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Please note: The Frank Talk articles listed below contain historical material. The data provided was current at the time of publication. For current information regarding any of the funds mentioned in these presentations, please visit the appropriate fund performance page.

America’s New Emphasis on Fiscal Policy
March 20, 2017

Strong February Jobs Report Clears Path for Fed Rate HikeFor the third time in two years, the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates 0.25 percent last week following the previous week’s phenomenal jobs report. The move was seen as more dovish than many market analysts had anticipated. BCA Research went so far as to call it an “unhike,” citing a number of factors, including forecasts of only three rate hikes in 2017 instead of four.

Immediately following the announcement, the dollar lost ground, clearing the way for gold to climb more than $20 an ounce.

During her press coverage, Fed Chair Janet Yellen expressed doubt that the U.S. economy can grow much faster than 2 percent annually over the next couple of years, placing her squarely at odds with President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to boost GDP growth as much as 4 percent.

Gold Gains on a Dovish Fed
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Since Trump’s inauguration more than 55 days ago, we’ve seen a steady power shift from the monetary side to the fiscal side. I believe this will only continue to accelerate. As I said before, the eight-year stock market rally under President Barack Obama was, in many investors’ eyes, driven not by fundamentals but the Fed’s low-rate policy. Now, however, investor exuberance is being supported by proposed fiscal policy such as lower corporate taxes, deregulation and historically large budget cuts to help finance the rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure and military.

2017 Market Outlook: The Hand Off

Not everyone is confident Trump can deliver on his infrastructure promise, however. Last week, I shared with you that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) just gave our nation’s infrastructure a dismal grade of D+, adding that we face a huge funding gap of nearly $3 trillion between now and 2025.

Last Thursday, after Trump unveiled his proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, ASCE president Norma Jean Mattei issued a discouraging note, writing that the president’s budget “would eliminate funding for many of the programs designed to improve our nation’s infrastructure.”  Although the $1 trillion could be raised at a later time, “that is not the way to effectively invest in, modernize and maintain our aging and underperforming infrastructure,” Mattei said.

Law of Unintended Consequences

Some investors see additional headwinds in White House policy. Near the end of January, the commercial airline industry was disrupted when Trump signed his initial executive travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries. Between January 28 and February 4, bookings issued by those countries fell 80 percent compared to the same period in 2016, according to travel research firm ForwardKeys.

What might surprise some readers is that the ban’s effects went well beyond the Middle East, reaching most major world markets. Net international bookings to the U.S. cooled 6.5 percent during the period when the travel ban was in effect.

Year-over-Year Percent Change of Net International Bookings to the U.S. During Trump Travel Ban
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Among the other unintended consequences was news that customs agents were detaining a number of U.S. citizens who might not have had Western-sounding names. Sidd Bikkannavar, a U.S.-born engineer, was not only detained on his way back home to Los Angeles but also asked to turn over his work-issued phone and provide the access PIN to unlock it, potentially compromising sensitive material and contacts related to his work at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the celebrated heavyweight boxer, was also stopped at least twice while flying in recent weeks.

Trump’s second travel ban, which was also struck down by a federal judge, was opposed by nearly 60 U.S. technology companies—including Airbnb, Pinterest, Lyft and Warby Parker—which filed a brief in support of Hawaii’s lawsuit to block the executive order. Tech companies “and thousands of other businesses throughout the American economy have prospered and grown through the hard work, innovation and genius of immigrants and refugees,” the brief read.  

I bring this up only to show once again that regulations, in whatever form, often emerge out of the best of intentions—in the travel ban’s case, public safety—but they sometimes carry negative consequences that act as friction in our economy. Government policy is a precursor to change, as I like to say, and it’s important for us as investors to recognize their cause, effect and possible ramifications.

Intel Enters the Self-Driving Vehicle Market

A couple of weeks ago I attended a Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) meeting in Vancouver, where the theme was disruption. “Disrupt, or get disrupted,” John Chambers, executive chairman and CEO of tech firm Cisco, told us during his presentation.

One of the most promising upcoming disruptive technologies is autonomous, self-driving automobiles. This tech has the potential to change every industry, including mining, as I told Mining Journal chief editor Richard Roberts last week. So ubiquitous are self-driving cars expected to become, “it seems likely that eventually many people will no longer feel the need to own a car or even know how to drive,” according to management consulting firm Bain & Company. Bain sees the global value of this market, including software, hardware and services, reaching between $22 and $26 billion a year by 2025, with annual growth between 12 percent and 14 percent.

