Heavyweight investors Ray Dalio and Howard Marks both upbeat on China


Mr Marks said he believed China was only in the early states of a sustained economic expansion.

“What I tell people is that Europe and Japan are economic senior citizens, the US is a mature adult and China is a teenager,”he said. “If anyone has ever had a teenager in their house you know it can be chaotic and tempestuous, and there are lots of good days and bad days, but you also know the teenager’s best decades lie ahead. I think the analogy holds.”

He said investors could not afford to ignore China. “Will China continue to grow faster than the rest of the world, and will China have the largest economy within the next 10 to 15 years? You can’t say for sure, but it would be silly to say not,” he said. “There’s a non-zero probability that China’s going to grow very strongly and so, over the long term, you probably want to have some significant investments there.”

Will China continue to grow faster than the rest of the world, and will China have the largest economy within the next 10 to 15 years? You can’t say for sure, but it would be silly to say not.

Howards Marks

Mr Dalio said various indicators contributed to his bullish view on the country. “When I look at leading indicators for growth over the next ten years, the biggest relate to education levels, infrastructure, the ability of people to work together in a cohesive way and levels of indebtedness,” he said.

Golden difference

While there was little disagreement between the two superstar investors on China, they differed on an asset class that has a knack of dividing opinion: gold.

“I’ve never invested in gold and I don’t believe it,” Mr Marks said. “I’m a value investor, so I look at something and figure out the intrinsic value – usually based on cash flows – and see if you can buy it for less.”

Howard Marks. Credit:Sam Mooy

Mr Marks said that while assets such as stocks, bonds, private companies and physical buildings are investable on that basis, gold did not share this characteristic.

“Gold doesn’t produce cash flow, so you can’t say what the fair price is,” he said. “The believers can’t convince the sceptics and the sceptics can’t convince the believers.”

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But Mr Dalio said gold should be part of an investment portfolio in the current era of ultra-low or even-negative interest rates.

“You have to view gold as an alternative to cash,” he said.

“Would you rather have cash with a negative interest rate? We’re going to print a lot more of that cash. And what is a bond? It’s a promise to receive all that cash that they have a printing press on. So how does gold compare with a negative-yielding bond, or how does it compare to cash, now we’re in a different world?

“So I think gold works from a diversification perspective.”

Mr Dalio warned that a traditional 60/40 portfolio, where 60 per cent of funds are invested in stocks and 40 per cent in bonds is dangerous in today’s environment of low interest rates and high share prices  “without adequate diversification in currencies”.

Yet while he liked gold on diversification grounds, he said investor should not “go crazy for it”.

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