ôAbolish the Hong Kong dollar,ö says Jim Rogers

The famous commodity investor promotes a new Barclays fund tracking his index and talks about currencies, convertibility and China.
ôIf I was the Government of Hong Kong, IÆd abolish the Hong Kong dollar,ö says Jim Rogers. ôItÆs a historical anomaly and I donÆt know why it exists anymore. It is starting to get in the way and I would convert to a renminbi economy once the Chinese currency becomes convertible."

Rogers co-founded the Quantum Fund with George Soros in 1970, one of the first international hedge funds. He is now most famous as a commodities investor, having launched the Rogers International Commodity Index in 1998, proclaiming commodities a better long-term investment than equities.

He was marking the debut of a fund managed by Barclays Capital tracking his index. The Rici follows 30 commodities in energy, metals and agriculture, and has risen in value by 316% since inception. The Barclays open-ended fund is oriented toward retail investors, with maximum upfront fees of 5% and a maximum annual management fee of 0.9-1.25%.

So when does he think the renminbi will become convertible?

ôIf Americans just shut up for a minute, China might make its currency convertible quicker,ö says Rogers. In any event, he expects convertibility to occur possibly before the 2008 Olympics and more certainly before the Shanghai World Fair in 2010.

Correcting a recent misquote in which he appeared to suggest that he was moving all of his assets into Chinese yuan instruments, he explained that whilst he was intent on eliminating his US dollar assets, he was looking at moving his assets into not only yuan, but Swiss francs and yen in currencies, as well as diversifying into commodities.

He expects that the US dollar might emulate the British pound, which over the course of its decay lost 80% of its value as it tumbled from its position as the worldÆs leading currency.

He says heÆs still happy with his gold and oil stock portfolios, has not sold down from either in recent years, in anticipation of oil hitting $150-$200 sometime in this bull-run, principally due to the lack of new strikes. He feels equally sanguine about his Chinese share portfolio and hopes to bequeath it one day in the not too near future to his daughter. He is balking from buying stocks elsewhere and is shorting the Wall Street investment banks.

ôThe USA is in recession,ö he says. ôIn housing, automobiles, the financial community and machinery, it is in even worse than recession.ö

He thinks that the climb-down effect from lower US growth will cause a slowdown in China, but will not materially harm the vibrancy of the mainland growth story.

As capital markets open up, he expects to see an adjustment between valuations of shares in Shanghai and Shenzhen versus their equivalent issues listed overseas. He construes that would represent a sensible re-adjustment, pointing out that the Chinese authorities are at pains to prevent a bubble by raising interest rates and mandatory deposit requirements.

He identifies that the primary supply and demand imbalances exist currently in the commodities asset class. On the basis of historical precedent, he expects that the lifespan of the current commodities cycle will endure until 2014 to 2022.

ôOver the next ten years I expect the Rici index will outperform any stock market," says its founder. "It's hard to say though if it will triple, quadruple or quintuple. You just canÆt find a lead mine inside your garage.ö
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