Disruptive Discoveries Journal

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The Key To The Way Forward In The Mining Sector

Chris Berry1 Comment

By Chris Berry (@cberry1)

 

For a PDF version of this note, please click here.  

 

·       The mining sector remains challenged by multiple headwinds including a lack of investment, currency headwinds, slower productivity, excess capacity, and deficient global demand.

·       Debt overhangs and slowing emerging markets – specifically China – appear to be the culprits behind slack demand. These forces must be reckoned with.

·       Longer-term, however, innovation, sustainability, and urbanization are legitimate drivers of growth and help promulgate “good” deflation which enhances productivity and can drive returns.

·       This note examines these phenomena and which sector(s) of the mining industry may benefit.

 

Groundhog Day

After three-plus years of a dismal mining investment environment and the potential for it to continue for some time, a number of questions arise from the soul searching many of us have done to try and make sense of this. According to Bloomberg, the value of the TSXV has fallen from its peak by almost 72%. This market environment necessitates a different method of thinking and evaluation about publicly traded mining companies. The good news is that it appears that many metals prices have bottomed, though this doesn’t mean that the cycle has definitively turned. The bad news is that the global economy still appears to be struggling with excess capacity AND muted demand. China, the seemingly endless engine of metals demand is unquestionably altering its paradigm for economic growth from one of infrastructure build out and exports to one more focused on internal consumption. With China’s debt to GDP ratio of 282% according to McKinsey, this move to a new growth model is absolutely necessary to maintain a sustainable growth rate, but there is no overnight fix to achieve this type of change. The success of this transition won’t be known for years, though the effects are already being felt.

Is the Fed Really Out of Patience?

Chris BerryComment

By Chris Berry (@cberry1)

 

For a PDF copy of this note, please click here

 

It would appear that Chair Yellen’s press conference yesterday in the set the stage for a Fed Funds rate increase in June or September of this year. We remain unconvinced.

 It was interesting to note how financial markets reacted to the removal of a single word (patience) from the Fed’s most recent statement. The Dow, gold, and oil all roared higher and seemingly (for the moment anyway) forgot about the increasingly disappointing economic data in the US including housing starts, retail sales, and industrial production. Export growth also slowed, and you can thank the strong US Dollar for that.

Einstein, the Definition of Insanity, the Euro Zone, Gold, and QE

Chris BerryComment

By Chris Berry (@cberry1)

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At this point, what could possibly be said about the economic health in the Euro Zone and the prospects for growth that hasn’t already been said? Realistically, the only question that has yet to be answered is how to ignite growth? This is a question you could ask about numerous economies around the world, but the structural challenges in the Euro Zone and the fact that you have a political union but not a financial one appear to be the reasons for what little growth actually exists.

With that in mind and with the European Central Bank (ECB) essentially out of ideas, the announcement of a quantitative easing (QE) program of €60 billion per month was likely the worst kept secret in finance. Specifically, this program will take the form of an asset purchase mechanism where the ECB will buy government bonds, private sector bonds, and debt securities of European institutions totaling €1.3 billion during the “life” of the program. Many would argue that the QE programs in Japan and the US have failed to achieve their objectives and this is why I mentioned Albert Einstein in the title of this note. He’s credited with saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Is anyone in the ECB familiar with this?

In just the month of January alone, central banks in Denmark, Turkey, India, Peru, and Canada have all lowered rates in an attempt to ignite growth. Additionally, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), quietly injected USD $8 billion into the domestic banking system via a 7 day reverse repo lending facility. Clearly, the Swiss National Bank’s un-pegging the Franc from the Euro was the first domino to fall and other central banks around the world are positioning for a challenging way forward. 

The Difference Between The Signal and The Noise in Commodities

Chris Berry1 Comment

By Chris Berry (@cberry1)

 

For a PDF of this note, please click here.

 

In 2012, Nate Silver, a well known statistician and writer, penned the book “The Signal and The Noise” which discusses using statistics and probabilities to determine real-world outcomes. With volatility in the financial markets on the rise led by a collapsing oil price and plunging emerging market currencies, determining and differentiating the signals from the noise has profound implications for navigating the metals and mining markets as we forge ahead into 2015.

