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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.

Blockchain Will Completely Revolutionize How We Mine Gold and Precious Metals
May 21, 2018

Global sales of semiconductors crossed above 400 billion for fisrt time in 2017

Last week I had the pleasure to attend Consensus 2018 in New York, the premiere gathering for the who’s who in blockchain, bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Attendance doubled from last year to an estimated 8,500 people, all of them packed in a Hilton built for only 3,000. Ticket sales alone pulled in a whopping $17 million, while event booths—the largest of which belonged to Microsoft and IBM—generated untold millions more.

The entire three-day conference, hosted by crypto news outlet CoinDesk, had the energy and flair of the world’s greatest carnival. Sleek lambos sat outside the hotel, attracting all sorts of gawkers. Passersby also stopped and stared at the “bankers against bitcoin” protest, conceived and funded by Genesis Mining, one of the largest bitcoin mining companies. (You can read my interview with Genesis cofounder and CEO Marco Streng here.)

Bankers agaisnt Bitcoin protest

The same money went to finance bitcoin awareness billboards outside the Omaha office of Warren Buffett, who recently bashed the cryptocurrency, calling it “rat poison squared.”

“Warren,” the billboards read, “you said you were wrong about Google and Amazon. Maybe you’re wrong about Bitcoin?”

Warren Buffet billboard Bitcoin Genesis Mining

Bringing #BitcoinAwareness to the Masses

That Buffett has a negative opinion of bitcoin shouldn’t surprise anyone. The “Oracle of Omaha” has famously been averse to emerging technology and tech stocks he doesn’t fully understand, including Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others. But he’s changed his mind in the past after he’s seen the value these companies provide.

I’m old enough to remember when Buffett was vehemently against airline stocks. The industry was a “death trap” for investors, he once said. Today, his company Berkshire Hathaway is one of the top holders of stock in the big four carriers—United Continental, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines. He even told CNBC he “wouldn’t rule out owning an entire airline.”

Obviously there’s a world of difference between airline stocks and bitcoin—although blockchain, the technology that bitcoin is built on top of, is already being used in aviation to increase transparency in aircraft manufacturing and maintenance. All I’m saying is I wouldn’t rule out bitcoin, or cryptocurrencies in general, just because Buffett isn’t a fan. He doesn’t like gold as an investment either, and that hasn’t stopped it from being one of the most liquid assets on the planet.

The Future of Gold Mining (And Investing)  

But back to Consensus. It wasn’t all fun and games, and there were some serious discussions on how governments might one day use cryptocurrencies; the future of bitcoin mining; and blockchain applications in finance, health care, insurance, energy and more. As I explain in last week’s Frank Talk Live, charitable giving is down because donors are increasingly concerned about fraud. Blockchain can help validate where your money is going.

I would include the mining industry to that list. Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize how gold and precious metals are manufactured and delivered. Consider the journey a gold nugget must take along its supply chain, from mine to end consumer—it cuts through several other industries and practices, including legal, regulatory, financial, manufacturing and retail, each of which might have its own ledger system.

These ledgers are vulnerable to hacking, fraud, errors and misinterpretations. They can be forged, for example, to conceal how the metal or mineral was sourced.

With blockchain technology, there’s no hiding anything. Decentralization guarantees complete transparency, meaning anyone along the supply chain can see how, when and where the metal was produced, and who was involved every step of the way.

This will give the industry a huge shot of trust, not to mention dramatically increase efficiency.

Many producers, tech firms and entire jurisdictions have already adopted, or plan to adopt, blockchain technology for these very reasons. IAMGOLD, a Toronto-based producer, announced last month that it partnered with Tradewind Markets, a fintech firm that uses blockchain technology to facilitate digital gold trading. IBM just helped launch a diamond and jewelry blockchain consortium, TrustChain, that will track and authenticate diamonds, metals and jewelry from all over the world. And sometime this year, the Democratic Republic of Congo will begin tracking cobalt supply from mines to ensure children were not involved.

