A short-term view of gold, the Dollar and energy markets...
The US DOLLAR isn't going straight down in a line, according to Steve Palmer, president and CEO of AlphaNorth Asset Management.
Forming an investment team in 1998 with Joey Javier, they took three key assets – their excellent track record, experience and belief that exploiting inefficiencies in the Canadian small-cap universe would produce superior long-term equity returns – to launch the fund in 2007.
Now "I'm expecting the US Dollar to rally in the short term and gold to sell off," Steve tells the Gold Report in this interview...
The Gold Report: Since the last time we spoke, in February, your performance in your fund year-to-date is up, I believe, 138%. Can you tell us what sectors you focused your fund on during this year to produce that type of return?
Steve Palmer: Well, there's no particular sector focus. The fund is very diversified. It's about half resource and half technology, special situations and biotech. But we did have a few big winners that really helped.
TGR: Your fund, as well as the market, has had pretty amazing returns this year. In your August monthly commentary you said you're getting cautious on equities, given the strong rally. What are you feeling now that we're in late October? Is there a pullback, or will we continue to move forward?
Steve Palmer: I don't think the market can go that much higher in the short term. I think it needs to consolidate and pull back a little bit, so we have added some short positions in anticipation of this.
TGR: Many people have said they're expecting a pullback in the markets, but it never seems to happen. In what timeframe are you expecting this to occur?
Steve Palmer: The next month or two. It's hard to get the timing perfect, but I think maybe a short-term pullback. Not a major correction or anything, but just a breather and then the markets could likely be strong into year end.
TGR: Oh, so it's going to have a slight pullback, and then rally again before the end of the year?
Steve Palmer: Yes, that is my prediction. We will see if that pans out.
TGR: So you're a small cap long biased fund. What are you doing to your fund to maximize this potential pullback and the resulting rally?
Steve Palmer: We've taken some profits in some of our big winners and we've purchased some ETFs that have an inverse correlation with the market, like the bear units and the double bear units. We are hedging some of the systematic risk.
TGR: You indicated that you trade gold on the technicals and there's clearly an inverse correlation with the US Dollar. Where do you think the US Dollar is going? Have we hit bottom on the Dollar, or what do you expect to see in the remainder of '09 and through 2010?
Steve Palmer: The US Dollar in the short term, I think, is going to appreciate from here. Almost everybody believes the US Dollar is going lower longer term; and I don't disagree with that, but it's not going to go straight down. So I'm expecting the US Dollar to rally in the short term and Gold to sell off.
TGR: Would you see that short-term similar to what you're looking at in the general market in the next month or two?
Steve Palmer: Yes. Gold is probably peaking this week if I were to stick my neck out.
TGR: But longer term we're expecting the US Dollar to go lower than where it is today.
Steve Palmer: Yes. That's over years – like several years from now.
TGR: So are you anticipating it's basically going to bump along at the current level it's at, in a small trading range?
Steve Palmer: I expect it to rally a little bit then take another leg down, but it's not going to happen overnight.
TGR: And, as a result, what would you see gold doing for the remainder of this year and into 2010?
Steve Palmer: Gold will just follow the US Dollar. There is currently a lot of speculation in the gold market, as well. There are all these ETFs that have purchased a lot of gold – all the dehedging by the producers that has created a lot of demand that's not going to be there in future years; so I'm not a super bull on gold. I do have several junior Gold Mining investments, but the expectation is that they will do well regardless of whether gold is $1100 or $850. The share prices of these companies will be driven by company-specific catalysts.
TGR: So you're looking at the juniors rather than the metals as an investment.
Steve Palmer: I like to look at the exploration stories, where you get a bigger bang for your buck rather than just buying a producer.
TGR: Back on to energy, as we also have a sister report called The Energy Report. What trends are you looking at in energy that you feel look like good investment opportunities?
Steve Palmer: Colombia's attracted a lot of interest recently; several companies have had a great success in there. The government has moved the army into certain areas to make it safe for foreign companies to operate, so that's opened up a huge opportunity for many companies.
TGR: Where do you see oil going compared to some of these alternative energies, which are getting a lot more press?
Steve Palmer: A lot of the alternative energy initiatives are highly dependent on government programs and grants. Obama and other politicians remain highly supportive of these initiatives so alternative energy companies should do well. Natural gas inventories are very high right now relative to the past several years thus the price of natural gas has been trending lower in North America, while oil has rebounded strongly from the $30s where it bottomed. It is probably unlikely that oil goes much higher in the short term. It's probably at a reasonable level right now.
TGR: It sounds like you have a similar focus in terms of looking at gold. You're looking for exploration plays that will have appreciation regardless of the price of the underlying commodity.
Steve Palmer: Yes. If you can eliminate some of the variables that are not easy to predict like the direction of commodity prices or currencies and just focus on the company specific catalysts, it lowers your risk.
TGR: Is Colombia's oil play more interesting because it's in Colombia, or do you like the oil sector in general?
Steve Palmer: I am somewhat indifferent to overweighting the oil sector. I like Colombia because of the recent changes there and the huge drilling success several companies have had there recently. Obviously, areas of the country are highly prospective for oil.
TGR: Thank you for your time.
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