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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.

Modi’s Demonetization Is a Cure Worse Than the Disease
December 1, 2016

overnight indian prime minister narendra modi killed 90 nations currency

Next Tuesday will mark four weeks since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his surprise demonetization announcement that has sent shockwaves throughout the South Asian country’s economy. In an effort to combat corruption, tax evasion and counterfeiting, all 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes are no longer recognized as legal tender.

I've previously written about the possible ramifications of the “war on cash,” which is strengthening all over the globe, even here in the U.S. Many policymakers, including former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, are in favor of axing the $100 bill. In May, the European Central Bank (ECB) said it would stop printing the 500 euro note, though it will still be recognized as legal currency. The decision to scrap the “Bin Laden” banknote, as it’s sometimes called, hinged on its association with money laundering and terror financing.

Electronic payment systems are convenient, fast and easy, but when a government imposes this decision on you, your economic liberty is debased. In a purely electronic system, every financial transaction is not only charged a fee but can also be tracked and monitored. Taxes can’t be levied on emergency cash that’s buried in the backyard. Central banks could drop rates below zero, essentially forcing you to spend your money or else watch it rapidly lose value.

Inevitably, low-income and rural households have been hardest hit by Modi’s currency reform. Barter economies have reportedly sprung up in many towns and villages. Banks have limited the amount that can be withdrawn. Scores of weddings have been called off. Indian stocks plunged below their 200-day moving average.

indian stocks tumble following modis demonetization announcement
click to enlarge

Demonetization has also weighed heavily on the country’s manufacturing sector. The Nikkei India Manufacturing PMI fell to 52.3 in November from October’s 54.4. Although still in expansion mode, manufacturing production growth slowed, possibly signaling further erosion in the coming months.

Indian Manufacturing Cools in December
click to enlarge

India Runs on Cash

The two Indian bills in question, worth $7.50 and $15, represented an estimated 86 percent of all cash in circulation by value. No two bills in the U.S. so dominate transactions quite like the Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes, but imagine if tomorrow the Treasury Department killed everything north of the $20 bill. Despite the widespread availability and acceptability of electronic payment systems, this would be devastating to many American consumers who prefer cash or who are underbanked.

Because India’s economy relies predominantly on cash, the effects will be far greater. ATMs are scarce, and few rural Indians have a credit or debit card. An estimated 600 million Indians—nearly half the country’s population—are without a bank account. Three hundred million have no government identification, necessary to open an account. By comparison, about 7 percent of Americans are unbanked, with an additional 20 percent underbanked, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

In india cash is king
click to enlarge

This is one of the main reasons why Indians have traditionally held gold in such high demand. Many have little faith in banks and other financial institutions, preferring instead to store their wealth in something more reliable and tangible. So great is Indians’ appetite for the yellow metal that prices have historically surged in September, following the end of the monsoon season and ahead of Diwali and the wedding season, when gifts of gold jewelry are typically given.

“Gold is a need of the [Indian] people,” says Suresh Jain, owner of India’s B.J. Jain Jewellers, as quoted in the Financial Times. “It is not a luxury item. It is essential.”

Ironically, though, Modi’s demonetization scheme will likely hurt gold demand in the long run, “by dramatically reducing the stock of black money hitherto used in a large chunk of purchases,” according to the Financial Times.

In the three days following the announcement, Apple iPhone sales surged, equaling three quarters of the sales that typically happen in a month, as people tried to move their black money. Shopkeepers obliged by backdating receipts. Demand for other luxury items, such as Rolex watches, also surged.

Last year, our office was visited by the founders of MoneyOnMobile, which provides full point-of-sale services to Indians who don’t have ready access to ATMs. Think of it as the Indian version of Square. It’s likely that with demonetization wiping out so much paper currency, demand for services such as MoneyOnMobile’s will skyrocket.  

Good Intentions, Bad Execution

India is right to tackle corruption

Admittedly, high cash usage often comes with a cost. In 2013, research firm McKinsey found a strong correlation between high cash usage and the size of a country’s shadow economy. The size of India’s own shadow economy—which includes black market transactions and undeclared work—is roughly a quarter the size of gross domestic product (GDP).

