Monday, April 28, 2008

Buy farmland, not NYC real estate, says Marc Faber

Buy farm land, said Marc Faber on April 24 in his presentation to the Refining Wealth Management Conference sponsored by the CFA Society of Edmonton. For one thing, as investment managers, the audience members should diversify out of financial assets. Plus, if war breaks out over scarce commodities, where’s a more likely target—Wall Street or a far away farm in Canada where you can grow your own food?

The farm land suggestion was just one tiny part of a presentation on "Will the first synchronised global economic boom in the 200-year old history of capitalism also lead to a synchronised bust?" by Faber, the publisher of The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report. Faber said "a colossal bust" is likely.

Faber was quite critical of Ben Bernanke and the Fed. "Expansionary monetary policies, which caused the current credit crisis in the first place, are the wrong medicine to solve the current problems.... But what options does the Fed have with debt to GDP at 350%?"

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Susan B. Weiner, CFA
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4 Comments:

Blogger Anil Passi said...

Farming is not cost effective in western world yet. Will this be soon?

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Vancouver realtor said...

Faber seems to me too skeptical. Of course Federal Reserve is often criticized being unpredictable. But it is necessary to shock the economy otherwise if step is expected then transmission is not so efficient. And I also think that FED does not have soma many choices now. And about buying a farmland here in Canada? Working as a Vancouver realtor
I am really not sure it could be a good investment but I am not sure if is suitable to do it when Canadian dollar is stronger than US one.

7:36 AM  
Blogger SusanW said...

Vancouver realtor,
Thank you for your comment!

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Faber's analysis on the Fed and asset class rotation are very prescient. The equity and bond markets have benefited from a long period of low inflation, but ongoing and massive central bank liquidity injections point to a far less benign environment of elevated inflation ahead. Research by our firm, Agcapita Farmland Investment Partnership (Calgary, Canada based agriculture private equity firm – www.farmlandinvestmentpartnership.com) shows investors must be prepared to rotate into asset classes with different characteristics.

During the last commodity bull market & high inflation period in the 1970’s, equities materially underperformed farmland.
- Western Canadian farmland went from around $100/acre to $550/acre (550% total return and 176% in inflation adjusted terms);
- Cash held in a money market account barely kept ahead of inflation (6% inflation adjusted return); and the
- S&P 500 index returned less than 2% per year (a loss of almost 50% in inflation in adjusted terms)

We believe the world is still in the early stages of this current commodity bull market. When agriculture commodities prices are compared against their previous inflation adjusted highs they are significantly discounted implying scope for further increases:
- Corn is US$ 5/bushel currently compared to US$16/bushel in 1974,
- Wheat is US$ 7/bushel currently compared to US$27/bushel in 1974
- Canadian farmland is C$ 660/acre currently compared to C$1,100/acre in 1981

Another interesting metric is the long-term average ratio of the Commodities Research Bureau Index versus the S&P 500 which is currently around 1.5 times. Simplistically, this ratio indicates how much S&P 500 stock you can buy with a fixed basket of commodities. Some important points:
• During the commodity bull market of the 1970s, the ratio was consistently higher than 2 times for over 10 years – it peaked at almost 4 times.
• The ratio is currently at around 0.5 times - significantly below the 1.5 times long-term average, just slightly above the 0.15 all time low reached in 1999/2000 and still very far below the almost 4 times multiple reached in the last commodity bull market. We still appear to be at an all time low relative valuation between “hard assets" versus "stocks.”
• If history is a guide, the ratio of hard assets to stocks will have moved much higher before this commodity bull market is over.
• How? Stocks will continue to fall and/or commodities will continue to climb – most likely a serious combination of both as investors, fearing inflation, rotate out of stocks into commodities – the cycle of “inflation, rotation, hard assets”.

Agcapita allows investors to cost effectively allocate a portion of their portfolios to hard assets in the form of Canadian farmland via its professionally managed Agcapita Farmland Investment Partnership. Agcapita Farmland Investment Partnership is the third in a family of private equity funds which has grown to almost $100 million in assets under management. Agcapita’s investment team has over 40 years private equity and fund management experience and over $1 billion in total career transactions and previously managed a group of emerging market funds with almost C$500 million in assets for one of the largest banks in Europe.

5:05 PM  

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