Rodriguez Bullish on Energy Stocks -- Not So Bullish on Economy

Bob Rodriguez of First Pacific Advisors sees continued tough times for the economy, but that doesn’t mean he’s staying on the sidelines.

In an interview with Morningstar, Rodriguez discusses his firm’s big recent push into energy stocks. A number of factors — very low valuations, the fact that the world is consuming three times as much oil as it is finding, and the huge amounts of cash energy firms were able to generate in the last “up” cycle — have caused Rodriguez to deploy more capital into the market than at any time in the last 25 years, he says, with most going to energy stocks. In the next three to five years, he thinks oil prices should get into the $100-$150-plus range — even without an economic recovery.

Another interesting prediction from Rodriguez: He thinks the Saudis won’t be very happy about all of the Treasury debt issuance the U.S. has been making, and he wouldn’t be surprised if the Gulf Coast Council at some point creates a Euro-like currency in which oil will be priced.

Rodriguez — who warned of the credit crisis early on — is no super-bull, however. He’s deployed only about a third of his capital, saying that we’re in a new era and spending all of his clients’ cash would be speculating. And his economic view isn’t as rosy as those of many economists. “We went over a waterfall, and now you’ve hit a pool of water, and you say, ‘it’s over,'” he said in describing the current economic climate. “Well … the stream, the river, is still flowing south. So it’s still going to continue to have problems.” The bulk of credit issues still lie ahead of us, he says, and consumers were so overleveraged that it will take time for them to turn things around. “We have a long ways to go,” he says.

Rodriguez’s co-manager at FPA New Income, Thomas Atteberry, added that the current situation took a very long time to create, and will take time to fix. “It took us 20, 25 years to get to this position,” he said. “You realize, no, while the worst might be over, the recovery is not going to be rapid. It’s a very slow, a very long repair process.”

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