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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.

What Are the Risks of a U.S.-China Trade War?
December 19, 2016

What Are the Risks of a U.S.-China Trade War?

Risk is one of my all-time favorite board games. It’s among the very few that’s equal parts strategy and luck, and the stakes can’t get much higher than total world domination. It wasn’t uncommon for games between my friends and me to last for hours, sometimes deep into the night.

Today a real-life game of Risk is unfolding on the world stage, with major players moving their pieces into place.

As you probably recall, President-elect Donald Trump recently took a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, a decision that flies in the face of 40 years’ worth of U.S.-China diplomacy. Since 1978, the U.S. has had no diplomatic relations with Taiwan after acknowledging the “One China” policy—a policy Trump says the U.S. is not necessarily bound to.

His phone call and comment follow tough talk on the campaign trail about China manipulating its currency and stealing American manufacturing jobs—though bringing them back might be hard, as we’ve steadily been losing such jobs since the Second World War.

Manufacturing Jobs as a Percentage of Total U.S. Workforce
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Trump has also threatened to impose an unrealistically high 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports, prompting U.S. companies operating in the Asian country to fear “retribution.”

For their part, the Chinese say they have “serious concerns” about Trump’s position on Taiwan and international trade, with one state-run newspaper describing the president-elect as “ignorant as a child” in the field of diplomacy.

China’s “retribution” could be coming sooner than we expect. Last week, a top Chinese official visited Mexico to strengthen ties with the Latin American country, which has also frequently found itself caught in Trump’s crosshairs. Both countries—our number two and number three trading partners, after Canada—have expressed interest in lessening their dependency on the U.S., especially given the strong possibility that Trump could raise certain trade restrictions.

In the fight for American jobs, we could be “risking” a trade war with China right on our southern doorstep. Though the stakes might not be as high as total global domination, they come pretty close. With rates moving up and the world resetting to less quantitative easing, inflation might accelerate. To avoid a global recession, Trump will need to make streamlining regulations a top priority.

Gold Sidelined as Trump Rally Continues and Yields Surge

For only the second time since 2008, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates last week, surprising no one. Although the 25 basis point lift was in line with expectations, markets took some time to digest the news that three rate hikes—not two, as was earlier expected—were likely to happen in 2017. Major averages hit the pause button for the first time since last month’s presidential  election, but the Trump rally quickly resumed Thursday morning.

The two-year Treasury yield immediately jumped to a nominal 1.27 percent after averaging 0.80 percent for most of 2016, an increase of 58 percent. In real, or inflation-adjusted, terms, the yield is still in negative territory, but it’s clearly heading up following the U.S. election and rate hike. Thirty-year mortgage rates, meanwhile, hit a two-year high.

Real 2-Year Treasury Yield Heading Up Following Election and Rate Hike
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Gold retreated to a 10-month low. As I’ve explained many times before, gold has historically had an inverse relationship with bond yields, performing best when they’re moving south.

It’s worth pointing out that the most recent gold bull market, which carried the yellow metal up 28 percent in the first six months of 2016, was triggered last December when the Fed hiked rates.  

Will Gold Respond Similarly to Fed Policy?
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Again, as many as three rate hikes are expected in 2017—unlike the one this year—with Fed Chair Janet Yellen commenting that economic conditions have improved well enough to warrant a more aggressive policy. If true, this should accelerate upward momentum of Treasury yields and the U.S. dollar—currently at a 14-year high—which could dampen gold’s chances of repeating the rally we saw in the first half of this year.

More Than $10 Trillion in Negative-Yielding Bonds

Other gold drivers still remain in place, though, including negative-yielding government bonds elsewhere around the world. The value of such debt has dropped considerably since the election of Donald Trump, but it still stands at more than $10 trillion, supporting the investment case for the yellow metal. And as I mentioned previously, many of Trump’s protectionist policies—opposition to free trade agreements, imposition of tariffs on Chinese-made goods—are expected to heat up inflationary pressures in the U.S., which could serve as a gold catalyst.

What’s more, gold is looking oversold, down two standard deviations for the 60-day period, which has historically signaled a good buying opportunity. With prices off close to 12 percent since Election Day, I believe this is an attractive time to rebalance your gold position. I’ve always recommended a 10 percent weighting, with 5 percent in gold stocks and the other 5 percent in bullion, coins and jewelry.