With precious metals being used more widely in industrial applications, from smartphones to electric cars to Internet of Things (IoT) appliances, tracking metals across the supply chain has become increasingly more important to businesses and consumers. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), global sales of semiconductors—which contain various metals, including gold—crossed above $400 billion for the first time in 2017. Total sales were $412.2 billion, an increase of nearly 22 percent from the previous year.

That’s a lot of metal and other materials that blockchain tech can help authenticate.

Global sales of semiconductors crossed above 400 billion for fisrt time in 2017
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Before I get off this topic, I want to mention that blockchain is also bringing change to gold investment. Consider Royal Mint Gold (RMG), which aims to provide the “performance of the London Gold Market with the transparency of an exchange-traded security.” There’s also the Perth Mint’s InfiniGold, which issues digital certificates guaranteeing ownership of gold and silver in the mint’s vault. A number of other platforms exist to help facilitate gold trading.

Should even one of these become hugely popular, it “could be as big a change to the gold markets as the development of ETFs, but with the added advantage of appealing to younger generations,” according to the World Gold Council’s (WGC) chief strategist, John Reade.

Who Says Size Matters?

The small-cap Russell 2000 Index closed at its third straight record high on Friday after putting up bigger gains than the larger-cap S&P 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average.   

the russel 2000 index hit a new all-time high
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As I’ve explained before, President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies and low corporate tax and regulatory environment strongly favor small-cap stocks. Investors hate uncertainty, which is precisely what the market is feeling with regard to tariffs and global trade. Because small-cap companies don’t rely as heavily on overseas markets as huge multinationals do, it’s little wonder why we’re seeing money flow into the Angie’s Lists and Yelps of the world right now.

 

The Russell 2000 Index is a small-cap stock market index of the bottom 2,000 stocks in the Russell 3000 Index. The index is maintained by FTSE Russell, a subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange Group. The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 blue chip stocks that are generally leaders in their industry.

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 (03/31/2018): IAMGOLD Corp., United Continental Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., American Airlines Group Inc.

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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This Oil Rally Could Have Much Further to Go
May 16, 2018

a picture inside hive blockchain technologies cryptocurrency mining facility in inceland

For more than a week now, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil has been trading north of $70 per barrel, a level we haven’t seen since November 2014. Gas prices are likewise trending up, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the average cost for a gallon of regular gas was $2.88 on May 15, up nearly 25 percent from a year ago.

This will inevitably push inflation up even higher. In April, consumer prices advanced 2.4 percent year-over-year, their fastest pace since February 2017.

Energy the Best Performing Sector for the Three-Month Period

The good news is that energy stocks are also recovering. The S&P 500 Energy Index, which tracks heavy hitters such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum and more, is up almost 7 percent year-to-date, and 46 percent since its low in January 2016. As of May 15, energy was the top-performing sector for the three-month period, returning 14.5 percent.

energy stocks are recovering alongside oil prices
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Those returns could grow even more, if Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest forecast proves accurate. Analysts there believe the price of oil could climb back up to the $100 range as early as next year, which would add another $1 to the cost of a gallon of gas.

Speaking to CNBC this week, famed energy analyst Dan Yergin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, said that Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, could reach $85 a barrel by July. This would serve as a “big stimulus” for U.S. drilling activity, he noted. I would add energy share prices to that assessment.

2018 gas prices higher than previous three years
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U.S. gas prices peaked at $4.11 a gallon in July 2008, according to AAA, and if you’re like me, you’re probably in denial that we might have to start paying that again at the pump. We’re not quite there yet, but it might be time to get your portfolio ready by adding to your energy exposure.

Venezuela Oil Output Deteriorates Further Ahead of Sunday’s Presidential Election

So what’s driving the current rally?

Besides greater global demand—supported by a healthy, expanding economy—two things in particular are keeping prices buoyant right now. Number one, President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal has the potential to curb exports out of the Middle Eastern country, by as little as 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) or as much as 1 million bpd, depending on your source. Iran is responsible for about 4 percent of the world’s supply, so the impact is not insignificant.

