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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.

There’s More to the Gold Rally Than European Market Fears
January 27, 2015

Gold is having a spectacular run so far this year.Gold was down 1.72 percent at the end of 2014, but things are looking up for the yellow metal. Last week I returned from presenting at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference, where sentiment for gold was through the roof.

And with good reason. Even though gold was down last year, it still ranked as the second-best-performing currency, following the U.S. dollar. The metal has risen about 10 percent year-to-date, and last Tuesday, for the first time since mid-August, it broke through the $1,300 mark.

Are you excited yet?

Our two gold funds, the Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) and World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX), have responded positively to the rally. Both have jumped above their 50-day moving averages, a key trend indicator many investors use to decide when to allocate assets.

Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) Breaks Out
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World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX) Breaks Out
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You’ve probably heard or read that gold’s breakout is a direct result of what’s currently happening in Europe, but there’s much more to the story.

To be clear, the events I’m referring to are a huge deal and shouldn’t be discounted. As we say at U.S. Global Investors, government policy is a precursor to change, and certainly gold has struck a musical chord in the world of currency symphonies.

The European Central Bank’s (ECB’s) unveiling of a much-needed, trillion-dollar quantitative easing (QE) program will hopefully lead to a stronger economy in the eurozone. For two years now, it seems the region has held much of the world hostage with its lack of growth.

Switzerland unexpectedly unpegged its currency, the Swiss franc, from the euro, shocking money managers all over the world. The country also let its 10-year government bond yield sink into negative territory, joining Germany, Spain and Italy, whose yields now hover near record lows. This makes other assets, especially gold, look much more attractive.

And in Greece, the radical far-left, anti-austerity Syriza party just took control of the government, sending shockwaves throughout the European markets and raising the possibility that the Mediterranean country might leave or be booted out of the eurozone.

All of these developments have spurred investors to seek safety in gold. But there’s more at work fueling the metal’s ascent.

Currency Wars

As I’ve discussed many times before, the strong U.S. dollar—it’s currently up 2.2 standard deviations for the 10-year period—has not only weighed on crude oil but also caused other global currencies to depreciate. Both have helped many foreign gold producers expand their profit margins, as bullion is then able to gain in value more quickly.

“The Canadian dollar has weakened quite a bit against the U.S. dollar for a lot of our gold stocks in Canada,” Ralph Aldis, portfolio manager of our gold funds, explained during our most recent webcast. “These producers benefit when the local currency depreciates.”

This is because they pay their workers in the weaker local currency but sell their bullion in U.S. dollars.

When expressed in Canadian dollars, gold has sharply ramped up to a nine-month high:

Gold Price in Canadian Dollar Terms
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Gold has also shot upward in Japanese yen and euro terms:

Gold Price in Japanese Yen Terms
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Gold Price in Euro Terms
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A weaker South African rand has been a tailwind for two of our South African holdings, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold Mining. Below you can see that both companies have broken free of their 50-day moving averages—by a much wider spread than we’ve seen since at least March of last year.

Low Fuel Costs and a Weakened Rand Have Benefited South African Godl Producers
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Then there are falling fuel costs, ordinarily gold miners’ biggest expense.

“If you factor in lower energy prices, that basically gives companies a double whammy in terms of margin expansion,” Ralph said.

Headquartered in Toronto, Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold producer, saves about $25 per ounce on lower diesel expenses, according to BullionVault.

Before it started recovering at the beginning of January, gold had been pretty banged up since mid-August. As a result, companies have slashed capital spending, especially the junior miners.

But recently we’ve seen merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the gold space, typically a good sign. In late November, Osisko Gold Royalties announced it would buy Quebec City-based Virginia Mines for $424 million, and last week we learned that Vancouver-based Goldcorp will be acquiring precious metals explorer Probe Mines for $440 million. Probe is a relatively new player in the field, having made two discoveries in Ontario since 2009.

This makes sense. If you’re looking to expand your company, you might as well do it when everything’s on sale. But these M&As also indicate that there’s enough confidence in the future of the precious metals industry to justify such capital spending. It says a lot about the market that Goldcorp would agree to purchase a younger exploration company, a move we haven’t seen in a while.