With the price of a barrel of oil (WTI) currently at US $56.05 and widely believed to be headed lower and other commodities including iron ore, silver, copper, and corn under similar relentless pressure, these trends are clear signals and the “noise” they generate is the damage done to investor portfolios. 

Enough To Go Around? Raw Materials and Limits To Growth in Solar

Chris BerryComment

 

By Chris Berry (@cberry1)

For a PDF version of this note, click here.

The growth in the adoption and deployment of solar power since silicon solar cells were first discovered by Bell Labs in 1954 has been nothing short of staggering. The globally installed PV market stands at 140GW and added over 38GW in 2013 alone. In the United States in the first half of 2014, 53% of all new electric capacity came from solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. While still small relative to the overall global energy mix, the rate of solar growth is what to focus on and it is indeed taking off.

 

As to the question of whether that growth can be sustained, the politically sensitive issue of subsidies seems to get all of the press. To me, there are other, larger, and perhaps more immediate issues regarding PV growth.

 

One concerns reliable access to the raw materials necessary to build and supply global PV supply chains. Specifically, I’m referring to the copper, silver, silicon, indium, etc. vital to produce existing and future solar technologies. How much do you as an investor, industry watcher, or company representative really know about the origins and supply reliability of the metals and minerals used in PV manufacture? Another issue to be watched is the changes in PV technologies and also the rate at which the technology is adopted. This also has implications for global supply chains. 

"What If It's 1982 Again?" - Thoughts on Gold and My Recent Trip To Europe

Chris BerryComment

By Chris Berry (@cberry1)

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Europe has always fascinated me. A thousand years of rich history confront you regardless of the country or city you visit. Opportunities to talk to Europeans from all walks of life about their views on current events or the global financial markets put in a unique historical context are worth the time and effort it takes to plan a trip.

 

My recent trip to Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, and Geneva was no exception. I went as a keynote speaker on the Fourth Annual Zimtu Capital Bus Tour where I spoke in each city and served as a moderator and emcee. Accompanying Zimtu were a well-rounded stable of companies representing resources as varied as diamonds, potash, coal, and uranium. Representatives from the Canadian Securities Exchange along with several CSE-listed companies were also in attendance on the bus, and as these companies were not natural resource-focused (vertical farming, biotech, etc), it gave this year’s tour a more diverse flavor than in years past and everyone – from institutional and individual investors to the companies themselves – had a unique opportunity to view the small cap discovery sector in a different light.

That said, this note is really intended to focus on what European investors think of the resource sector now that we are three years into what feels like a seemingly relentless malaise. 

Mining Investment in Hong Kong – Optimistic but Searching for the Turn

Chris BerryComment

By Chris Berry (@cberry1)

For a PDF version of this note, click here

 

 

I have recently returned from Hong Kong where I was privileged to deliver a keynote address at the 121 Mining Investment Forum. In an environment which is crying out for a new conference model, the founders at 121 are on to something. There is an institutional appetite in Asia for mining deals despite the cyclical and structural disinflationary headwinds that appear to be intensifying.

My motive in attending the conference, aside from networking, was to get a feel for how Asia-based investors viewed the metals markets and what sort of questions they were asking. 

Consolidation Amongst Miners Picks Up As Growth Slows

Chris BerryComment

By Chris Berry

 

 

It’s interesting to note that on the same day the International Monetary Fund released their annual World Economic Outlook which lowered expectations for global growth (yet again), that several potentially large mining deals were either launched or mooted.

While the talk of the potential deal for a merger between Glencore (GLEN:LN) and Rio Tinto (RIO:LN, RIO:NYSE) dominated the headlines, two (relatively) smaller deals were also announced recently.

Anglo American (AAL:LN) will reportedly commence with a sale of up to $1 billion worth of copper assets in Chile including the Mantos Blancos and Mantoverde mines, along with AAL’s 50.1 percent stakes in the El Soldado mine and Chagres smelter according to Bloomberg. These assets are small relative to others in AAL’s portfolio, but a willingness to part with them says a great deal about the company’s thoughts on the need to generate returns in the current macroeconomic environment.