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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.

Investor Beware! What Does the Illinois Budget Crisis Mean for Your Bond Fund?
July 6, 2017

L-Train Tracks, Pilsen Neighborhood Chicago Illinois

A recent Capital Economics (CE) report shines an unforgiving light on Illinois’ ongoing budget woes—and what it finds isn’t pretty. The crisis, which has affected every level of government in the state, is a cautionary tale for not only public spending run amok but also independent investors taking too large of a risk by seeking high yields.

The Land of Lincoln’s credit is already the lowest-rated in the union and, until recently, its debt came precariously close to being downgraded to “junk.” Were this to happen, it would become the first state ever to receive such an ignoble rating.

The state’s 10-year bond yield has soared in recent months, which might attract certain unwary speculators. It’s our belief, however, that such debt should generally be avoided, as the risks are especially high.

Illinois 10-Year Bond Yield Soared as State Flirted with "Junk" Status
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As I write this, a state budget could possibly be successfully negotiated, making it the first time in over two years that Illinois has operated with a budget. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner already vetoed the first bill that reached his desk, which includes tax hikes, but the veto was immediately overridden by the State Senate and is now headed for the House.

No matter the outcome, the point here is that political dysfunction is unfavorable—to put it lightly—and muni investors should remain cautious.

Illinois isn’t the only state facing problems. Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin are all (or were) mired in similar budgetary impasses. New Jersey public beaches reopened just in time for July 4 celebrations after a high-profile government shutdown closed them down.

For many muni investors, navigating around these numerous pitfalls might seem overwhelming. That’s why I believe an actively-managed municipal bond fund such as our Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX) could be the solution.

More than 95 percent of NEARX is invested in munis that hold between an A and AAA investment-grade rating as of March 31. What this means is we’ve historically avoided exposure to debt issued by poorly-managed municipalities.

We also like to stay on the short end of the yield curve, especially now that the Federal Reserve has begun a new interest rate cycle. When rates rise, bond prices fall, and short- and intermediate-term munis are less sensitive to rate increases than longer-term munis whose maturities are further out.

To learn more about how rates affect municipal bonds, read our whitepaper.

On the Brink of Bankruptcy

Illinois’ total debt currently stands at about $60 billion, according to Capital Economics, which is above Detroit’s $20 billion bankruptcy in 2013 and just below Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt. The state’s unfunded pensions—for teachers, professors, state employees, judges, emergency personnel and more—could be as high as $250 billion. That puts each Illinoisan on the hook for an estimated $56,000.

Political dysfunction and mismanagement are bad enough, but the state’s adverse demographics make matters even worse.

Illinois is one of only four states whose populations shrank over the past five years, the others being Connecticut, Vermont and West Virginia. CE estimates that over the next decade, the state’s population could grow only 2.2 percent, far below the national average. The number of retirees, meanwhile, could surge 34 percent.

Bottom 10 State Percent Changes in U.S. Population, 2010-2016
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That means fewer working-age Illinoisans are expected to be counted on to support retirees in the coming years, driving up the amount of unfunded pensions even higher.

So even if the Illinois government can resolve its budget soon, we see this as only a short-term fix. The state has even larger obstacles emerging on the horizon.

Our Solution

Again, this is why I think an actively-managed muni fund like NEARX is an attractive solution. Whereas other muni funds might accumulate Illinois debt based on its high yield, regardless of risk, we generally have stuck to investment-grade munis.

It must be said that if you look at NEARX’s holdings today, you’ll see that Illinois is one of its top issuers. The bonds were purchased at an earlier time, before the state’s budgetary problems really began to worsen. We haven’t accumulated any more since it became clear to us that the risks were too great.

We continue to hold the debt because we’re confident the state’s government can successfully unravel the political gridlock and arrive at a short-term resolution. It’s the state’s long-term demographic risks that investors should especially worry about. Our longest Illinois bonds mature in 2021, and as long as the state doesn’t default in the next four years—which, in our opinion, is highly unlikely—we should get a good return on the bonds based on their yield when they were purchased.

 

 

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 or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS (1-800-873-8637). 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.

A bond’s credit quality is determined by private independent rating agencies such as Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch. Credit quality designations range from high (AAA to AA) to medium (A to BBB) to low (BB, B, CCC, CC to C).

