DC: I think volatility is going to go way up in the future as the titanic forces of inflation and deflation fight with each other. This is a very poor time to make big bets in almost any conventional market because it’s impossible to tell how things will finally settle, where the next major war will be and so forth. Stock markets around the world are not cheap now and bond markets are fantastically overpriced. Currencies are no more than floating abstractions. Commodities have been in a long bull market, so they’re no longer a low-risk bet. Real estate—the most obvious thing for bankrupt governments to tax—is dangerous. In the developed world—especially in the U.S.—it floats on a sea of debt, which has driven it to artificially high levels. It’s coming down as we speak, but it’s nowhere near a bottom.
So there are very few places where people can still attempt to preserve capital. Everybody is going to be almost forced to be a speculator to try to stay in the same place. Speculating means capitalizing on politically caused distortions in the marketplace. That’s the proper definition of the word.
TGR: What can people speculate on?
DC: Unfortunately, they have to second-guess where the money will go. I’ve always liked resource stocks, especially resource exploration stocks. It’s a tiny market. If a fire gets lit under gold and silver, and I think it will, companies in this nanosector could explode 10, 20 or 50 times upward in price. It’s happened many times in the past. Right now, these stocks are relatively cheap, so I like that as a speculative vehicle.
TGR: Rick Rule has cautioned against generalizing about the entire junior mining sector as a whole, because so many of these companies don’t find anything. How do you decide which resource investments are worth looking into? Are there criteria? Is there some kind of a litmus test that you use?
DC: Rick is absolutely correct about that. Although the sector is capable of going upwards 10 or 20 times as a whole, most of the stocks in it are total garbage. The only gold, uranium, silver or whatever appears on their stock certificates, not in the ground they control. There are thousands of these little stocks, and yes, we have criteria we use to evaluate them. We use a tried-and-true due diligence process we call The Eight Ps of Resource Stock Evaluation to separate the wheat from the chaff among speculative investment opportunities.
TGR: Would you share that with us?
DC: Sure. This is a guide to help investors ask the right questions about every individual company they’re considering. This list comprehends the essential, but you could write a book about each of these eight points.
- People: Who are the key players in the company and what are the track records of the companies they’ve managed? This is by far the most important criteria.
- Property: What resources are in hand, and what (if any) are the additional resources they expect to find? How well proven are they? Assessing this takes geological and engineering expertise.
- Phinancing: Does the company have enough cash to meet its next-phase objectives or have the ability to finance the cost of reaching those objectives? It’s no longer a case of grubstaking a prospector and his mule.
- Paper: Capital is almost always raised from the issuance of new shares. Is there a lot of cheap paper out there that will keep the share price down? Will new or existing warrants or new shares dilute your own shares? Who owns most of the paper?
- Promotion: How and when is the company going to get itself (and its stock) noticed?
- Politics: Is the country or region mine friendly and stable? Are foreign investors welcome? Is there environmental resistance?
- Push: What’s going to move this stock? Drill results, merger or acquisition, increase in the price of the underlying commodity, resolution of a legal issue?
- Price: What are the potential price moves of the underlying commodity that could have either a positive or negative impact on the value of the company?
TGR: How hard is it to find a company that passes muster on all eight counts?
DC: It’s very hard. It’s hard enough to look at the basic statistics of thousands of companies. Then you look at the people behind them. Generally, we try to find the people first. We stay away from those who have no history of success and have established that they have questionable characters. We look for people with long histories of success or appear to be about to embark on a lifetime of success. The most important piece is people. That’s what we really look for most of all.
TGR: Based on all the calamities that could occur, how will you adjust your investing philosophy?
DC: Let me put it this way. We’re going into something that I call The Greater Depression, much worse and much different than what happened in the 1930s. I think my friend Richard Russell said it best: “In a depression, everybody loses. The winner is the guy who loses the least.” It’s very tough to keep capital together today, much less make it grow in the years to come.
But I think it’s possible. The thing to remember is that most of the world’s real wealth will remain in existence regardless of what happens. The key is to position yourself so that more of it falls into your hands as opposed to falling out of your hands. That’s what we’re trying to do, to increase our relative share of the wealth in the world. We’re not looking at boom times. What’s coming will be the opposite of what we experienced during the artificial inflationary boom of the 1990s, where everything was going up—stocks, real estate and so forth. This is a time when, in real terms, most things will lose value. Most people will experience a real decline in their standard of living.
TGR: As we’ve discussed, at its root, paper currency is a substitute for something of value. Energy, similar to gold, has intrinsic value. It’s always in demand. In the past, you’ve expressed optimism about uranium, natural gas and oil. As the dollar becomes suspect, do you foresee sources of energy becoming more valuable?
DC: Absolutely. I’m very bullish on oil. The world runs on fossil fuels today because they’re ideal sources of highly concentrated energy. Unfortunately, all of the easily available, cheap fossil fuels have basically been found. The low-hanging fruit is gone. This is what the peak oil theory is about. Plenty of oil remains, but it’s going to be more expensive to get it. To find oil now requires going to exotic places without infrastructure and with big political problems. It requires going much deeper into the ground, exploring under the ocean, using new technologies, and so forth.
Gas is secondary to oil when it comes to concentrated sources of energy. Of course, with the development of new technologies, primarily horizontal drilling and new fracking techniques, a huge amount of natural gas has become available all over the world. But it takes tremendous capital to retrieve it, and it also faces political problems.
But in summary, I’m bullish on energy of all types. There is plenty of fuel out there. It’s just a question of the price level, so it becomes economic to retrieve it.
TGR: So how do you invest in finding the rest of what’s out there?