out another 6.5 million graduates next year.

"In recent weeks, a growing chorus of official voices has raised the spectre of unrest. 'If growth falls below 8% then that will create enormous problems in terms of unemployment,' according to Zhang Xiaojing, director of the Macroeconomy Office of the Institute of Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"'There will be lots of laid-off migrant workers returning to the villages, not to mention the many college graduates and this will affect social stability.'

"Mr Zhang linked the continuing riots in Greece directly to the global economic crisis and said that Beijing was wary of a similar situation erupting in China."

Source: Jamil Anderlini, Financial Times, December 21, 2008.

Bloomberg: China may spur consumer spending after lowering rates
"China may follow its latest interest-rate cut with steps to spur consumer spending as deepening recessions in the US and Europe pummel exports, one of the main engines of the world's fourth-largest economy.

"The People's Bank of China yesterday lowered its one-year lending rate by 0.27 percentage point to 5.31% and the deposit rate by the same amount to 2.25%. The central bank also reduced the proportion of deposits lenders must set aside as reserves by 0.5 percentage point.

"Chinese stocks fell on concern the cut was too small to shore up the economy, which may grow at the slowest pace in two decades next year. Premier Wen Jiabao, who unveiled a $583 billion stimulus package for roads and bridges last month, may also reduce taxes and try to prop up the housing market, economists said.

"Officials 'will continue to ease monetary policy and introduce additional fiscal stimulus measures, particularly in support of domestic consumption,' said Jing Ulrich, head of China equities at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Hong Kong."

Source: Li Yanping and Kevin Hamlin, Bloomberg, December 23, 2008.

US Global Investors: China's fiscal stimulus represents long-term opportunity
"China's infrastructure stimulus represents a 23% increase in total construction spending, compared with 4 percent in the US and 2% in Europe. While the impact may not be immediate, this fiscal initiative continues to be a long term opportunity for the market overall."

Source: US Global Investors - Weekly Investor Alert, December 26, 2008.

Financial Times: Japanese exports in record 27% fall
"Japan's exports plunged at a record annual pace in November with shipments to Asia dropping the most since 1986 as a global economic slump and a surging yen slashed demand for everything from autos to electronics.

"While imports fell 14.4% as the Japanese economy languished in recession, the 26.7% plunge in exports was large enough to keep the trade balance in deficit for a second month running. Japan last logged trade deficits two months in a row during a previous spell of yen strength in 1980.

"The Japanese currency has surged around 20% against the dollar this year as investors spooked by the global financial crisis bailed out of risky assets and brought funds home.

"Shipments to the United States sank a record 33.8 per cent on slack demand for automobiles. The United States is in recession and American demand for Japanese goods has been falling for 15 months, ever since US mortgage defaults started to squeeze global credit markets.

"By contrast Asian markets held up for much of the crisis, but are now crumbling at dizzying speed. Exports to Asia fell 26.7% in November. Shipments to China dropped 24.5%, the biggest fall since 1995, on weak demand for semiconductors, digital cameras and other electronic goods, the Ministry of Finance said.

"'The drop shows that domestic demand in China for Japanese goods is not that strong,' said Kaori Yamato, an economist at Mizuho Research Institute. The Chinese economy is slowing sharply as exports to Europe and the United States plunge."

Source: Mure Dickie, Financial Times, December 22, 2008.

Reuters: Japan output slumps
"Export-reliant Asian economies showed more signs of weakness on Friday, with Japan's industrial output diving at a record pace and South Korea warning it faces an 'unprecedented crisis' as global demand wilts.

"Even the once unstoppable Chinese economy is feeling the strain, with companies recording a sharp slowdown in profit growth in the first 11 months of the year.

"On top of Japan's steep fall in industrial output in November, core consumer inflation fell faster than forecast last month, putting the shrinking economy on course for a spell of deflation next year.

"The grim outlook could push the Bank of Japan to implement unorthodox monetary easing measures as it has little room left to cut interest rates after reducing them to 0.10% last week.

"But Japan's Economics Minister Kaoru Yosano said he doubted that any so-called quantitative easing by the Bank of Japan would directly lead to an increase in loans to companies to get the economy moving again.

"Facing the worst international economic environment in more than eight decades, Yosano said his government would act flexibly on possible additional spending measures if conditions deteriorated further."

Source: Hideyuki Sano and Yuko Yoshikawa, Reuters, December 26, 2008.

Reuters: Ireland to pour billions into 3 main banks
"The Irish government will invest 5.5 billion euros in the country's three main lenders, taking majority control of Anglo Irish Bank after a loan scandal there rocked an already beleaguered industry.

"Investors have been waiting for months for a bailout plan to match schemes in other countries, but pressure on the government intensified this week after Anglo Irish revealed its chairman had kept shareholders in the dark about 87 million euros worth of loans he had received from the lender. Its shares slumped to a record low of 19 euro cents and the financial regulator has launched a probe into directors' loans at all major Irish banks.

"'This is a new beginning. We have to have proper lending, responsible lending, lending for the real needs of the economy,' Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said on Sunday.

"Dublin will invest 2 billion euros each in market leaders Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks via preference shares giving 25% voting rights over what the government described as 'key issues'.

"The package will be paid for from funds set aside during Ireland's 'Celtic Tiger' economic boom and originally intended to meet the state's future pension obligations."

Source: Kevin Smith and Carmel Crimmins, Reuters, December 22, 2008.

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Prieur du Plessis

Author: Prieur du Plessis

Dr Prieur du Plessis

Dr Prieur du Plessis

With 25 years' experience in investment research and portfolio management, Dr Prieur du Plessis is one of the most experienced and well-known investment professionals in South Africa. More than 1 000 of his articles on investment-related topics have been published in various regular newspaper, journal and Internet columns. He also published a book, Financial Basics: Investment, in 2002.

He holds the following degrees: BSc (Quantity Surveying) (Cape Town), HonsB (B & A) (cum laude) (Stellenbosch), MBA (cum laude) (Stellenbosch); and DBA (Doctor of Financial Management) (Stellenbosch).

Prieur is chairman of the Plexus group of companies, which he founded in 1995. Previously he was general manager: portfolio management at Sanlam, responsible for the management of investment portfolios with total assets in excess of $5 billion.

Plexus is a pioneer in the mutual fund industry and has achieved a number of firsts under Prieur's leadership. These include the authoritative Plexus Survey, a quarterly analysis of the consistency of the performance of unit trust management companies, the Plexus Offshore Survey, the Plexus Unit Trust Indices, and the PlexCrown Fund Ratings.

Plexus is the South African partner of John Mauldin, American author of the most widely distributed investment newsletter in the world, and also has an exclusive licensing agreement with California-based Research Affiliates for managing and distributing its enhanced Fundamental Index™ methodology in the Pan-African area.

In 2001 Prieur received the Santam/AHI Business Leader of the Year award for corporate leadership, business acumen and entrepreneurial flair. He was also profiled in the book South Africa's Leading Managers (2006). Plexus received the AHI/Old Mutual Enterprise of the Year award in 1997 and was also included in the book South Africa's Most Promising Companies (2005).

Prieur is 52 years old and lives with his wife, TV producer and presenter Isabel Verwey, and two children in Welgemoed, Cape Town. His recreational activities include long-distance running, motor cycling and reading. He belongs to the Cape Town Club, Johannesburg Country Club, Gordon's Bay Yacht Club and Swiss Social & Sports Club.

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