Editor’s Note: Rick Rule is the smartest resource investor we know.
He also works closely with Bill, Will and the Bonner & Partners team as a strategic advisor to our top-tier wealth advisory, Bonner & Partners Family Office.
As you know, most pundits have written off gold for dead, despite a roughly 10% rally this year.
We believe that’s a mistake… and so does Rick.
In today’s Weekend Edition, Rick explains why the resource “super-cycle” is alive and well. And why he’s still a gold bull…
Why the Resource “Super-Cycle” Is Still Intact
By Rick Rule, Chairman, Sprott Global Resource Investments
I believe we are still in a resource “super-cycle” – a long period of increasing commodity prices in both nominal and real terms.
The market conditions of the past two years have made many observers doubt this assertion. But I believe the current cyclical decline is a normal and healthy part of the ongoing secular bull market.
The most striking analogy to the current situation occurred in the epic gold bull market in the 1970s. You may recall that gold prices advanced from US$35 per ounce to $850 per ounce over the course of that decade.
You may also recall that, in 1975 and 1976, a cyclical decline saw the price of gold decline by 50% – from about $200 per ounce down to about $100 per ounce. It then rebounded over the next six years to $850 per ounce.
Investors who lacked the conviction to maintain their positions missed an 850% move over six short years. The current gold bull market, since its inception in 2000, has experienced eight declines of 10% or greater, and three declines, including the present one, of more than 20%.
This volatility need not threaten the investor that has the intellectual and financial resources to exploit it.
The Natural Resources Bull Market Lives
The “super-cycle” is a direct result of several factors. The most important of these is, ironically, the deep resource bear markets that started in 1982 and lasted for almost two decades. This critically constrained investment in a capital-intensive industry where assets are depleted over time.
Productive capacity declined in every category; very little exploration took place; few new mines or oilfields replenished reserves; infrastructure and processing assets deteriorated. Critical human resource capabilities suffered as well; as workers retired or got laid off, replacements were neither trained nor hired.
National Oil Companies (NOCs) exacerbated this decline in many nations by milking their oil and gas industries to subsidize domestic spending programs for political gain.
This was done at the expense of sustaining capital investments. The worst examples are Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Indonesia and Iran. I believe 25% of world export crude capacity may be at risk from failure of NOCs to maintain and expand their productive assets.
Demands for social contributions in the form of taxes, royalties, carried equity interests, social or infrastructure contributions and the like have increased. Voters are not concerned that producers need real returns to recover from two decades of under-investment, or to fund capital investments to offset depletion.
Today this is actively constraining investment, and hence supply.
Poor People Are Getting Richer…
The super-cycle is also driven by globalization and the social and political liberalization of emerging and frontier markets. As people become freer, they tend to become richer.
As poor countries become less poor, their purchases tend to be very commodity-centric, especially compared to Western consumers. For the 3.5 billion people at the bottom of the economic pyramid, the goods that provide the most utility are material goods and consumables, rather than the information services or “high value-added” goods.
A poor or very poor household is likely to increase its aggregate calorie consumption – both by eating more food and more energy-dense food like meat. They will likely consume more electrical power and motor fuel and upgrade their home from adobe or thatch to higher-quality building materials.
As people’s incomes increase in developing and frontier markets, the goods they buy are commodity-intensive, which drives up demand per capita. And we are talking billions of “capitas.”
Rising incomes and savings among certain cultures in the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia – places with a strong cultural affinity for bullion – have increased the demand for gold, silver, platinum, and palladium bullion.
Bullion has been a store of value in these regions for generations, and rising incomes have generated physical bullion demand that has surprised many Western-centric analysts.
The third important driver in this cycle has been the depreciation of currencies and the impact that has had on nominal pricing for resources and precious metals.
Most developed economies have consumed and borrowed at worrying levels. The US federal government has on-balance-sheet liabilities of over $16 trillion and off-balance-sheet liabilities estimated at about $70 trillion.
These numbers do not include state and local government liabilities, or the likely liabilities from underfunded private pensions. Not to mention increased costs associated with more comprehensive health care and an aging population!
Many analysts are even more concerned about the debts and liabilities of other developed economies – Europe and Japan. In both places debt-to-GDP ratios are greater than in the US.
Europe and Japan are financing themselves through a combination of artificially low interest rates and more borrowing and money printing. This drives down the value of their currencies, helping their exports.
But which nations’ leaders will stand firm and allow their export industries to wither, as their domestic producers suffer from cheap competing foreign goods? If Japan’s Abe is successful at increasing his country’s exports at the expense of its competitors like Taiwan, Korea or China, then his policies could lead to competitive devaluation. And how will the European community react, for that matter?
Loss of buying power in fiat currencies increases the nominal pricing of commodities and drives demand for bullion as a preferred savings vehicle.
The factors that have driven this resource “super cycle” have not changed. Demand is increasing. Supplies are constrained. Currencies are weakening. Thus I believe we remain in a secular bull market for natural resources and precious metals.
With that in mind, I would call the current market for bullion and resource equities a sale.
The fundamental reasons to own natural resource and precious metals have not changed. Warren Buffett says, “Be brave when others are afraid, be afraid when others are brave.”
We are still gold bugs. And even gold bulls.
P.S. Rick is hosting a Natural Resource Symposium in Vancouver, Canada. This is your chance to discuss and discover unique investment ideas with some of the world’s smartest minds in finance, investment research, economics, and natural resources. The symposium runs from July 22-25. It’s close notice, but if you are interested in joining, you’ll receive a 42% discount as a Diary of a Rogue Economist reader. Read on here to find out full details of the upcoming symposium. Or reserve your place here.