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Financial experts debate prospects for 2013 at CFA dinner

About 160 financial professionals turned out at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess to hear two American investment experts give their differing views of the year ahead.

Speaking at the Chartered Financial Analysts’ Society Bermuda 12th annual forecast dinner, David Kotok, chief investment officer of Cumberland Advisors, presented a bullish case for 2013.

Jonathan Golub, chief US equity strategist and managing director at UBS Investment Bank, argued the bearish case before both speakers took part in a question-and-answer session.

Both speakers agreed that the huge amount of money being printed by US central bank, the Federal Reserve, was doing little in the real economy.

But they disagreed on the impact of the low interest rate environment.

Mr Kotok argued ultra-low rates would continue to push asset values higher, while Mr Golub suggested that when rates were so ultra-low the impact on asset values was more likely to be negative.

The two speakers also discussed the broad impact of the energy boom in the US, driven by new drilling technology that has opened access to oil and gas wells that had previously been considered unreachable.

Japan, whose central bank is stepping up efforts to kick-start the country’s sluggish economy through quantitative easing, was mentioned several times by Mr Kotok.

“Japan is now indulging in government-sponsored carry trade,” Mr Kotok said.

“They will reduce the value of their currency. We see it as going up to 100 or 115 yen to the dollar.”

He suggested the Wisdom Tree Japan Hedged Equity exchange-traded fund (DXJ) as an investment that could benefit from this trend.

Mr Golub said there was a “currency war environment” in which many central banks were printing money to lower the relative value of their currencies and make their economies more competitive.

The lack of inflationary signs, even as the money-printing continued unabated, may indicate deflationary pressures in the economy that were being countered by the quantitative easing, he said.

He said that while Japan was reducing the value of its currency, the euro would probably remain strong, a factor that could perpetuate the zero growth in the euro zone.

The abundance of shale gas and oil in the US since the introduction of “fracking” technology was already having a meaningful economic impact, Mr Kotok said.

“There is a US renaissance in energy,” Mr Kotok said.

“We’ve reduced our oil imports and cut our current account deficit in half.”

Mr Golub said the abundance of cheap energy would have a nationwide impact.

“The costs of heating the home, driving the car, etcetera goes down,” he said. “Everyone in the US gets a boost.”

However, there could be some negative consequences, he said, particularly if there were a precipitous fall in the price of energy that impacted the economies of major oil exporters such as Iran, Venezuela and Russia.

“Could this result in a pick-up in geopolitical activity? Probably, yes. For example, Iran might decide to do something funky in the Straits of Hormuz to drive the oil price up,” Mr Golub said.

CFA Society Bermuda president and

The Royal Gazette columnist Nathan Kowalski announced the results of a questionnaire circulated among guests at last year’s forecast dinner.

The most common score was four correct answers out of 13, a result that illustrated the difficulty of forecasting, he said.

Mr Kowalski surprised dinner guests at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess by donning his shades and dancing “Gangnam Style” to the music of Korean rapper PSY before introducing the speakers.

The CFA Institute is offering a needs-based scholarship to help those unable to afford the full price of the CFA Programme enrolment and registration fees.

Application information for 2014 will be available from March 1, 2013. For more information, visit the website www.cfasociety.org/bermuda.

David Kotok: Chairman and chief investment officer of Cumberland Advisors

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Published January 28, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 27, 2013 at 6:18 pm)

Financial experts debate prospects for 2013 at CFA dinner

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