The Near-Term Tax Free Fund invests at least 80 percent of its net assets in investment-grade municipal securities. At the time of purchase for the fund's portfolio, the ratings on the bonds must be one of the four highest ratings by Moody's Investors Services (Aaa, Aa, A, Baa) or Standard & Poor's Corporation (AAA, AA, A, BBB). Credit quality designations range from high (AAA to AA) to medium (A to BBB) to low (BB, B, CCC, CC to C). In the event a bond is rated by more than one of the ratings organizations, the highest rating is shown.

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San Francisco Named a Global Leader in Disruptive Innovation
June 29, 2017

Bay Area Leads the U.S. in Patents

When people think of San Francisco, they might think of the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Chinatown, the 49ers or Giants. I’m a fan of all of those things, but what usually comes to mind when I think of San Francisco is Silicon Valley, the world’s premiere hub for innovation and entrepreneurialism. That makes it, I believe, one of the most attractive places in the world to invest.

Others clearly share this belief.  One consulting firm, in fact, just named San Francisco as having the best long-term outlook in terms of innovation and business.

Since 2008, A.T. Kearney has annually ranked the world’s most innovative cities, and for the second straight year, the City by the Bay topped the group’s list of cities with the greatest outlook “to attract and retain global capital, people and ideas.” Decisive factors included not just innovation but also personal well-being, economics and governance.

Rounding out the top five cities were New York, Paris, London and Boston. But for my money, San Francisco, and indeed the broader Bay Area and Silicon Valley, offers the most attractive investment opportunities, for numerous reasons.

Patents and Venture Capital Galore

San Francisco—and its fellow Bay cities San Jose, Oakland, Mountain View and others—is ground zero for American innovation. Taken as a whole, the Bay Area has far and away the most patents than any other American city, after surpassing New York City in 1995. It grew from contributing only 4 percent of U.S. patents in 1976 to 16 percent by 2008.

Bay Area Leads the U.S. in Patents
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A.T. Kearney’s report cites San Francisco’s strong start-up ecosystem, emphasis on technology and willingness to take risks as contributing factors to the city’s rapid increases in the number of U.S. patents.

The Bay Area also leads the nation in the amount of venture capital that pours in every year. A study conducted in 2012 by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and Booz & Company found that the region, where most Silicon Valley companies are headquartered, attracted between 35 and 40 percent of all U.S. venture capital investment. Much of the investment focused on information technology, biotechnology, internet, digital entertainment and “cleantech” firms.

Bay Area Captured between 35% and 40% of U.S. Venture Capital Investment
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In 2016, San Francisco ranked 10th in the nation in terms of the number of Fortune 500 companies, or those with the highest gross revenue. With 11 such companies calling San Francisco home, the city is the only one in California, interestingly, that appears in the top 10.

Disruption HQ

Perhaps more so than any other region in the world, the Bay Area produces new companies that disrupt and redefine entire industries. Think Google (Alphabet), Intuit, Netflix, eBay, Tesla Motors, Cisco Systems and others—many of which we’ve owned at one point or another in our two domestic equity funds, the All American Equity Fund (GBTFX) and Holmes Macro Trends Fund (MEGAX).

John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain, inventors of the transitorWe can thank Stanford University for a lot of this innovative spirit. Founded in 1885 by railroad magnate and former California governor Leland Stanford, the school’s mission from the start was to teach not just traditional liberal arts but also technology and engineering.

Whole books have been devoted to what Stanford—which Reuters named as the world’s most innovative university in 2016—has contributed to our world, from antibody therapies to data analytics to DSL. In 1991, the first websites in North America went online at the school’s National Accelerator Laboratory, paving the way for the Internet Age we live in today.

One of Stanford’s most influential professors, Frederick Terman, was not only renowned for his research in electronics and radio engineering, but he also pushed his students to form their own companies. Known today as the “Father of Silicon Valley,” Terman personally invested in many of these companies, one of which was Hewlett-Packard, founded in Palo Alto in 1939.

The title “Father of Silicon Valley” is also sometimes shared by William Shockley, who came to Stanford in 1963 to teach electrical engineering. Earlier in his career, in 1947, he and his Bell Telephone Laboratories colleagues John Bardeen and Walter Brattain invented the transistor, an achievement that’s absolutely fundamental to modern electronics. The transistor can be found in nearly everything we use and enjoy today, from cars to jets to computers. For this creation, Shockley and his co-inventors were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1956.