 

Will Trump Tear Up Dodd-Frank? The Market Is Betting on It

The top beneficiary of the Trump rally so far has been the banking industry, with bets driven by the potential for higher lending rates and stronger economic growth in the coming months, not to mention the president-elect’s pledge to reject any new financial regulations.  

Betting Big on Banks
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I wouldn’t call this rally “irrational exuberance” just yet, but according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s monthly survey, fund managers have built up the largest overweight position ever in bank stocks—31 percent above their benchmarks on average.

This phenomenal run-up implies investors have confidence Trump can make good on his promise to unleash the U.S. economy and dismantle Wall Street regulations.

As I’ve made clear in previous commentaries, regulations are usually created with the best of intentions, and they’re sometimes necessary to establish a level playing field. But all too often, they end up impeding financial growth, hurting not just businesses but also consumers.

Take Dodd-Frank. What was intended as a set of policies to prevent another financial meltdown has dramatically limited consumer choice, shrunk the number of retirement options and squeezed out smaller banks and credit unions. The 2,300-page act, signed in 2010, places a monumental burden on financial institutions, from banks to brokers to investment firms, which we have felt indirectly. Even former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke had a hard time refinancing his house in 2014, one of Dodd-Frank’s unintended consequences.

Before 2010, about 75 percent of banks offered free checking accounts. Only two years later, that figure had fallen to less than 40 percent. Since the law went into effect, the U.S. has lost one community financial institution a day on average. This hurts credit-seeking small businesses and startups, not to mention consumers in the market to buy a new home or vehicle.

Changes in Number of U.S. Banks Since Passage of Dodd-Frank
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In House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” initiative, several solutions to runaway regulations are proposed. One that stands out is a “regulatory budget,” which would limit the number and dollar amount of rules federal agencies can impose every year. My hope is that Ryan and Trump can set aside their differences to streamline the ever-growing mountain of rules that weighs on American businesses and restricts the flow of capital.

 

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.

Standard deviation is a measure of the dispersion of a set of data from its mean. The more spread apart the data, the higher the deviation. Standard deviation is also known as historical volatility.

The MSCI World Financials Index captures large and mid-cap representation across 23 Developed Markets countries. All securities in the index are classified in the financials sector as per the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS). The Dow Jones U.S. Financials Index, a member of the Dow Jones Global Indices family, is designed to measure the stock performance of U.S. companies in the financials industry. 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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These Factors Show Why Buffett Likes Airlines Again
December 14, 2016

Last month we learned that Warren Buffett bought shares of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, according to Berkshire Hathaway’s third-quarter regulatory filings. He also confirmed that he purchased Southwest Airlines stock as well. If we look at the Dow Jones U.S. Airlines Index year-to-date, these allocations appear to have been well-timed.

Buffett Bought at Airline Bottom
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Buffett is universally recognized as one of the most influential investors of all time, so his decision to book a flight on airlines, after blasting the industry for years, is worth examining more closely.

Protected by an Economic Moat

We can mention a couple of things upfront. Most everyone knows Buffett is a value investor. He seeks equity in companies that the market has undervalued—including airlines. As I’ve pointed out before, if we use price-to-earnings as our valuation metric, airlines are among the least expensive in the industrials sector.

He also likes companies that are protected by what he calls a “moat,” the “something” that prevents new competitors from disrupting the industry, giving the veteran players a clear advantage in the marketplace. This is why Buffett has always been attracted to railroads. Because rail is prohibitively capital-intensive, the barriers to entry are high and competition is limited, giving companies greater market power.

Why Buffett Likes Airlines: Protected by a Moat

We see a similar moat protecting U.S. airlines. Since the industry consolidated a decade ago after a wave of bankruptcies, a vast majority of the market share is now concentrated in the big four carriers. In 2015, American, Delta, United and Southwest controlled about 77 percent of U.S. airline revenue.

These are pretty high-level factors to consider. When we delve deeper into the factors Buffett uses to assess equities, the airlines group becomes even more attractive.