Repatriation Games

This is what largely drives gold demand: confidence in the metal as a store of value, in good times and in bad. Gold is much more than a commodity—it’s a form of currency, one that “has never required the credit guarantee of a third party,” as former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan made clear in September.

Last year, gold was the second-strongest currency in the world, trailing only the U.S. dollar. It’s amazing how well it held up under the pressure of the greenback. Not just investors but also central banks recognize this.

The Bundesbank, Germany's central bank, repatriated 120 tonnes of gold in 2014.

“If the dollar or any other fiat currency were universally acceptable at all times,” Greenspan said, “central banks would see no need to hold any gold. The fact that they do indicates that such currencies are not a universal substitute.”

Indeed, we’re seeing central banks all around the world shoring up their own gold reserves by repatriating bullion from foreign institutions. December saw the biggest monthly outflow of gold from the New York Fed since 2001, bringing its holdings to their lowest level this century. 

Gold Held in New York Fed Drops to Lowest in 21st Century AFter Biggest Monthly Withdrawal Since 2001
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Central banks might be jittery from global growth concerns—the International Monetary Fund just downgraded its growth forecast for 2015—or simply recognizing the tenuousness of fiat money. Either way, the message is resounding: gold is an essential component to a strong portfolio and an excellent store of value.

As always, we recommend a 10-percent weighting in gold: 5 percent in bullion, 5 percent in gold stocks, then rebalancing every year.

I’ll have more to share with you when I return next week from Zurich, where I’ll be presenting at its International Business School.

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. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

Total Annualized Returns as of 12/31/2014
  One-Year Five-Year Ten-Year Gross Expense Ratio Expense Cap
Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) -14.00% -15.67% 0.38% 2.15% 1.90%
World precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX) -16.52% -18.79% -2.57% 1.86% N/A

Expense ratios as stated in the most recent prospectus. The expense ratio after waivers is a voluntary limit on total fund operating expenses (exclusive of any acquired fund fees and expenses, performance fees, taxes, brokerage commissions and interest) that U.S. Global Investors, Inc. can modify or terminate at any time, which may lower a fund’s yield or return. Performance data quoted above is historical. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Results reflect the reinvestment of dividends and other earnings. For a portion of periods, the fund had expense limitations, without which returns would have been lower. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. The principal value and investment return of an investment will fluctuate so that your shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Performance does not include the effect of any direct fees described in the fund’s prospectus (e.g., short-term trading fees of 0.05%) which, if applicable, would lower your total returns. Performance quoted for periods of one year or less is cumulative and not annualized. Obtain performance data current to the most recent month-end at www.usfunds.com or 1-800-US-FUNDS.

Gold, precious metals, and precious minerals funds may be susceptible to adverse economic, political or regulatory developments due to concentrating in a single theme. The prices of gold, precious metals, and precious minerals are subject to substantial price fluctuations over short periods of time and may be affected by unpredicted international monetary and political policies. We suggest investing no more than 5% to 10% of your portfolio in these sectors.

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

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the Gold and Precious Metals Fund and World Precious Minerals Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 12/31/2014: Barrick Gold 0.00%; Gold Fields Ltd. 1.51% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 0.36% in World and Precious Minerals Fund; Goldcorp, Inc. 1.03% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund; Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd. 0.90% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 0.82% in World Precious Minerals Fund; Osisko Mining 0.00%; Probe Mines Ltd. 0.00%; Virginia Mines, Inc. 1.14% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 10.35% in World Precious Minerals Fund.

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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15 Charts to Keep Your Eyes on for ‘15
January 8, 2015

In anticipation of the new year ahead, I’ve pulled together 15 charts that we’ll be watching and might help guide our expectations for what 2015 has in store for us. After looking them over, be sure to share some of your own via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

A Not-So-Crude Trend

Crude oil has recently dipped below $50 per barrel for the first time since 2009, one of the reasons for which is the rise of oil production in the United States. The glut has already prompted many U.S. companies to halt or limit projects, especially those that make use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. With oil prices as low as they are, it’s possible even more companies will join them.

1.