Estimated SystemsAutonomous Market Size
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Brian Krzanich, CEO of chip-maker Intel, sees it closer to $70 billion by 2030.

As you might have heard, Intel just finalized its deal to purchase Israel-based Mobileye, maker of sensors and cameras for driverless vehicles, for $15.3 billion. It’s the second-largest acquisition Intel has ever made, following last year’s purchase of Altera for $16.7 billion.

Mobileye stock immediately jumped more than $10 a share.

Mobileye Stock Surges on Intel Acquisition News
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Although Intel’s business deals haven’t always been profitable in the past, I believe this is a smart move. With sales of desktop computers stagnating, it’s essential for the company to expand its presence and become more competitive in the burgeoning field of internet of things, which will affect as many as 500 billion devices, including vehicles, in the next 10 to 15 years, according to Chambers.

Calling All Curious Investors

If you enjoyed reading this and found value in it, I invite you to subscribe to my award-winning CEO blog, Frank Talk, where I get deeper into topics such as behavioral finance, energy and the gold market.

 

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. By clicking the link(s) above, you will be directed to a third-party website(s). U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by this/these website(s) and is not responsible for its/their content.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. None of the securities mentioned in the article were held by any accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 12/31/2016.

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America’s Infrastructure Shortfall Could Be an Investor’s Best Friend
March 15, 2017

America's infrastructure shortfall could be an investor's best friend

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases its report card on the condition of America’s infrastructure, and for the second time since 2013, our nation’s roads, bridges, waterways, airports and more scored a barely-passing D+.

As disconcerting as this might be to American taxpayers who expect and depend on quality infrastructure, it could be a huge opportunity for investors in companies that stand to benefit from President Donald Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure spending proposal.

Although the plan will likely include public funding, private investment is expected to play an exceptionally large role. House Speaker Paul Ryan recently commented that for every $1 of public funds earmarked for infrastructure, there should be at least $40 in private sector spending. This is investment that will be much-needed.

Failure to Act

According to the ASCE, the U.S. is facing a “yuge” spending gap in both the near term and long term. Between 2016 and 2025, the nation will be short nearly $3 trillion for surface transportation, water, electricity and more. Between 2016 and 2040, the spending gap pushes closer to $10 trillion.

Public Spending on Transportation and Water Infrastructure Has Dropped in Recent Years
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This gap has “a cascading impact on our nation’s economy,” as the ASCE puts it. If nothing changes in terms of infrastructure spending, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) could lose up to $4 trillion by 2025. Business sales could fall $7 trillion, and 5 million American jobs could be lost.

Take a look at the cost of congested roads alone. In 2014, the most recent year of available data, an estimated 3.1 billion gallons of fuel were wasted while we sat idly in traffic. Combined with lost time and productivity, this amounted to approximately $160 billion—all because of clogged roads and highways.

Total cost of vehicle congestion is rising
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Without the proper funding for surface repairs and expansion, this figure could easily continue to surge in the coming years as more and more Americans use public roads. In 2016, Americans drove over a jaw-dropping 3 trillion miles, equivalent to more than 300 round trips between Earth and Pluto.

More and more americans make use of public road and aviation infrastructure
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They’re also flying more than ever before, as you can see in the chart above. With U.S. airports serving more than 2 million passengers every day, congestion is growing. During one of the presidential debates in September, Trump compared U.S. airports  to “a third world country,” specifically calling out Los Angeles International, LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark. In their efforts to address these capacity issues, airports are facing a $42 billion funding gap between last year and 2025.

America's Bridges by AgeTransit, which includes commuter rail, is also grossly underfunded, according to the ASCE. Like roads and airports, transit is increasingly depended on by millions of Americans, who took a whopping 10.5 billion trips on light rail in 2015. Despite growing demand, transit faces a $90 billion rehabilitation shortfall.

Perhaps no U.S. infrastructure has aged more than bridges, with nearly four in 10 of them older than 50 years. Of the more than 614,000 bridges in the U.S., 56,000, or 9 percent, were considered “structurally deficient” last year. According to the ASCE, our nation’s bridges are in need of $123 billion to rehabilitate them.

And as I told you last week, about 70 percent of America’s 90,000 dams will be at least 50 years old by 2025, according to E&E News.

