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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.

U.S. Energy Is Breaking All Kinds of Records — Are You Participating?
April 2, 2018

american energy dominance

If you recall, during the second presidential debate in October 2016, Hillary Clinton falsely claimed that the U.S. is “now, for the first time ever, energy independent.” Many were quick to point out the inaccuracies. For one, the U.S. has been a net energy exporter before, most recently in the 1950s. And two, America isn’t currently energy independent.

But that could change very soon. As I told you in February, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates the U.S. will become a net exporter of energy by as early as 2022, and the agency recently shared fresh data that supports the narrative that America is on the cusp of taking the throne as the world’s leading energy powerhouse.

The Quest for American Energy Dominance

According to the EIA, U.S. net energy imports in 2017 fell to their lowest levels since 1982. From its high in 2007 of 34.7 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), the difference between exports and imports has fallen steadily to 7.32 Btu, slightly above the 7.25 Btu in 1982.

US net energy imports in 2017 fell to lowest levels since 1982
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The decline last year was mainly due to record exports of crude oil and petroleum products, made possible since Congress lifted the U.S. oil export ban in December 2015.

And for the first time since 1957, the U.S. exported more liquefied natural gas (LNG) than it imported. Between 2016 and 2017, natural gas exports quadrupled from 0.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) to 1.94 Bcf/d. The EIA attributes this acceleration to the expansion of export facilities in Louisiana and Maryland, with six additional ones currently under construction, according to Energy Secretary Rick Perry. As a result, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects the U.S. will become the world’s leading LNG exporter by the mid-2020s.

All of this follows news that the U.S. is now the world’s number two crude oil producer. Late last year, U.S. output exceeded 10 million barrels a day for the first time since 1970, thanks largely to the surge in fracking and horizontal drilling activity. This helped push the country ahead of OPEC leader Saudi Arabia, and, by 2019, it could surpass Russia to become the largest producer in the world.

US now the number two oil producer expected to overtake russia by 2019
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Oil Majors Reward Shareholders

Some resource investors might worry that all this extra supply could depress prices and hurt profits. That’s a valid concern, but it’s worth pointing out that since its recent low of $26 a barrel in February 2016, the oil price has surged nearly 150 percent—all while the number of active wells in North America has risen.

It doesn’t hurt, of course, that demand for petroleum products is just as strong as it’s ever been right now. According to the latest monthly report from the American Petroleum Institute (API), U.S. demand in February reached its highest level since 2007. This was only the third February ever, in fact, that gasoline demand exceeded 9 million barrels a day, reflecting strenthening consumer sentiment and economic growth.    

And as I shared with you last month, major explorers and producers’s profits are now in line with what they were when oil was trading for $100 a barrel and more.

big oil is generating as much profit at 60 dollar oil as it was at 100 dollar
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According to Bloomberg, the majors are now “prioritizing investors over investments, channeling the extra cash that comes from $60 crude into share buybacks and higher dividends.”

I should add that, besides offering better opportunities for investors, energy independence helps make the U.S., its allies and, indeed, the whole world more secure.

Learn more about investment opportunities in oil and other natural resources by clicking here!

China Launches Oil Futures Contract, OPEC and Russia Enter Historic Pact

Other important developments are happening around the world right now that are already disrupting the global energy space.

The most notable is that China last Monday launched its own crude oil futures contract. Priced in yuan and traded on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange, it’s the first such Asian benchmark for oil deals.

How the stars could be aligned for 1500 gold

As the world’s largest consumer of crude, China seeks to gain some pricing power in the trillions of dollars of oil that are traded every year around the world. Back in April 2016, the country introduced its own yuan-denominated fix price for gold—which it also consumes more of than any other country. The Shanghai oil futures contract is similarly designed to wrest some control over pricing from the main benchmarks in New York and London—West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent—and to promote the use of the yuan, also known as the renminbi.

Raising the yuan’s profile and transforming it into a leading global currency has been among Chinese president Xi Jinping’s key endeavors. He scored a big win in 2015, if you recall, when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to include it in its basket of reserve currencies, placing the yuan in the same league as the U.S. dollar, British pound, Japanese yen and euro.

