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Investing in a world with increased risk of climate-related disasters

January, 2022

The United States has seen devastating wildfires ravage the Pacific Northwest and Colorado, destructive tornadoes spreading out nationally, flooding in Miami, NYC and Detroit, on-going droughts in the Southwest, and increased threats of more frequent hurricanes around the Gulf states.

It is unmistakably clear some degree of climate change is responsible for the growing frequency of extreme climate caused natural disasters, not to mention their increased power in terms of the damage and destruction they leave in their wake.

The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest World Economic Outlook states that the losses from unmitigated climate change on global "gross domestic product" (GDP) will average 15 per cent by 2100 (with a range of three per cent to 30 per cent).

Likewise, the "Network for Greening the Financial System" (established by eight central banks following the signing of the Paris Agreement) indicates a reduction of 1.5 per cent to 23 per cent in global GDP.

Yet, at a time of record-high government debt levels, the ability of public fiscal policy to adequately respond to climate change impacts will be constrained. All of this is to say that private capital will play an increasingly large role in the world’s attempt to mitigate the economic costs of climate change disasters.

The good news is that scientists still say there is time to avoid the worst-case projections, meaning that investors can stand to benefit from the long-term global shift to a non-fossil fuel, low-carbon economy.

Renewable Energy 

One of our biggest investment opportunities going forward will come in the form of renewable energy (much needed new and updating infrastructure spending will also reduce the potential problems created by extreme weather events).

Of course this is not a new idea for investors; but the scope of investment required for the world to meet its climate risk mitigation objective is massive.

Total spending will have to reach an annual average of US$2 trillion by 2030 (for reference, spending in 2018 was US$900 billion), according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). This shift is already happening, as market forces have taken over.

The building of new fossil fuel power generation stations - except in the dirty energy states whose politicians are bribed by lobby money - slowly being phased out, especially coal. Companies and utility providers specializing in solar, hydro, wind and geothermal technology will stand to benefit as a result (nuclear, though able to produce clean energy, appears to lack the political appetite now).

Solar power is in line to be the big winner: IMF research gives it the largest jobs multiplier, making it a logical first choice for politicians looking for bipartisan support regarding infrastructure spending.

The biggest concern surrounding solar renewables is the lack of “baseload” ability — for example, peak energy demands are not always when the sun is shining the most. For that reason, technologies supporting "energy storage" capacity also must grow.

Importantly, the cost of renewable energy technology has come down dramatically and is now in-line, or cheaper, than dirty energy alternatives. And that is before factoring in the externality costs (pollution, carbon dioxide) of fossil fuels.

Economic analysis as far back as 2015 reveals renewables spending to be US$4.7 trillion in aggregate, or 6.3 per cent of GDP. The transition to renewables would accelerate even faster if fossil fuels weren’t currently benefiting from such massive direct and indirect subsidies from lobbly-money co-dependent governments.

Nonetheless, the world has moved past the tipping point when renewable energy sources are cheaper than dirty energy plants. Investors will want to have exposure to this secular bull market industry.

Electric Vehicles

Besides clean energy, the next most promising clean energy opportunity comes in the form of electric vehicles.

Tesla’s story is well known among investors and is the biggest “pure-play” company on this theme, but almost all auto manufacturers are moving in this direction.

Globally, the IEA estimates there are only eight million electric vehicles on the road but predicts that number will be 120 million by 2030 (potentially as high as 250 million depending on the scenario).

The above energy sources are two of the largest opportunities that come to mind when thinking about investing around the climate change theme.

Green Infrastructure

Other opportunities worth mentioning include specific rare earth metals (both the commodities directly and through mining companies), since demand will grow alongside the need for battery technology.

Plus, environmental consulting and engineering and construction service companies will benefit from the changing infrastructure demands to a low-carbon economy; including carbon capture and newer energy storage technologies.

Geothermal 

Finally, a potential investment idea that is often overlooked is geothermal energy. This is not the first source that typically comes to mind when thinking of “green” alternatives, but it solves two key problems.

First, it addresses the issue of peak production versus peak demand. Power generation can be adapted to match any demand curve since the flow of heat from underground can be increased or decreased with relative ease.

Second, and perhaps more importantly from a political perspective, the expertise and resources that oil and gas companies have in drilling and maintaining oil wells can be put to use in the construction of geothermal power plants (which require creating a network of reservoirs to cycle the heat above ground).

Geothermal plant construction is a natural solution for transitioning a workers who feel threatened by a move away from fossil fuels, making it an easier political decision for governments.

Renewable technology successes are tied to economic geography

It should be mentioned that betting on any one technology or solution may not be a prudent investment decision as it is too early to call a clear winner in many cases.

Furthermore, given the early-stage nature for some technologies, investors with the ability and risk tolerance will consider looking at private companies - even though there is no shortage of publicly-traded stock companies either.