Indeed, India suffers from a serious rash of corruption, which hurts honest, hard-working families. According to Transparency International, the South Asian country ranks 76 out of 168 countries in its 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index. In May, Indian government data showed that a scant 1 percent of Indians pay income taxes.

So yes, corruption is a problem. But in the case of ditching paper money altogether, the cure is worse than the disease.

In a New York Times op-ed, Indian economist and World Bank Vice-President Kaushik Basu strongly criticized the policy, rightly pointing out that it’s “mostly hurting people who aren’t its intended targets.”

“The government’s wish to tackle these problems is laudable,” Basu added, “but demonetization is a ham-fisted move that will put only a temporary dent in corruption, if even that, and is likely to rock the entire economy.”

I agree. Demonetization will hurt low-income and rural families the most, while those who’ve benefited from the country’s deep shadow economy will likely find other avenues to traffic in corruption.

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 BSE SENSEX (S&P Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index), also-called the BSE 30 or simply the SENSEX, is a free-float market-weighted stock market index of 30 well-established and financially sound companies listed on Bombay Stock Exchange.

The Nikkei India Manufacturing PMI is based on data compiled from monthly replied to questionnaires sent to purchasing executives in over 400 industrial companies. The panel is stratified by GDP and company workforce size. The manufacturing sector is divided into the following eight broad categories: Basic Metals, Chemicals & Plastics, Electrical & Optical, Food & Drink, Mechanical Engineering, Textiles & Clothing, Timber & Paper and Transport.

The Corruption Perception Index, developed in 1995 by Transparency International, ranks almost 200 countries on a scale of zero to 10, with zero indicating high levels of corruption and 10 indicating low levels. Developed countries typically rank higher than developing nations due to stronger regulations.

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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Fidel Castro’s Cuba vs Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore: A Tale of Two Economies (UPDATE)
November 29, 2016

On Friday, November 25, Fidel Castro died at age 90. The former revolutionary and hardline dictator of Cuba was among the 20th century’s longest-serving leaders, third only to Elizabeth II and Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who passed away in October.

Castro’s death comes at a pivotal moment in U.S.-Cuban relations. With trade between the two countries on the path to normalization, and with U.S. airlines making scheduled flights to Havana for the first time in more than 50 years, President-elect Donald J. Trump has pledged to reinstate many of the Cold War embargos that were lifted by President Barack Obama.

“If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal,” Trump tweeted on November 28.

In light of Castro’s passing, we are rerunning this Frank Talk from March 2015, in which Frank compares and analyzes the widely divergent economies of Cuba and Singapore under their now-deceased leaders, Castro and Lee Kuan Yew. 

A Victoria's Secret in the Toronto Pearson International AirportIt would be nearly impossible to find two world leaders in living memory whose influence is more inextricably linked to the countries they presided over than Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away this Monday at the age of 91.

You might find this hard to believe now, but in 1959—the year both leaders assumed power—Cuba was a much wealthier nation than Singapore. Whereas Singapore was little more than a sleepy former colonial trading and naval outpost with very few natural resources, Cuba enjoyed a thriving tourism industry and was rich in tobacco, sugar and coffee.

Fast forward about 55 years, and things couldn’t have reversed more dramatically, as you can see in the images below.

Cube in 1950, Singapore in 1950, Cuba today, Singapore today

The ever-widening divergence between the two nations serves as a textbook case study of a) the economic atrophy that’s indicative of Soviet-style communism, and b) the sky-is-the-limit prosperity that comes with the sort of American-style free market capitalism Lee introduced to Singapore.

Sound fiscal policy, a strong emphasis on free trade and competitive tax rates have transformed the Southeast Asian city-state from an impoverished third world country into a bustling metropolis and global financial hub that today rivals New York City, London and Switzerland. Between 1965 and 1990—the year he stepped down as prime minister—Lee grew Singapore’s per capita GDP a massive 2,800 percent, from $500 to $14,500.

Since then, its per capita GDP based on purchasing power parity (PPP) has caught up with and zoomed past America’s.

Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore Flourished while Fidel Castro's Cuba Floundered
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Under Castro and his brother Raúl’s control, Cuba’s once-promising economy has deteriorated, private enterprise has all but been abolished and the poverty rate stands at 26 percent. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, “the average Cuban’s standard of living remains at a lower level than before the collapse of the Soviet Union.” Its government is currently facing bankruptcy. And among 11.3 million of Cuba’s inhabitants, only 5 million—less than 45 percent of the population—participate in the labor force.

Compare that to Singapore: Even though the island is home to a mere 5.4 million people, its labor force hovers above 3.4 million.

Singapore Had Third-Highest GDP Based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) Per Capita

Because of the free-market policies that Lee implemented, Singapore is ranked first in the world on the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business list and, for the fourth consecutive year, ranked second on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. The Heritage Foundation ranks the nation second on its 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, writing:

Sustained efforts to build a world-class financial center and further open its market to global commerce have led to advances in… economic freedoms, including financial freedom and investment freedom.

Cuba, meanwhile, comes in at number 177 on the Heritage Foundation’s list and is the “least free of 29 countries in the South and Central America/Caribbean region.” The Caribbean island-state doesn’t rank at all on the World Bank Group’s list, which includes 189 world economies.

Many successful international businesses have emerged and thrived in the Singapore that Lee created, the most notable being Singapore Airlines. Founded in 1947, the carrier has ascended to become one of the most profitable companies in the world. It’s been recognized as the world’s best airline countless times by dozens of groups and publications. Recently it appeared on Fortune’s Most Admired Companies list.

Singapore AIrlines

We at U.S. Global Investors honor the legacy of Lee Kuan Yew, founder of modern-day Singapore. He showed the world that when a country chooses to open its markets and foster a friendly business environment, strength and prosperity follow. Even on the other side of the globe, the American Dream lives on.

 

 

The Global Competitiveness Index, developed for the World Economic Forum, is used to assess competitiveness of nations. The Index is made up of over 113 variables, organized into 12 pillars, with each pillar representing an area considered as an important determinant of competitiveness: institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market sophistication, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation.

The Ease of Doing Business Index is an index created by the World Bank Group. Higher rankings (a low numerical value) indicate better, usually simpler, regulations for businesses and stronger protections of property rights.

The Index of Economic Freedom is an annual index and ranking created by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal in 1995 to measure the degree of economic freedom in the world's nations.

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.

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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Surprise! Buffett Books a Flight on Airline Stocks
November 21, 2016

warren buffett bets big on airlines

It’s never too late to change your mind.

After years of deriding the airline industry, Warren Buffett confirmed last week that his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, has invested nearly $1.3 billion in four big-name domestic carriers: American, Delta, United and Southwest.

Domestic Airlines Surge Buffett Investment News
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The stake is a dramatic reversal for the 86-year-old investing wizard, who previously called the industry a capital “death trap” and once joked that investors would have been served well had Orville Wright’s plane been shot down at Kitty Hawk.

The thing is, Buffett held these opinions long before airlines began making the fundamental changes that would flip their fortunes from bankruptcy to record profitability. When Buffett first tried his hand at making money in the aviation industry in 1989, airlines were still struggling in a fiercely competitive marketplace. Many carriers called it quits, including President-elect Donald Trump’s Trump Shuttle, which ceased operations in 1992. Others spent years in bankruptcy court.

But following the massive wave of industry consolidation between 2005 and 2010, a new business environment emerged, one characterized by disciplined capacity growth, new sources of revenue, greater efficiency and a commitment to repairing balance sheets. I’ve written about these changes for the past 18 months, all of which are summarized in this brief five-minute video.

2 million people fly us every day

Buffett also likes airlines now for the same reason he’s long been a fan of railroads—namely, the barriers to entry are extremely high if not entirely impenetrable to new competitors. This is the “moat” Buffett refers to when talking about rail.

As a value investor, he prefers inexpensive stocks, and among industrials, airlines are cheapest of all, based on price-to-earnings and cash flow.

