Last Decade: Buy Gold. This Decade: Buy Energy.

It’s not technically a new decade yet. But if the trade of the last decade was to sell stocks and buy gold, then maybe the best trade for the next ten years is to sell bonds and buy energy. Gas, coal, oil, conventional, unconventional, renewable, alternative. You have a whole portfolio of choices.

By the way, last year at the Agora Wealth Symposium in Vancouver, one of our colleagues took the stage to point out that your editor was complete moron. In this particular case, it was for being bullish on gold

He said that gold hadn’t done much adjusted for inflation since 1980. What’s more, he said that it’s worth less—adjusted for inflation—than it was twenty years ago. How, he speculated, could anyone take the advice to buy gold seriously when it had performed so abysmally?

Well here are the facts. The gold price bottomed in October of 2000 at $263.80. At that time, the S&P 500 traded at 1,379. Since then, the S&P 500 has fallen by 31% (closing yesterday at 942.43) while the gold price is up 262% to $956.

We’ve asked Kris Sayce to bring this small fact to the attention of our colleague when he attends this year’s Vancouver show next month. The theme of this year’s show is “Ten Years of Reckoning,” Symposium Promo celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Daily Reckoning. Kris will be spearheading the Australian delegation. More details on that later this month.

In any event, it seems pretty obvious, that for the last ten years anyway, selling stocks and buying gold would have been a good trade/strategy. Stocks ended an 18-year bull market in 2000 and gold ended a 20-year bear market. One asset class was at a cyclical low. The other was at a cyclical high. In fact, you might even say that one was at a generational low and the other was at a generational high.

Gold is no longer as low as it once was. But it’s still not as high as we expect it to go before it starts to look foolish. Meanwhile, today’s government bond market looks an awful lot like the stock market circa 2000. You’re seeing a generational high in bonds. It’s another version of the “high-low” strategy.

This time around, though, we would add energy stocks to the mix, along with gold. Crude oil climbed to an eight-month high over $70 on Tuesday. Bloomberg says the weakness in the U.S. dollar is, “bolstering the appeal of energy as an alternative investment.” Sell bonds, buy energy. Pretty simple.

There is probably some truth to the fact that oil’s latest move is driven by investment demand more than, say, demand growth in the real economy. But investors ARE looking for ways to profit from U.S. dollar weakness. Oil is liquid and popular. In the long-run, it’s the smaller-than-expected oil supply growth that will drive the market.

One thing Kris will probably be making clear to U.S. dollar-based investors is just how relatively attractive Australia’s position is in the developed world. “Even as Australia’s challenges increase, it will still be the envy of the developed world,” writes William Pesek at Bloomberg. “Even in its worst moments… Australia is among the least unsightly economies anywhere,” he adds rather optimistically. We’ll see about that.

Finally, we meant to write a bit about other possibilities in China today. That is, we were going to explore collapse scenarios (financial, political, and societal). But we did not realize it would be ambitious to try that in a few hundred words. So look for something more considered later this week in the essay spot.

Dan Denning
Daily Reckoning Australia

June 11, 2009

The Daily Reckoning