Airlines Crushed the Broader Market

What you see below are the top 10 U.S. airlines compared to the S&P 500 Index, using four of Buffett’s favorite financial metrics:  return on equity, cash flow return on invested capital, net income margin and free cash flow per share. As of the third quarter, the airlines group trounced the broader market in all four areas for the 12-month period. This might have contributed to Buffett’s decision to rotate back into a space he spent a couple of decades deriding.

Buffett's Favorite Factors Applied to Airlines and S&P 500
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You can find the definitions of these factors on Investopedia, but they’re pretty self-explanatory.

Return on equity (ROE) measures how much profit a company generates with shareholders’ money. Whereas the S&P 500 returned about 14 percent during the 12-month period, airlines returned 36 percent of equity.

Cash flow return on invested capital (CFROIC) tells investors how much cash flow a company produces as a percentage of its total capital. CFROIC was 35.60 percent for carriers, 14.90 percent for blue-chip stocks.

Net income margin, simply put, is the percent difference between a company’s sales and its net profits. In the past, airlines were notorious for having razor-thin margins. That’s all changed thanks to industry consolidation, restructuring of businesses and the addition of new revenue streams. The top 10 airlines saw margins of more than 12 percent, while S&P 500 margins were 9.8 percent.    
Finally, free cash flow per share is exactly what it sounds like. It’s sometimes used as a proxy for earnings per share, but it specifically measures a company’s ability to pay back loans, taxes and other expenses on a per-share basis. Airlines beat the S&P 500, $4.1 per share to $3.3 per share.

Airlines have definitely come a long way since Buffett invested in—and lost money on—US Airways back in 1989. If you’re interested in learning more, I invite you to join me during my next webcast. I’ll be discussing how airlines reversed their fortunes from near-bankruptcy to record profitability, and where they might go from here.

I hope you’ll join us!

 

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

Dow Jones U.S. Total Market Airlines Index is constructed and weighted using free-float market capitalization and the index is quotes in USD.

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

The price-earnings ratio (P/E ratio) is the ratio for valuing a company that measures its current share price relative to its per-share earnings. The price-earnings ratio can be calculated as: market value per share / earnings per share.

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 9/30/2016: Alaska Air Group Inc., Allegiant Travel Co., American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., Hawaiian Holdings Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp., Southwest Airlines Co., Spirit Airlines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., Virgin America Inc.

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Inflationary Expectations in 2017 Keep the Polish on Gold
December 12, 2016

Inflationary Expectations 2017 Keep Polish Gold

Inflation can be understood as the destruction of a currency’s purchasing power. To combat this, investors, central banks and families have historically stored a portion of their wealth in gold. I call this the Fear Trade.

The Fear Trade continues to be a rational strategy. Since President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise win a month ago, the Turkish lira has plunged against the strengthening U.S. dollar, prompting President Recep Erdogan to urge businesses, citizens and institutions to convert all foreign exchange into either the lira or gold. Most obliged out of patriotism, including the Borsa Istanbul, Turkey’s stock exchange, and the move has helped support the currency from falling further.

Gold Save Turkish Lira
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Venezuela, meanwhile, has dire inflationary problems of its own. Out-of-control socialism has led to an extreme case of “demand-pull inflation,” economists’ term for when demand far outpaces supply. Indeed, the South American country’s food and medicine crisis has only worsened since Hugo Chavez’s autocratic regime and the collapse in oil prices. The bolivar is now so worthless; many shopkeepers don’t even bother counting it, as Bloomberg reports. Instead, they literally weigh bricks of bolivar notes on scales.

“I feel like Pablo Escobar,” one Venezuelan bakery owner joked, referring to the notorious Colombian drug lord, as he surveyed his trash bags brimming with worthless paper money.

Because hyperinflation has destroyed the bolivar, the ailing South American country sold as much as 25 percent of its gold reserves in the first half of 2016 just to make its debt payments. Venezuela’s official holdings now stand at a record low of $7.5 billion.

Trump-Carrier Deal a Case Study in U.S. Inflation

visited Bloomberg TV studio today rates gold

The U.S. is not likely to experience out-of-control hyperinflation anytime soon, as the dollar continues to surge on bets that Trump’s proposals of lower taxes, streamlined regulations and infrastructure spending will boost economic growth. But I do believe the market is underestimating inflationary pressures here in the U.S. starting next year.

As I explained to Scarlet Fu and Julie Hyman on Bloomberg TV last week, inflation we might soon see is largely caused by rising production costs, which is different from the situation in Turkey and Venezuela.