But as you can see below, the yuan has a long way to go in its quest to challenge other currencies. As of last year, the U.S. dollar accounted for 63.5 percent of countries’ allocated reserve currencies, compared to the yuan, which had only a 1.12 percent share. Shanghai oil futures could possibly help improve that allocation.

chinese huan has a long way to go as a reserve currency
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The contract opened strong last Monday but has since fallen below WTI prices as speculators placed a series of bearish bets.

Click here to learn more about China and surrounding markets!

In other news, OPEC and Russia are reportedly hashing out the details on a historic alliance that would extend oil production curbs for a number of years, according to a Reuters exclusive. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, told the agency that Riyadh and Moscow were “working to shift from a year-to-year agreement to a 10- to 20-year agreement.”

Although not a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia has often worked alongside the cartel to limit production in an effort to boost prices. A 10- to 20-year deal, however, would be unprecedented.

Oil price weakness has hurt both Russia and Saudi Arabia, as crude exports account for an oversize percentage of their total revenue. And as I’ve shared with you before, Saudi Arabia also seeks higher prices to support a possible initial public offering (IPO) this year of Saudi Aramco, the largest energy company in the world by far.

Looking for more insight on the global energy sector? Subscribe to our award-winning Investor Alert newsletter, delivered every Friday after the markets close!

 

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.

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.

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 12/31/2017: Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp.

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Looking Ahead to $20,000 Bitcoin
March 27, 2018

will bitcoin price follow its previous trajectory?

In last week’s Investor Alert, our investment team shared with you a report from Morgan Stanley that says bitcoin’s price decline since December mimics the Nasdaq tech bubble in the late 1990s. This isn’t earth-shattering news in and of itself. The main difference is that the bitcoin rout happened at 15 times the rate as the tech bubble.

Morgan Stanley has some good news for bitcoin bulls, however: The 70 percent decline is “nothing out of the ordinary,” and what’s more, such corrections “have historically preceded rallies.” Just as the Nasdaq gained back much of what it lost in the subsequent years—before the financial crisis pared losses even further—bitcoin could similarly be ready to stage a strong recovery.

Is Bitcoin pain almost finished
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One research firm, in fact, believes bitcoin and other digital coins, or “alt-coins,” have likely found a bottom. New York-based Fundstrat, headed by strategist Thomas Lee, issued a statement to investors last week saying that, though a cryptocurrency bull market isn’t necessarily underway, the worst of the pain could be “largely over.”

Fundstrat research shows that periods of cryptocurrency consolidation, or “purgation,” generally last 70 to 231 days. Bitcoin hit its all-time high in mid-December, almost 70 days ago as of March 26. Taking into consideration Fundstrat’s estimates, then, it’s possible the bear market could conclude sometime between now and early August.  

In the meantime, Lee writes, alt-coin investors should stick with larger-cap cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple.

Take the Long-Term View

It’s helpful to compare bitcoin with Nasdaq, as Morgan Stanley did, but what about comparing the current cycle with one from the past?

In June 2011, bitcoin peaked at nearly $30 and found a bottom of $2.02 five months later, in November. It would be an additional 15 months before it returned to its former high. This might seem like a long time to some, but investors who managed to get in at the bottom would have seen their position grow more than 1,300 percent.

will bitcoin price follow its previous trajectory?
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So can bitcoin do the same today? Obviously no one can say for sure, but what I can say with certainty is that bitcoin, like all digital coins, is highly volatile. Plus, there’s not quite 10 years’ worth of data, meaning it’s been difficult to identify trends.

Cryptocurrencies are also currently facing tougher oversight from several world governments and central banks, not to mention Facebook and Twitter’s bans on ads promoting them—obstacles they didn’t have to contend with back in 2011 and 2012.

But I remain bullish. Cryptocurrencies are still in their very early stages. To return to the comparison with tech stocks, we don’t know at this point which digital coins will be tomorrow’s equivalent of Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook. A long-term view is key.

