Here’s an Investment You Should Not Forget About
It’s pretty near impossible to build a growth portfolio without a very large weighting of technology stocks. Look at any actively traded ETF containing the major tech companies like Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), Alphabet (Nasdaq: GOOG), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), and Facebook (Nasdaq: FB), and you are looking a collection of stocks that has vastly outperformed the major market averages over the past one-, five-, and 10-year periods.
All of these stocks have strong fundamentals and near monopolies or at least leading market shares within their realms. They will maintain this grip unless the government decides to step in (some whispering about this lately but nothing more) or the companies run into major competition from Chinese counterparts.
Moreover their valuations while not cheap are not frothy, either. In contrast to 2000, when Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) was trading above 100 times earnings, not even Amazon trades at a forward P/E of about 60, with growth in the mid-20s likely over at least the next several years. Amazon’s free cash yield is positive, about 3.5 percent based on expected 2018 values, and growing faster than earnings.
But we’re not here today to praise these great tech companies but to offer an alternative, an investment that in the long run may have more potential and where you don’t have to worry about government interference or Chinese competition. No, we haven’t discovered some miracle stock – rather, we’re talking about a miracle metal. It’s one that is vital in almost all technologies and that is running up against supply constraints just as the demand for technology, from blockchains to artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things, may be on the verge of a major extended growth phase.
Moreover, this miracle metal offers not just a way to play on tech but is also prized because it is inherently beautiful, resistant to oxidation, and a wonderful hedge against inflation. We are, you may have guessed, talking about silver. Silver, which has been used as currency for at least as long as gold – many thousands of years – is still valued as a monetary investment, with about 40 percent of yearly demand coming from investors. But the other 60 or so percent comes from its many industrial uses, which are on the threshold of accelerated growth.
In the 1980s no less an investor than Warren Buffett became the world’s largest holder of silver. Once it became news that he had amassed such a large position, he stopped reporting his silver holdings and presumably sold them. Still, Buffett’s rationale for buying the metal holds true today, to an even greater extent.
Buffett said he was buying silver because demand for the metal consistently exceeded supply. Silver has a number of remarkable properties that make it a critical part of many industrial applications. The metal is the world’s best electrical conductor – even better than copper – and also the world’s best conductor of heat. And as mentioned above, it is relatively nonreactive with oxygen, which is a major reason the metal maintains its properties over time.
This combination of characteristics has made silver an essential industrial and technology metal. The keyboard I am using to write these words has silver. My smartphone may have 0.35 grams of silver, and if I lived in a house that used solar power, silver would be critical to the photovoltaic modules providing my electricity. The auto I drive may have as much as 2 to 3 ounces of silver, depending on how many connections it has and the type of windshield heater.
The point is that silver’s properties, because they are simultaneously singular and critical, translate into many uses. And in world in which technology is becoming more pervasive; in which solar has become the fastest-growing renewable energy; and in which the number of nano-connections among objects is multiplying, the industrial demand for silver is certain to surge.
Right now, as has been true since at least the 1980s, demand for silver exceeds supply, and prospects for additional supply are limited. As I pointed out in a recent interview, above-ground stocks of silver – bars and coins purchased for investment purposes – have mostly accumulated in custodian vaults. The bulk of these supplies, around 1 billion ounces, or a year’s worth of production, is held in China.
Rather than use these supplies to make up for the current supply/demand deficit, it’s likely that China will continue to accumulate the metal. That’s because the country, with its megacities that go hand in hand with a burgeoning Internet of Things, its massive AI projects, and other technologies that have begun to drive the economy, will want to have on hand as much as possible of the silver that these technologies depend on.
The bottom line is that over the next several years, silver is likely to be in extremely short supply. I would not be surprised to see the metal climb to three digits by the early part of the next decade, and I sincerely doubt that you will find many tech stocks that will outperform.