In Energy & Gold’s latest conversation with 321gold founder Bob Moriarty we are treated to some glimpses into Bob’s newly published book on resource investing. Including Bob’s special technique for figuring out if a junior mining CEO is lying to him….
Goldfinger: I just read your latest book “Basic Investing in Resource Stocks: The Idiot’s Guide” and I found it to be extremely entertaining and chock full of valuable lessons for junior mining investors. Can you tell us about why you wrote this book and offer some clues as to what readers might learn?
Bob Moriarty: I’ve had several people literally bug me for years, asking me to write a book about the basics of junior resource investing. One of the interesting things about writing about a subject is that it forces you to think about your beliefs. Strange enough the book came out totally different from how I thought it would come out, and I think it’s better.
Goldfinger: The book is basically about the lessons you’ve learned through 50 years of investing, all the way from when you first came back from Vietnam and received some good advice from your broker to some of your most recent lessons including Novo Resources and Novagold. Can you give us a little taste of what’s in the book?
Bob Moriarty: Absolutely. The greatest bull market i’ve ever seen in a stock was in Novagold Resources, it went from US$.09 a share (C$.13 on the Canadian listing) in 2001 to more than US$20 a share (also more than C$20 per share on the Canadian listing) in 2007.
NG.TO (Monthly – 20 Year)
If you were a bull you had an extraordinary opportunity to buy it cheap and make a 200x gain on your investment. Whereas, if you were a bear you could have also made a lot of money because Novagold dropped from over $20 a share in 2007 to a mere $.46 per share in October 2008 when the Global Financial Crisis kicked the shit out of the junior mining sector.
What I realized from Novagold is that we focus on way too many things that are absolutely meaningless – this is how people lose money, they pay attention to theories that simply don’t make any sense. Novagold’s roller coaster ride can also teach us about cycles; if you get the cycles right you don’t need to worry about much else.
How well do you know Frank Giustra?
Goldfinger: I know about him a little bit as an investor but I don’t think i’ve ever met him in person.
Bob Moriarty: What was he doing between 1996 (after Bre-X) until 2001?
Goldfinger: I’m not sure exactly.
Bob Moriarty: He was making movies. He started Lion’s Gate Films. When Bre-X hit he decided that was going to be it for the mining sector for a number of years and he went into the film business. Then he picked the bottom in 2001 when he decided it was time to get back into the mining sector and he began building Wheaton River Minerals which later became Goldcorp and Silver Wheaton. Giustra is one of the most successful resource investors in history and my point is that there is a time to be in resource stocks, and there is a time to be out of resource stocks.
If you look for the signs of a major top or a major bottom you can do very well, but basically ½ of the time you shouldn’t be invested at all. I sold my gold and silver in January 1980 and didn’t own an ounce of metal again until 1999 when I decided it was a tremendous opportunity to accumulate precious metals when nobody else cared, everyone else was buying stock in pets.com, Worldcom, and Cisco.
Goldfinger: The point you just made is that everything is cyclical, especially in the mining and junior resource sectors where economic cycles heavily influence the prevailing price trends. There are bear cycles where one should have minimal investment exposure to the resource sector, and there are bull cycles in which many resource shares will see 1000%+ increases almost regardless of the quality of their projects and/or management teams.
Bob Moriarty: Correct.
Goldfinger: Using the example of Novagold, when it reached $20 a share in 2007 it was at the point of maximum optimism that metals prices would remain high for a long time to come and there were no concerns about obtaining project financing. And then barely more than a year later that optimism gave way to extreme pessimism in the depths of the Global Financial Crisis. It’s just another wonderful example of fading greed and buying fear and how we can use the cyclical nature of the sector to our advantage instead of being a victim of it.
Bob Moriarty: During bull markets everything goes up and during bear markets everything goes down and there are times when you simply don’t want to be involved in the resource sector. If people waited until December of 2015 or January 2016 when everyone was extremely pessimistic there was a 400%+ rally across the junior mining sector within six months. You only need to catch moves like this a couple of times in your lifetime to create some real wealth.