The Rise of Oil Production in the United States
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The bright side, however, is that a bottom and subsequent rally might emerge as early as next month, if the 5-, 15- and 30-year trend stays in place.

2.

West Texas Crude Oil Historical Pattern
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Airline Stocks Taking Off

Low oil prices have certainly hurt companies involved in the exploration and production of oil, but cheap fuel has benefited many companies that consume barrelsful of the stuff, airlines included. Despite some turbulence, such as the October pullback and pre-election Ebola scares, airline stocks have continued to ascend.

3.

Airline Stocks at a 12 Year High
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PMI: The Economic Soothsayer

Gross domestic product (GDP) tells you where you’ve been. Only the global manufacturing purchasing manager’s index (PMI) can tell you where you’re headed. Our research shows that when the one-month PMI reading crosses above the three-month moving average, gains have been made in select areas six months afterward:

4.

Commodities and Commodity Stocks Historically Rose Six Months After PMI "Cross-Over"
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Since September of last year, the global one-month reading has remained below the three-month moving average.

5.

Global Manufacturing PMI's One-Month Moving Avergae Remains Below the Three-Month Moving Average
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We’ll be eyeing the global PMI closely this year because when the “cross-above” occurs, it’ll be time to act!

End of One Secular Cycle, Start of Another?

We might be nearing the end of another 30-year-or-so secular market cycle, which is both exciting and a signal for caution. Adjusted for inflation, each of the three cycles—1921-1949, 1949-1982 and 1982-2015—have risen successively in performance.

6.

Three S&P 500 Secular Market Cycles from the Last 100 Years
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This raises more than a few questions, two of which immediately spring to mind: When will this current cycle end? And will the next one follow the trend of even better inflation-adjusted returns?

Ruble Rubble

We all know Russia’s going through tough times. International sanctions, sliding oil prices and a collapsing currency have all contributed to dire economic straits.

7.

Russian Ruble Volatility Looks SImilar to Moves During 2008 Financial Crisis
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The Federation’s economy is expected to contract by almost 5 percent, and Standard & Poor’s recently announced that it could very well downgrade Russian debt to junk status within the next three months.

Whatever your opinion on Russia is, it’s important to acknowledge that ours is a global economy. It would be in our country and company’s best interest for Russia to transform itself into a more attractive place to conduct business.

BRICS of Gold

Many investors are aware that gold is often used as a safe-haven currency. We’re witnessing this fear trade unfold right now in most of the BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

By year’s end, Russia had snapped up 130 tons of the precious metal, a 73-percent increase from 2013. Since India eliminated its 80:20 rule in November, which mandated that 20 percent of all imported gold must be exported before any new shipments could be brought in, gold demand has exploded. In South Africa, gold producers are currently leading a stock market rally.

And in China, wholesale gold demand has remained steady as its economy has slowed. Total withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold Exchange came in just shy of the record set in 2013.

8.

China's Wholesale Gold Demand in 2014 Was Just Shy of 2013 Record
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We’ll see if China can sustain its robust demand throughout the next 12 months.

Year of the Bull Market

Speaking of China, its A-Shares have rallied strongly since the summer despite the country’s slowdown. They continue to be undervalued and offer a favorable risk-reward profile.

9.

Undervaluation of Chinese Stocks Indicates Favorable Risk-Reward
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The rally in Chinese equities cannot be overstated. Over the past six months, China’s market capitalization has surpassed that of other BRIC countries combined.

10.

China's Market Value vs. Other BRIC Countries
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Brightest of the Bunch

Although gold had another down year in 2014, losing 1.7 percent, it still smoked all other major world currencies except for the U.S. dollar, whose mounting strength has put pressure on the yellow metal.

11.

Gold is Second Best PErforming Currency of 2014
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With the global downturn in effect, gold appears likely to remain an attractive investment.

Borrowing for Free

Bad news is often good news for gold: For the first time ever, the German 5-year and 10-year bond yields have fallen below zero, indicating unambiguous deflation in the eurozone.

12.

German Five-Year Breakeven Rate Gauges Inflation Outlook
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This means that German bondholders are effectively paying the government to hold on to its debt. As a result, international investors might look elsewhere for better performance—gold, for instance, or the U.S. municipal bond market, which was valued at $3.6 trillion by year’s end.

