Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dr. Doom vs. The Investment Biker

Roubini versus Rogers. Let's recap the match to date. First, Nouriel Roubini gets in the ring by himself and starts shadow boxing. He warns that a "wall of liquidity" and "the mother of all carry trades" (via the dollar) are sparking asset bubbles and could lead to another financial crisis.

Next, for some reason Jim Rogers decides to step into the ring, takes offense that Roubini is swinging, throws a quick jab that lands squarely on Mr. Roubini's feelings. More specifically, Rogers said that "Mr. Roubini hasn't done his homework." Rogers claims that there is no bubble in gold, equities, or commodities. Instead, Rogers asserts that they've all simply had a very good year. He then goes on to say that gold could reach $2,000 per ounce in the next decade.

Not to be outdone, Roubini throws a powerful hook intended to knock out Jim's gold fillings. He states that Jim's claim that gold will reach $2,000 is "utter nonsense."

And that brings us to the end of round three. Ultimately, these two publicity hounds both win from this spat given all of the...well...publicity. If their publicists are worth their salt, Rogers will next come out and claim that Roubini's accent is fake. Roubini then fires back that the only bike Jim could ride is a senior scooter. Someone leaks a sex tape...

Let's ignore the personal jabs for a moment and look at the content of what they're both saying. They both make some valid points. Equity markets and many commodities have indeed had very good years so far. Are they cheap? Not many. Are they in bubble territory today? There are a handful of asset classes in select countries that I would argue are in a bubble, but for the most part, most assets are simply overvalued. Jim is right that we don't have bubbles (for the most part) yet, but Roubini is right in warning that the excess liquidity and dollar carry trade will ultimately create bubbles and another financial crisis. See how easy that was.

As for gold, I have more sympathy for Rogers. I'd be curious to know what Roubini has been saying about gold since it bottomed near $260 per ounce in 2001. I may be wrong, but I doubt that he ever expected it to reach $1,080, a four-fold increase in 8 years. Rogers stated that he expected gold to double to $2,000 in the next decade. 7% per year for 10 years will get you there. Whether it happens or not, it strikes me as somewhat naive to call that "utter nonsense," particularly in light of the currency debasement and massive deficits we're experiencing. Actually, when I put it that way, $2,000 gold in the next decade seems practically assured unless Washington suddenly finds religion when it comes to fiscal restraint (no sign of it today with the extension of the ridiculous home-buying credit).

Bottom line: Whether or not we're yet in bubble territory and regardless of whether gold reaches $2,000 in the next decade, this little spat is probably pushing the speaking fees for Rogers and Roubini squarely into bubble territory.

Disclosure: Aspera Financial, LLC has been and remains overweight gold and gold equities.

The Market Rubbernecker is affiliated with Aspera Financial, LLC, a registered investment advisor. Please read the disclaimer on the home page of the Market Rubbernecker site.