Sign of First Silicon DeviceThat same year, Shockley and seven other scientists founded Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, the “first silicon device and research manufacturing company in Silicon Valley,” as a plaque marking the spot in Mountain View reads today. The work conducted at the laboratory, which closed in 1968, is literally the reason why Silicon Valley is so named. (The building was later used as a furniture store, then a produce market. It was eventually torn down.)

It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of Stanford’s economic contributions. A 2012 study estimated that the approximately 40,000 companies founded by Stanford alumni since the 1930s generate world revenues in the neighborhood of $2.7 trillion—every year. If they were their own independent nation, they would be the world’s 10th largest economy.

Manifest Destiny

As pleased as I am to see that San Francisco ranked first in the world for its “disruptive innovation,” as A.T. Kearney puts it, I’m not surprised. The city has long been an agent of change and a prime destination for those seeking fortune and glory.

When gold was discovered in California in 1848, San Francisco became an overnight mecca for miners from all corners of the world. Its population swelled from 1,000 in 1848 to 20,000 just two years later. The city grew so rapidly in size and importance, it was eventually selected as the westernmost stop along the first transcontinental railroad.

Today, innovative ideas are sought just as fervently as 49ers sought gold, and it’s precisely those ideas that we invest in. Both the All American Equity Fund (GBTFX) and Holmes Macro Trends Fund (MEGAX) have a 16 percent to 17 percent exposure to Silicon Valley-type tech firms—firms like Apple, NetApp, Qualcomm, eBay, Interdigital and others. I believe they’re well positioned to continue attracting and retaining capital and talent for many years to come.

 

Stock markets can be volatile and share prices can fluctuate in response to sector-related and other risks as described in the fund prospectus.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the All American Equity Fund and Holmes Macro Trends Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 3/31/2017: Alphabet Inc. 0.00%; Intuit Inc. 0.00%; Netflix Inc. 0.00%; eBay Inc. 0.00%; Tesla Inc. 0.00%; Cisco Systems Inc. 0.00%; Apple Inc. 0.00%; Qualcomm Inc. 2.72% in All American Equity Fund, 0.00% in Holmes Macro Trends Fund; InterDigital Inc. 0.00%; Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. 0.00%; NetApp Inc. 3.05% in All American Equity Fund, 0.00% in Holmes Macro Trends Fund.  

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 or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS (1-800-873-8637). Read it carefully before investing. Foreside Fund Services, LLC, Distributor. U.S. Global Investors is the investment adviser.

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One Easy Way to Invest in the “Asian Century”
June 15, 2017

One Easy Way to Invest in the “Asian Century”

The 19th century belonged to the United Kingdom, the 20th century to the United States. Many market experts and analysts now speculate that the 21st century will be remembered as the “Asian Century,” dominated by rising superpowers such as Indonesia, India and China.

It’s those last two countries, India and China—home to nearly 40 percent of the world’s population—that I want to focus on. Both emerging markets offer attractive investment opportunities, especially for growth investors who seek to derisk from American equities.

Look at how dramatically the two have expanded in the last half century. As recently as 1970, neither country controlled a significant share of world gross domestic product (GDP). As of June of this year, however, China represents more than 15 percent of world GDP, India more than 3 percent. This has displaced Russia and Spain, itself the world’s wealthiest economy in the 16th century.

China and India Cracked the Top 10 List of World Economies
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And the expansion is expected to continue. Back in February, I shared with you research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which predicts that by 2050, China and India will become the world’s number one and number two largest economies based on purchasing power parity (PPP). (PPP, if you’re unfamiliar, is a theory that states that exchange rates between two nations are equal when price levels of a fixed basket of goods and services are the same.)

top 10 economies expected to be dominated by 7 largest markets in 2050
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Also note Indonesia, which is expected to replace Japan as the fourth-largest economy by midcentury.

A Surge in Middle Class Spenders

What should excite investors the most is the growing size of the middle class in China and India. More middle class consumers means more spending on goods and services and more investing.

Remember, China’s middle class is already larger than that found here in the U.S., according to Credit Suisse. In October 2015, the investment bank reported that, for the first time, the size of China’s middle class had exceeded that of America’s middle class, 109 million to 92 million. As incomes rise, so too does demand for durables, luxury goods, vehicles, air travel, energy and more.