The S&P 500 Index Paying Dividends

Nearly 85 percent of companies in the S&P 500 currently pay a dividend, with dividends per share (DPS) having grown 11.3 percent in the past 12 months.

13.

More BLue Stocks Paying Dividends
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What’s more, FactSet analysts expect DPS to increase over 8 percent in the next 12 months, with the financial and consumer discretionary sectors to report double-digit growth.

Watch the Big Apple

As the U.S.’s largest company by net capitalization, Apple has had mixed results after launching its flagship devices. When it released the first iPhone back in June 2007, its stock surged 16 percent within the next month. More recently, however, Apple stock tumbled following reports that the iPhone 6 was prone to bending.

Will the Apple Watch, to be released sometime early this year, lead company stock higher? Or will it take a bite out of gains? We’ll have to wait and see, but for now, analysts are already making their product shipment forecasts for 2015.

14.

Estimated 2015 Apple Watch Shipments
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Don’t Fear Rising Rates

15.

Historically, Rising Interest Rates Have Helped Boost Stocks on Average

This one remains filed under “considerable time,” as we have no idea when or to what extent the Federal Reserve will decide to raise rates this year. I’ve previously written about how rate increases might affect Treasuries. But what about stocks? Historical precedent, going back to 1971, shows that stocks have on average increased by nearly 4 percent six months following a rate hike.

What other charts do you think are important to keep in mind as we embark on a new year? Again, you’re invited to share them via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

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

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

The S&P 500 Materials Index is a capitalization-weighted index that tracks the companies in the material sector as a subset of the S&P 500. 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 NYSE Arca Airline Index is an equal dollar weighted index designed to measure the performance of highly capitalized companies in the airline industry. The XAL Index tracks the price performance of major U.S. and overseas airlines.

Shanghai Gold Exchange is a non-profit self-regulatory organization, approved by the State Council, organized by the People's Bank of China, and registered with the State Administration for Industry & Commerce, for the purpose of trading gold, silver, platinum and other precious metals.

BRIC refers to the emerging market countries Brazil, Russia, India and China.

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

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and 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 of U.S. Global Investors Funds as of 9/30/2014: Apple, Facebook.

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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The $330 Billion Global Tax Break
December 22, 2014

Warren Buffett: The ultimate contrarian investor.In an October 2008 op-ed in the New York Times, Warren Buffett famously advised: “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”

Whereas most investors during that time of financial panic were dumping their freefalling U.S. equities, Buffett was snatching them up at such great volume that he imagined his personal, non-Berkshire Hathaway portfolio would soon be composed only of domestic stocks.

“I haven’t the faintest idea as to whether stocks will be higher or lower a month—or a year—from now,” he continued. “What is likely, however, is that the market will move higher, perhaps substantially so, well before either sentiment or the economy turns up.”

The same is true for oil prices. I can’t say when oil will begin to recover or by how much. What I can say is this: For far too many investors, by the time they gain back the confidence to put money into oil stocks again, the rally might have already taken off, making it challenging to capture the full benefit of the upswing.

In the 1860s Central Pacific Railroad Employed Over 12000 Chinese LaborersThink of it this way. Every Black Friday, merchandise is discounted to such an extent that thousands of bargain shoppers are willing to camp overnight in parking lots to be the first inside. When the doors open, people literally get pushed, shoved, elbowed and trampled on.

But too often, the stock market works in a curiously opposite way. When certain stocks drop in price, investors scramble for the exit instead of picking up the bargains.

Oil Extremely Oversold

Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens recently told Mad Money’s Jim Cramer that oil would return to $100 within 12 to 18 months. Again, there’s no guarantee that this will happen—and keep in mind that it’s in Pickens’ self-interest that oil reach these figures again—but if it does, the most opportune time to participate in the oil trade could be now when stocks are at a discount.

Pickens’ prediction aside, there are sound reasons to believe that oil prices will be normalizing sooner rather than later.

For one, oil prices are currently below many countries’ breakeven prices. This could finally encourage the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut production, so long as Saudi Arabia got assurances from fellow members that they would comply with the cuts. Where they are right now, prices simply aren’t sustainable. According to Business Insider, oil rigs in the Permian Basin have fallen by nine; those in Williston by seven; and those in Marcellus by one.