Global oil supply is also being squeezed right now by worsening economic conditions in Venezuela. A member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Venezuela sits atop the world’s largest proven oil reserves—and yet its monthly output has been declining rapidly for more than two years. In January, the most recent month of data available, the South American country pumped only 1.67 million bpd. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates output fell an additional 60,000 bpd in February. That’s a 31-year low with the exception of a brief period between December 2002 and February 2003 when oil workers went on strike, sending global prices soaring.

Venezuela oil production in freefall
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Venezuela’s crumbling economy will be top of mind this Sunday as its citizens go to the polls for the first time since socialist President Nicolas Maduro took power in 2013. Although hyperinflation has made the bolivar more worthless than tissue paper, and food and medicine shortages are an everyday thing now, it’s hard to imagine Maduro not walking away with a second term.

Venezuela is one of the most corrupt nations in the world, and the U.S. plans to hit back with steep oil sanctions following Sunday’s election. The beleaguered country is the third-largest supplier of crude to the U.S., following Canada and Saudi Arabia. Such sanctions would be a crippling blow not only to its oil industry but also the government’s already-fragile budget.

As unfortunate as this is, it nonetheless presents an opportunity to energy and oil investors, with additional upside potential as the country’s oil supply tightens even further.

Watch this brief video on opportunities in energy and natural resources by clicking here!

 

The S&P 500 Energy Index comprises those companies included in the S&P 500 that are classified as members of the GICS energy sector.

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 3/31/2018: Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Marathon Petroleum Corp.

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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My Conversation with Bitcoin Visionary Marco Streng
May 14, 2018

Marco Streng CEO and co-founder of Genesis MiningLast week I had the opportunity to sit down with Marco Streng, the wunderkind bitcoin visionary behind Genesis Mining. Genesis, as many of you reading this might know, is the world’s largest cloud bitcoin mining company, with over 2 million customers worldwide. It calls Iceland home, whose cool climate and affordable green energy are ideal for mining newly minted virgin cryptocurrencies. Last year, Genesis helped connect the blockchain sector and traditional capital markets by partnering with HIVE Blockchain Technologies, the first publicly traded digital currency mining firm.

This week, Marco will be one of the panelists at the Consensus 2018 blockchain technology summit in New York, which I will also be attending. Below are highlights from our conversation.

Tell us how you got started in this industry.

I’ve always had a passion for mathematics, science, physics. I wanted to understand how nature works. I used to spend days and nights in the library, and I was actually on my way to becoming a math professor.

But then blockchain and bitcoin came along, and that changed everything. At the time, the community was very small, but the ideas and visions were very big. No one fully realized then how fast it would all grow or just how revolutionary it could end up being. I watched as new marketplaces began to emerge, businesses began to bet on bitcoin and people started adopting it. More and more exchanges popped up. All of this happened within a year of me first reading about blockchain and bitcoin—it progressed that quickly.

It was clear that something big was happening. The world was changing, and I needed to be part of it.

How would you describe bitcoin to someone who knew nothing about it?

With bitcoin, you can send money anywhere in the world to anywhere else without worrying about boundaries or having the transaction controlled or stopped by a third party. It’s a completely independent, decentralized, peer-to-peer system. This is what makes it so revolutionary.

The conventional banking system really shows its limitations when we try to move money between developed and underdeveloped countries, particularly those in Africa. There are some serious inefficiencies that, frankly, many of the big banks just aren’t interested in fixing. But with bitcoin, you don’t have to worry about that. You can send money to, say, a coffee farmer in Africa, and he’ll receive it directly.

Money transfers are only one among a number of many other uses. Bitcoin is also a store of value. It’s one of the few assets that I would say are uncorrelated to the broader financial markets.

As for blockchain, it has innumerable world-changing applications across a wide range of industries. That’s why I believe it’s crucial that people have the right information about blockchain and understand it. If people don’t understand it, and it gets overhyped, I’m afraid it could start going in the wrong direction.

