solar energy

Fall 2019 Market Themes


We believe potential investment gains live in the gap between the unfolding reality and consensus expectations. Often, this means finding undervalued companies in unpopular industries. The theory is, if the future turns out better than expected, values may rise. No guarantees, of course.

We look for promising investments by studying opportunities in detail, reading annual reports, SEC filings, analyst commentary, and doing our own arithmetic.

Although we look at individual companies, we often find themes in our list. Our current Buy List has certain points of emphasis.

Natural resources continue to attract us. Producers of copper may do well in the years and decades ahead, as solar and wind power and batteries combine in a new energy revolution. These things require copper for their manufacture. Companies that mine precious metals may do well in an environment of political and economic uncertainty.

Shares in biotech companies do not seem to reflect the potential for continuing dramatic strides in treatment and cure of disease. They sell at a discount to the market multiple; some offer dividend income.

The price of airline stocks have slipped, over fears of recession. We believe the current share prices more than adequately discount that possibility. And recessions are followed by recoveries (at least, they always have been).

Owning the largest company in a highly fragmented industry has sometimes been a good recipe for investors in the past. As industries consolidate, the bigger players often get bigger by acquisition of smaller companies. This may give them a growth rate in excess of the overall economy. We see opportunities in this concept.

We continue to be struck by the performance gap between international equity markets and the US, going back a decade. Overseas diversification makes increasing sense to us.

Our list includes other things as well, but each of these themes is well represented. We believe picking our spots, and paying attention to the fine points, is the right approach.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors. These risks are often heightened for investments in emerging markets.

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

The payment of dividends is not guaranteed. Companies may reduce or eliminate the payment of dividends at any given time.

Update: The Next Energy Revolution

© Can Stock Photo / kessudap

Our work involves looking at trends and striving to figure out if there is a way to make appropriate investments that may have a good chance to work out well. More than two years ago, we put together a pair of trends and made a forecast. It’s time to check in and see how the forecast is working out.

The cost of electricity from solar sources was said to be declining 10% per year, while the cost of electricity storage by battery was also declining. We felt then that this would lead to a revolution in energy production.

Installed solar generating capacity in the US grew 19% last year. The Solar Energy Industries Association projects that capacity will double in the next five years. In terms of new generating capacity by source, solar has ranked first or second each year for the past six years.1

Groundbreaking projects are going up around the world, too. The World Economic Forum reports that Abu Dhabi switched on the world’s largest virtual battery plant, able to store 648 megawatt hours. That’s enough to keep the city supplied for up to six hours in the event of a generating outage. This is feasible because the price of lithium-ion battery storage has dropped by more than 75% since 2012.2

As this combination of solar power generation plus battery storage commands a bigger share of global energy production, it seems to us that a lot of copper will be used. At the recent Global Copper Conference, a keynote speaker talked of record demand in the years ahead.

With prices on some mining companies that produce copper off by 75% or more from peaks of a few years ago, we see opportunity. This idea has not made large piles of money for anyone over the past few years, but the trend looks favorable. We believe we know how this turns out, so we are sticking with our convictions.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Notes and References

1. Solar Energy Industries Association, U.S. Solar Market Insight. Accessed May 7th, 2019.
2. World Economic Forum, “The Cost of Generating Renewable Energy Has Fallen – A Lot.” Accessed May 7th, 2019.