Investment Idea: Pre-Fukushima Sake and Shochu
What should we invest in?
Given the extreme uncertainty in the
investing environment, and given that housing, employment and wages, and
some of the other fundamental economic measures are flashing warning
signs, this is not a simple question.
I have written thousands of essays examining the great inflation versus deflation debate (here's the latest). I can see both sides of the argument, as well as arguments for inflation and deflation at the same time. And see this essay by Shah Gilani on Chinese inflation.
or four years into the future I think we could be in a hyperinflation,
within the current year you’re going to see much higher inflation than
most people are looking at,” Williams told MarketWatch.
said that his definition of hyperinflation would be a situation in
which a $100 dollar bill would become more functional as a piece of
toilet paper than a store of value.
is a time when you want to preserve your wealth and assets because
inflation will knock the value out of it,” he added, advising that
people buy physical gold and assets other than the U.S. dollar.
when the hyperinflation hits you’ll see disruption of normal commerce,
you won’t have enough $100 dollar bills to buy what you want,” said
Williams, adding that items to barter with, such as a bottle of scotch, would be more valuable than actual cash, even in large quantities.
course, even if hyperinflation never hits, food prices are forecast to
rise. As such, the price of the grains with which fine liquor is made
will probably increase, and so will the price of the beverage should
rise as well.
Sake as a Japanese Luxury Good
There is some segment of the population that is always going to have a lot of disposable income, even in these times.
Indeed, the gap between the affluent and everyone else has been growing so fast that it is bigger than it has been since 1917 ... before the Great Depression.
As Reuters noted last year:
Kapur, a Deutsche Bank strategist [and] former Citigroup strategist
created a stir five years ago when he built an investment strategy
around his thesis that essentially divided the world into two camps:
the rich and the rest.
Kapur told clients in 2005 that the
United States and a handful of other economies were developing into
"plutonomies" where the wealthy few powered economic growth and
consumed much of its bounty, while the "multitudinous many" shared the
Plutonomies come around only once or twice a
century, he argued -- 16th century Spain, 17th century Holland, the
Gilded Age. The last time it happened in the United States was during
the "Roaring 1920s".
Some shrewd investment advisors have recommended buying rare art and fine wines to cater to the wealthy few.
Given the widespread fear of the Japanese nuclear meltdown - whether you think it's founded or not - high-end sake made before the March 11th earthquake might be a smart investment.
There are a number of Japanese billionaires. And Japan has more millionaires than any country in the world other than the U.S.
At least some of these well-heeled folks have a taste for sake . And
wealthy people from other countries have a taste for Japanese beverages
And they would likely pay top dollar to buy their
favorite sakes made before the nuclear meltdown started, to make sure
that they're not exposed to any radiation.
A number of people have repatriated from Japan in order to avoid the devastation from the earthquake, the tsunami and the economic downturn.
There are also rumors that some of the wealthiest Japanese have moved to China, the U.S. or elsewhere. As Reuters noted on March 16th:
of people desperate to escape Japan's deepening nuclear crisis have
inundated private jet companies with requests for evacuation flights,
sending prices surging as much as a quarter.
are fleeing for Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and as far afield as
Australia and the United States as power outages and shortages of basic
supplies compound the misery after Friday's 9.0 earthquake and
Expats will certainly be eager for a "taste of home" in the form of good sake and other Japanese luxury items.
Like wine, sake doesn't last forever. Dry, high-alcohol sakes last the longest. Both heat and light will degrade the flavor of sake over time, so sake should be stored in the cool and dark.
sakes usually have the "daiginjo", "junmai", "ginjo", "koshu", or
"genshu" classification on the label. Daiginjo is generally the most
expensive sake, requiring the brewer to polish each grain of rice down
to half its original size before brewing.
Hard Alcohol Lasts Longer
Because sake doesn't last all that long, an even smarter investment might be traditional Japanese versions of hard alcohol.
Shochu (pronounced as “show-chew”) is the traditional Japanese hard liquor.
Typically brewed from potatoes or wheat, shochu can also be brewed from rice, raw sugar, or even ... wait for it ... wasabi. Shochu is typically 25 to 35 percent alcohol.
Okinawa - the birthplace of Karate - has its own, stronger version of shochu called awamori (pronounced “ah-wah-mo-ri”), which ranges from 35 to 45 percent alcohol. So highly regarded is awamori among some Japanese connoisseurs that sake expert John Gauntner writes:
was said that while wealthy people might
entrust their money to others, they would always keep the keys
to their awamori cellar with them.
Shochu, and especially awamori, should last a long time. And they fit into John Williams' booze and gold recommendation.
Note: Okinawa is over 1,000 miles
from Fukushima. But the potatoes, wheat, rice or other base materials
could come from closer to the site of the reactors or to other types of
contamination from the Japanese disaster. More importantly, perception
is key, and pre-Fukushima alcohol will likely carry a premium.
I am not an investment adviser and this should not be taken as investment advice.