Doctor Doom and his prophecies of gloom
THIS is the most bullish forecast yet. The Hang Seng Index could go to zero.
We've paraphrased slightly, but Dr Marc Faber has really surpassed himself this time with his latest Boom, Gloom and Doom Report.
Marc's shown that real Doctors of Doom have to go further than this stuff about ''healthy correction'' and ''not about to go for a strong run'' that's coming out of some dismal local brokerages.
He says: ''It is possible that stocks have made milestone highs in the 1989-1994 period, and that for the next several years they may perform poorly.'' And by a ''milestone high'' he means events like the top of the silver boom in 1980 when some big speculators who wanted to control the market leveraged heavily to buy silver at US$50 an ounce. Today it's about $5.
It's not possible to capture his full thoughts in this limited space, but we must pass on the following: ''In fact, if I was asked to choose one stock market which has the potential to go to zero (don't laugh, all stock exchanges in countries which became communist went essentially to zero, and without America the best performing market of the 1970s, Kuwait, would also be at zero) then I would not hesitate to pick Hong Kong.'' ''I am not suggesting it will happen, but of all the markets I follow in the world, Hong Kong certainly has the best potential to do so.'' He also quotes a scholarly Kuwaiti friend who said that Hong Kong today reminded him of Kuwait during the oil boom of the 1970s, right down to the arrogance of the inhabitants.
Marc says that if the milestone high has been reached, then commodities may be the best investment on offer.
In his case, the commodity should be steel, to be more exact a suit of armour.
Cashing in ACTUALLY, despite his doom-laden reputation Marc doesn't think everything is going down.
He's often tipping his clients on things that he reckons will be a great investment, often nosing around in some very strange places in search of interesting ideas.
Once a year he makes a prime tip at about Christmas time. This year his recommendation was - wait for it - cash.
That was about the time we were hearing brokers say things like ''Everyone is buying with every last penny in their pocket. They don't want to miss out.'' No comment.
Variety show WE'D never thought of Sir Willie Purves as part of the Hollywood set. But we were wrong.
Thanks to a report in Variety magazine we've discovered that the Sir Willie's HSBC Holdings owns an American production house called ITC, which owns the rights to On Golden Pond and other movies.
It's amazing to think that the bank is now so large it can have such a lucrative asset lying unknown in its corporate attic, as it were.
If anyone knows of any other strange business it owns, such as a chain of Thai restaurants or a firm that makes rubber bands, then please let us - and possibly the management - know.
Chamber pot THERE were a couple of interesting insights on offer at yesterday's annual general meeting of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce.
Outgoing chairman Paul Cheng Ming-fun gave a revealing speech. He first said: ''Measures are needed urgently to reduce inflationary pressures on the property market.'' With hardly a pause for breath he said he talked about the ''concern that . . . the Government is drifting increasingly away from its policy of 'minimum interference and maximum support' for business''.
Well, controlling property prices looks like ''interference'', but apparently ''interference'' is OK if it ''interferes'' upwards with corporate profits.
Then we got a speech from Jimmy McGregor, whose position as the chamber's Legco member is secure but who was also up for re-election to the general committee.
He said he spent 70 per cent of his time on Legco matters, pushed business' interests where possible, and on political matters he was ''a liberal and a democrat''.
Oops. No wonder he got the boot.
Ironic that the enemies of this battle-hardened democrat used an election to get rid of him.
Gall-ows WE'RE still annoyed at The Times' description of old-style Hong Kong governor Sir David Trench as ''former chairman of Dorest Area Health Authority and High Commissioner for the Western Pacific''.
One well-known broadcaster tells a tale about Sir David's time in Western Pacific.
Sir David was watching his first execution, a hanging, and the hangman was making a poor job of putting the noose around the accused's neck.
Sir David heard himself saying: ''Watch out. You'll choke him.''