Ups and downs: Investment adviser Marc Faber shows no sign of slowing down

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 3:43pm

You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it,” said English philanthropist, author and MP Charles Buxton. This adage applies perfectly to Dr Marc Faber, well-known investment adviser and publisher of the monthly Gloom Boom & Doom Report.

“I am on time whenever I have to be, like boarding [flights], attending conferences and at meetings,” says the contrarian investor often called “Dr Doom”.

But he adds that he never sets an alarm clock and works only when he has to, whether doing research or writing reports. Faber was born and raised in Switzerland but has spent nearly 40 years in Asia, witnessing the passage of the region’s financial industry through dramatic change. “When I arrived in Hong Kong in 1973, people didn’t make appointments,” he says. “They just walked into the offices of the person they wanted to meet. Likewise, the financial markets were very basic.

There was no futures trading, treasury bond futures or complex products like derivatives. There was no internet or mobile phones. The only quotation machines were Reuters machines, which almost broke your fingers. Technology has changed everything, allowing traders and investors to take a short-term view of the financial markets.”

Faber is often invited by media to give his expert views on the markets, including tips on sectors and products. He says the highs we saw in equity stocks after the 2008 Wall Street crisis were due to the temporary boost experienced by the major economies as a result of the artificial boost provided by the central banks. “That effect has watered down in time and we haven’t solved the fundamental problems yet,” he warns.

Faber points to the pitfalls ahead, with recession still prevalent in Europe, a sharp slowdown in Asia in the past six months and household incomes in the United States not growing substantially and some still highly leveraged.

But, he is confident about the mainland and says its present hiccup is just temporary and its economy will bounce back soon.

Faber lives most of the year in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he owns five motorcycles that he uses “to go from A to B”. “My hobby is essentially what I do,” he says. “It’s like climbing a mountain – if you have to get up on a Sunday at 4 o’clock to climb the mountain and you arrive [at the summit] at 10 o’clock, during the climb you ask yourself, ‘Why do I do this s***?’ But when you reach the summit, you have a nice view and when you come back it’s a beautiful day. Writing is the same.”

Now 66, Faber shows no signs of slowing down. “This year I had the brilliant idea to prepare for old age,” he says. “So I started to work in the garden. I was digging up the earth and I promptly displaced my disc. That taught me one thing – gardening is unsuitable for me. I have to stick to my writing, my reading and economics.”