Goldfinger: Ok now i’m going to ask you a couple of tough questions since we’re talking about how important cycles are in the resource sector. Are we in a bull market or a bear market right now in the precious metals and junior mining sectors?
Bob Moriarty: We’re in a bull market in both. But palladium is about to fall off a cliff and gold is getting close to being frothy with a DSI (Daily Sentiment Index) of 90.
Goldfinger: How do you know we’re in a bull market?
Bob Moriarty: If you measure all the sentiment indicators that hit absolute extremes in January 2016 we made a capitulation low then, and until they hit an absolute overbullish extreme in the other direction then we will be in a bull market. I see nothing out there to indicate that we’re anywhere near the end of the bullish cycle.
Goldfinger: Going back to Novagold is it possible for an investor to catch that entire move from $.09 to $20? At some point the gains become too great OR the corrections become steep and scary enough that even the most seasoned investor is going to get shaken out of their position along the way, right?
Bob Moriarty: You’ve got to sell some on the way up and you’d be a fool to not ring the register on some at 5x, 10x, 20x, etc. You’ve simply got to sell some or even all of your position, and nobody can catch the entire move. I show the example of Novo Resources (TSX-V:NVO) in my book and Novo offers 3 or 4 opportunities for bulls each year and 3 or 4 opportunities for bears.
The single biggest mistake that I have made over the years is not selling when I had the chance. If I would have clipped some shares off every time I had the chance to I would have made ten times more money over the long run. It’s way better to sell some at a profit rather than hanging onto a stock for several years hoping for it to turn around.
Goldfinger: I think that’s a lesson that a lot of people need to hear. Some of the most common things I see with investors in the resource sector is being afraid to sell some for fear of missing out on more upside, and holding onto big losing positions for years in hopes that there will eventually be a rebound. “Cheap” can always get cheaper especially when the sector is out of favor.
I want to ask you about one of my favorite quotes from the book, here it is:
“It’s been my experience that resource companies are often run by idiots pretending to be managers who live the good life while sucking the financial blood out of the veins of helpless investors. It’s a dangerous business, where failure is the norm. Share prices run up and down faster than a bride’s nightie. I’ve run into charlatans, con men and fools. I’ve visited hundreds of mining properties and i’ve been lied to on almost every trip.
I find that wonderful, being lied to maybe 75 percent of the time. I used to be in the computer business. There I got lied to 100 percent of the time. So the liars in mining are at best amateurs in comparison.” ~ Bob Moriarty
Is this true? Are 75% of the people in this sector liars? Is there a way we can improve the level of integrity in this sector or is this just how the world is?
Bob Moriarty: It’s the way of the world.
Goldfinger: So this is just how the world is and things are? People are going to lie so we should expect it?
Bob Moriarty: Yeah and it’s a good thing to know. When everyone was four or five years old your parents probably told you to like people, to be nice to people, and to trust people but as you grow older you really do realize that people are scumbags. I mean the shit that people pull on each other is just amazing sometimes. One of my favorite analogies is that if you really trust people you should go buy & sell things on Ebay and then come back to me. The scams that people come up with are really amazing. The older I get the more I realize how stupid people are and how corrupt people are. Now I want to be clear that this is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s simply the way of the world.
Goldfinger: One of my father’s favorite sayings towards the end of his life was “the more you see of people the more you will like animals” and I always thought this was too skeptical and dour but it seems that you tend to agree Bob.
Maybe we can look at the glass as half full for a moment. Aren’t there some good people in the world and some really honest good people in the mining sector?
Bob Moriarty: Yes, there are some wonderful people in the sector and there are some guys who tell the truth as a rule. However, one thing you’ve got to realize is that when a guy starts lying to you he may very well be lying about everything. I have had some investments over the year in which I knew the managers were lying about some things but I still loved the story so much that told myself “well, he can’t be lying about everything”, but sure enough, they were lying about everything.