Finally, I still believe in the power of Metcalfe’s law, which says that as more and more people adopt a new technology—cell phones, for instance, or Facebook—its value goes up geometrically. A poll conducted in February shows that just under 8 percent of American adults report ever owning or purchasing any cryptocurrencies. Market penetration, then, hasn’t been as pervasive as some might expect, but as people increasingly become more confident in dipping their toes in the space, demand could rise and, with it, prices.

 

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 Nasdaq Composite Index is the market capitalization-weighted index of approximately 3,000 common equities listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

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 12/31/2017.

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Could the Stars Be Aligned for $1,500 Gold?
March 26, 2018

How the stars could be aligned for 1500 gold

In a January post, I showed how the price of gold rallied in the months following the 2015 and 2016 December interest rate hikes—as much as 29 percent in the former cycle, 17.8 percent in the latter. Gold ended 2017 up double digits, despite pressure from skyrocketing stocks and massive cryptocurrency speculation.

Will there be a fed rally in 2018
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I forecast then that we could see another "Fed rally" this year following the rate hike in December 2017. Hypothetically, if gold took a similar trajectory as the past two cycles, its price could climb as high as $1,500 this year.

As I told Kitco News’ Daniela Cambone last week, I stand by the $1,500 forecast. Before last week, investors might have been slightly disappointed by gold's mostly sideways performance so far this year. But now, in response to a number of factors, it's up close to 3 percent in 2018, compared to the S&P 500 Index, down 2.4 percent.

Living with Volatility

While I'm on the topic of equities, the S&P 500 dividend yield, for the first time in nearly a decade, is now below the yield on the two-year Treasury. Historically, the economy has slowed around six months after dividends stopped paying as much as short-dated government paper. This could spur some stock investors to trim their exposure and rotate into other asset classes, including not just bonds but also precious metals, which I believe might help gold revisit resistance from its 2016 high of $1,374 an ounce.

Two year treasury yeild is now higher than sp 500 dividened yield

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Volatility has also crept back into markets. It began with the positive wage growth report in February, implying the possibility of faster inflation. More recently, the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), or “fear gauge,” has surged on the departures of Gary Cohn as chief economic advisor and Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, as well as the application of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Last week, President Donald Trump ordered tariffs on at least $50 billion of Chinese goods, stoking new fears of a U.S.-China trade war. In response, the Asian giant proposed fresh duties on as much as $3 billion of U.S. products, including wine, fruits, nuts, ethanol and steel pipes.

Volatility has returned to markets after a calm 2017
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As I see it, there could be other contributing factors pushing up the price of gold. A good place to start is with Trump’s recent appointment of former CNBC star Larry Kudlow as White House chief economic advisor.

Kudlow’s Kerfuffle Over Gold

Between 2001 and 2007, I appeared on Kudlow’s various CNBC shows a number of times, and though he always struck me as highly intelligent, informed and accomplished—he served as Bear Stearns’ chief economist and even advised President Ronald Reagan—it was clear he had a strong bias against gold. This was the case even as the price of the yellow metal was on a tear, rising from $270 in 2001 to more than $830 an ounce by the end of 2007.

Gold price continued to rise last decade even as bearishness in media persisted
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Kudlow showed his true colors toward gold as recently as this month, telling viewers: I would buy King Dollar and I would sell gold. As you can see below, this has't been a prudent trade for more than a year now.

Gold price vs US dollar
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Earlier this month, Kudlow wrote that falling gold is good, as it “bodes well for the future economy.” He said he agreed with a friend, who called the metal an “end-of-the-world insurance contract.”

While there are those who would agree with him, it’s important to remember that gold is used for much more than as a portfolio diversifier, and its price is driven by a number of factors. These include Fear Trade factors, from inflation to negative real interest rates, and Love Trade factors such as gift-giving during cultural and religious festivals. The precious metal has important industrial applications as well.

And since I first went on Kudlow’s program, gold has outperformed the S&P 500’s price action nearly two-to-one, as I showed you back in December. Even with dividends reinvested, the market is still trailing the yellow metal.