Airlines Least Expensive Among Industrials
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Buffett’s bullish rotation into airlines was followed by news last week that Citi also made fresh buys of Southwest, Delta, American and Allegiant shares, on the “broad theme that sector consolidation and an improved economy will reap benefits,” according to Seeking Alpha’s Clark Shultz.

Challenges still remain, of course, but domestic airlines today are profit-making, dividend-paying machines. In the first nine months of 2016, the top nine U.S. carriers—Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United—reported combined net income of $18.3 billion. That’s quite an improvement from the $11.2 billion they pocketed for the entire year in 2014.

Domestic airlines 11 billion shareholders nine month 2016

Over the same nine-month period, airlines returned $11.4 billion to shareholders via stock buybacks ($10.5 billion) and dividends ($912 million), according to industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A).

Here’s Why Blue Skies Could Last

In the near-term and long-term, airlines continue to look very attractive. Air travel demand is rising as incomes grow and the size of the global middle class expands.

This Thanksgiving week, more than 27 million passengers are expected to fly on U.S. airlines, an increase of 2.5 percent over the previous year, according to A4A. Much of the demand is being driven by affordable airfare, which is at its lowest in seven years.

The picture looks just as optimistic further down the road. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) sees global passenger demand nearly doubling over the next 20 years. The group expects 7.2 billion people to fly in 2035, up dramatically from 3.8 billion last year.

chinas middle class overtakes us

The Asia-Pacific region should be the biggest demand driver, with China displacing the U.S. as the world’s largest aviation market. As I’ve written about before, the U.S. and China both agreed to extend visas for business travelers, tourists and students, which has already led to increased travel between the two nations. When I last visited the New York Stock Exchange recently, I noticed that half of the tourists appeared to be from China.

What Effect Might President Trump Have on Airlines?

In the week following the presidential election, we saw modest gains in several sectors, including airlines. Evercore ISI’s proprietary Company Surveys, designed to monitor the economy on a weekly basis, showed a post-election bounce, rising 1.1 points to 49.6.

steady improvement week following election
click to enlarge

In many more ways than one, Donald Trump is unlike any other person ever to occupy the White House, bringing with him a unique set of skills and experiences that no other president can claim. As I mentioned earlier, he will become the first U.S. president who was formerly an airline executive. He also boasts an extensive background in tourism and hospitality, having built and managed everything from hotels to resorts to golf courses

Donald Trump first US president airline executive

Industry leaders, therefore, hope Trump will prove to be a powerful ally and take their side on several key issues. For starters, many are encouraged that the president-elect has proposed as much as $1 trillion in infrastructure spending on “our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” as he announced the day following last week’s election.

Trump has also promised to swing the pendulum away from monetary policy toward fiscal policy—cutting taxes and relaxing regulations—which has put Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on the defensive. On Friday, she defended the Dodd-Frank Act, which Trump has vowed to dismantle, stating a repeal would increase the likelihood of another financial crisis.

As for the aviation industry, U.S. carriers have been pushing Congress for years to reform air traffic control so that the steering wheel is in the hands not of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) but a private, not-for-profit entity. Canada made a similar transition in 1996 when it turned authority of its civil air navigation service over to the privately-run Nav Canada, which today manages approximately 12 million aircraft movements a year.

The industry would also like to see open talks with several state-owned Middle Eastern carriers, whose governments provide tens of billions of dollars in “unfair” subsidies every year.

Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, an airline lobby group, has urged Trump, a harsh critic of international trade agreements, to protect the interests of American airlines and workers.

“The Gulf carrier subsidies threaten the jobs of 300,000 U.S. aviation workers and the American aviation industry as a whole,” Zuckman alleged, “and we are optimistic that the Trump administration will stand up to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, enforce our trade agreements and fight for American jobs.”

Other leaders see headwinds in some of Trump’s more isolationist and nativist rhetoric, particularly his tough stance on immigration from Mexico—currently the number two market for travel and tourism to the U.S.—and Arabic-speaking countries.