Brian Hicks, portfolio manager of our Global Resources Fund (PSPFX), believes that the bottom for oil prices might have already been reached.

“Aggressive capex cuts in the oil industry right now will lead to lower supply in 2015 and 2016, increasing demand and pushing up prices,” Brian says. “Plus, there might be a positive seasonal trading session over the next few weeks, with a possible laggard rebound in January.”

Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, the chart below, which takes into account 30, 15 and five years’ worth of seasonal data for oil prices, illustrates Brian’s point. In the 30-year range, a steady decline in prices began in October and bottomed in February. This was followed by a substantial rally that carried us through the first and second quarters of the year. It’s possible the same will happen again early next year.

West Texas Crude Oil Historical Pattern
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“The theme going into 2015 is mean reversion,” Brian said in a Frank Talk a couple of weeks ago. “Oil prices are below where they should be, and hopefully they’ll start gravitating back to the equilibrium price of between $80 and $85 a barrel.”

Bad News Is Good News

While we wait for oil to revert back to its mean, however, the world can enjoy and benefit from inexpensive gas. Call it the “oil peace dividend.” Here in the U.S., the current average for a gallon of gas is $2.45. Just one year ago, it was $3.21 per gallon, $0.76 higher. Over the course of a year, those extra cents add up.

But the U.S. isn’t the only country that benefits from affordable fuel.

In an article titled “The Saudi Stimulus,” Jon Markman writes that the global economy is looking to save hundreds of billions of dollars on an annual basis:

According to EIA [U.S. Energy Information Administration] data, consumption of crude oil during the latest 12 months was 6.9 billion barrels. So the price drop from $107/barrel at the June 2014 high to $59 today represents a total presumptive savings of $332 billion per year.

In a time when China, the European Union and other major markets are trying to jumpstart their economies, a $330 billion tax break can only come as good news. It should help in stimulating spending and driving global economic growth.

The Weakening Russian Bear

It’s impossible not to discuss falling oil prices without also touching on Russia, half of whose budget depends on $100-per-barrel oil exports. In the past month alone, the federation’s currency has plunged more than 30 percent to 60 rubles to the dollar as Brent oil has slipped nearly 25 percent.

Russian Currency's Tumble Tied to Falling Brent Oil Prices
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President Vladimir Putin couldn’t have chosen a worse time to annex the Crimean peninsula because now the region must be subsidized with money Russia doesn’t really have at the moment. (That’s not to say, of course, that there was ever a good time to invade Ukraine, or that Putin could have predicted the dramatic decline in Brent oil prices.) But even before the ruble began to unravel, stocks in Russia’s MICEX Index had already taken a hit in July and fallen out of lockstep with other emerging markets.

Russian Stocks Decoupling from Emerging Markets
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There’s no lack of commentators making comparisons between the Russian Federation’s current tailspin and the country’s 1998 debt crisis. But a more apt comparison might be the lead-up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, given the many uncanny parallels between then and now involving oil.

Yegor Gaidar, acting prime minister of Russia between 1991 and 1994, wrote in 2007:

The timeline of the collapse of the Soviet Union can be traced to September 13, 1985… The Saudis stopped protecting oil prices, and Saudi Arabia quickly regained its share in the world market. During the next six months, oil production in Saudi Arabia increased fourfold, while oil prices collapsed by approximately the same amount in real terms.

As a result, the Soviet Union lost approximately $20 billion per year, money without which the country simply could not survive.

Today, Russia is similarly hemorrhaging capital as a result of international sanctions and crashing oil prices, prompted by both the American shale oil boom and OPEC’s inaction in stabilizing the commodity at last month’s meeting.

It’s unclear for how long Russia’s government can support its oil-dependent budget. During his press conference last Thursday, President Putin conceded that spending cuts were unavoidable, but that “under the most unfavorable external economic scenario, this situation may go on for about two years.”

Some readers might find that prognosis a little too optimistic. It could be that Russia is in for a much lengthier period of damage control.

