(Bloomberg News) Stock markets are down. Europe is gyrating. Cash generates minuscule returns. Commodities, especially gold, can soar or tumble in an instant.
In these perplexing times, Bloomberg News asked ten billionaires about their views on the global economy, where they see opportunities and who gave them the best advice.
We found much agreement: The billionaires say traditional indicators have little influaence on their investment decisions. In fact, hair-care mogul John Paul DeJoria says beauty salons are better barometers of economic health. The ten largely agree that the euro will depreciate further and that keeping one's portfolio in U.S. dollars is smart.
Lawyer Joe Jamail, with the bulk of his fortune in bonds and cash, expresses in colorful language a common tenet: Hedge funds are dangerous. "I'd buy cocaine rather than buy that s---," he says.
We also found diverging opinions. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index may wind up anywhere from 1,200 (according to Jamail) to 1,400 (according to Rubens Menin Teixeira de Souza) at the end of 2012. It was at 1,195.19 on November 29. Gold is an opportunity, an enigma and a bubble, they say.
Art collector Eli Broad says buying a prime Picasso is the safest investment. Pharmaceutical baron Patrick Soon-Shiong says he'd go with season tickets to the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.
Russian metals mogul Mikhail Prokhorov offers advice that's hard to beat: What to do with $1 million in cash? Spend it with pleasure, he says.
Following are profiles of the ten billionaires and their answers to selected questions.
Primary Asset: 36% stake in Polyus Gold International Ltd.
The mining mogul sold his 25% stake in OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel, the world's biggest producer of the metal, to fellow Russian titan Oleg Deripaska. The 2008 deal brought him more than $5 billion in cash and 17% of aluminum producer United Co. Rusal. Today, his flashiest assets include Polyus Gold, with about $2 billion in annual sales, and an 80% cut of pro basketball's New Jersey Nets.
Prokhorov, 46, told Bloomberg in 2010 that the term "oligarch" doesn't apply to him because he's just a businessman. This year, he jumped into politics, taking control of a pro-business party called Right Cause. After airing his aspirations to become prime minister, Prokhorov cut his ambitions short following a clash with the Kremlin over how Right Cause should be run.
What three economic indicators most influence your investing?
German IFO data on business expectations are best on global manufacturing. U.S. Conference Board data are the top measure of American consumer confidence. Chinese PMI manufacturing data are good for China's growth and exports. In emerging markets, inflation, budget deficit, production growth index and retail sales are key.