Bottom line: As governments attempt to make up for lost time as the climate approaches the critical 2-C warming threshold that scientists have warned about, renewable energy investment opportunities will continue to grow.

As such, private capital will also need to play a critical role in this global energy transformation, as informed electorates demand more and more action on climate change.

Finally, the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is an important opportunity for governments to accelerate investments, through green infrastructure spending and the like, wherever there is political appetite for economic stimulus.

Much like the industrial revolution, the coming decades will open several opportunities for investors to take advantage of shifts in global priorities and technological breakthroughs.

David Rosenberg, Rosenberg Research & Associates 

 

Our Investment Strategy for 2022 and Beyond

For most of our Fidelity IRA / brokerage accounts - and our Fidelity 403(b) / ORP retirement plans - our 2022 and beyond investment strategy will involve taking a roughly 10% positions in ETFs (or mutual funds) that are showing new upward momentum and 5% positions in "thematic" ETFs that are also in an upward momentum trend.

As far as performance results for our above described investment strategy, extensive back testing shows that our established buy signals described above have verified positive historical results over many past years (with some portfolios more contained during the extreme volatility of that two Covid years) 

Yet I'm confident that should we start seeing more infection stability with the pandemic, our historicall verified performance results will again show an 80-85% success rate over the next few years following our investment buy signal.

Moreover, with our strongest investment holdings, we will continue to hold 50% of our position through a normal "correction" period, then bringing it back to a 10% position and sticking with the investment until we see the upward trend run out of steam.

However, to ensure consistent long-term investment profitability, our investment strategy will require some degree of short-term investment rotation if any of our investments "falter" sooner than expected.

To minimize potential losses, all our investments will be kept on a tight leash, if for some reason any portion of our investment does not continue their upward trajectory.

In other words, we will watch closely for sustainable long-term upward trends, hold those investments until the uptrend reverses, then, liquidate the investment when it is no longer performing well.

A practical shift in "new decade" investment choices 

Many of you probably consider our investment service to be focused primarily (or wholly) on the stock markets. Although historically true, as more and more of our clients enter or approach retirement, our asset selection process will be tempered more toward risk aversion.

Plus, due to the extreme political economic dysfunction we are increasingly seeing with the white supremacy-focused MAGA GOP, it is incumbent within our investment strategy to manage your money with intelligent and cautious risk-aversion.especially, after Trump's traitorous attempt to get his neofascist thugs to overthrow a newly elected Joe Biden on 1-6.

In terms of financial assets, while we will certainly use the most commonly recognized investment vehicles - which will include ETFs and traditional mutual funds, we may also move more toward individual stocks and bonds - as well as "ETN's" that track the "price" of various commodities such as gold, silver, or lithium.

And to be clear, we will not invest in the stocks of dirty energy or environmentally destructive mining companies.

To be both successfully profitable and risk-averse, our investment strategy cannot obsess on any one ETF / fund, investment asset class, sector, industry, or commodity. Moreover, individual  stock investing is becoming more and more complex, with almost all large company ETFs and mutual funds owning the same 10-20 stock companies.

However, we will generally focus our investing in larger company, high visibility investments that are displaying sustainable uptrends and endowed with high trading volume (i.e. liquidity) - assuming they are attractive as a suitable investment given our specific risk tolerance.

During the 2020-21 Covid-19 pandemic years, US stocks were the global investment asset of choice for most institutional and personal investors. In 2022, we will probably continue to witness that trend until Americans stop being anti-vax, but especially anti-mask, fools.

In other words, pandemic aside, as usual we will also watch closely for global investment trend changes by tracking large investor money flows - both in and out of investment classes, sectors the world over.

Financial Media "Noise"

It is important to understand that the investment "noise" we regularly see or read in the financial media is based almost solely on daily performance trends, the marketing of economic prognosticators, and investment firm sales pitches.

The financial media "fear and greed" programming we see daily has very little to do with anything other than short term investing. It generally does not address much of anything relevant for one week or longer regarding the economy or investments in general.

In fact, like television and cable news in general, so much of the financial media only exists to 1) sell advertising to the investor audience, 2) entertain viewers "gullible" to financial gurus and 3) to sell money management services by hyping their unverifiable investment performance.

On the other hand, there are some investments trends that one can key on for valid information, such as the Federal Reserve Board's current monetary and interest rate policy - as well as other identifiable investment sentiment indicators (such as shifts in inflationary data).

2022 should be an interesting year. If the US stock market is to continue its 12 + year bull market, the S&P 500 stock index will need to break through its resistance price level sooner rather than later.

So be safe and be wise. Get vaccinated and wear a mask when needed until we all get out of this Covid-19 nightmare.

Rocky Boschert

"Racial, religious, LGBTQ, and xenophobic hate will have no place in our investment portfolios."

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