Dennis Gartman rises at 1 a.m. to craft the eight or nine page commentary on the capital markets he sends to clients each morning.
He hasn’t missed an issue of the Gartman Letter once in 27 years; he takes no holidays and his computer is his constant companion, to ensure he can complete the document no matter where he is around the world.
He comes from modest circumstances: his mother was poor. “They had nothing,” he said. In his youth, he worked as a janitor, and to attend college he parlayed his ability as a diver to obtain an athletic scholarship to university.
Any success he’s had he’s earned, and so, he has no sympathy for the “occupy” protesters, who decry income inequality.
“So what?” he says contemptuously, when asked to comment about differences in income between top earners and those on the bottom. “Those people who stay in the bottom 20 per cent, it’s their choice…I have no sympathy for those who don’t make it on their own.”
Gartman delivered that assessment in a conversation with The CJN after addressing a breakfast meeting of “movers” sponsored by Canadian Friends of Beit Issie Shapiro. The charitable organization supports people with special needs and their families in Israel.
The U.S. economy is fluid, Gartman said. “People move between income groups all the time.”
In remarks delivered to the breakfast meeting, Gartman was upbeat about the American economy and he contrasted his optimistic assessment with the dire predictions of gloom and doom he heard back in 1968.
At the time, the conventional wisdom had it that the world would run out of food and energy and would experience global cooling by the early 1980s.
“Everything they taught me in 1968 was utterly wrong,” he said. Today, advances in technology means there is enough food being produced to provide for everyone on the planet. “People don’t starve because of a lack of food, but because of the inability to get it to them,” he said.
Corn production has gone from 25-30 bushels per acre in the early 1900s to 167 bushels per acre, and in 15-30 years could hit 200 bushels per acre. Scientific advances in genetically modified food means energy and fertilizer that once went into growing long stalks and small kernels now go to shorter stocks and larger kernels, he said.
Demand for food will only go higher as emerging markets like China and India require more grains to feed farm animals for the meat they produce, he suggested.
Gartman predicted food prices would rise as demand ramps up, despite increasing supply.
Predictions about fuel he was taught in 1968 were also way off the mark, he continued. We were supposed to run out of crude oil by 1989, but “there is more oil in the ground right now that is proven and findable than in 1968” and it can be exploited more effectively that ever before, he said.
“As of this month, North Dakota could become a member of OPEC” based on the findings in the Bakken Formation that puts it on par with Ecuador. In the past, “no-one thought of North Dakota as a fertile area of oil production.”
Recent discoveries of natural gas in the northeastern United States indicate a supply that could last for a few hundred years at current rates of consumption, he added.
“The fact is, we’re finding energy almost everywhere” though not the cheaply extracted crude that could be produced at less than $80 a barrel. Demand for the resource will only go up as the Chinese continue to give up their bicycles for Buicks, he said.
Turning to monetary policy, Gartman said the Fed would likely keep short-term rates near zero until 2013. The European Central Bank “has no choice but to ease its policy” and undo the mistake it made earlier when it boosted rates.
The situation in Europe does not look good, he continued. The European Union is unravelling, the Euro is losing its role as a reserve currency and Germans are increasingly unwilling to endure high taxes “to pay for the profligacy of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain),” Gartman said.
He predicted an end of the EU, and its replacement with a northern monetary union centred around Germany. A northern Euro would be “incredibly strong,” said Gartman, whose newsletter addresses political, economic, and technical trends.
Today, gold is holding its value [as investors dump Euros for gold], but “I hate being bullish of gold,” he said.
His recommendations: buy grains, gold and energy and “you’ll do okay.”
During a question period, Gartman predicted former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney would grab the Republican nomination and unseat President Barack Obama. Romney’s polling numbers don’t vary. “He looks like dad, like an adult,” he said. Obama, meanwhile, “is the worst economically oriented president I’ve seen in my lifetime. He has no understanding of how the economy runs.”
Though Gartman’s address was largely upbeat, Dan Yolleck, a senior executive coach, offered a different perspective. Based on his meetings with many corporate leaders, Yolleck said many are very concerned about Europe, which is “in a real crisis.” Corporate layoffs in Europe are massive.
Closer to home, the United States is showing no growth; the corporate leadership model there is broken, with few willing to take chances on new innovations. The United States is also losing a fight with China for markets. “The Americans don’t even see their clocks being cleaned,” he said.
Gartman responded by pointing to the experience of his hometown of Akron, Ohio. When he was growing up, the rubber industry was king and it employed tens of thousands of workers. That industry collapsed in the 1970s yet Akron’s unemployment rate is more or less the same as the rest of the country. People found work in other, smaller businesses, he said.
The U.S. model with big “sclerotic” industries is over, replaced by smaller more innovative ones, he asserted.
Western countries survive by constantly re-inventing themselves – developing new industries that are completely unexpected, such as computers and the GPS. “Many fail, but some succeed admirably,” he said.