Jim Rogers Is Wrong, Higher Commodity Prices Should Scare China Investors

Jim Rogers says oil will hit $200. Please consider this audio interview with Justin Rowlatt at the Business Daily.

Here is a partial transcript from the BBC.

Justin Rowlatt: Do you really believe the Chinese boom can continue, because lots of people are saying there are all sorts of asset price bubbles that are going to trip the Chinese up in the coming years?

Jim Rogers: Well, the only asset bubble I see potentially in China is in urban coastal real estate, but real estate is not nearly the entire Chinese economy as it was in America and the U.K. Sure, they will have setbacks.

Justin, in the 19th Century, America had a horrible civil war. We had 15 depressions with a ‘D.’ We had very few human rights. We had massacres in the streets regularly. We had very little rule of law. You could buy and sell – you can still buy and sell congressmen in America, but in those days they were cheap. America had horrible problems, but they came out of that and had a pretty good 20th Century.

Justin Rowlatt: So what does that imply about where people should put their money; where are the sensible investments in Asia?

Jim Rogers: Well, the best way to invest in Asia in my view is to buy commodities, because the Chinese have to buy cotton, they have to buy zinc, they have to buy oil, they have to buy natural resources because they don’t have enough.

If you want to invest in China and you own cotton, they are going to be very nice to you Justin. They are going to pay the bills, they are going to take you to dinner, they are going to pay you on time. If you want to invest in stocks, you have to do a lot of homework and know what you are doing. Another way is to invest in the currency. I own the renminbi. I expect the renminbi to go up a great deal over the next decade.

Justin Rowlatt: But commodities are already at relatively high prices, aren’t they? I mean hasn’t that horse bolted already?

Jim Rogers: No, no, the only commodity I know which is making an all time high is gold. Some commodities are up, yes. Sugar is up a lot, but Justin, sugar is still 50% below its all time high. How can you say that’s bolted? Silver is going up, but silver is 40% below its all time high. Yes, commodities have been going up recently, but they are still extremely depressed on a historic basis.

Justin Rowlatt: So what about oil? I mean oil prices are pretty high, aren’t they? Almost $100 a barrel. Are they really going to go higher do you think?

Jim Rogers: Well, the surprise is going to be how high the price of oil stays and how high it goes, because Justin we have had no major elephant oil discoveries in over 40 years. The International Energy Agency is going around the world pleading with people to listen. Known reserves of oil are declining. It is not good news. Unless somebody discovers a lot of oil very quickly, prices are going to go much higher over the next decade.

Justin Rowlatt: How high do you think the oil price could go then?

Jim Rogers: Justin, the price of oil is going to make new highs. It will go over $150 a barrel. It will probably go over $200 a barrel.

Limiting Factors Rogers Misses

Not many people have investment timelines of a decade. Moreover, there are a lot of things that can happen along the way. If oil were to drop to $60 and stay there for a number of years I would not want to be in it praying for $200 at some time in the future.

Rogers compares China to the US but fails to point point out (figure out), that one reason the US was able to grow fast was cheap oil prices. Other factors supportive of growth are strong personal property rights and a rule of law.

From my point of view, peak oil is a limiting constraint on the China’s growth. Thus, on a fundamental basis, the higher oil and commodity prices go, the less bullish one should be on China.

Near-term Rogers clearly misses property bubbles and rampant unsustainable credit growth, over three times China’s GDP growth. When that credit bubble pops, and China’s property bubble with it, the Yuan will likely take a plunge as well.

For now, I side with Jim Chanos, a China bear in this debate. Please see “Consensus Nonsense”; Is the Yuan Undervalued? Who Wins a Currency War? for additional details.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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