Rogers: Let Greece Fail

Commodities guru Jim Rogers says that Europe should let Greece default on its debt, and that the U.S. Federal Reserve needs to stop printing money, or else risk creating another serious financial crisis. Rogers tells Bloomberg that history shows the longer one delays dealing with a debt crisis, the more trouble it creates. He opposes further Greece bailouts, saying they are really bailouts of banks from France, Germany, and other countries that made bad loans in Greece — and he says other European taxpayers shouldn’t have to bail out those banks. Rogers also has harsh words for the Fed, saying its members are “dangerous people”.

The Danger of The Greece/Lehman Comparisons

While many are worrying that a Greece debt default will rock the stock market and financial world the way the Lehman Brothers collapse did  in 2008, Mark Hulbert says there are several examples of sovereign debt crises that didn’t lead to long-term market woes or deep global crises.

“Prior to Greece’s recent difficulties, there have been at least four other occasions over the last two decades in which a potential sovereign default sent shockwaves throughout the markets,” Hulbert writes for MarketWatch. “The stock market, on average, rose over the two years following those previous crises.”

Hulbert points to the Mexican peso devaluation that started in late 1994; the “Asian contagion” that hit in 1997; the Russian ruble devaluation of 1998; and the Argentina debt/currency crisis of late 2001. On average, the market was 17% higher a year after those crises hit the headlines, Hulbert says, and it continued upward well into the second year.

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Nygren, Herro Get Contrarian

While the rest of the investment world seems to be shunning Japanese stocks and large-cap stocks, two top fund managers — Oakmark’s David Herro and Bill Nygren — say that’s where they are finding value.

“We’re fully confident that our Japanese stocks will become a positive at some point for the fund — who knows when,” Herro told the Associated Press in reference to a fund he and Nygren co-manage. “Japan is the cheapest among the developed markets. Dividend payments are rising in Japan, and corporate performance has improved. Foreigners don’t care. Japan is kind of depressed. The yen is strong against the dollar. At some point, these things will ease up, and people will rediscover Japanese stocks.”

Herro says there are two real risks to that scenario: 1) a continuing strengthening of the yen, and 2) the trend of Japanese firms putting their cash holdings to work, rather than sitting on them. “If that reverses, then all bets are off,” he says.

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Arnott: Look to Alternative Investments to Battle Inflation

Saying that a “3-D Hurricane” — debt, deficits, and demographics — is lingering on the horizon for the U.S., Rob Arnott is taking several steps to prepare his portfolio for an inflationary climate.

Arnott tells MarketWatch.com that the U.S. budget deficit is worse than many think, if you include entitlement program costs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. And with an aging population that will mean a shrinking workforce, he says he sees slower growth ahead — and the distinct possibility that the government will try to inflate its way out of debt.

“If we turn to the printing press as the way to reduce the value of our debt, which I think we probably will, that creates inflation risk,” he said, though he added, “I don’t want to be seen as a prophet of doom. What I’ve described is a doomsday scenario if we harbor the illusion that we can spend the way we’ve been spending.”

In the face of potential inflation, Arnott recommends a number of portfolio changes.

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Siegel: Market Still Cheap — Very Cheap

Wharton Professor and author Jeremy Siegel says stocks are more attractively priced than they’ve ever been during ultra-low interest rate periods, and says investors looking for yield should turn to high-dividend-paying stocks.

Price-to-earnings ratios around the world are reasonable and the quality of earnings is extraordinarily high, Siegel said at a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce event, according to Canada’s Financial Post. During low-interest-rate periods, the average P/E ratio has been 19% to 47% above current levels, Siegel contends.

Siegel also said that gold and commodities investors may be disappointed five years from now; he expects mining stocks to do better than commodities.

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Akre: Focus on Pricing Power

Top value fund manager Chuck Akre says that amid an uncertain economic environment and with inflation looming as a possible issue, companies with pricing power are attractive investments.

“At the end of the day it turned out that the best investments to own in the ’70s [when inflation at times raged] were businesses that have pricing power,” Akre tells the Associated Press. “And they’re probably the best things to own now. That’s the single best hedge against the unknown or high inflation or any of those issues.”

Akre, who’s been lagging the market in the short term but has a very strong long-term track record, says he is “not worried about a lot” of things right now, but he does have concerns about the broader economy and high unemployment rate. That’s part of why he’s high on off-price retailers like Dollar Tree and The TJX Companies.

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