We recently mined the 17 millionth bitcoin, leaving only four million left. Explain why it becomes exponentially more difficult to mine coins the closer we get to that 21 million-coin ceiling.

It’s not that the mining itself becomes more difficult. To answer this, I think we have to look at two components.

One component is the daily supply of bitcoin. At the moment, only 1,800 bitcoins can be generated every day by the whole network, meaning all the miners worldwide. But it’s important to remember that after every 210,000 blocks that are mined, the rewards are halved. What this means is that after the next halving, which I believe is expected sometime in 2020, the number of bitcoins mined a day will fall from 1,800 to 900. And then after the next halving, it’ll be 450. This helps reduce the supply in a natural way.

only around 4 million bitcoin remain to be mined out of 21 million total
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The second component is a measure of how many miners and how much computing power is in the network. If more miners come online, then of course the competition becomes greater. Because the daily supply is already fixed, your market share shrinks.

bitcoin mining is now in highly concentrated range of the herfindahl-hirschman index
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Think of it like the California Gold Rush. Mining gold at first was relatively easy because the metal was plentiful and there were few miners. By the end, it became more difficult because the easy gold had already been claimed, and you were competing with far more miners. We’re seeing the same thing happen with bitcoin and other mineable digital currencies.

Speaking of computing power, HIVE Blockchain just announced that it expanded to 24.2 megawatts (MW), up from 2.4 MW in August. What’s next in the pipeline for HIVE?

Yes, the last expansion was a massive build-out in Sweden. It was done in three phases. I think this was a remarkable achievement for HIVE, that it could add so much computing power so quickly.

This is only the beginning. The year is still long and you can expect to see some bigger expansions on the way. In September, for example, we’re going to ramp up another bitcoin mining facility worth 20 MW, which is very exciting. And from there it goes even further.

a picture inside hive blockchain technologies cryptocurrency mining facility in inceland

G20 finance ministers are scheduled to share their plans for more uniform regulation of cryptocurrencies by July. What are your expectations?

I personally think that this is very good and that it will bring more professionalism into the market. The momentum and adoption has grown so much and so rapidly that there really needs to be some kind of strategy—the world’s economic leaders can’t just leave this space untouched. Anyone who believes otherwise isn’t facing reality.

Having said that, regulating this market will not be easy because it’s in a whole other dimension than anything that has come before it. As an analogy, imagine someone trying to regulate flying cars using the same measures that have been written for cars driving on the street. It wouldn’t make any sense. So there will certainly need to be some innovation to get it right. I think it’s also important that the regulators talk to the right people, the industry leaders. They have good input, and I think it could be a very fruitful dialogue.

Along those same lines, South Korea’s central bank just announced that it was looking seriously into how the Korean economy might use blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Specifically, there’s talk of the country going cashless by 2020. Do you think that’s where the global financial systems are headed?

I think there’s a natural incentive for governments to go in that direction because, of course, they want to have greater control over their economies. But as is the case with overregulation, too many controls—or going completely cashless—could be harmful to the economy. This is certainly part of a long and interesting debate, and I’m curious to see how it plays out, in South Korea and elsewhere.

Where do you see the best application of blockchain technology right now?

Blockchain’s greatest contribution is its ability to erase boundaries. It completely removes the element of trust—or distrust, I should say—and adds a stabilizing effect to nearly every industry because of decentralization.

Take the global banking industry, for example. You don’t need to look far to find some serious inefficiencies, as I mentioned earlier. We’re already seeing some very concrete instances where blockchain can be of help here. The banks recognize this and are getting together to make use of this technology to improve their services.

What’s been the greatest challenge you’ve faced so far in your journey?

For me, the greatest challenge can usually be found in the moment that you’re currently in. I always compare this industry to the beginning of the internet—no one knew where it was headed or what it would eventually look like. Most people had a general idea that it was innovative and could benefit the world, but the full implications were unclear.