Gold price has crushed the market more than 2 to 1 so far this century
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So it’s fine if gold isn’t your favorite asset, but to dismiss it wholesale as Kudlow has again and again is, with all due respect, irrational.

It’s Not About Steel, It’s About Stealing

Kudlow isn’t just anti-gold, however. He’s also anti-China, and even though he’s traditionally opposed tariffs in general, he supports Trump’s efforts to levy taxes on Chinese imports. Specifically, the duties are designed to offset the cost of intellectual property allegedly stolen by the Chinese over the past several years.

China’s J-31 fighter jet, for example, is believed to be a knockoff of Lockheed Martin’s F-35, the most expensive piece of U.S. military equipment. It’s for this reason that Lockheed’s CEO, Marillyn Hewson, was present when Trump signed the authorization to impose new tariffs.

The Chinese J31 fighter jet is thjought to be a knockoff of Lockheed Martins F35

Our intellectual property is hugely important to the U.S. economy. As important as steel and aluminum are, they account for only 2 percent of world trade, and in the U.S., it’s even less than a percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Technology exports, on the other hand, represent about 17 percent of U.S. GDP.

That said, the implications of a trade war with the world’s second-largest economy certainly have many investors concerned—all the more reason to consider adding to your gold allocation at this time. As always, I recommend a 10 percent weighting, with 5 percent in gold bullion, 5 percent in high-quality gold mining stocks and ETFs.

Is Trump Betting on the Wrong Guy?

On a final note, we were pleased to have an old friend visit our office last week. Michael Ding, a veteran of the U.S. Global investments team, joined us to share some laughs and his thoughts on what’s happening in Asian markets right now.

Specifically, Michael said that Ray Dalio, founder of mammoth investment firm Bridgewater Associates, which manages around $160 billion, has become something of an economic guru for members of the Chinese ruling party’s highest-ranking members, including Premier Li Keqiang. Dalio—whose most recent book, Principles, nowtops China’s bestseller list—is reportedly advising the country’s top bankers and economists on how to deleverage safely without triggering a so-called “hard landing.”

A trade war between the U.S. and China, Ray Dalio said recently, would be a “tragedy.”

So to put it in perspective: Whereas Trump has just now brought on Kudlow, the Chinese are leaning on a fellow American, Dalio, one of the smartest, most gifted money managers in the world—not just of our time but of all time.

Did Trump make the right call? Which player would you want on your team: Kudlow or Dalio? For my money, I would pick Dalio.

Learn more about investment opportunities in China by clicking here!

 

The trade-weighted US dollar index, also known as the broad index, is a measure of the value of the United States dollar relative to other world currencies.

The S&P 500 is a stock market index that tracks the stocks of 500 large-cap companies. It seeks to represent the stock market's performance by reporting the risk and return of the biggest companies.

The CBOE Volatility Index, known by its ticker symbol VIX, is a popular measure of the stock market's expectation of volatility implied by S&P 500 index options, calculated and published by the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). It is colloquially referred to as the fear index or the fear gauge.

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.

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 12/31/2017.

 

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Worried About Rising Rates? I Believe this Strategy Could Be the Answer
March 21, 2018

Worried about rising rates I beleive this strategy could be the answer

With interest rates continuing to creep up, there’s a changing of the guard at the Federal Reserve. In my travels and during conferences, I’ve spoken with many fixed-income investors who wonder how they can best prepare for the uncertainty these changes might bring. I’ll share my favorite idea below, but first, a few words on the new head of the Fed, Jerome Powell.

The U.S. Senate voted in January to confirm Powell as the next chair of the U.S. central bank, and I don’t believe I’m alone in seeing his appointment as a political compromise. Although he has vowed to stay the course with former chair Janet Yellen’s cautious rate hikes—something President Donald Trump was in favor of—Powell is a skeptic of financial regulations.