Nevertheless, it still serves as a positive gold catalyst for 2017.

Consider Trump’s recent Carrier deal—the one that saved, by his own estimate, 1,100 jobs from being shipped to Mexico. We should applaud Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence for looking out for American workers, but it’s important to acknowledge the effect such interventionist efforts will have on consumer prices.

Trumps jobs Carrier indicative protectionist policies

As I see it, the Carrier deal is indicative of the sort of trade protectionism that could spur inflation to levels unseen in more than 30 years. The Indiana-based air conditioner manufacturer has already announced it will likely need to raise prices as much as 5 percent to offset what it would have saved by moving south of the border.

We can expect the same price inflation for all consumer goods, from iPhones to Nikes, if production is brought back home. That’s just the reality of it. Prices will go up, especially if Trump succeeds at levying a 35 percent tariff on American goods that are built overseas but imported back into the U.S. The extra cost will simply be passed on to consumers.

What’s more, Trump has been very critical of free trade agreements, threatening to tear them up after blaming them—NAFTA, specifically—for the loss of American jobs and stagnant wage growth. There’s some truth to this. But trade agreements have also helped restrain inflation over the past three decades. This is what has allowed prices for flat-screen, plasma TVs to come down so dramatically and become affordable for most Americans.

International Trade Deals Slowed Inflation
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In its 2014 assessment of NAFTA, the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) calculated that for every job that could be linked to free trade, “the gains to the U.S. economy were about $450,000, owing to enhanced productivity of the workforce, a broader range of goods and services, and lower prices at the checkout counter for households.”

Additional tariffs and the inability to import cheaper goods are inflationary pressures that could result in a deeper negative real rate environment. And as I’ve pointed out many times before, negative real rates have a real positive effect on gold, as the two are inversely correlated.

Inverse Correlation Between Gold Real Fed Funds Rate
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Macquarie research shows that last year, ahead of the December rate hike, gold retreated about 18 percent from its year-to-date high. Afterward, it gained 26 percent in the first half of 2016. The decline so far this year has been about 15 percent from its year-to-date high. Gold, according to Macquarie, is setting up for another rally in a fashion similar to last year.

Central Bank Demand Could Accelerate on Growing Federal Debt

The U.S. government is currently saddled with $19.9 trillion in public debt. Since 2008, federal debt growth has exceeded gross domestic product (GDP) growth. And according to a Credit Suisse report last week, Trump’s tax proposal, coupled with deficit spending, could cause federal debt to grow even faster than under current policy.

After analyzing projections from a number of agencies and think tanks, Credit Suisse “estimates a federal debt-to-GDP of 92 percent by 2026, including a GDP growth offset from the lower tax tailwind, and 107 percent excluding the GDP growth offset.”  

Higher US Budget Deficits Debt Spur Banks Increase Gold Buying
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The U.S. dollar accounts for about 64 percent of central banks’ foreign exchange reserves. With the potential for higher U.S. budget deficits and debt risking dollar strength, central banks around the globe could be motivated to increase their gold holdings, says Credit Suisse.

Waiting for Mean Reversion

As I mentioned last week, gold is looking oversold in the short term and long term, down more than two standard deviations over the last 20 trading days. Statistically, when gold has done this, a return to the mean has often followed. This has been an attractive entry point for investors seeking the sort of diversification benefits gold and gold stocks have offered.

In a note to investors last week, ETF Securities highlighted these diversification benefits, writing that a gold allocation has “historically increased portfolio efficiency—lowering risk while increasing return—compared to a diversified portfolio without an allocation to precious metals.”

As always, I recommend a 10 percent weighting: 5 percent in gold bullion, 5 percent in gold stocks, then rebalance every year.

Learn Why Warren Buffett Changed His Mind

When I visited New York in the spring, the media was negative on airlines because Warren Buffett didn’t like the industry. Now, the Oracle of Omaha has changed his mind about airlines, having invested $1.3 billion in the big four American carriers—but the media’s still down on the group.  I was in New York all week, and they were saying airlines have gone up too much.