109 million for the first time, the size of china's middle class has overtaken the U.S. 109 million compared to 92 million

Living standards have risen dramatically in China. According to Dr. Ira Kalish, a specialist in global economic issues for Deloitte, hourly wages for manufacturing jobs in China are now higher than those found in Latin American countries except for Chile. They’re even nearing wages found in lower-income European countries such as Greece and Portugal.  

Looking ahead to 2030, China is expected to have a mind-boggling 1 billion people—more than three times the current U.S. population—enjoying a middle class lifestyle filled with middle class things, from cars to designer clothes to electronics and appliances.

Asia's Growing Middle Class
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India, meanwhile, will have an estimated 475 million people among its middle class ranks. The South Asian country is currently the fastest-growing G20 economy, with Morgan Stanley analysts estimating year-over-year growth to hit 7.9 percent in December. Driving this growth is a steady increase in wages and pensions, which will support consumption of goods and services.

Demographic trends in India make the country look especially favorable. As I’ve shared with you before, India has a young population, with an average age of 29. (The average age in China, by comparison, is around 37, while Japan’s is 48.) By 2020, more than 64 percent of Indians will be under the age of 35. For many years to come, therefore, India will have a much larger group of working-age individuals than any other country on earth.

In fact, India’s total population could now be larger than China’s, according to new estimates. Yi Fuxian, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, believes China’s population is much smaller than official statistics, owing to years of slower population growth under the one-child policy. Yi insists that about 90 million fewer people reside in China than previously thought, meaning its 2017 population could be closer to 1.29 billion people. That would narrowly make India, home to 1.31 billion people, the world’s most populous country.

Investing in 40 Percent of Humanity

So how can investors take advantage of this rapid growth in spending power?

One of the best ways, I believe, is with our China Region Fund (USCOX), which invests in securities in the authorized China securities markets (Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Shanghai) as well as the surrounding countries, including India.

The fund, which seeks to achieve long-term capital appreciation, focuses on companies that we believe are poised to benefit the most from an increase in middle class consumption. That includes automotive firms (Geely Automotive, Great Wall Motor), pharmaceuticals (CSPC Pharmaceutical, Sinopharm), information technology (Tencent, NetEase), consumer discretionary (Anta Sports) and much more.

For the one-year period as of June 12, USCOX was up more than 35 percent, well ahead of its 50-day and 200-day moving averages.

U.S. Global Investors China Region Fund (USCOX)
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Click here to see the fund’s performance.

To learn more about investment opportunities in the “Asian Century,” visit the USCOX fund page!

 

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 or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS (1-800-873-8637). Read it carefully before investing. Foreside Fund Services, LLC, Distributor. U.S. Global Investors is the investment adviser.

Foreign and emerging market investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and less public disclosure, as well as economic and political risk. By investing in a specific geographic region, a regional fund’s returns and share price may be more volatile than those of a less conc entrated portfolio.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the China Region Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 3/31/2017: Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. 7.00%, Great Wall Motor Co. Ltd. 0.54%, CSPC Pharmaceutical Group Ltd. 3.48%, Sinopharm Group Co. Ltd. 1.84%, Tencent Holdings Ltd. 5.47%, NetEase Inc. 0.75%, ANTA Sports Products Ltd. 2.36%.

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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Hope for the Best but Prepare for the Worst (with Gold and Munis)
June 12, 2017

Hope for the best expect the worst

Last week investors shrugged off even more drama coming out of Washington. Stocks continued to rally and hit record highs, even as former FBI director James Comey testified that, in his opinion, President Donald Trump fired him in an attempt to lift the “cloud” of the Russia investigation.

If true, this suggests obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense. And if impeached, or in the event of a resignation, Trump’s political agenda would likely be derailed. The last (and only) time a U.S. president resigned, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost up to 40 percent, as a recent article in TheStreet reminds us.

But markets paid no mind to Comey’s insinuations, underscoring investors’ confidence that tax reform and deregulation will proceed as planned. And sure enough, just hours after Comey testified, the House of Representatives voted to repeal key parts of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which has contributed to an alarming number of small bank closures since its passage in 2010.

