Our Chat With Jeremy Grantham – The Wall Street Journal 09-20-13

Salient to Investors:

Jeremy Grantham at GMO said:

Commodity prices fell for a hundred years by an average of 70 percent, and then from 2002 basically everything tripled and regained the whole decline in 6 years – tobacco was the only commodity that fell. The game changed because of the ridiculous growth rates in China whose 1.3 billion people use 45 percent of the coal used in the world, 50 percent of all the cement and 40 percent of all the copper.

The most important, valuable and critical commodity is phosphate or phosphorous, which is necessary for all living things. Yet we are mining and depleting it. 85 percent of the low-cost, high-quality phosphorous is in Morocco and belongs to the King of Morocco, and the rest of the world has 50 years of reserve if we don’t grow too fast.

I would own stock in the ground, great resources, reserves of phosphorous, potash, oil, copper, tin, zinc, but aluminum and iron ore less so because there is so much. I would not own coal or tar sands because it is hugely expensive to build coal utilities, and plants for tar sands are massive. So before they get their money back, the price of solar and wind will have come down so much.

The pressures on food are worse than anything else, so invest wisely in very good farmland, though it has had a big run and you can never afford to ignore value. Look for farmland in distinctly stable countries like Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, Brazil, Canada, and the US. Forestry is a little overpriced but we are in a world where everything is overpriced because of incredibly low interest rates that push people into investing.

A career politician has a very short horizon and is not interested in problems that go out five or 10 years, as are corporations because a dollar in 10 years has a much lower value than a dollar today. The oil industry is making a bundle so does not want to change to a system that recognizes climate change and the need to have a tax on carbon.

With politicians so dependent on campaign contributions from the vested interests, the financial world, but more particularly the energy world, it is a miracle anything gets done.

The central idea in the stock market is patience and value and mean reversion and in society, it is resources and climate damage.

The market can go a lot higher with the Fed pushing it – to yet another real bubble, like the one in 2000 with Greenspan, the housing bubble and financial bubble with Bernanke and Greenspan.

America and Australia are the two very, very optimistic-biased societies. Mention housing bubble to Australians, they hate you for years! Optimism is very useful in enterprise, in start-ups because when the smoke clears, you end up with the Amazons and the Googles – we just throw more darts at the dartboard. But the downside is only 10 percent survive, but they all think they’re going to win.

Read the full article at http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323665504579032934293143524

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