I’m afraid they’re missing a great opportunity here. Today, the industry is surrounded by what Buffett calls a “moat,” meaning the barrier to entry is too high and restrictive for new competitors. President-elect Trump’s victory means that industry regulations could be streamlined and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) brought into the 21st century. Since the group bottomed in late June, it’s rallied a phenomenal 46 percent.

If you’re getting your market news from the mainstream media, you could be at risk of missing out on this opportunity as well. I urge you to learn the real story about the airline industry by registering today for our webcast event, to take place this Thursday, December 15. I’ll be discussing how airlines have reversed their fortunes from near-bankruptcy to record profitability, and where they might go from here.

I hope you’ll join us!

Higher US Budget Deficits Debt Spur Banks Increase Gold Buying

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.

Standard deviation is a measure of the dispersion of a set of data from its mean. The more spread apart the data, the higher the deviation. Standard deviation is also known as historical volatility.

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 9/30/2016.

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Time to Take Trump Seriously on Infrastructure Spending?
December 8, 2016

Cancellation new Air Force One project

Earlier I shared with you that when it comes to President-elect Donald Trump, the media takes him literally but not seriously. His supporters, on the other hand, take him seriously but not always literally.

We saw an example of this polarity Tuesday morning when Trump took a shot at Boeing, tweeting to his nearly 17 million Twitter followers that the jet-manufacturer “is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!”

When journalists sought clarification, Trump said he wants Boeing to make money, “but not that much money.”

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, the current Air Force One has been in use for 30 years—since Ronald Reagan’s administration—and includes many cutting-edge modifications for communications and defense. It’s designed to withstand a nuclear blast. For the value we get out of the president’s main ride, in other words, the exorbinant sticker price might not be so exorbinant as it initially appears.

But then, the $4 billion Trump refers to couldn’t be confirmed. Boeing responded by saying it’s currently under contract to build the jet for only $170 million, and production hasn’t even begun yet.

Again, in questioning the details of Trump’s tweet, the media might be missing the forest for the trees. It’s possible the president-elect means simply that we need to keep government cost overruns in check—not literally cancel the Air Force One order—something we can all agree with.

Investors Take Trump Seriously—and Somewhat Literally

Investors have so far managed to find the right balance between taking Trump seriously and literally, to a certain extent. Since Election Day, small-cap stocks have rallied more than 12 percent, suggesting the market sees Trump’s “America First” policies benefiting them the most. Because they have less exposure to foreign markets than blue-chip companies, small caps are in an attractive position to take advantage of lower corporate taxes, streamlined regulations and a stronger U.S. dollar.

The market’s also betting big on Trump’s proposal to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure over the next 10 years. For the one-year and three-month periods, the energy and materials sectors were among the best performers in the S&P 500 Index. Both landed in the “leading and gaining” quadrant in the chart below. 

energy and materials among the best sp 500 sectors
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We see similar results in the small-cap Russell 2000 Index. Materials and processing was the best performer for the one-year period while energy led over the past three months.

energy and materials among the best russell 2000 sectors
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Granted, a lot of the growth in energy can be attributed to OPEC’s recent announcement that it would trim production for the first time since 2008. Such an agreement was rumored back in October. Oil rallied sharply following the announcement but has retreated slightly on news that the cartel raised production to more than 34 million barrels a day in November. Speculation is also high on whether non-OPEC countries such as Russia will join the coordinated effort to help prices recover.

But like small-cap stocks, energy and materials appear to be getting a boost on hopes that Trump will make good on his commitment to opening the fiscal valves. If he succeeds at getting what he wants from Congress, we could very well see another major infrastructure boom and commodities bull market similar to the one led by China a decade ago.

No Better Time Than Now

Construction Californias Shasta Dam

It’s worth noting that Trump will likely face some tough opposition from Congress. Even though most of the $1 trillion will allegedly come from private investment, the same fiscal conservatives who said no to President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, worth over $800 billion, might also balk at Trump’s request.

But if the government is serious about rolling out such a monumental spending package, there’s really no better time than now, with borrowing costs still at near-historic lows.

As Steve Bannon, Trump’s controversial advisor, told the Hollywood Reporter: “With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Shipyards, ironworks—get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.”

I don’t know if I’d be so flippant about $1 trillion, but most everyone agrees that more needs to be done about our nation’s infrastructure. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), each American household could lose as much as $3,400 per year if roads, bridges and tunnels never see an upgrade. The longer we put off repairing our infrastructure, the more expensive it might get.