So once again, the wisdom of crowds prevails. If you remember, markets were forecasting as far back ago as last summer that Trump would win the November election.

This doesn’t mean, however, that Trump’s problems are behind him.

Last week I was speaking with Mike Ward, a top publisher with Agora Financial, who compared Presidents Trump and Ronald Reagan. It was suggested that, despite Trump’s apparent affection for the 40th president, he has so far failed to live up to the Great Communicator’s memory of optimism and deep respect for the office.

Whereas Reagan wanted to “tear down this wall,” Trump wants to “put up that wall.” Whereas Reagan insisted it was “morning in America,” Trump insists it’s “American carnage.” Reagan succeeded in building coalitions and unifying our allies against the Soviet Union. Trump has already managed to destabilize many of those alliances.

During the 1988 vice-presidential debate, Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen famously ribbed then-Senator of Indiana Dan Quale for comparing himself favorably to John F. Kennedy. “I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy,” Bentsen said. “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Similarly, many observers are of the opinion that Trump is no Reagan.

Don’t get me wrong. I remain hopeful. President Trump wants to make America great again, and it’s still well within his power to do so—if he can practice some self-restraint and not get caught up in petty feuds. Voters support his vision. They gave him not only the Executive Branch but also Congress and most states’ governorships and legislatures.

You could say I’m hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I advise investors to do the same. No one can say what the future holds, and it’s prudent to have a portion of your portfolio in gold, gold stocks and short-term, tax-free municipal bonds, all of which have a history of performing well in volatile times.

Gold Poised for a Breakout

Following bitcoin’s breathtaking ascent to fresh highs, gold rose to a seven-month high last week on safe-haven demand, stopping just short of the psychologically important $1,300 level. Supported by Fear Trade factors such as geopolitical turmoil—both in the U.S. and abroad—and low to negative government bond yields, gold’s move here can be seen as a bullish sign.

As others have pointed out, the yellow metal breached the downward trend of the past six years, possibly pointing to further gains.

gold just breached key resistence
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Under pressure from a beleaguered White House and stalled policy reform, the U.S. dollar continued to sink last week, with gold outperforming the greenback for the first time since the November election. Because gold is priced in dollars, its value increases when the dollar contracts.

Gold outperforms the US dollar for the first time since election
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It’s also important for investors to remember that gold has often rallied when Treasuries yielded little or nothing. Why would investors knowingly lock in guaranteed losses for the next two or five years, or near-zero returns for the next 10 years? That’s precisely what Treasuries are offering, as you can see below:

Low to negative real treasury yeilds support gold
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Minus inflation, the two-year Treasury yielded negative 0.96 percent in April; the five-year, negative 0.38 percent; and the 10-year, a paltry 0.10 percent. (I’m using April data since May inflation data won’t be available until this Wednesday, but I expect results to look the same.)  

When this happens, investors tend to shift into other safe-haven assets, including municipal bonds and gold.

Year-to-date, the yellow metal is up more than 9.7 percent, even as the stock market extends its rally. This runs counter to what we’ve seen in the past. As I’ve explained before, gold usually has a low correlation to other assets, including stocks and bonds, which is why investors all around the globe favor it as a diversifier.

So what gives?

Top Money Managers Sound the Warning Bell

One of the most compelling answers to this question, I believe, is that stocks appear to be overvalued right now, in turn boosting gold’s safe-haven investment case. This is the assessment of Bill Gross, the legendary bond guru who currently manages $2 billion with Janus Henderson.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Invest New York summit last week, the 73-year-old Gross said markets are now at their highest risk levels since before the 2008 financial crisis. Loose monetary policy has artificially inflated stock prices despite weak economic growth, he said, adding: “Instead of buying low and selling high, you’re buying high and crossing your fingers.”

Doomsdayers bill gross paul singer marc faber trouble brewing capital markets

Marc Faber, the Swiss investor often referred to as Dr. Doom, echoed Gross’ thoughts, telling CNBC last week that “everything” is in a bubble right now, similar to the days of the dotcom bust of the late 1990s. And when this bubble bursts, Marc said, investors could lose as much as half of their assets.

That stocks appear overvalued could be a driver of gold’s performance right now, with savvy investors, anticipating a possible market correction, loading up on assets that have historically held their value in times of economic crisis.

