Is the epic boom in commodities over?

  @FortuneMagazine September 19, 2013: 7:57 AM ET
INV07 jim rogers

Rogers in Singapore's Chinatown

(Fortune)

It was one of the best calls in memory. Back in the late 1990s, when the world was in the thrall of the dotcom bubble, Jim Rogers foresaw a China-driven commodities boom. In the decade-plus since, hundreds of billions poured into the sector -- including to investment products from UBS, Merrill Lynch, and others based on his Rogers International Commodities Index -- to try to capitalize on the surging prices of oil, metals, and grains. But lately, with gold 20% below its high and miners cutting back on new projects, a growing chorus of Wall Street voices has begun to declare the boom over. Rogers, 70, disagrees. From Singapore, where he moved his family six years ago to be closer to the action in China, the onetime hedge fund partner of George Soros tells Fortune why he believes commodities can still go higher. Edited excerpts:

More and more people on Wall Street say the commodities boom is over. Is it?

That's a very good question. I have certainly noticed what you've noticed, and it's a good sign from my point of view. I've been around markets long enough to know that when everybody's on one side of the boat, it's probably not the right side to be on. During the long bull market in equities between 1982 and 2000, stocks collapsed in 1987 and they fell in '90, '94, '97, and '98. Every time, people said, "Well, the bull market's over." But the bull market was not over. And like most long bull markets, it eventually ended in a mania and a bubble.

So you don't think we've reached the mania stage yet with commodities?

I don't see enough supply having come onstream in most commodities to end the bull market. Agriculture inventories are near historical lows because the world has consumed more than it grows for a decade now. Many minerals companies have canceled capital-spending programs because they, too, have heard from Wall Street that the boom is over. I haven't seen a mania yet.

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