The new defensives- drugs & health care

October 1st, 2009

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Conventionally, if investors want to be at the most ‘defensive’ (i.e. not take any risk) for their investments, there are no better places than US Treasury bonds. The US is the keeper of the world reserve currency and their Treasury bonds are backed by the full faith and creditworthiness of the US government. By definition, the US government can never default on its debt because it has the full powers of taxation on its people and as a last resort, crank up the monetary printing press of the world’s only reserve currency. In other words, the US Treasury bonds are the safest ‘cash’ an investor can ever get.

But the problem is, under the colossal weight of debt that the US government is going to face (see How is the US going to repay its national debt?) and the commitment of Ben Bernanke towards the idea of debasing the currency (see Bernankeism and hyper-inflation), the safest of ‘cash’ is no longer safe in real terms. The US government cannot technically default on its debt because it can always print money and repay them in continually depreciated dollars. The Chinese government are acutely aware of this (see Nations will rise against nations) and are earnestly diversifying their safest ‘cash’ into other forms of store of wealth. With interest rates effectively at zero (which is below the rate of price inflation) and likely to stay there for a considerable period of time (see Marc Faber vs Steve Keen in inflation/deflation debate- Part 2: Marc Faber?s view), even risk-adverse savers are forced to speculate if they want to preserve the purchasing power of their savings.

So, we have this ironic situation that the most risk-free investments (US Treasury bonds) are actually very risky (currency depreciation through debasement). For US-based investors, Marc Faber reckoned that they are better off risking their wealth in defensive stocks than risking it in ‘cash.’

The question is which sector is defensive?

One sector that Marc Faber has in mind:

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