A cadre of other top money managers and analysts share Bill Gross and Marc’s less-than-rosy market view.

At the same Bloomberg event, billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer—whose firm, Elliott Management, recently raised $5 billion in as little as 24 hours—warned attendees that the U.S. was at risk of another debt shock.

“What we have today is a global financial system that’s just about as leveraged—and in many cases more leveraged—than before 2008, and I don’t think the financial system is more sound,” Singer said.

Indeed, U.S. debt levels are higher now than they’ve ever been, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In the first quarter of 2017, total U.S. household indebtedness reached a mind-boggling $12.73 trillion. That’s $150 billion more than the end of 2016 and $50 billion above the previous peak set in 2008.

Low to negative real treasury yeilds support gold
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Even more concerning is the fact that the number of delinquencies grew for the second straight quarter as more income-strapped Americans binged on credit. We could be headed for a massive hangover.

Cumulatively, these warnings stress the importance of hoping for the best while planning for the worst. In the past, there have been few ways as effective at preserving wealth as gold, gold stocks and tax-free, short-term munis.  

Gold Vaults a Sign of Increased Demand

Demand for safety deposit boxes is surging as more savers and investors convert cash into gold

The world’s two largest consumers of gold by far, China and India, are currently importing enormous amounts of the yellow metal on safe-haven demand. Bloomberg reports that China could boost its gold purchases from Hong Kong as much as 50 percent this year over concerns of currency devaluation, a slowing real estate market and shaky stocks. Imports could advance to 1,000 metric tons, which would be the most since 2013.

Meanwhile, India—whose affection for gold goes back millennia—saw its imports of the yellow metal rise fourfold in May compared to the same month last year as traders fear a higher tax rate on jewelry. Imports climbed to 126 tons, versus 31.5 tons last May.

As impressive as this news is, there’s no sign more compelling that investors have an insatiable appetite for gold right now than the growing demand for safety-deposit boxes. According to Bloomberg, companies in Europe are scrambling to meet customers’ needs for a safe, inexpensive place to store their bullion in the face of negative interest rates and rising inflation. Two firms in particular have plans to build additional facilities capable of holding 100 million euros ($112 million) each in bars and coins.

Daniel Marburger, CEO of European coin dealer CoinInvest, told Bloomberg that he had just finished working with a German customer whose bank account was charged negative interest rates. To prevent this from happening again, the customer converted his cash into gold and silver, which he sees as a more reliable store of value.

Negative rates are “definitely a driving factor and will lead to more sales and also more storage clients,” Marburger said.

 

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 Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 blue chip stocks that are generally leaders in their industry.

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Trump Bids Adieu to Paris Climate Agreement. What Does this Mean for Energy Investors?
June 5, 2017

Trump Bids Adieu to Paris Climate Agreement. What Does this Mean for Energy Investors?

Surprising no one, President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement last week, highlighting the depth of his commitment to keep “America First.” Also surprising no one, the media is making much of the fact that the U.S. now joins only Nicaragua and Syria in refusing to participate in the accord.

Trump was under intense pressure from business leaders, politicians on both sides of the aisle, environmental activists, members of his Cabinet—even his own daughter Ivanka, reportedly—to stay in the agreement, but he made his decision with the American worker in mind. The Paris accord, Trump said, “is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States,” leaving American workers and taxpayers “to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly demised economic production.”

This is the assessment of Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who went on Fox News to defend the decision. “Any time that people are taking money out of your pocket and you make them put it back in, they’re not going to be happy,” Ross said, making a similar argument to the one that prompted the Brexit referendum last year.

Just as many Brits were tired of following rules passed down from unelected officials in Brussels, many Americans have feared the encroachment of global environmentalists’ socialist agenda, which they believe threatens to usurp their freedom.

A thought-provoking article from FiveThirtyEight outlines how climate science became a partisan issue over the last 30 years in the U.S. It was the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the article argues, that brought on a significant partisan shift in attitude, with conservative thinkers beginning to see the regulations that went along with environmentalism as the new scourge.

No, the Sky Isn’t Falling

Despite the withdrawal, I believe that the U.S. will not stop innovating and being a world leader in renewable energy—even while oil and natural gas production continues to surge. As the president himself said, we will still “be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth.”

