The stubbornly high Aussie dollar continues to weigh heavily on manufacturing, and low consumer confidence doesn’t help the housing and retail sectors.
And as for the mining boom, the one shining beacon amidst a moribund economy, there’s little doubt it’s as dead as a dodo.
The only doubt is whether mining investment and production -- and profitability -- gently plateaus at these still massively elevated levels, or the whole sector goes to pot, leaving massive holes in the Australian ground, and a massive gap in the Australian economy.
We readily admit to not know where commodity prices might be in 3, 5 or 10 years time, and for that we make no apologies.
We can make some educated guesses, but that’s all they’ll be. After all, who’d have predicted iron ore would crash from $US180 a tonne in 2011 down to below US$90 today? Not us, although we have avoided the sector, figuring there was a decent chance iron ore demand wouldn’t be able to soak up the massive supply that was coming to market.
In the mining game, and the investing game, when the wheels come off, the resulting train wreck can be truly spectacular.
Avoid this portfolio killer
Your goal, as an investor, should be to avoid train wrecks, for they are the true portfolio killers.
That may be stating the obvious, and try as we might to counsel our readers otherwise, we still regularly receive emails like this one...
“The reason why we are all mad punters with the penny dreadfuls is we are all looking for the next Sirius Resources (ASX: SIR). In late July 2012 the shares were trading at around 6 cents per share. They then announce a significant new mineral discovery and I felt it had reached its peak at 30 cents. Now they are trading in the vicinity of $1.50.”
Sirius shares are up an astounding 2500% in the past 6 weeks. Experienced investors can go a lifetime without ever experiencing such a gain, let alone one over such an amazingly short period of time.
Enjoy the ride
Good luck to those who have enjoyed the ride. Anyone investing $10,000 in Sirius could have seen it blossom to $260,000. It’s one fortune-maker stock, IF you’d had the luck, skill and guts to buy at the bottom and still be holding all your shares today.
For the one Sirius Resources, there are literally hundreds of penny dreadful train wrecks out there in the wild west of resource stock investing.
Call us boring, but when it comes to putting our hard earned cash on the line, we like to put the odds in our favour.
We almost certainly won’t find the next Sirius, but if we can avoid the next 100 train wrecks, we think we’ll be doing a pretty good job for Motley Fool readers.
One large train wreck
Speaking of train wrecks, they aren’t confined exclusively to the penny dreadful sector.
The iron ore sector’s pin-up child Fortescue Metals (ASX: FMG) is a prime example. One week it was plain sailing to expanding annual iron ore production to 155 million tonnes, the next week it had scaled that back to 115 million tonnes, sacked staff and sold an asset.
Worse, with some predicting the iron ore price will stay in the doldrums for some time, the already heavily indebted Fortescue might be forced to raise equity at these heavily discounted prices – or even lower. No wonder Morningstar have cut their fair value estimate to just $2.20, putting a sell recommendation on the stock.
On the other hand, according to The Australian Financial Review, Citi is maintaining its buy rating on Fortescue, trimming its price target just a smidgen from $5.00 to $4.90.
The value hounds will be salivating at Citi’s earnings forecasts which place Fortescue on a 2015 forward price to earnings (P/E) multiple of 3.5.
We love a bargain, just like most investors. But this is no lay down misere -- far from it. Debt can kill, and Fortescue is swimming in the stuff, and with the future of iron ore prices as uncertain as ever, we’re steering a wide berth.
If only it was this easy...
If only investing was as easy as buying ‘cheap’ stocks. You’d run a simple screen, buy the cheapest, and sit back and wait for the value to be outed. Rinse and repeat...
Out of interest, I ran such a stock screen. On a pure P/E basis, there’s no shortage of ‘cheap’ stocks, like these selected examples…
Cheap? Yes. Buy recommendations? Not necessarily.
Cheap stocks can always get cheaper, especially if they are laden with debt, operate in intensely competitive sectors, are capital intensive, and are price takers.
Still, there are always exceptions to the rule. For example, we’ve got a keen eye on an emerging copper producer that one broker estimates is trading on a forward EV/EBITDA multiple of 1.
One baby with multi-bagger potential
No, that’s not a typo. The number is 1. If the broker is even close to being right, we still won’t be looking at the next Sirius, but we could be looking at a stock with multi-bag potential.
Sirius apart, many commodity stocks are in the doghouse, and justifiably so. The mining boom being over hurts our economy, and our producers, and it absolutely obliterates any small company looking to raise capital to continue their highly speculative mining exploration activities.
But as is so often the case, a few healthy babies are often thrown out with the dirty bathwater. And what’s not to like about a clean, healthy baby trading on a forward EV/EBITDA multiple of just 1?
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