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EXPECT ECONOMY TO START SLOWLY IN 1990 BUT PICK UP STEAM LATER

SHARE EXPECT ECONOMY TO START SLOWLY IN 1990 BUT PICK UP STEAM LATER

Last week's stock dive, forecast in this column, did not change our fundamentally optimistic outlook for the 1990 economy. Good stock buys are here, and better ones may be coming as the market falters.

Stock market traders typically overreacted to economic news, without considering trends beyond yesterday's headlines. According to the Dow Jones industrial average, the economy was almost 8 percent worse on Monday morning than it was on the previous Friday. Of course, in reality, that's not the case.Media people too often serve up poorly analyzed and misleading economic information that stock traders eat up like filet mignon.

Don't worry, folks. While we expect the economy to start slow in 1990, it should pick up steam as the year progresses. In fact, the fourth quarter of this year will probably not be as bad as the pundits suggest.

This week, The Meyers Report continues our economic forecast for 1990. Here's our predictions for metals, commodities and currencies:

- Precious metals prices. Australia is the third largest producer of gold in the western world. Tax breaks for gold mining operators there will be expiring, which should slow output at the end of 1990 and reduce the available supply.

In addition, the Soviet Union is beginning to consider backing their worthless ruble (the major Soviet currency unit) with gold, which also could reduce their shipments of gold to the West.

Anticipation of these events by speculators, and a projected decline in the value of the U.S. dollar, should push the price of gold (now at $367/oz.) up in the range of $420 to $445 per troy ounce next year.

Silver (now at $5.10/oz.) is a tougher call. It has limited industrial use, but if it keeps falling, get ready to hock the kids. Silver could climb to between $5.90 to $6.50 per troy ounce in sympathy with gold.

Platinum (now priced at $485/oz.) should rise, perhaps as high as $530. The reason: Europe and Japan are becoming more conscious of air polution and will be ordering more automobile catalytic converters, which use platinum.

- Industrial metals prices. Metals producers are operating at full capacity, despite falling demand as the economy slows. Third World metals-producing countries need cash and will continue to overproduce even as stockpiles grow around the world.

Zinc supplies (now at $0.80/lb.) have been artificially held down by producers who have been storing their own inventories in order to drive prices higher. As inventories build, we could see zinc prices drop to 68 cents per pound.

Nickel (now at $4.76/lb.), used by our slowing steel mills, should see a price decline, with the price moving in a trading range between $3 and $4.50 per pound during 1990.

Tin (now $3.86/lb.) should move in a trading range of between $3.15 to $3.75 per pound. The international tin cartel will try to drive prices higher, but they lack an iron will.

Lead prices (now at $0.42/lb.) should stay relatively stable with a slight downward price drift. Look for lead to trade in the range of $0.35 to $0.46 per pound.

Aluminum (now at $0.82/lb.) could fall noticeably, especially as producer output continues at present levels while the economy slows. Aluminum's trading range for 1990 should be between $0.58 and $0.75 per pound.

- Oil prices. There's a current glut of oil, and OPEC is unstable. Iraq and Iran desperately need to rebuild and will increase their output and shipping by 2 to 3 million barrels per day.

The price of oil (now between $16 to $19 per barrel, depending on the grade) should drop to between $13 to $17 per barrel (again depending on the grade). By year end, however, the price could climb back to present levels.

- Meat prices. Beef prices will hold steady in the $65 to $75 range, with normal seasonal changes. But the price of pork (now at $46/hundred lbs.) could go as high as $55 per hundred pounds. Demand for pork is continuing to increase both here and abroad because pork is cheaper than beef and it's now leaner - and healthier - than it used to be.

- Grain prices. Increased yields may drive the price of corn (now at $2.27/bu.) down to $2.02 per bushel, with the high side limited to $2.60 per bushel next year. As for wheat (now priced at $4.32/bu.), bumper foreign crops and increased acreage planted here could make for a lower 1990 trading range of between $3.25 to $4.25 per bushel.

- Currencies. Watch the dollar fall - how far may be a shocker!

The value of the U.S. dollar (now at 134 yen) should bottom out at between 115 to 120 yen next year. Japan has its lowest unemployment and highest inflation in years, so expect the Japanese to try to slow their economy by raising the value of the yen.

Japan will follow West Germany's lead in increasing interest rates. The U.S. dollar (now worth 1.75 deutsche marks) should fall to 1.98 marks.

England has inflation woes, and their interest rates are already high. Given the Brits' problems, the U.S. dollar (now worth 0.60 pounds) won't fall as much against Her Majesty's currency. Look for the buck to deflate to between 0.58 pounds to 0.50 pounds.

Reader questions will be answered and may appear in this column, when mailed to Gary S. Meyers at 20 West Hubbard St., Chicago, IL 60610.