Arrivals into the U.S. by Country, 2013
Rank Country Number of Visitors,
in Millions
Percent Share
#1
Canada Flag
Canada
23.39 33.5%
#2
Mexico Flag
Mexico
14.34 20.6%
#3
UK Flag
United Kingdom
3.84 5.5%
#4
Japan Flag
Japan
3.73 5.3%
#5
Brazil Flag
Brazil
2.06 3.0%
#6
Germany Flag
Germany
1.92 2.7%
#7
China Flag
China
1.81 2.6%
#8
France Flag
France
1.50 2.2%
#9
South Korea Flag
South Korea
1.36 1.9%
#10
Australia Flag
Australia
1.21 1.7%

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, a travel ban on Muslims entering the U.S.—a controversial proposal Trump has since softened—could cost the U.S. economy as much as $71 billion a year and up to 132,000 American jobs. As The Economist pointed out in a recent article, travelers from the Middle East tend to be big spenders, shelling out 50 percent more per trip than Europeans on average.

Trump has also expressed interest in reversing current diplomatic relations with Cuba, favoring a reinstatement of old travel and trade embargos. (“The people of Cuba have struggled too long,” he tweeted in October. “Will reverse Obama’s Executive Orders and concessions towards Cuba until freedoms are restored.”) Many U.S. airlines have already begun scheduled flights to Havana, including United, American and Southwest, with others soon to follow (JetBlue, Alaska, Delta and Spirit, among others).

As for whom Trump might name as head of the Transportation Department—which oversees the FAA, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Railroad Administration and other agencies—rumors are circulating that it’s come down to either Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), former House Transportation Committee chairman; or James Simpson, former commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Transportation.

The airline industry has proven itself resilient time and again, emerging stronger from a decade ago. For investors, the group is relatively inexpensive and generous with its dividends and stock buybacks. Changes might very well be in the cards, but I remain bullish on airlines, just as Warren Buffett is.

 

CLICK HERE FOR ADDITIONAL RESEARCH ON THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY!

 

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.

Cash flow is the total amount of money being transferred into and out of a business, especially as affecting liquidity.

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.

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

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Manufacturing Activity in China Just Shifted into Overdrive
November 7, 2016

Nanpu Bridge  

A wave of positive economic data suggests the Chinese economy is stabilizing and that business confidence is improving. The country’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI), which measures the health of its manufacturing industry, rose to 51.2 in October, handily beating economists’ estimates of 50.3.

Chinese Manufacturing Beats Expectations
click to enlarge

Expanding at its fastest pace since July 2014, the industry was stimulated by a strong rebound in new orders and higher commodity prices. Output rose to an incredible five-and-a-half-year high. And with backlogs of work beginning to pile up, manufacturers trimmed employees at the slowest pace in 17 months.

I’ve previously written about the importance of tracking the PMI, which you can read here.

Also encouraging is the country’s third-quarter gross domestic product growth, which came in at 6.7 percent for the third straight quarter, all but assuring investors that the economy can achieve the government’s earlier guidance of between 6.5 percent and 7 percent. Higher business confidence helped maintain steady growth, “as proved by the rebound of medium to long-term corporate loans and reacceleration of private investment growth,” according to Singapore-based OCBC Bank.

Consumer spending appears to be robust. In the first nine months of the year, consumption contributed nearly 60 percent to GDP growth, with significant demand gains made in health care, education, financial products and entertainment.

Automobile sales jumped a phenomenal 32 percent year-over-year in September, the fourth straight month of growth exceeding 20 percent. Sales have been so robust—reflecting a rush to purchase new cars before the government’s reduction in sales tax on small vehicles expires at year-end—that new vehicle purchases in China are expected to surpass sales in North America for the first time ever this year.

China Expected Surpass North America Automobile Sales
click to enlarge

Such a great number of cars on the road has resulted in famously massive traffic jams that turned miles of highways into parking lots. Some as many as 50 lanes wide, the very worst incidents in Beijing found hundreds of drivers stuck in lines for days. Beijing officials have recently proposed stopgap measures, but the nightmare congestion underscores the need for greater capacity, which will require even more investment from the Chinese government, not to mention untold amounts of cement, asphalt, steel and other materials.

But really, these are traffic jams you have to see to believe.

