Gold News

Commodities to Boom Bigger Yet

So says this leading Gold Bullion and commodities analyst...

BULLISH on Gold Bullion, Jeffrey Christian – managing director of the CPM Groupconsultancy in New York – see commodity prices coming down to reflect a slowdown in global economic growth.

But he doesn't foresee a prolonged drop in copper, crude oil and the rest, since he doesn't buy the "double-dip" theory – as he explains here to Hard Assets Investor...

Hard Assets Investor: Jeffrey, we spoke about gold in the last discussion. Let's talk a little bit about the broader market for commodities.

Jeffrey Christian, managing director, CPM Group: Right. Commodities are radically different from gold. And our view, again, looking at the economy, our view is that we are going to see a significant slowdown in the US and China and maybe some other economies in the second half of this year. But we don't think we're going into a new recession. We don't think that we're going into a double-dip, although the risk is higher now, than it seemed three months ago.

Our expectations are that, for example, US GDP – which was running 3.5-3.8% in the first half of this year – probably will run 1.5-2.0% in the second half, and then pick up in 2011. And in China, you've been running north of 11% real GDP growth. Maybe it comes down to between 10 and 11% in the second half.

Europe actually is doing a little bit better, relatively, first half/second half, simply because the first half was so pathetic for Europe. But Europe is showing some strength.

HAI: But there's going to be austerity and spending cuts of all kinds – potentially very deflationary policies – in Europe.

Jeffrey Christian: Not only in Europe, but in Japan and the United States. And you put that together with the slower real growth in the United States and China, and you could have a softening of markets. And I think you're seeing expectations of that in the commodities markets already. So, the prices are coming off a little bit.

We don't think they'll fall too far, but we think that in the second half of 2010 we'll see some softness across most commodity markets. And then as the world economy and the US economy picks up steam in 2011, we would expect commodity prices to start rising again.

HAI: What effect, if any, do you think we'll see from the de-pegging of the Chinese currency to Renminbi from the US Dollar?

Jeffrey Christian: I think it's going to be relatively minor; maybe a quarter of a percentage point change. Because what you're going to see is a shift in fabrication demand patterns. The Chinese have really done a solid to the US by saying that they're going to allow the yuan to rise. That means that their labor costs will become a little bit less competitive against the US But, it's going to be a significant marginal difference.

And what you're going to see is a shift in fabrication demand away from China to other Southeast Asian countries, Latin American countries, the United States and Europe, to some extent. So it's going to be probably a positive for real economic growth. And it's really going to be a relocation of the shift in demand.

HAI: Perhaps even the United States will be one of the beneficiaries?

Jeffrey Christian: And the Chinese government now feels secure enough about its own economic environment that it's willing to allow this to happen.

That's a very significant thing. I mean, as I said, they're doing us a big favor here, especially in the US. You know, pity the poor Europeans because it's just going to help the US and it's going to hurt the Europeans that much more.

But they're basically saying, "Look. We're feeling comfortable enough about our economy that we can allow this to happen." And it should be a big benefit for the US economy and help keep us out of that second recession.

HAI: You're relatively optimistic, despite 10% unemployment in the US, plus a very contractionary fiscal policy...?

Jeffrey Christian: Well, our expectation is that a lot of those contractionary policies really won't come home to roost until well into 2011 or 2012. They need to do that, but they're going to have to delay it because, 10% unemployment, and a number of other intractable problems are going to limit their policy hands. But the view is clear that, at some point, you're going to have to squeeze it out.

But you have to step back and look at it. In the last 27 years or so, real GDP in the United States has averaged about 3.5, 3.3% per annum. Our expectation is, over the next 10 years, it might average maybe 2.5 to 2.8% real GDP. So, a significant slowdown in growth that's the effect of this long-term austerity. We squeeze the debt out of the system over a period of 20, 30, 40 years, if we do things right, and if the economic environment allows us to do it.

And that's what we're looking for as our main scenario. Obviously, there are a lot of big risks. And people can come up with baseball bats and whack the economy in the side, and throw us into a recession for a brief period of time, and then we'll spring back. But that's what we're sort of looking for.

HAI: Now, the commodity markets historically have exhibited a pattern of equilibrium, a spike over a number of years, back to an equilibrium. Does that pattern still apply?

Jeffrey Christian: I think it's a secular shift. There's been an upward shift in investment and fabrication demand for commodities around the world. So, we saw commodity prices rise very strongly from 2002 to 2008. Then, they gave up all of those gains in six months.

Our expectation is the next 10 years we'll probably see a bigger bull market in commodity prices than we saw from 2002 to 2008...even bigger than that. And it's based on fundamentals. It's based on fabrication demand. It's based on supply constraints across a number of commodity markets. And it's based on the view that investors are going to continue to want to buy commodities.

I'll throw out one factor, one trite fact. There are 13 segments of the US economy. And if you look at those 13 segments, and you look at excess capacity in 12 of those sectors, there is a historically high excess amount of manufacturing capacity. The one sector that doesn't have excess capacity is mining. So, as investors look and ask, "Where am I going to put my money?" – and there's a lot of money sloshing around – they say, "Of the various sectors of the market that I can invest in, the only one that makes sense is mining."

HAI: Well, there you go. Thirteen is a lucky number, folks, if you want to get into mining.

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