Help Wanted/Needed

In a 2015 study, Standard & Poor’s found that government spending on infrastructure as a percentage of GDP had fallen to a two-decade low of 1.7 percent. This is precisely what Trump wants to remedy with his pledge to inject $1 trillion into the system, as it will not only rejuvenate our roads and airports but could also have a huge multiplier effect. S&P estimates that for every $1 allocated to public-sector infrastructure, about $1.70 is generated and added to real GDP.

But to close the gap described by ASCE, private investment will be needed. I believe this infrastructure buildout—which aspires to be as massive and consequential as President Eisenhower’s in the 1950s—presents some attractive opportunities for commodities and materials investors.  

 

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. By clicking the link(s) above, you will be directed to a third-party website(s). U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by this/these website(s) and is not responsible for its/their content.

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The Bull Market Just Turned Eight. What Now?
March 13, 2017

Top headlines from March 2009

Eight years ago last week, President Barack Obama gave investors a surprisingly hot trading tip. In office less than two months, he commented that we were at “the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you’ve got a long-term perspective.”

Obama couldn’t have known then how accurate his call was. The market found a bottom that very week, and investors who took the president’s advice managed to get in on the absolute ground floor.

At the time, investor sentiment was at or near record lows. The number of S&P 500 Index stocks trading below $10 a share had grown tenfold since the end of 2007. The New York Stock Exchange, in fact, had to temporarily suspend its requirement that equities trade at more than $1 a share. Giant companies such as Citigroup and General Motors—a share of which cost little more than a pocketful of spare change—were at risk of being delisted.

Today, many of those bullish investors have seen some spectacular gains. Since its low of 666 in March 2009, the S&P 500 has climbed a whopping 260 percent, with not a single year of losses. The average annual return has been over 15.7 percent, based on Bloomberg data. With dividends reinvested, it’s closer to 18 percent.

Just take a look at Apple, which has surged more than 1,080 percent as it introduced or expanded its line of got-to-have, now-ubiquitous products, from the iPhone to iPad.

Obama's Long-Term Perspective
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To show you just how far we’ve come, I put together a few comparisons of several indices and economic factors between March 2009 and now.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby: U.S. Economy Then and Now
  March 2009 Most Recent Data, March 2017 Percent Change
S&P 500 Index 666.79 (intraday low, March 6) 2,400.98 (intraday high, March 1) 260%
Dow Jones Industrial Average 6,440.08 (intraday low, March 9) 21,169.11 (intraday high, March 1) 228%
University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index 69.5 96.3 38%
U.S. ISM Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) 35.8 57.7 (February) 61%
Housing Starts 505,000 1,290,000 155%
Light Vehicle Sales 9,552,000 17,465,000 83%
Unemployment 8.7% 4.7% (February) -45%
Gold $885 (intraday low, March 18) $1,248.30 (intraday high, March 1) 41%
Sources: S&P Dow Jones Indices, Bureau of Economic Analysis, University of Michigan, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census Bureau, ISM, IBA

Of course, there have been market skeptics. As others have pointed out, this particular bull run—the second-longest in U.S. history—has arguably been the least loved, with many investors calling it artificial and arguing that it’s been driven not by fundamentals but the Federal Reserve’s policy of record-low interest rates.

Who's to Thank for the Bull Market?
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Now there are those who wonder how much longer this bull run can last. And if it ends, will it be with a bang or a whimper?

“Trump Rally” Could Have Further Room to Grow

It’s important to keep in mind the old investing adage, “Bull markets don’t die of old age.” Bear markets have been incited by everything from geopolitical conflicts to stagflation to oil price shocks to financial crises. Although no one can say with all certainty that age is irrelevant in a market’s longevity, there are signs that the current eight-year-old run has further room to grow, at least in the short term.

President Donald Trump’s pro-growth policy proposals, including lower corporate taxes, deregulation and infrastructure spending, have jolted many people’s “animal spirits,” with several indices already hitting near-record highs. In January, the Index of Small Business Optimism posted a reading unseen since 2004, as I shared with you earlier. More recently, the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, which measures American consumers’ views on the U.S. economy and their personal finances, climbed to 50.6, the first time it’s exceeded 50 in a decade. Note how few times it’s risen above that level in the past 17 years.

