It may be 2015, but the World Bank recently said commodities are falling like its 1985 all over again.
That’s the last time all nine key commodity price indices declined. And in its just-released Commodity Markets Outlook, the World Bank predicts it’s going to happen again.
That’s why I went to Michael Underhill to get his thoughts on the current market.
Underhill is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer at Capital Innovations, LLC. His flagship Global Infrastructure, Timber & Agribusiness Fund (INNAX) has outperformed its peers by 18.7% since its inception on September 28, 2012. His firm is also a sub-advisor to many of the Sprott mutual funds.
Here’s what I learned about oil, currency, and agriculture…
Underhill on Oil
I wanted to get Underhill’s thoughts on oil first because of its far-reaching effect.
The 56% drop from its high in June 2014 is the third-largest, seven-month decline on record. This drop trails only the 67% decline in 1985 and 1986, and the 75% fall during the 2008 global financial crisis.
The good news here is that Underhill believes we are relatively close to the bottom for oil prices. He also believes that oil currently represents the “opportunity of lifetime.”
That’s why Underhill has devoted 58% of his portfolio to his favorite segment within the oil sector – midstream master limited partnerships (MLPs).
This sector was recently in the headlines because of the proposed $18-billion merger between Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and Regency Energy Partners (RGP), which will create the nation’s second-largest MLP.
When it comes to shale players, Underhill thinks that even if shale revenue declines by an onerous 75% year on year in 2015, the downside risk to the stocks is limited. He believes much of the pessimistic scenario has already been priced into the stocks.
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Underhill particularly likes Chesapeake Energy (CHK). The stock is selling for about $20 a share, and he has a target on it of $25 to $30. Underhill also believes Chesapeake would make a very attractive target for a company from India or other emerging markets looking to buy energy assets with little government counterparty risk.
And speaking of the 80s…
With the European Central Bank now joining the United States and Japan in massive quantitative easing (money printing), Underhill says the “full-on currency wars” have erupted globally.
He says the resulting effect will be a “short squeeze” on the U.S. dollar, similar to what happened between 1980 and 1985, pushing the dollar higher.
The danger here is that, unlike the 1980s, policymakers do NOT have the ability to lower interest rates in order to stave off the deflationary effects of falling commodity prices.
That’s because interest rates are already near zero and have even moved negative in some parts of Europe.
Looking at Ag
As I said before, falling oil prices drag everything else down. Accordingly, grain prices have certainly been weak.
“No problem,” says Underhill, though. “You simply buy those companies that benefit from weak input [grain] prices.”
One such example is Ingredion (INGR), which was formerly known as Corn Products International. It’s a worldwide manufacturer and supplies starch and sweetener ingredients to a number of industries.
Another example is Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM), a major processor of oilseeds, corn, wheat, cocoa, and other agricultural commodities.
Underhill says that if readers should take away anything, it’s the advice “to buy things on the cheap and that are a store of value.”
In other words, real assets.
And the chase continues,