To be clear, he’s expressed approval for some of the Fed's oversight of the financial market, but he’s also pointed to areas where he thinks regulation may have become too burdensome—especially to small regional and community banks. In his November confirmation hearing, he said he supported “tailoring” regulations to fit the institution.

This is a welcome and refreshing change in thinking. If you recall, during one of her final speeches at the Jackson Hole symposium in August, Yellen defended the strict, broad-based financial regulations put in place after the financial crisis—Dodd-Frank included. But as I shared with you this week, Congress and President Donald Trump are now working to roll back many of the provisions of the mammoth 2010 financial reform law.

Wealthy, Yet “Annoyingly Normal”

Jerome Powell nominated Donald Trump Novemeber 3 2017

A former lawyer, businessman and investment banker, Jerome Powell gained experience working in the public sector in President George H.W. Bush’s Treasury Department. After Bush’s presidency came to an end, he joined the private equity firm Carlyle Group, where he enjoyed a very lucrative career. The latest financial disclosure from June 2017 shows his net worth at between $19.7 million and $55 million, making him the wealthiest Fed chair since banker and economist Marriner Eccles, who held the position from 1934 to 1948.

Despite his vast wealth, Powell is known among friends and colleagues as being frugal and “annoyingly normal.” A resident of Chevy Chase, Maryland, he regularly rides his bike the eight miles between home and work.

Powell Expected to Be More Flexible Than His Predecessors

He also has a reputation for being bipartisan and unafraid to stand up to members of his own party. In 2011, when congressional Republicans were threatening to allow the government to default on its debts if their policy wish list was not met, Powell met with a number of GOP lawmakers, urging them to reconsider their strategy by pointing out the serious risks involved.

“In my experience, the best outcomes are reached when opposing viewpoints are clearly and strongly presented before decisions are made,” Powell stated in a March 2017 speech at the West Virginia University College of Business of Economics.

Unlike his immediate predecessors—Yellen, Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan—Powell is a lawyer by training, not an economist. However, colleagues are reassured that his five years serving as a governor of the Federal Reserve Board have adequately prepared him for the top job.

In fact, his unique background might very well make him more flexible and less entrenched when it comes to economic theory. The Fed and its members tend to be highly academic in nature, and Powell’s pragmatic, real-world style could prove to be a valuable asset.

As I said earlier, Trump reportedly is a fan of Yellen’s gradual rate hikes—they’re less likely to derail the monster stock bull market than a more aggressive policy—and I imagine this contributed to his decision to pick Powell.

Managing Risk with the Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX)

With Powell set to carry out the Fed’s process of raising short-term interest rates and gradually unwinding a $4.2 trillion portfolio of mortgage and Treasury securities, fixed-income investors are contending with big risks. Adding to these are the prospects for higher inflation as a result of faster economic growth.

So what are we doing at U.S. Global Investors to manage our funds in the face higher yields?

Our Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX), which offers tax-free municipal income, appears to be well-positioned to minimize the impact of rising yields by keeping a short duration. Traditionally, shorter duration funds have outperformed longer duration funds in periods of rising rates. Longer-term funds, conversely, have done better when rates were in decline.

Additionally, in an effort to mitigate the impact of Fed rate increases on the front end of the curve—where we are largely positioned—we are tactically employing a cash buffer as well as maintaining exposure to floating rate notes. This defensive positioning is designed to help safeguard investor’s capital while still providing an attractive risk-adjusted yield income.

We wish Jerome Powell the best of luck! In the meantime, learn more about the Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX) by clicking here!

Please consider carefully a fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For this and other important information, obtain a fund prospectus by visiting www.usfunds.com. Read it carefully before investing. Foreside Fund Services, LLC, Distributor. U.S. Global Investors is the investment adviser.

Bond funds are subject to interest-rate risk; their value declines as interest rates rise. Though the Near-Term Tax Free Fund seeks minimal fluctuations in share price, it is subject to the risk that the credit quality of a portfolio holding could decline, as well as risk related to changes in the economic conditions of a state, region or issuer. These risks could cause the fund’s share price to decline. Tax-exempt income is federal income tax free. A portion of this income may be subject to state and local taxes and at times the alternative minimum tax. The Near-Term Tax Free Fund may invest up to 20% of its assets in securities that pay taxable interest. Income or fund distributions attributable to capital gains are usually subject to both state and federal income taxes.