Goldfinger: Wow. I think that’s a cold hard truth that some people need to hear. It might be better to approach investing with a skeptical eye rather than an optimistic one. I know there are some companies out there right now that you are quite skeptical of, are you willing to mention a couple?
Bob Moriarty: I’m hesitant to mention names but I will say this. If you catch a CEO or company executive lying about one thing you can safely presume that they are lying about everything. There is something called lying by omission, which is quite common. These people will simply ‘forget’ to mention important details that aren’t favorable to their company’s story.
Goldfinger: I think that’s a great point. There is sort of a gray area in which companies aren’t lying per se, but they are telling the story in the most favorable way possible and simply not including some key facts that might make investors a lot more reluctant to buy shares. We should probably assume that when the story is being told by a company CEO that they are delivering it in the most favorable light possible, and we should be looking to ask for the things that the company is NOT telling us.
An example of this lying by omission would be a situation in which a junior explorer has a 43-101 compliant resource of 1 million ounces of high grade gold, but the resource is near a residential area and there is no chance they will get permitted to build a mine. This is a simple and even somewhat ridiculous example but it helps to illustrate the point. The CEO of this company is likely to focus on their 1 million ounces of high grade gold and how valuable it must be, however, if you can’t get the gold out of the ground it’s not worth anything. There are lots of companies out there with projects that have significant permitting challenges in front of them and investors should also be considering the likelihood that a project will get permitted and actually generate revenue at some point down the road.
Bob Moriarty: In the example that you just mentioned the company is being deceptive by not being upfront about the permitting roadblocks. You can lie to people by not telling them all of the truth. When I talk to a company I ask them two questions to start off: “Tell me the 3 best things about your company” and “Tell me the 3 worst things about your company”.
Everyone has 3 good things to say about their company, that’s the easy part. It’s usually harder for them to answer the question about the 3 worst things. What I do then is I time them and the longer it takes for a CEO to answer the question about the 3 worst things about their company the more likely they are to be lying from my experience.
Goldfinger: That’s a clever technique Bob. I’m envisioning junior mining CEOs practicing answering the question about the worst things about their company as soon as they read this interview.
Turning to the current market environment we’ve seen a nice rally in precious metals (gold is up ~$60 and silver is up nearly $1) since the last time we spoke and you made a point of recommending investors own precious metals before the Federal Reserve embarks upon QE-infinity again. How would you characterize the current sentiment environment in the metals? Are we starting to get a bit frothy?
Bob Moriarty: I wouldn’t call it frothy, yet, but with the DSI for gold just reaching 90 and the DSI for palladium at 97 we’re starting to get close to being frothy. What you want to pay attention to are the “anti-gold” and “anti-mining shares” assets and I would call those the general stock market. I think when the broader stock market is strong it is generally a headwind for precious metals and mining stocks (not always, but generally speaking). However, when the broader stock market crashes I believe we’re really going to see a parabolic rally in precious metals and mining stocks.
I think we’re going to see a 1937 redux this year. The Dow peaked in September of 1929 and went on to crash in October, continuing lower until July of 1932 when it began to rally 150% until June of 1933. It went up again until 1937 and then proceeded to crash again as fears around a World War began to percolate. I see a major crash starting soon as a worldwide revolution begins to take shape globally. There is no cure for this, there is no fix for what’s beginning to take shape.
Goldfinger: Did you see the recent quote from Alan Greenspan on central banks and gold? Here’s the quote that caught my attention:
“If gold is a relic of history, why do Central Banks + the IMF still hold over $1 trillion of gold? If it’s meaningless, why is everybody still holding it?” ~ Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Chairman
Bob Moriarty: Alan Greenspan actually understands gold better than any economist in the world.
Goldfinger: That quote made me think more deeply about why central banks do hold so much gold and why they have continued to accumulate gold. Simply put, these central bankers are making it up as they go along and gold gives them some semblance of stability and value to hang onto. Without gold in their vaults the only thing most countries have left to ensure the value of their currencies is military force, essentially guns. Gold is a store of value in a valueless world.
Nobody knows what the endgame is for central bank quantitative easing. So far it’s worked pretty well….