China Attracting Assets

The market seems to like what it sees. The Shanghai Composite Index is back up to levels last seen in January, fueled by not only encouraging manufacturing data but also hopes the government will make good on its promises to support infrastructure spending and restructure state-run enterprises. Stocks recently signaled a bullish “golden cross,” when the shorter-term moving average crosses above the longer-term average. 

Chinas Golden Cross
click to enlarge

In a note last week, Goldman Sachs analysts reported they expect reforms to accelerate in the next few years as China transitions from a middle-income country to an advanced economy. Reforms include efforts to restructure or eliminate “zombie” state-owned enterprises and remove marginal capacity. New policies on how to address public corruption have also been floated.

Among ETFs focused on a single emerging market, China funds attracted the largest inflows in the month of October, with new money totaling $275 million, according to Citi Research data.

Inflows into Mexico-focused ETFs were a distant second, at $133 million, indicating a surplus of bets on a Hillary Clinton presidential win this week.

Who Will Lead the SEC in a Clinton Administration?

SEC Chair Elizabeth Warren

SEC Chair Elizabeth Warren
Photo by Tim Pierce / CC-BY

While I’m on the topic of the election, I find it worth sharing that a shake-up at the very top of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could be unfolding in front of our eyes—with some potentially serious ramifications.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the most outspoken critics of Wall Street serving in Congress today, recently urged President Barack Obama to remove Mary Jo White as head of the SEC for, among other things, failure to fully implement the Dodd-Frank financial reforms.

The White House flatly rejected Warren’s request, but it raises a few questions: Is she positioning herself to run the SEC herself? Could Sen. Warren, a strong supporter of Clinton, be appointed as the new SEC chair if Clinton were to win? What effect would that have on capital markets?

Although pure speculation, the scenario is worth pondering.

Another Infrastructure Boom Ahead?

Much has been made of the Chinese economy’s transition from one driven by industrial production to one supported by consumption and services. While this shift is indeed taking place, China still remains the world’s largest engine for energy and materials demand, with support from a growing population and rising household income.

The country imported a record amount of crude oil in September, up 18 percent year-over-year, surpassing the U.S. for the second time in 2016. Averaging 8 million barrels a day, imports came close to the 8.6 million daily barrels the U.S. produces on average.

China Imported Record Volumes Crude September
click to enlarge

I also would like to point out that China remains the world’s number one generator of electricity. The chart below shows just how dramatic capacity growth was in the first decade of the century. In 1990, the country’s electricity needs were equivalent to Latin America’s, but as its government pushed ahead with fiscal spending for huge infrastructure projects, demand blew past the continents of Europe and North America.

China Leads World Electricity Generation
click to enlarge

Although infrastructure investment has declined overall from this period, there’s still plenty to get excited about. In the first eight months of 2016, infrastructure spending rose an impressive 19.7 percent over the same period last year, and in May, the government announced it would be pumping more than $721 billion into as many as 303 transportation projects over the next three years.

Two projects in particular are worth noting here. Construction on what will eventually be the world’s largest airport by surface area is currently underway in Beijing. Upon completion in 2019, the $12 billion airport, to be called Beijing Daxing International Airport, will serve as many as 100 million passengers a year, roughly in line with the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Then there’s the ongoing Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), one of the most ambitious undertakings in human history. With total infrastructure costs estimated at $5 trillion, the biblical-size trading endeavor—a sort of 21st century Silk Road—will cost 12 times as much as what the U.S. spent on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe following World War II. The initiative has the participation of 65 countries from Asia, Africa and Europe, and is poised to raise the living standards for more than half of the world’s population.

Chinas multi trillion dollar belt and road initiative
click to enlarge

“Though China’s pace of expansion has slowed from the double-digit rates seen in the first decade of the century,” writes HSBC’s Noel Quinn, Chief Executive of Global Commercial Banking, “its global influence—as the world’s second-largest economy and a trading powerhouse—is far greater than 10 or even five years ago. The country’s overseas investments are only likely to increase, further underlining its pivotal role.”

HSBC: Your Candidate’s Win Could Reward Gold Investors

With the U.S. presidential election upon us, London-based HSBC says gold investors should see a significant bump in price no matter who wins.