U.S. Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index Exeeds 50 for the First Time Since 2007 in February
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And of course there’s the booming jobs market. Following the record 75 straight months of jobs creation under Obama, employers continue to ramp up their rate of hiring even more, indicating a rosy financial and economic outlook. Despite candidate Trump’s tendency to question the validity of encouraging jobs reports before the election, President Trump now has much to brag about in his first full month in office.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the U.S. added a phenomenal 235,000 jobs in February, with gains made in construction, manufacturing, mining, educational services and health care. The report indicated that mining added 8,000 positions during the month, 20,000 in total since a recent low in October, just before the election. This shows executives’ confidence in Trump, who pledged to revive the industry by eliminating job-killing regulations.

Another recent report was even more generous than the BLS. The ADP National Employment Report showed U.S. employment increasing by nearly 300,000 from January to February. Medium-size businesses—those with between 50 and 499 employees—expanded the most, adding 122,000 positions.

February's 'Blowout' Jobs Report
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Gold historically has fallen on better-than-expected jobs reports, but I was happy to see that it actually gained on Friday after eight days of losses. The yellow metal held above $1,200 an ounce, even as it becomes more and more certain that interest rates will be hiked this month.

 

Valuations High, but Good Deals Can Still Be Found

Some investors right now might be discouraged by high stock valuations. Although it’s true certain sectors are beginning to look expensive—information technology is currently trading at more than 23 times earnings, real estate at 43 times earnings and energy at a whopping 113 times earnings—there are still some attractive deals.

Airlines Look Inexpensive Relative to the Market

Among them is the airlines industry, which as of today has a very reasonable price-to-earnings ratio of 9.97. At 21.85, the S&P 500 is more than twice as expensive.

This is one of the many reasons why billionaire investor Warren Buffett is bullish on airlines, which he once called a “death trap” for investors. Not only did his holding company Berkshire Hathaway purchase shares of the four big domestic carriers—American, United, Delta and Southwest—but it dramatically expanded those holdings in the fourth quarter, according to regulatory filings. Now there’s even speculation that Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway could be planning to acquire one of these four carriers outright, with Morgan Stanley’s Rajeev Lalwani writing that Southwest’s “domestic focus, robust and sustainable free cash flow, range of growth opportunities, defensible cost structure and more tenured management team” make it a logical candidate.

 

Some links above may be directed to third-party websites. U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by these websites and is not responsible for their content. All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every invest.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 blue chip stocks that are generally leaders in their industry. The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The University of Michigan Confidence Index is a survey of consumer confidence conducted by the University of Michigan.  The report, released on the tenth of each month, gives a snapshot of whether or not consumers are willing to spend money. The ISM manufacturing composite index is a diffusion index calculated from five of the eight sub-components of a monthly survey of purchasing managers at roughly 300 manufacturing firms from 21 industries in all 50 states. The Small Business Optimism Index is compiled from a survey that is conducted each month by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) of its members. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index is a weekly, random-sample survey tracking Americans' views on the condition of the U.S. economy, their personal finances and the buying climate.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 12/31/2016: American Airlines, United Continental Holdings, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines.

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(VIDEO) What Drives the Price of Gold?
March 9, 2017

In my more than 35 years of investing in hard assets, precious metals and mining, I’ve learned to manage my expectations of gold’s short-term price action. Sure, there have been surprises along the way, but generally, the yellow metal has behaved relatively predictably to two macro drivers, the Fear Trade and Love Trade.

Last year, gold had its best first half of the year in decades, all in response to Fear Trade factors such as low to negative global government bonds and geopolitical risks, specifically Brexit and the upcoming U.S. election.

But the Love Trade failed to lift gold in the fourth quarter mainly because Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetization efforts to combat dark money and tax evasion left many low and middle-income Indians without the cash to purchase gold jewelry for weddings and investment purposes.

Investing, like life, is all about managing expectations. But if you don’t know what to look for, this can be difficult to do. That’s why we put together this video to help educate investors like you on what we believe are the top five drivers of gold. I hope you find it helpful in informing your investment decisions. If you find any value in it, I invite you to pass it along to your friends and colleagues.

Happy investing!    

 

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor.

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Why Commodities Could Be on the Verge of a Massive Surge
March 8, 2017

After finishing 2016 up 25 percent, commodities are getting another boost from bullish investors. Investment bank Citigroup forecasts commodity prices will increase this year on strengthening demand in China and mounting inflation inspired by President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies. Commodity assets under management globally stood at $391 billion in January, up 50 percent from the same time the previous year, according to Citigroup.

