Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jim Rogers: A Retrospective

After thinking this morning about commodities and inflationary prospects, I watched a Jim Rogers interview from 1995, which I have included below. You will have to fast forward a bit, because he appears toward the end. Here are a few of his predictions from 1995:

“Next year and the year after, I don’t think we’re going to have good times in the American stock market.”

“Inflation is coming.”

“Commodity prices are going through the roof.”

Best country to invest in right now: “Iran.”

“Everything in life comes down to timing.”

Well, it looks as if Jim's timing was profoundly wrong.

In fact, much of this flies in the face of what he said in Hot Commodities, published a decade later, which was to the effect of “if you went through the 1990s and didn't touch shares in technology companies then you missed out on massive gains," essentially meaning that it was a mistake caused by not being open to new things.

But, as you can see, he was saying the exact same stuff back then as he is today. And he certainly wasn't talking about technology.

Anyone who continues saying that inflation will come or commodities will rise is bound to be proven right at some point. This not to single out
Rogers as being wrong, but to emphasize my stance on how difficult it is to predict macro events – unless, that is, you only have one perennial prediction.

What history shows is that, aside from short-term macro shocks, the best asset class to own, by far, is stocks. And if you can buy those stocks at depressed prices or in periods of intense fear, then your total return can be magnified significantly.

and, labor, capital and commodities are combined to create businesses that increase productivity. And while any one of those factors may become relatively attractive during a boom, owning excellent businesses – or fractional interests, called stocks – is the best investment over the long haul.

Keynes predicted that the great financial fortunes –
paper fortunes, such as the Rothschilds in his day – would be destroyed by long-run inflation. Clearly, this has not happened.

Quite the contrary: the countries with the most developed financial systems have always been the most prosperous, whether the Medicis in Renaissance Italy, the Rothschilds in 19th-century London, or today's commanding skyscraper in Lower Manhattan that reads, simply: "85".

Thus, while the gloom and doom is persuasive nowadays, I remain highly skeptical that the world financial or otherwise is coming to an end. I lean more towards John Paulson's prediction that massive returns will accrue to buyers of solid, yet beaten-down financial stocks, as the smoke clears and we emerge from this crisis.

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This work by Nicholas E. Radice is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.