The bank sees a Trump victory more supportive of gold as a potential “protection against protectionism”—the New York businessman has been very critical of trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—but a Clinton win could also help boost prices to as high as $1,400 by year end, HSBC says.

As always, I recommend a 10 percent weighting in gold—5 percent in bullion and coins, 5 percent in gold stocks. Rebalance every year.

 

The Shanghai Composite Index (SSE) is an index of all stocks that trade on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

The Caixin China Report on General Manufacturing is based on data compiled from monthly replies to questionnaires sent to purchasing executives in over 420 manufacturing companies. The panel is stratified by company size and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) group, based on industry contribution to Chinese GDP. Survey responses reflect the change, if any, in the current month compared to the previous month based on data collected mid-month.

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

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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Indian Gold Jewelry Sales Set to Hit a Four-Year High
October 17, 2016

Indian households have the world's largest private gold holdings at 23,000 tonnes

Just as April showers bring May flowers, plentiful monsoon rains in India tend to drive up demand for gold jewelry among rural, income-flush farmers, who make up a third of the country’s consumption of the yellow metal.

It’s a relief to hear, then, that India just had its best monsoon season in three years, with heavy rains washing away people’s fears of yet another drought.

Add to that the fact that the yellow metal is now trading in the affordable $1,250 to $1,260 range—a sizeable discount from only a month ago—and gold jewelry sales are expected to surge as much as 60 percent over last year, according to the India Bullion and Jewellers Association.

That would take sales to a four-year high as we near Diwali—traditionally a time when gold-buying is considered auspicious—which would help support prices.

Following Diwali comes the important Indian wedding season. It’s almost impossible to exaggerate how massive this industry is, with one India-based research firm expecting it to hit 1.6 trillion rupees ($24 billion) by 2020.

I’ve shared with you before that between 35 percent and 40 percent of a typical Indian wedding’s expenses is devoted to gold jewelry. If we use the higher estimate, that means close to $10 billion could be spent on gold alone.

But for spending like this to happen, a strong monsoon is needed, which farmers in many parts of India got this year.

A Longstanding History of Driving the World Gold Market

For millennia, gold has played a key role in Indian culture, valued not only for its beauty and durability but also as financial security. That’s no less true today. A 2013 survey conducted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) found that more than three quarters of Indians view the precious metal as a “safe investment.”

The same FICCI study also found that gold is a regular line item in most Indian households’ budgets, comparable to what they spend every year on medical expenses and clothing.

Gold is Among Indian Households Regular Expenditures
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It should come as little surprise, then, that Indian households have the largest private gold holdings in the world. Standing at an estimated 23,000 tonnes, and worth close to a whopping $1 trillion, the amount surpasses the combined official gold reserves of the United States, Germany, Italy, France, China and Russia.

Analysts: Gold Is Setting Up for a Big Comeback

After logging its best first half of the year in 40 years, gold is now trading range-bound while we await the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise rates in December. Most, but certainly not all, of the recent economic data seems to be pointing in this direction, with initial jobless claims at a four-decade low, voluntary quits at pre-recession levels and household income finally on the rise.

The week before last was especially brutal. With markets in China, the world’s largest consumer, closed in observance of Golden Week, the short sellers had free rein, driving the price down more than 3 percent on Tuesday alone.

Despite the weakness, inflows into gold ETFs continue to pour in, as savvy investors recognize that real, or inflation-adjusted, Treasury yields are still in negative territory. I use the 2-year yield here because it’s what many currency traders look at.

Low to Negative Treasury Yields Have Helped Drive Up Gold
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But now some analysts see gold ready to turn again, perhaps prefacing a rally that could carry the metal to an all-time high.

In a note last week, UBS said that as long as the Fed doesn’t hike rates too quickly, gold should resume its upward momentum. And remember, the bull market was triggered last December after the Fed raised rates for the first time in nearly a decade.

Gold Performance Around September FOMC Meetings, 2015 and 2016
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Meanwhile, London-based investment firm Incrementum suggested last week that gold could reach a new record within the next two years, supported by higher consumer prices, low to negative government bond yields and a lack of confidence in central bank policy.