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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With Rollback, Dodd-Frank Is Now Officially a Dud
March 19, 2018

With Rollback, Dodd-Frank Is Now Officially a Dud

I often remind investors to look past the negative and find the positive. Last week provided no shortage of big splashy headline stories, from yet another high-profile personnel shakeup at the White House to a nail-biter special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, from Russia’s alleged nerve agent attack on a former double-agent spy to a tragic bridge collapse in Miami.

If this is all you were focused on, you might have missed what I believe was the most significant development of the past few days. Last Wednesday, the Senate, in a bipartisan vote, quietly approved plans to roll back key banking rules in 2010’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank).

If the House also approves the bill, President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law, thereby providing much-needed relief to smaller lenders and community banks that millions of rural Americans and small businesses depend on. Aside from tax reform, I think the relaxation of Dodd-Frank will be seen as Trump’s crowning fiscal achievement so far, as it has the potential to contribute greatly toward his goal of at least 3 percent economic growth.

Investors piled into an ETF that holds small to midsize banks following the news last week. The SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF attracted $606 million in daily inflows, a record for the fund, according to Bloomberg.

Dodd-Frank rollback optimism fueled regional banking ETF record daily inflows
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The most sweeping and complex financial reform package since the Great Depression, Dodd-Frank was drafted in response to the financial crisis—yet few believe it would do much in the way of preventing another such crisis. Last year, the Treasury Department declared that the law, despite its ambitious scale and scope, has “failed to address many drivers of the financial crisis, while adding new regulatory burdens.” As such, the agency recommended a number of changes, including improving efficiency and decreasing unnecessary complexity.

Among the likely changes to Dodd-Frank: raising the threshold for tougher oversight from the current $50 billion in assets to $250 billion; exempting small banks from the so-called Volcker rule, which currently bars them from speculative trading; reducing the amount of financial reporting, particularly racial and income data on mortgage holders; lowering the frequency of regulatory exams; and easing the conditions of stress tests.

Community Banks Are Vital to the U.S. Economy

The cumulative effect of the rollback will be to lower compliance costs and allow banks to better service clients and shareholders alike. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Small community banks—those with under $10 billion in assets—are tremendously vital to the U.S. economy. According to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), they provide a substantial percentage of lending to U.S. farms—about 44 percent. Nearly half of all small business loans in the U.S., and more than 15 percent of all residential mortgages, are issued by small banks.

16 year of small u.s. bank failures
click to enlarge

Last year, I included Dodd-Frank in a list of the five costliest financial regulations of the past 20 years. Since 2010, the legislation has undeniably had a negative effect on the banking industry, driving dozens of institutions to ruin and giving borrowers far fewer options. Between the year of its signing and 2014, the U.S. lost more than 14 percent of its small community banks, while the number of large banks rose 6.3 percent, according to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Dodd-Frank Falling out of Favor

Support for Dodd-Frank is waning more and more. Both former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan and billionaire investor Warren Buffett have come out strongly against it, with Greenspan saying he’d love to see the 2010 law “disappear.” For his part, Buffett believes that, as a result of the law, the U.S. is less well equipped to handle another financial crisis, as Dodd-Frank stripped the Fed of its ability to act.

Case in point: When now-defunct investment bank Bear Stearns was headed for failure 10 years ago this week, the Fed arranged an emergency loan of nearly $13 billion routed through JPMorgan. It also agreed to purchase $30 billion in Bear assets. But now, because of Dodd-Frank, such assistance is illegal since the law stipulates Fed lending must be broad-based and not directed toward a single institution.

Pres. Trump “cutting the red tape” in the Roosevelt Room, December 2017

Possibly the most telling sign that the 2010 law is losing favor among proponents is that Barney Frank himself, the former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and one of Dodd-Frank’s chief architects, recently acknowledged he “sees areas where the law could be eased,” according to the Financial Times.