Bob Moriarty: No, it hasn’t! QE is putting a band-aid on top of a band-aid on top of a band-aid that’s covering up an infected wound. In 5,000 years of recorded financial history there has never been negative interest rates. The financial system died in 2008 and everything the central banks have done since then is pumping helium into a cadaver. You can blow it up but it’s still a cadaver.
Did you know that there are seven million people in the U.S. who are more than 90 days late on their car payments?
Goldfinger: I didn’t know that and that sounds like an enormous number.
Bob Moriarty: People make their car payments before they pay their rent. They need a car to get to work so for there to be millions of people more than 90 days late on their car payments it’s a sign that there is a large segment of the U.S. economy that are experiencing significant hardships.
Goldfinger: There was a tremendous push by the auto industry over the last several years to get everyone into a new vehicle. This included a big resurgence in subprime auto-lending and it looks like we’re starting to see some of the consequences of this massive effort to sell cars at almost any cost.
Bob Moriarty: Not making your car payment is sort of like smashing your tennis racket into the court in the middle of a tennis match. It’s shooting yourself in the foot and it’s something that someone would pretty much only do if they were SOL.
Goldfinger: Getting down to the nitty gritty of the junior mining sector we’ve seen some big moves in certain stocks recently. Great Bear Resources (TSX-V:GBR) for example has basically doubled in share price in the last six weeks, reaching a nearly C$200 million market cap at its high last week. GBR appears to have just the right story for the junior gold exploration sector right now i.e. high grade gold in a great location.
Bob Moriarty: I believe Great Bear should be even higher. GBR is in a prime location (Red Lake District of Ontario, Canada not far from Goldcorp’s famous Red Lake Mine) and they have had fabulous drill results The market is going to pay up big for GBR if they can keep up these results.
Take for example a stock like Aben (TSX-V:ABN) which delivered a fantastic drill hole to kick-off its summer program but couldn’t back it up with results after that. ABN went to nearly C$.50 and then back down to C$.10:
ABN.V (Daily – One Year)
You get punished if you don’t follow up with good results, and you get rewarded if you do. That’s a good environment for companies and investors in the sector, and it’s a fair environment.
Goldfinger: It’s a balanced market environment in which we’ve seen some big winners and some big losers all depending upon the quality of their news flow.
Tell me about Irving Resources (CSE:IRV), i’ve noticed that IRV shares have continued to make new highs. Has Irving begun drilling?
IRV.CA (Daily – One Year)
Bob Moriarty: They haven’t actually started to drill. The last word I got was that they will begin drilling after PDAC due to a visa issue with their Canadian drillers. It’s out of the control of the company. I’m hoping they will be drilling by the middle of March.
Goldfinger: So Irving is using a Canadian drill crew because they can’t get drillers in Japan?
Bob Moriarty: Japan has a major demographic issue with an aging population and very few young men. Japan is in the worst shape possible in terms of population trends. They’re going to have to make some major changes.
Goldfinger: You had also mentioned Miramont in our last conversation. Can you update readers on MONT?
Bob Moriarty: Miramont is a copper-gold-silver play in southern Peru. They have started drilling and they have sent some material to the lab with results expected some time in March. Quinton Hennigh is the chairman of Miramont and I think this could be a home run.
Goldfinger: I must say that MONT has a nice looking chart and if it can get above resistance near C$.46 I could see it rallying another 50%+.
MONT.CA (Daily – One Year)
Goldfinger: One more thing i’d like to mention about your book Bob – you have an excellent list of services and newsletter writers that you use to help you be a better investor, however, I noticed one in particular that you left out…..
Bob Moriarty: (Laughs) Ah yes, yours!!
I’d like to thank Bob for an entertaining interview and I know I learned a few things in this conversation. I can’t recommend Bob’s new book more highly, the $12.99 price is like receiving the most valuable nuggets of wisdom from a lifetime of investing for the cost of one trading commission. Do yourself a favor and buy this book, then read it cover to cover in one sitting.
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