In a report this week, Deutsche Bank agreed that the U.S. should dream big or go home:

To drive strong infrastructure spending growth, the country will need to get much more aggressive in building new (or replacing) major transport bridges and tunnels, and to reach for Earth-altering infrastructure that addresses national risks like floods, droughts… If the U.S. is to meaningfully stimulate its economy via infrastructure, it must think bigger and act quicker.

Besides roads and bridges, Deutsche writes, the U.S. should pursue “ten-figure projects” such as levee systems, storm protection systems, water tunnels and river dredging, not to mention “new science and technology super structures like new rocket building and launch facilities, biotech labs,” and “next-generation communication and air traffic control.”

Such projects would benefit many more people than those using them. According to BCA Research, public spending on infrastructure has one of the highest multiplier effects, making it more effective at stimulating the economy than tax cuts.

Not All Stimulus Is Created Equal

 

Estimated Multipliers

Type of Activity

Low Estimate

High Estimate

Purchases of goods and services by the federal government

0.5x

2.5x

Transfer payments to state and local governments for infrastructure

0.4x

2.2x

Two-year tax cuts for lower and middle-income people

0.3x

1.5x

One-year tax cut for higher-income people

0.1x

0.6x

Finally, the U.S. is due for another major infrastructure build. Under Obama, total public construction spending dropped relative to spending during his two predecessors’ administrations

total public u.s. construction spending fell under president obama
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Global Economy at Point of Inflection: OECD

Increasing infrastructure investment would be good not just for the U.S. but also the world economy, which has struggled to gain traction for the past couple of years. In its just-released Global Economic Outlook, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) strongly endorsed the idea of “using the fiscal levers to escape the low-growth trap”—similar to what Trump has proposed.

With the U.S. and China both planning sweeping stimulus efforts in the next one to two years, the Paris-based group sees global GDP growing 3.6 percent in 2018, the fastest pace since 2011. The OECD also revised its earlier 2017 growth estimate to 3.3 percent, up from 3.2 percent.

increased government spending could help global growth pick up speed
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Speaking in Paris last month, OECD Secretary-General Ángel Gurría commented that “there is reason to hope that the global economy may be at a point of inflection.”

I agree. Although I have my differences with Trump, I’m optimistic he can negotiate an infrastructure deal that will jumpstart growth, both here and abroad.

Explore investment opportunities in commodities and natural 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 S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The Russell 2000 Index is a U.S. equity index measuring the performance of the 2,000 smallest companies in the Russell 3000. The Russell 3000 Index consists of the 3,000 largest U.S. companies as determined by total market capitalization.

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 9/30/2016: The Boeing Co.

 
 

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Here’s What Oil Did the Last Time OPEC Cut Production
December 5, 2016

Here's What Oil Did the Last Time OPEC cut Production

It finally happened. For the first time since 2008, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to a crude oil production cut last week, renewing hope among producers and investors that prices can begin to recover in earnest after a protracted two-year slump, one of the worst in living memory.

The last three times the cartel agreed to trim output—in 2008, 2001 and 1998—oil rallied in the following weeks and months. Of course, there’s no guarantee the same will happen this time around, as other market forces are at play, but it’s helpful to look at the historical precedent.

OIl Historically Rallied in the Two Years Following OPEC's Agreement to Cut Production
click to enlarge

OPEC’s decision follows a strong endorsement from Goldman Sachs, which upgraded its rating on basic materials to overweight for the first time in four years. Analysts see commodities gaining 9 percent on average over the next three months, 11 percent over the next six months.

As reported by TheStreet’s Paul Whitfield, Goldman’s change of heart was prompted by “the recent acceleration in global PMIs (purchasing managers’ indexes),” which “suggests commodity markets are entering a cyclically stronger environment.” 

The JPMorgan Global Manufacturing PMI rose slightly in November to a 27-month high of 52.1, extending sector expansion for the sixth straight month—very encouraging news.

JPMorgan Global Manufacturing PMI continues upward momentum
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As I’ve shared with you many times before, our own research has shown a strong correlation between PMI performance and commodity prices three and six months out. I’m thrilled to see Wall Street and media outlets coming around to this realization as well.

