Investor and Author
Jim Rogers, 78, an international investor and author now based in Singapore, co-founded the Quantum Fund with George Soros. He is a former member of the Barron’s Roundtable.
Barron’s: How does the world look to you?
Jim Rogers: Oh my God, do you have three days? We are in perilous times—very, very perilous times.
Will we go back to anything like normal after the pandemic?
Something else is ahead. A year ago at this time, America was the largest debtor nation in the history of the world. That debt is now up by trillions of dollars—that’s trillions with a T. Someday, we are all going to look back—three years from now, eight years from now—and say, “Wait a minute, what about all this debt? What are we going to do now?” That’s what happened to the U.K. The U.K. was the richest, most powerful nation in the world in the 1920s, and then took the path of “it doesn’t matter, we’ll spend all we want.” Fifty years later, the IMF had to fly into Heathrow and bail them out. They were bankrupt. So, I am afraid of what I see.
Are other countries going down the same road?
The guy at the Bank of Japan [Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda] goes to work every day and says he will print unlimited amounts of money—his words—so he can buy stocks and bonds and exchange-traded funds. Well, I own Japanese ETFs. He’s got more money than I do, and if he’s going to buy Japanese ETFs, I am, too. The Japanese market is down 30% from its all-time high, and the American market is near an all-time high, so I’d rather buy Japan. But Japan has a dismal future. The debt is staggering. The population has been declining for 10 years. You don’t have to be too bright to figure out that if you’re 10 years old in Japan, you have a dismal future. It has accelerated because of the virus and because they’re spending lots and lots of money. There may not be a Japan in 40 years. It’s tragic, and I love, love Japan.
But for now, at least, you’re investing in Japan.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Japanese market—and this isn’t a prediction—went back to its all-time high during this period. We can have a wonderful time while the guy is printing and buying, printing and buying.
What about the U.S. market? It sounds like you think it is headed for a fall.
It’s going to be the worst in my lifetime when it comes, but I am the world’s worst market timer. I do know that every time we have staggering amounts of debt and stocks that get too high, we have a bad down market. In 2008, we had a problem of too much debt, and look out the window now—the debt is gigantic.
When would you guess the selloff will come?
In the next year or two. The market is already showing symptoms of a bubble. There’s exuberance in America, even for people who are depressed.
Are other asset classes more promising?
Bonds have never been this high in the recorded history of the world, so that’s a problem. The cheapest asset class is commodities. Silver is down 50% from its all-time high; sugar is down 80% from its all-time high. Agriculture is a disaster. I am buying more agriculture as we speak because it’s so depressed. Maybe we’re never going to eat again, maybe we’re never going to buy clothes again, but I don’t think so.
It is almost incomprehensible that there is anything in the world that is down 80% in price. With sugar, people are worried about health and obesity, and sugar-producing nations continue producing lots of sugar. From what I gather, that’s coming to an end, partly because of the virus. People aren’t out racing around to produce more sugar. World inventories are being worked down. I presume that someday, we are all going to put sugar in our coffee again and we are going to eat candy bars. There have been occasional buying opportunities in sugar in recent years.
What is the best way for investors to play agricultural commodities?
Well, I’m lazy—I’m buying an ETF. It’s the Rogers Agricultural Index. [The index tracks 21 agricultural commodities. Rogers developed it and licenses it for use with an exchange-traded note, the Rogers International Commodity Index Agriculture Total Return, ticker RJA.]
Jim, you’re usually on the go. You’ve circumnavigated the world twice, first on a motorcycle, then in a Mercedes. When the coronavirus is finally tamed, where do you want to go first?
The airport. There are plenty of places that I haven’t been to recently that I’d like to see. Oh my God, can you get me a flight?
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