Well, we have two Marks. Marc Faber, the famous Dr. Gloom and Mark Mobius, the Yul Brynner wanna-be from Templeton Emerging Markets. Surprisingly, both sounded pretty similar this time around. I generally agree with both, but 20% in 2009 is a bit low to me.
Marc Faber: China and other emerging markets offer value over the next two years as growth picks up, investor Marc Faber said. Investors should buy stocks and other assets in China after the market falls to its 2008 low to profit from an expected recovery, Faber said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. China is the world’s best-performing stock market this year.“Rapidly growing countries have setbacks from time to time,” Faber, the publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom report, said in Hong Kong. “I think we’re going to test the lows again, but over the next two years, it’s probably a good time to invest.”
The MSCI World Index has retreated 18% this year, extending last year’s record 42% slump, amid concern the widening financial crisis and global recession will sap corporate profits. The Shanghai Composite Index, which tracks the larger of China’s two mainland exchanges, has gained 16% in 2009.
China is betting that a 4 trillion yuan ($900 billion) stimulus package and interest-rate cuts will help it reach its 8% growth target this year. The global economy is expected to expand at a 0.5% expansion, according to the International Monetary Fund. Industrial and precious metals are attractive investments after the Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 commodities “collapsed,” Faber added. The CRB Index has dropped 8% this year, adding to the 36% retreat in 2008.
“Asset markets have already discounted a lot of the bad economic news,” he said. “ Some assets like commodities are very, very inexpensive.”
Faber had advised buying gold at the start of its eight-year rally, when it traded for less than US$300 an ounce. The metal topped US$1,000 last year and traded at US$932.78 an ounce today. He also told investors to bail out of US stocks a week before the so-called Black Monday crash in 1987, according to his website. He continues to favour gold, which has gained 19% in the past six months because currencies including the US dollar are “not desirable”. Stock markets are “not particularly expensive” and investors should consider buying them in anticipation of a recovery, Faber advised. The MSCI global index is valued at 11 times reported earnings, half its 10-year average multiple of 22.
“We also have a lot of equities that are not particularly expensive because they’ve collapsed,” Faber said. “These are relatively sound companies and whenever the recovery will come, they will be in a strong position.”
Mark Mobius: Veteran fund manager Mark Mobius sees a potential 20% rise in emerging market stocks in 2009 and views extreme investor pessimism as a signal to gradually start buying equities. "The danger we face now is being too pessimistic," Mobius, the executive chairman of Templeton Asset Management, a division of San Mateo, California-based Franklin Templeton Investments, said in a telephone interview with Reuters.
“We are seeing that slight bottoming out, that we have to be cautious of because if we are caught with too much cash, specifically when we are looking at very good bargains, then we are going to be in trouble with our investors,” he said.
Mobius manages roughly US$20 billion in emerging market assets out of the firm’s US$377 billion assets under management. Asked how high emerging market stocks might go by year-end: “If you really press me I would say 20% would not be unlikely, and the reason I would say that with some degree of confidence is that we have already come up.”
MSCI’s emerging markets stock index fell 54.48% in 2008. While the index is down 9.46% year-to-date, it has risen more than 15% from its four-year low in October. The Templeton Developing Markets Trust, the main US registered fund Mobius manages, is down 11.44% so far this year after dropping over 57.77% in 2008, according to Reuters data. Cash levels for his portfolio fluctuate between the preferred level of zero and 7% he said. He characterises them as “normal, or certainly not higher than normal”. During the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis, cash levels in his funds reached 20%.
While market volatility may not be over, a market bottom could be in place, Mobius said when asked at what point in the next 12 months investors might claim they’ve cleared a hurdle. “I’m saying that now. I'm feeling that now because of the incredible pessimism that you see everywhere. That usually is a pretty good sign that we are over the hump,” he said.
“Almost universal pessimism is usually a very good time to be buying equities because equities lead the economy,” by six months to a year he said. Famous for his globe-trotting and “on the ground” research, Mobius said of a recent trip to Latin America that while companies were preparing for the worst, customer orders were still coming in and “a lot of them” are maintaining steady investment programmes. On the ground things look OK but with a slower pace. That is on the investment side. The valuations now are very very attractive, even if we do a big markdown on earnings,” he said.
p/s photos: Nia Ramadhani