Meanwhile, hedge fund managers significantly raised their bets that copper and oil prices have much further to climb, Bloomberg reported, with net-long positions in the Comex and Nymex markets surging to all-time highs.

Bets on Rising Crude Oil and Copper Prices Surged to Record Highs
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In addition, global manufacturing activity has expanded for the past six straight months, a good sign for commodities demand going forward. As I shared with you earlier in the week, the global purchasing managers’ index (PMI) advanced to a 69-month high of 52.9 in February, with strong showings from the U.S. and eurozone.

JP Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI at 69-Month High in February
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Asia Looking for $26 Trillion: Asian Development Bank

As for China and the rest of Asia, a recent special report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) calculates the cost to modernize the region’s infrastructure at between $22.6 trillion and $26 trillion from 2016 to 2030. This comes out to about $1.7 trillion a year in global investment that’s required to maintain Asia’s growth momentum, deliver power and safe drinking water to millions, connect towns and cities, improve sanitation and more.

Asia and Pacific Region Needs $26 Trillion Through 2030 for InfrastructureAs you can see in the chart below, the bulk of the infrastructure need is in East Asia, which is seeking more than $16 trillion between now and 2030.

Governments have devoted funds to support only some of the projects. Currently, 25 economies in the region are spending a combined $881 billion annually on such projects, leaving a substantial spending gap for global investors to fill. This is an unprecedentedly huge opportunity for commodity and materials investors.

To make investment more attractive, however, regulatory and institutional reforms will need to be made in the region.

China, for instance, announced plans to curb aluminum, steel and coal production in an effort to combat air pollution. According to the Financial Times, as many as 30 northern Chinese cities are expected to cut aluminum capacity by more than 30 percent, a move that’s seen as very favorable to the rally that’s already helped the base metal gain over 11 percent so far in 2017.

Aluminum Could Benefit Even More from China Production Curb
click to enlarge

In the past five trading days, shares in leading aluminum producer Alcoa have surged on the news, jumping as much as 9.8 percent on March 1 alone. Since the November election, in fact, the company has gained more than 44 percent on optimism over President Trump’s pledge to spend $1 trillion on U.S. infrastructure.

China's aluminum capacity cuts should help support prices even more this year.

$3.9 Trillion Still Needed in the U.S.

One trillion dollars sounds like a lot, but it falls remarkably short of the $3.9 trillion the U.S. needs by 2025 to rebuild its own aging infrastructure. That’s the estimate of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which gave the nation’s overall infrastructure a D+ in 2013, with “poor” scores given to levees, roads, inland waterways, drinking water and more.

One of the most urgent areas for investment is the nation’s crumbling dams. According to energy news outlet E&E, about 70 percent of America’s 90,000 dams will be at least 50 years old by 2025, putting them near the end of their engineering lifespans. An estimated 15,500 American dams are now considered “high hazard,” meaning their failure could cause fatalities.

An estimated 70% of American dams will be over 50 years old in 2025.

The cost of repairing and upgrading these structures is estimated to be around $54 billion.

According to E&E, 80 dams failed in South Carolina in the past two years alone, causing millions of dollars’ worth of property damage.  And just last month in a high-profile case, more than 188,000 Californians had to be evacuated to avoid the collapse of the Oroville Dam, the nation’s tallest dam.

Like the ADB’s Asian infrastructure estimate, this has massive market potential. More than 80 percent of U.S. infrastructure, from schools to streets to sanitation, is in either private or municipal ownership. This means commodity and municipal bond investors will need to pick up where federal dollars leave off.

Curious about investing opportunities in commodities and resources?

 

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. By clicking the link(s) above, you will be directed to a third-party website(s). U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by this/these website(s) and is not responsible for its/their content.

The J.P. Morgan Global Purchasing Manager’s Index is an indicator of the economic health of the global manufacturing sector. The PMI index is based on five major indicators: new orders, inventory levels, production, supplier deliveries and the employment environment.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. None of the securities mentioned in the article were held by any accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 12/31/2016.

 

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Net Asset Value
as of 04/24/2017

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.38 0.02 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $7.31 -0.14 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $6.39 -0.08 China Region Fund USCOX $8.52 No Change Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.26 0.17 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $24.18 0.15 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $19.29 0.19 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.22 -0.01 U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change