commodity markets

Au Naturel

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / kadmy

We’ve written before about our positions in natural resource sector companies. They were key to both our pain in 2015 and our pleasure in 2016.

Noted investor Jeremy Grantham of Grantham, Mayo & van Otterloo (GMO) recently published additional insights on this topic in a white paper. Three of his nine key points are worthy of special mention:

1. “Resource equities have not only protected against inflation historically, but have actually significantly increased purchasing power in most inflationary periods.” Regular readers know we believe that prospects for increasing inflation are under-appreciated in today’s markets. Although we have no guarantees that we are correct in this view, and past performance is no guarantee of future results, we may be very well-positioned for a rise in inflation.

2. “We believe the prices of many commodities will rise in the decades to come due to growing demand and the finite supply of cheap resources.” Low prices have curtailed future supplies; we know how this works.

3. “Despite all of this, investors generally don’t have much exposure to resource equities.” As eclectic contrarians, we are used to marching to a different drummer. This is certainly the case in 2016 with regard to our exposures in this sector. The unstated premise is that when the crowd decides to gain exposure, a lot of money may shift into the sector. Again, no guarantees.

We are watching economic, business and market trends closely to see how this all comes out. We enjoyed the analysis by Jeremy Grantham, even as we guard against the fallacy of believing he is a genius because he agrees with us. As always, please call or email if you would like to discuss your position.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

Because of their narrow focus, sector investing will be subject to greater volatility than investing more broadly across many sectors and companies.

What Happened to my Account?

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / SergeyKuznecov

2015 has been a difficult year, investment-wise.

Most of us know how this works. We have periods where we laugh and laugh about how much money we’ve made, and other times where we want to cry and cry.

In addition to the ups and downs of the market, our accounts have spells where they behave differently than the broad market averages. Everyone has noticed the divergence this year.

So 2015 reminds us a lot of 1999, when the tech stock boom was in full swing. Midyear, we turned negative on large growth companies. But that was what everyone was buying. We preferred the bargains in “old economy” stocks like railroads and food companies and tractor makers. They went down and down while technology stocks went up and up. We seemed awfully stupid as our favorites ground lower month by month.

Of course, that all changed when the bubble burst. The high fliers ended up declining about 80% over the next two and a half years (the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index slid from a high of 5,408 in 2000 to a mere 1,108 in 2002), while the “old economy” stocks staged a good rally. In other words, we turned smart.

In trying to understand the carnage of 2015, one glaring fact stands out. All year long we have held the strong opinion that the best bargains in the market could be found in the natural resource sector. Companies that had anything to do with extracting minerals or oil from the ground started the year at amazingly depressed levels—bargain prices, in our view. Then they became cheaper. Then they became cheaper. Then they became cheaper. We seem awfully stupid, again!

We know how this works. At some point the gluts that have been so painful for many of our holdings will turn into shortages. Higher prices and growing revenues are the likely result. We’ve been through this with other holdings in the past, watching values getting chopped in half before tripling or quadrupling.

What we do takes patience. We never wanted 2015 to require so much of it, to require an explanation of performance divergences. But we believe the tide will turn, as it always seems to. Thank you for your business.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.