Similarly, no one knows where blockchain and cryptocurrencies might take us, and having to deal with this constant uncertainty is, I’ll admit, not trivial. You must always be prepared to act quickly in response to another bitcoin fork, a hack or some other unexpected event. These are things that keep you up at night.

But it’s exciting. I think what history has shown again and again is that it’s dangerous to be ignorant and to not have an open mind. Not everything was euphoric and wonderful when the internet first emerged. Problems still occur online, but I believe most people would agree that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

No industry is without its challenges, and as long as you’re willing to address them, it can be very rewarding. As for blockchain technology, I’m very happy and thrilled to be a part of it this early on.

Interested in learning more? Click here to watch the short film “Cryptocurrency Revolution,” featuring Marco Streng and Enigma, the world’s largest Ethereum mining facility.  

 

Frank Holmes has been appointed non-executive chairman of the Board of Directors of HIVE Blockchain Technologies. Both Mr. Holmes and U.S. Global Investors own shares of HIVE, directly and indirectly.

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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Gold Love Trade Looks Promising in India and China
May 8, 2018

Gold was up half a percent year-to-date through last Friday. This doesn’t sound very exciting, but over the same period, the S&P 500 Index was in the red—the first time in nearly a decade that stocks have been negative for the year through the beginning of May. The yellow metal is doing the one thing for which many investors have it in their portfolio—namely, it’s trading inversely to the market. This highlights its longstanding role as an attractive diversifier and store of value.

Gold bullion has outperformed the market so far in 2018
click to enlarge

Gold has been under pressure from a strengthening U.S. dollar, and May has historically delivered lower prices. As I’ve pointed out before, this makes it an ideal entry point in anticipation of a late summer rally before Diwali and the Indian wedding season, during which gifts of gold jewelry are considered auspicious. Demand in China for the remainder of the year also looks promising.

India Gold Demand Weakened, but a Healthy Monsoon Could Help Reverse That

India’s demand for gold jewelry in the first quarter was down 12 percent from the same period last year, according to the latest report from the World Gold Council (WGC). Consumption fell to 87.7 metric tons, compared to 99.2 tons in the first three months of 2017. Contributing to this weakness was the fact that there were fewer auspicious days in the first quarter than in the same period of the past three years, according to the WGC.

However, this followed a monumental fourth quarter 2017, when gold demand in the world’s second-largest consumer was 189.6 metric tons—an all-time record—so a decline was expected.

Looking ahead, it’s estimated that India will have a “normal” monsoon season this summer. This is good news for gold’s Love Trade. A third of India’s gold demand comes from rural farmers, whose crop revenues depend on the rains from a healthy monsoon. When the subcontinent experiences a drought, as it did in 2014 and 2015, gold consumption suffers.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) reports that its forecasts suggest “maximum probability for normal monsoon rainfall” and “low probability for deficient rainfall during the season.”  

Chinese Bullion Demand Off to a Good Start in 2018

In China, the world’s largest importer of gold, jewelry demand rose 7 percent in the first quarter to 187.7 metric tons, a three-year high. According to the WGC, Chinese retailers are working on improving the customer experience, providing consumers with “a more holistic retail solution.” The industry is expecting a strong 2018 after a relatively subdued 2017.

Except for a weak February, demand so far this year has been particularly strong, with monthly withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) above the two-year average of 170 metric tons. April represented the third straight month of rising demand. Withdrawals were 28 percent higher than in the same month in 2017, according to veteran precious metals commentator Lawrie Williams.

China gol ddemand rose for the third straight month in April
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Williams writes that fears of a potential trade war with the U.S. could be driving Chinese investors into safe haven assets, including gold bars and coins. Indeed, the WGC reports that bullion demand in the first quarter finished at 78 metric tons, above the three- and five-year averages.