In short, OPEC’s production cut is constructive for energy in the near term, while a rising PMI is good news for the long term.

$70 Oil Next Year?

Since oil collapsed in September 2014, as much as $4 billion have been wiped from oil workers’ wages in the U.S. alone, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Countries that rely heavily on oil revenue—Venezuela, Colombia, Russia and Nigeria, notably—have had to stretch balance sheets. And for the first time in nearly 40 years, Alaska, where the oil industry accounts for half of all economic activity, is scheduled to impose an income tax by 2019.

Many analysts now find reason to be optimistic about a recovery in energy. Speaking to the Houston Chronicle, David Pursell of energy investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. predicts “2017 will be a better year for oil and gas activity than we anticipated.” Pursell sees crude possibly rallying above $70 a barrel sometime next year. 

The OPEC deal, announced last Wednesday, aims to reduce production by 1.2 million barrels a day, or about 1 percent of global output. For comparison’s sake, the cartel, which controls a third of all oil production, agreed to a reduction of 2.2 million barrels a day in 2008. Although not an OPEC member, Russia has also agreed to trim production—by about 300,000 barrels a day—the first time it’s cooperated with OPEC since 2001.

Following the announcement, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude surged above $50 a barrel.

Crude oil surges above $50 a barrel on OPEC production cut announcement
click to enlarge

Meanwhile, investors piled into oil ETFs, with inflows into one surpassing $1 billion on Thursday alone. Shares of Halliburton, Continental Resources and California Resources all saw dramatic spikes.

Oil explorers & producers jump on production cut news
click to enlarge

The Challenges Ahead

Some investors are understandably cautious. OPEC doesn’t have the authority to enforce compliance from its 14 member-nations, and output has typically exceeded quotas.

What’s more, it’s likely U.S. shale producers, which today operate at lower costs compared to other players, will be first to take advantage of a bump in prices. Drilling activity is already accelerating. Since May, the number of active oil rigs in North America has climbed 50 percent to 474, as of November 23.

Most low-cost oil is in U.S. Shale Reserves
click to enlarge

“U.S. oil production growth is all but guaranteed to return in 2017,” according to Joseph Triepke, founder of oil research firm Infill Thinking. Triepke adds that as many as 150 rigs could be reactivated next year in Texas’ Permian Basin alone.

It’s there, in the Wolfcamp formation of the Permian, that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) recently discovered 20 billion barrels of “technically recoverable” oil, the largest deposit ever to be found in the U.S. Bloomberg reports that the deposit is worth an estimated $900 billion at today’s prices.  

On the demand side, higher prices could spell trouble in emerging countries whose currencies have weakened against the U.S. dollar in recent months, especially since Donald Trump won the presidential election. Because oil is priced in dollars, it’s become more expensive in China and India, the second and third largest oil consumers following the U.S.

Gold Looks Technically Oversold, Ready for a Price Reversal

As I often say, every asset class has its own DNA of volatility, which is measured by standard deviation. Specifically, standard deviation gauges the typical fluctuation of a security or asset class around its mean return over a period of time ranging from one day to 12 months or more.

This brings us to mean reversion, which is the theory that, although prices might trend up for some time (as in a bull market), or fall (as in a bear market), they tend to move back toward their historic averages eventually. Such elasticity is the basis for knowing when an asset is overbought or oversold—and when to sell or buy.

As you can see in the oscillator below, gold looks oversold right now and is nearing a “buy” signal, after which we can statistically expect it to return to its mean.

Gold 60-Day Percent Change Oscillator
click to enlarge

Gold’s current standard deviation for the 60-day period is about 7 percent—you can reasonably expect it to move this much over a two-month period, therefore, 68 percent of the time.

For more on standard deviation and mean reversion, I invite you to download my whitepaper, “Managing Expectations: Anticipate Before You Participate in the Market.”

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.

Standard deviation is a measure of the dispersion of a set of data from its mean. The more spread apart the data, the higher the deviation. Standard deviation is also known as historical volatility.

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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 9/30/2016.

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Net Asset Value
as of 03/23/2017

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.45 -0.03 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $7.74 -0.16 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $6.79 -0.08 China Region Fund USCOX $8.52 0.04 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.15 0.01 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $24.37 -0.04 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $18.92 -0.01 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.22 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change