Recently I shared with you that we’re seeing record renewable capacity growth here in the U.S., with solar ranking as the number one source of net new electric generating capacity in 2016. In the first quarter of 2017, wind capacity grew at an impressive 385 percent over the same period last year. The “clean electricity” sector now employs more people in the U.S. than fossil fuel electricity generation, according to the 2017 Energy and Employment Report.

This was all accomplished not because of an international agreement but because independent communities, markets and corporations demanded it. Solar and wind turbine manufacturers will likely continue to perform well in the long term as renewable energy costs decline and battery technology improves.

Renewables Have Beaten Broader Energy Stocks
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Clearly people’s attitudes toward climate change—and its impact on business operations—are changing. This week, Exxon Mobil shareholders voted to require the company to disclose more information about how climate change and environmental regulations might affect its global oil operations. The energy giant—along with its former CEO, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—favored staying in the climate deal.

At the same time, markets reacted positively to the exit, with the S&P 500 Index, Dow Jones Industrial Average and NASDAQ Composite Index all closing at record highs on Thursday following Trump’s announcement.

Major Indices Hit Record Highs Following US Withdrawl From Paris Agreement
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So What Does This Mean?

The question now is what investment implications, if any, the withdrawal might trigger.

The short answer is no one knows exactly what happens now. There’s already speculation that some countries might act to raise “carbon tariffs” on U.S. exports, increasing the cost of American-made goods “to offset the fact that U.S. manufacturers could make products more cheaply because they would not have to abide by Paris climate goals,” according to Politico. German chancellor candidate Martin Schulz has said that, should he be elected in September, he would refuse to “engage with the U.S. in transatlantic trade talks.” Schulz’s comments are not that far removed from those of his political rival, incumbent Angela Merkel, who called Trump’s decision “extremely regrettable.”

This has the potential to widen the rift that’s been forming between the U.S. and Germany since Trump took office. Recall that Trump refused to shake Merkel’s hand during her Washington visit in March. More recently, the president reportedly called the Germans “bad, very bad,” adding that he would stop them from selling millions of cars in the U.S.

One of the biggest winners of the withdrawal could be China. Just as the Asian giant is poised to benefit from the U.S. distancing itself from multilateral free-trade agreements such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), it’s also in a position to brand itself as the world’s leader in renewable energy. Last week, Chinese Premiere Li Keqiang met with European Union (EU) officials in Brussels to discuss trade between the two world superpowers, but they also took the time to condemn the U.S. president’s actions, with European Council president Donald Tusk saying that the Paris agreement’s mission would continue, “with or without the U.S.”

Chinese Premiere Li Keqiang in Brussels in 2012

China might be the largest carbon emitter right now—it overtook the U.S. a decade ago—but it’s also the biggest investor in renewable energy generation, with $361 billion being spent between now and 2020. The country just fired up the world’s largest floating solar power plant in what used to be a coal mine, now flooded. The plant will provide as much as 40 megawatts (MW) of power to Huainan, China, home to more than 2.3 million people.    

European Manufacturers Have Strongest Jobs Growth in 20 Years

On the same day President Trump shared his decision, new purchasing manager’s index (PMI) data was released, and just like last month, European manufacturers were the big surprise. The EU manufacturing sector strengthened its expansion for the ninth straight month in May, reaching a 73-month high of 57, right in line with expectations. Jobs growth grew to an incredible 20-year high.

European Manufacturing Expands at Fastest Rate in 73 Months
click to enlarge

Germany led the group with a PMI of 59.5. Of the eight EU countries that are monitored, only Greece fell short of expansion.

 

The U.S., meanwhile, slipped from 52.8 in April to 52.7 in May, posting the weakest improvement in business conditions in eight months, before the election. China fared even worse, falling from 50.3 to 49.6, signaling a slight deterioration in its manufacturing sector for the first time in almost a year.

 

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Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 03/31/2017: Exxon Mobil Corp., SolarEdge Technologies Inc., Vestas Wind Systems A/S, Gamesa Corp. Tecnologica SA, Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 blue chip stocks that are generally leaders in their industry. The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The Nasdaq Composite Index is a capitalization-weighted index of all Nasdaq National Market and SmallCap stocks. The S&P 500 Energy Index is a capitalization-weighted index that tracks the companies in the energy sector as a subset of the S&P 500.

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.

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