I believe this all bodes well for the Love Trade going forward, meaning it might be an opportune time for investors to consider increasing their exposure to gold and gold mining stocks. As always, I recommend a 10 percent weighting, with 5 percent in bars, coins and jewelry, and 5 percent in high-quality gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

 

 

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 S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies.

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South Korea Courts Investors with Unbelievable Payouts
May 7, 2018

South Korea ranks first in dividened growth with a 20 percent CAGR in 2018 2019

Call it the news of the year, perhaps even of the decade. For the first time since the Korean Peninsula was divided in 1948, leaders of the two warring nations met in what had the look and feel of a jovial reconciliation between two estranged family members. Kim Jong-un of North Korea and President Moon Kae-in of South Korea made a number of important, though tentative, breakthroughs, including an agreement to denuclearize the peninsula and a pledge to revisit several infrastructure projects that would help bring some economic unity to the two Koreas.

Which the North desperately needs, as anyone reading this knows.

Below is economic development, as measured in gross national income (GNI) per capita, for the two nations since division. The chart looks not unlike the one I shared comparing Cuba and Singapore since their founding in 1959.

Miracle on the Han River 70 years later
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Thanks to rapid growth spurred early on by business-friendly policies, South Korea is today the fourth largest economy in Asia—following China, Japan and India—and the 11th largest in the world. Most of its citizens enjoy a comfortable, middle-income lifestyle and can afford to own many of the popular consumer goods and vehicles manufactured by Samsung, LG, Hyundai and other Korean household name brands.

North Korea, on the other hand, has not advanced in any material way and today has an economy roughly 30 times smaller than its southern neighbor. Its inhabitants routinely suffer great hardship, from famines to a lack of adequate health care.

For now, many analysts are skeptical that this new development will have a huge impact on the surrounding Asian region—in the near term, at least—since North Korea’s economy is small and lacks the infrastructure necessary for rapid expansion. It’s unlikely we’ll see the sort of boom Vietnam experienced after opening its economy up to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the late 1980s. It’s just as unlikely we’ll see unification anytime soon, as that would require the presiding Kim to end the dynasty that began with his grandfather Il-sung.

Nevertheless, all good things must begin somehow, and this is as good a beginning as I can imagine.

 

South Korea Expected to Lead in Dividend Growth

Investors also seem to be taking in the news with a side of skepticism. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) advanced a little under 3 percent in the three trading sessions following the summit, but since then it’s pared all of those gains.

South Korea is very attractive right now, with stocks trading at cheap valuation multiples relative to those in neighboring countries. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth remains robust, rising 2.8 percent in the first quarter.

The Korean market has a reputation for having a low payout ratio, despite many of its multinationals being flush with cash, but that looks set to change. Pressured by the government to do more to attract and keep foreign investors, the countries’ top 10 firms paid out a record 7 trillion won, or $6.46 billion, to offshore investors last year. Samsung Group ranked first, its payouts rising a massive 45.6 from the previous year to total 3.91 trillion won.

According to CLSA estimates, based on FactSet data, Korea tops the list for dividend growth this year and next. The investment bank is looking for a 20 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), which would be a huge improvement over other markets around the globe.

South Korea ranks first in dividened growth
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Will Korea Become the First Cashless Society?

Recently I asked the question: “How long till bitcoin replaces cold hard cash?” The answer is: Sooner than you might think, though I’m using “bitcoin” here as a proxy for all digital currencies.

Cointelegraph reports that the Bank of Korea (BOK) announced that it’s looking into using blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies for all transactions. Such a move, according to the bank, would improve customer convenience and eliminate the cost of producing physical bills and coins.

The BOK has already set up an organization to research digital currencies and the possible ramifications of transitioning to a completely cashless society—something the Korean government has had its eye on since at least 2016.

Cryptocurencies will be used extensively across South Korea by the end of the year

Adoption is happening much faster than expected. Last month, the country’s leading crypto exchange, Bithumb, and Korea Pay Services, a mobile payment service provider, said they would work together to make crypto transactions available at thousands of stores and outlets.

