Canada dresses up for bears
But dressed as they were to the nines, investors attending “A Night with the Bears” at Toronto’s upscale Elgin Theatre, were eager to hear the worst, on the edges of plush seats amid predictions of market doom from some of the continent’s savviest
“I only wish we’d sold tickets,” said a smiling Eric Sprott, arguably Canada’s best known hedge fund manager and chairman at Sprott Asset Management Inc, as he looked out at the 1,500 or so crowd.
In a media room below stage, journalists were held equally rapt by the star speakers after being treated to a hand-operated elevator ride.
Once there, rows of chairs slowly filled as smartly-dressed servers roamed the dimly-lit space
offering drinks to journalists briefed quickly.
When an economic recovery takes place — and it won’t take place any time soon — it’s going to be a weak and shallow recovery.
“Still negative growth, still the worst recession we’ve had in the last 60 years, still the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, still even many of the largest banks are going to be found insolvent,” said Nouriel Roubini, a professor of economics at the New York University’s Stern School of Business, who rose to celebrity status after sounding early warning signs about housing bubbles and the credit crisis.
Later, experts on stage predicted bank failures and harsher times unless back-to-basics medicine is applied to cure a U.S. economic “pneumonia” that spread to the rest of the world late last year.
“There’s a buyer’s strike and the market is not coming back,” said Meredith Whitney, a Wall Street veteran of more than 15 years and one of it’s most bearish bank analysts. The groan from Torontonians was audible.
Canada’s financial system, for many years criticized for being heavily conservative, is now credited for being among the world’s soundest and most resilient to the global crisis.
Canadian banks are routinely ranked as the world’s most solid, having remained profitable despite a crisis that pushed many U.S. and European institutions to the brink of insolvency.
Whitney predicted U.S. banks will need to start raising capital by selling hard assets, and advised investors to “stay tuned” for opportunities.
Roubini, introduced to the audience by his nickname “Dr. Doom”, appeared a tad irritated by the moniker, but not enough to change his tune.
“I don’t think I’m too bearish,” he told reporters. “I am more a realist rather than a pessimist.”
“I’ll be the first one to call for the bottom of this economic contraction, recovery of the market when I see a sustained economic and, therefore, financial recovery. I don’t define myself as a permabear.”
He says he can’t be too bearish because he thinks all the massive stimulus measures and rate cuts around the globe will eventually kick in to avert an “L-shaped” near-depression like the one Japan experienced.
He described the U.S. recession as three times as long and five times as deep as the last, and warned a recent stocks rally was just a precursor to another fall.
“For the first time in more than 60 years we have a global, synchronized recession.”
(Additional reporting by Jennifer Kwan)