Speaking at this month’s annual Futures Industry Association meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, Frank said he “supports regulating banks differently based on their size” and sees the need to make it “easier for smaller banks to make loans such as mortgages.”

If you recall, lending procedures became so restrictive following Dodd-Frank that Ben Bernanke himself, Fed chair from 2006 to 2014, had trouble refinancing his home.

“I think it's entirely possible [lenders] may have gone a little bit too far on mortgage credit conditions,“ Bernanke remarked during a 2014 conference on housing.

More recently, President Trump claimed he had friends with “nice businesses” who couldn’t borrow money because of Dodd-Frank.

The easing of banking restrictions is just the latest in Trump’s ongoing effort to cut red tape that has stymied economic growth and disrupted the creation of capital. For many voters, his pledge to push for deregulation tops the list of reasons why he was elected, and I’m happy to see that he’s making good on this promise.

10 Years Since the Demise of Bear Stearns

The Senate’s approval to weaken Dodd-Frank came, appropriately enough, on the 10-year anniversary of Bear Stearns’ stunning collapse. The once-powerful institution—in 2007 it was the fifth largest U.S. bank, with $400 billion in assets—was among the earliest warning signs of a broad economic meltdown that would ultimately result in the stock market losing nearly half its value. Below is just a sampling of headlines from 10 years ago last week:

headlines from 10 years ago this week

As you’re no doubt aware, Bear Stearns’ demise was fueled primarily by excessive leveraging and overweight exposure to junk mortgage-backed securities. In an attempt to prevent the pathogen from spreading further, the Fed, as I mentioned earlier, brokered a deal for financial giant JPMorgan to buy Bear for as little as $2 a share.

We now know that the bailout provided only temporary relief. Six months later, Lehman Brothers, then valued at $691 billion, also fell victim to the subprime mortgage crisis. Today Lehman’s remains the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.

So what lessons can we take away from Bear? Countless articles and thought pieces have been written on this topic over the years, including an excellent one by Justin Baer and Ryan Tracy that appeared last week in the Wall Street Journal.

Two lessons in particular stand out to me.

One, Bear showed us the painful consequences of failing to diversify. The bank had historically been known for its aggressive and risky investment strategies, but it was finally done in by its heavily concentrated position in bad mortgages. According to an analysis by former Lehman CFO Erin Callan, mortgage-backed securities accounted for a whopping 71 percent of Bear’s Level 3 assets—defined as those that are hard to value.

“Our liquidity position in the last 24 hours had significantly deteriorated,” announced Bear Stearns CEO Alan Schwartz, explaining to shareholders why he had no other choice than to accept an emergency bailout.

This is one of the many reasons why I recommend a 10 percent weighting in gold, one of the most liquid assets in the world. With 5 percent in gold bullion and 5 percent in gold mining stocks, along with an annual rebalancing, investors could potentially offset their losses in other holdings.

The second takeaway I’d like to point out is to focus on well-managed companies with healthy balance sheets. Near the end of its life, Bear Stearns was leveraged about 36-to-1, according to some estimates. For most firms, this is unsustainable.

Gold and the Global Ticking Debt Bomb

Unfortunately, corporate debt relative to U.S. GDP has now returned to prerecession levels, a risk made even riskier by rising interest rates. U.S. household debt, meanwhile, hit a new high of $13.15 trillion in the final quarter of 2017.

It’s for this reason that, when evaluating gold mining firms, we prefer those that do not rely primarily on debt to finance their operations. This recipe doesn’t always guarantee success, but should another financial meltdown occur, such companies will be in a much better position, financially, to weather the storm. 

To learn more about what we look for in mining firms, click here!

 

 

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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 12/31/2017.

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Net Asset Value
as of 09/18/2018

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.37 0.05 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $6.57 No Change World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $3.49 0.06 China Region Fund USCOX $9.02 0.15 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.36 0.09 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $26.52 0.12 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $20.20 0.08 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.19 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change