According to the Korea Times, virtual currency payments will be made available at as many as 6,000 store locations across the country in the first half of 2018. By the end of the year, 2,000 more locations will come online.

Chinese Equities Have Outperformed Since 2001

Morningstar reports that, from March 2001 to March 2018, China stocks had the strongest annualized growth among global markets. Over the 17-year period, the MSCI China Index delivered an amazing 12.2 percent in annualized total returns, compared to the MSCI Emerging Markets Index with 10.7 percent and the MSCI World Index with 6 percent.

China stocks beat all other markets
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What I find incredible is that, when the MSCI Emerging Markets Index was created in January 1988, China wasn’t even included. Today, the Asian giant has the heaviest weighting, representing nearly 30 percent of the index.

But the emerging markets index is changing yet again. Until now, the MSCI included only Chinese stocks that are traded on foreign exchanges—Hong Kong or New York, for instance. Starting June 1, domestic, Shanghai-listed Chinese stocks, known as A-shares, will be added for the first time ever. This will give foreign investors greater, and unprecedented, exposure to the world’s second-largest equities market.

The timing couldn’t have been better, as a huge number of Chinese unicorns—private firms with valuations exceeding $1 billion—are expected to raise capital this year through initial public offerings (IPOs), in Shanghai and elsewhere.

According to the Wall Street Journal, around a dozen Chinese companies, with a collective valuation of $500 billion, have been working with banks and investors to roll out an estimated $50 billion in new shares. Of those, the largest by far is smartphone-maker Xiaomi, which is expected to raise at least $10 billion in Hong Kong, the most ever for the exchange.

Manufacturing in China expanded again in April, posting either a 51.4 or 51.1, depending on which source you trust more—the Chinese government or financial media outlet Caixin.    

Chinese manufacturing continued its expansion in April
click to enlarge

 

The Month of May Has Been a Great Time to Buy Gold

On a final note, May is here, and that means we could see yet another excellent gold buying opportunity. In the chart below, you can see the yellow metal’s average monthly returns for the 30-year period and 10-year period. Although there are noticeable differences, in both cases, May was a great entry point ahead of the late summer rally in anticipation of Diwali and the Indian wedding season, when gifts of gold jewelry are considered auspicious.

Average monthly gold returns
click to enlarge

During this May in particular, the price of gold has been feeling the pressure of a stronger U.S. dollar, currently at a 2018 high, and rising Treasury yields.

But as I said in a recent Frank Talk, there are a number of reasons why you might want to consider adding gold stocks to your portfolio, including faster inflation and shrinking supply.

 

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

The KOSPI Index is comprised of 200 of the largest and most liquid issues traded on the Korean Stock Exchange. The index market capitalization is weighted, meaning that firms with the largest market value have the greatest influence on the KOSPI's returns. The MSCI China Index captures large and mid-cap representation across China H shares, B shares, Red chips, P chips and foreign listings (e.g. ADRs). With 153 constituents, the index covers about 85% of this China equity universe. The MSCI World Index captures large and mid-cap representation across 23 Developed Markets (DM) countries. With 1,649 constituents, the index covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index captures large and mid-cap representation across 24Emerging Markets (EM) countries. With 846 constituents, the index covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country.

The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is the mean annual growth rate of an investment over a specified period of time longer than one year.

There is no guarantee that the issuers of any securities will declare dividends in the future or that, if declared, will remain at current levels or increase over time.

The Caixin China Manufacturing PMI (Purchasing Managers' Index) is based on data compiled from monthly replies to questionnaires sent to purchasing executives in over 400 private manufacturing sector companies.

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 3/31/2018.

Share “South Korea Courts Investors with Unbelievable Payouts”

Net Asset Value
as of 07/17/2018

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.67 -0.01 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $7.56 -0.08 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $3.84 -0.03 China Region Fund USCOX $10.47 -0.11 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.82 0.01 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $25.57 0.08 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $19.71 0.09 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.20 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change