Equity International’s Sam Zell and Templeton Emerging Markets Group’s Mark Mobius took the stage at SALT today…well, they were supposed to discuss opportunities around the globe, but that was changed to discussing the market volatility after the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 372 points today. I’m not sure the content was any different than what it would have been, however. Here are the highlights:
1. On U.S. Politics: Zell said he finds the press coverage of controversies surrounding President Donald J. Trump “excessive,” and suspects it won’t lead to much. Mobius, who has an emerging-market bent, commented that he suspects that what happens in the U.S. will stay in the U.S., and won’t be a big deal for places like China and Brazil.
2. On Shopping Malls: Everyone appears to be worried about the impact the retail wreck on shopping malls in the U.S. Zell said that the U.S. has too much retail space–he puts it at two to three times more than any other country relative to population. “We are overstored,” he says. He warned not to extrapolate that to other countries, where malls are just getting started, especially since many people still shop with cash. Mobius agrees. He pointed to the fact that malls are places not just to shop but also to be entertained. Zell cited a mall in Mexico where they do a Sunday morning church service, then open for shopping.
3. On Infrastructure: Zell was asked about whether Trump’s hypothetical $1 trillion infrasctructure spending plan could happen this year. He turned to regulation, noting that getting anything approved takes so much time that it would be very difficult to make it happen even if he could get it passed. Mobius noted that this isn’t just a problem in the U.S., but that infrastructure spending is always a political issue, and one that needs to be solved.