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Notes from New Orleans

Notes from New Orleans

US investors, buoyed by the strong dollar, are eyeing up opportunities in UK property.

Back in the 90s, when we were in our 20s, all my university buddies and I wanted to do was travel. We wanted to go everywhere and see the world. 

The problem was how to pay for it.

My solution was to work all year, save up, then, having spent Christmas with my folks, get a flight somewhere on Boxing Day or the day after (flights were always cheap then) and come back at the end of January. The business I was in at the time – voiceovers – never really got going until mid January, so I would end up with almost six weeks of backpacking and only miss a couple of weeks of work, if that.

My best buddy, who is now a big cheese at Channel 4 so I won’t mention his name, went several stages further. He got a job compiling guide books for many years. As a result, he has been to more places than anyone I’ve ever met – across Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, you name it. And, of all of them, he says he reckons New Orleans was the best.

So, imagine my delight when I got an invitation to come and speak at the New Orleans Investment Conference this year. Do I want to come? You betcha!

The conference took place last week and I thought it might be of some use or interest to you if I shared some of my observations.

aerial photography of city buildings during yellow sunset
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Will the Fed keep raising interest rates?

First up, I had a great time. The conference, organised by Brian Lundin of the Gold Newsletter and his supremely competent team, lasted four days. There were workshops and events galore, plus a host of great speakers – from celebrated resource investors such as Rick Rule, Brent Cook and Sean Broderick to macro strategists such as Danielle DiMartino Booth, Peter Boockvar, James Grant and Jim Iuorio to the unorthodox with the likes of Jim Rickards, George Gammon, Dave Collum and Robert Prechter. 

Over 600 people came and there were 100 exhibitors. I would say the bulk of the attendees were American, over 50 and male. There were a lot of gold bugs in the room. I felt well at home. Plus there was plenty of fun to be had in this most musical of cities by night – and great food too.

I would say the overriding theme of the conference – the subject that would not go away – was the Federal Reserve Bank. How long does it continue to raise rates for? When does it pivot? At what point do debt levels become unsustainable? 

The US has interest to pay on $31trn of debt – that surely caps how much further it can raise interest rates? But then it has made it clear that fighting inflation is its number one priority. Round and round the subject went. Some argued that it pivots, others that it keeps on raising.

There was also plenty of talk about falling real estate prices; commodities – especially base and battery metals, not to mention energy; the strong dollar and the Ukraine war. I found myself on a panel with George Gammon and Jim Rickards about the threat of imminent nuclear war that got very tin-foil hat. 

When I suggested that, to everyone’s surprise, Russia was losing the war in Ukraine, Rickards declared that I had fallen for the propaganda and had become a mouthpiece for the globalist agenda and the New World Order. Each to their own, I guess.

Opportunities for investors in the UK

Another theme that cropped up a couple of times was investing in the UK and the opportunities there – or here, I should say. The yields on real estate investment trusts (Reits) are incredible, said Peter Boockvar, and, unlike New York where a lot of commercial property is sitting vacant, while many continue to work from home, in the UK it’s mostly being used again. 

Perhaps most importantly, UK property is looking very cheap to our transatlantic friends thanks to the strong dollar. 

I warned about the potential for rising rates here in the UK and the damage it could potentially do to real estate, whether commercial or residential, but Boockvar still felt the UK is looking like an attractive proposition at the moment. We have a tendency to denigrate ourselves here in the UK, which is why it’s so good to go abroad and meet people who see the UK in a much more favourable light.

A lot of North American money is going to make its way to Europe and the UK, not to mention Japan, in the not too distant future, I would venture.

I focused my talk on subjects that I have been covering quite extensively on these pages in recent weeks – energy; gold and its relevance (or lack thereof) in today’s world and China’s monumental gold holdings; and the strong dollar superseding all.

There were plenty of mining companies there too exhibiting their wares. I think my favourite was probably a silver mining company by the name of Sierra Madre Gold and Silver (TSX-V.SM), which has a dynamic young management, good broker backing, some promising exploration properties and has just acquired a silver mine from First Majestic Silver (Toronto: FR, NYSE: AG) that it is now putting back into production. Pending the closing of this transaction, the stock is currently halted, which is what all silver companies should be – it removes the temptation to buy them!

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If you’re in London on November 24, wearing my comedy hat, I’ll be doing a gig with the Gilets Jaunes at Crazy Coqs (underneath Brasserie Zedel), which is one of the best venues in the West End for musical comedy. It’s going to be a great night. Please come on down.

This article first appeared at Moneyweek.

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The Flying Frisby
The Flying Frisby - money, markets and more
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