“In this uncharted territory, with big monetary experiments going on, it just makes sense” to hold bullion, Ronald Stoeferle, a managing director at Incrementum, told Bloomberg.

Peak Platinum and Palladium Demand?

Consensus suggests gold has a positive long-term outlook, but platinum and palladium might be looking at an uncertain future.

Platinum and Palladium Under Pressure
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As you probably know, the platinum-group metals (PGM) are used predominantly in the fabrication of automobile catalytic converters, which are responsible for reducing emissions. Platinum is used in diesel-powered engines, palladium in gasoline-powered engines.

With vehicle sales in China rising rapidly, demand for PGMs is still strong. In fact, demand for palladium rose 3 percent this year, hitting a fresh all-time high, according to CPM Group.

Pallladium Usage on a Global Scale

But trouble could be brewing as more and more automakers deepen their shift toward battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) in an effort to comply with international environmental regulations and meet growing consumer demand. Since these vehicles don’t have an internal combustion engine, there are no emissions, meaning PGMs are not needed.

Government policy has largely driven the emphasis on BEVs, with a few nations around the world committed to banning internal combustion engines from roads within the next 10 to 20 years.

Norway was the first, pledging to eliminate them by 2025, less than 10 years from now. The Netherlands is considering a similar ban, effective the same year. And India wants to be the first “100 percent electric vehicle nation” by 2030.

Last week, Germany—the world’s fourth-largest automobile manufacturer, home to Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volkswagen—voted to do away with all fossil fuel-powered vehicles within 15 years.

Pallladium Usage on a Global Scale

In its platinum and palladium outlook, Metals Focus writes that “for every additional 1 percent of global passenger car production that BEVs claim in 2020, our model suggests a loss of more than 100,000 ounces (3 tonnes) of combined PGMs offtake that year.”

All in all, not good for PGMs.  

However, it is good for copper. As I’ve pointed out before, BEVs use about three times as much copper wiring as traditional combustion engines vehicles.

It’s important to recognize that disruptive technologies have always changed markets. Right now, one of them is battery-electric vehicles. Embrace them or not, the decision is yours. But as investors, we must acknowledge which way the wind is blowing, and adapt—or be left behind.

Don’t Forget to Register for MoneyShow Dallas!

Speaking of disruptive technologies, virtual reality is quickly going mainstream, with Facebook’s Oculus Rift and other VR headsets likely to become one of the next must-have consumer items.

You don’t need one of these pricey rigs to enjoy the MoneyShow Dallas virtual event, though—just an internet connection. This week I’ll be at the MoneyShow, where I’ll be presenting and learning. And if you can’t be there physically, you can always be there virtually to hear from leading economists, premier money managers and top analysts, who will share their best insights, perspectives and strategies to grow your portfolio.

I hope you’ll join me!

 

The French Are at It Again

One final note: Last month, I shared with you the story that European regulators were going after big Americans companies such as Netflix, Facebook, Amazon and more. Their envy policies demand that, if they can’t build their own companies that are just as successful, they’ll tax and regulate them into non-competitiveness.

This socialist mindset is now taking aim at internet content providers.

Last week, according to Zero Hedge, the French parliament introduced a bill that, if enacted, would levy a 2 percent tax on all ad-generated revenue on sites that distribute free content—sites such as YouTube and Dailymotion (a France-based video-sharing site).

This is just the latest example of how Europe is undermining American companies. Why hasn’t Europe created its own Netflix or Facebook? Where’s its Silicon Valley? The continent’s miles of red tape and envy policies have essentially prohibited entrepreneurism and innovation. And instead of relaxing regulations, it chooses to punish U.S. firms for their success.

 

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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 6/30/2016.

Share “Indian Gold Jewelry Sales Set to Hit a Four-Year High”

Net Asset Value
as of 06/15/2018

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.83 -0.08 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $7.61 -0.07 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $3.89 -0.06 China Region Fund USCOX $11.80 -0.04 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.72 -0.10 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $25.97 0.05 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $20.22 No Change Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.20 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change