The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

Golden Vices???

12/16/2009

For many years, I managed the portfolio for a wonderful gentleman in Williamsburg, who died a few years ago at the age 99. He was a great guy, and I miss him. Coincidently, his son-in-law was Morgan Stanley’s legendary investment strategist, Barton Biggs, whom I have followed closely over the years and have read both of his books. Last week, he was interviewed by Advisor Perspectives and updated his thoughts. You can read the short interview at:

http://www.advisorperspectives.com/newsletters09/Barton_Biggs_on_Undervaluation_in_the_SP_100.php

But, there is one subject that made me laugh. Talking about gold as an investment, he said: “What is the P/E ratio on gold? What’s the yield on gold? It doesn’t have one, whereas I can prove to you that US high-quality, large-cap stocks are as cheap relative to value and to their history as they have been in hundreds of years. As Winston Churchill once said of one of his political opponents – who was vegetarian, a teetotaler and very liberal – the same is true of gold; it ‘has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.’”

The only disagreement I have with him is that a good part of the current demand for gold results from the concern that the dollar will lose its status as a reserve currency, and that may have caused the demand curve to have permanently shifted to the right, which is “econo-speak” for a fundamental change in supply and demand, which drives the price upward. While I am bullish on gold in the long run, it did get ahead of its fundamentals recently.

Regardless, Barton Biggs is a genuine sage, and I recommend him to you!

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