USGI’s Emerging Europe Fund Resilient to Russia’s Woes

It states in our prospectus that “government policy is a precursor to change.” As such, we believe Russia poses too great of a geopolitical risk for our investors. Because of nimble active management, our Emerging Europe Fund (EUROX) now has minimal exposure to Russia, thereby avoiding losses as significant as the Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX).

Historic Cost Trends in Gold Production
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MSCI Emerging Markets Europe 10/40 Index Country WeightsThis decision has also enabled the fund to outperform its benchmark, the MSCI Emerging Markets Europe 10/40 Index, which still maintained a 46-percent weighting in Russia as of the end of November. The index has consequently fallen more than 30 percent year-to-date, compared to EUROX’s 22.5 percent.

Since trimming nearly all of our Russian holdings, Turkey has replaced the beleaguered federation as our largest weighting in EUROX. The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index is currently up 16 percent year-to-date.

As anyone who watches the news closely knows, the situation in Russia is evolving rapidly day-to-day. We will continue to monitor events that could trigger opportunities in the region. In the meantime, check out EUROX’s current regional breakdown.

I would like to conclude by wishing all of our loyal shareholders as well as Investor Alert and Frank Talk readers a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Season’s Greetings!

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. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

For information regarding the investment objectives, strategies, liquidity, risks, expenses and fees of the Market Vectors Russia ETF, please refer to that fund's prospectus.

 

Total Annualized Returns as of 09/30/2014
  One-Year Five-Year Ten-Year Gross Expense Ratio Expense Ratio After Waivers
Emerging Europe Fund -14.44% -1.61% 3.21% 2.13% n/a
Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX) -18.53 -2.23 n/a 0.71% 0.63%
MSCI EM Europe 10/40 Index -13.19 1.04% 7.01% n/a n/a

Expense ratios as stated in the most recent prospectus. Performance data quoted above is historical. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Results reflect the reinvestment of dividends and other earnings. For a portion of periods, the fund had expense limitations, without which returns would have been lower. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. The principal value and investment return of an investment will fluctuate so that your shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Performance does not include the effect of any direct fees described in the fund’s prospectus (e.g., short-term trading fees of 0.05%) which, if applicable, would lower your total returns. Performance quoted for periods of one year or less is cumulative and not annualized. Obtain performance data current to the most recent month-end at www.usfunds.com or 1-800-US-FUNDS.

EUROX vs. Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX)

Investment Objective: The Emerging Europe Fund is an actively managed fund that takes a non-diversified approach to the Eastern European market. The fund invests in companies located in the emerging markets of Eastern Europe.

The Market Vectors Russia ETF seeks to replicate as closely as possible, before fees and expenses, the price and yield performance of the Market Vectors Russia Index. The Index includes companies that are incorporated in Russia or that generate at least 50% of their revenues (or, where applicable, have at least 50% of their assets) in Russia.

Liquidity: The Emerging Europe Fund can be purchased or sold at a net asset value (NAV) determined at the end of each trading day.

RSX issues and redeems shares at NAV only in a large specified number of shares, each called a “Creation Unit,” or multiples thereof. A Creation Unit consists of 50,000 shares. Individual shares of RSX may only be purchased and sold in secondary market transactions through brokers. Shares of RSX are listed on NYSE Arca Inc. (“NYSE Arca”) and because shares trade at market prices rather than NAV, shares of RSX may trade at a price greater than or less than NAV.

Safety/Fluctuations of principal/return: Loss of money is a risk of investing in the Emerging Europe Fund, as well as the Market Vectors Russia ETF. Shares of both of these securities are subject to sudden fluctuations in value, and when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Tax features: The Emerging Europe Fund may make distributions that may be taxed as ordinary income or capital gains. Under current federal law, long-term capital gains for individual investors in the fund are taxed at a maximum rate of 15%.

RSX’s distributions are taxable and will generally be taxed as ordinary income or capital gains.

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Foreign and emerging market investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and less public disclosure, as well as economic and political risk. Because the Global Resources Fund concentrates its investments in specific industries, the fund may be subject to greater risks and fluctuations than a portfolio representing a broader range of industries.

By investing in a specific geographic region, a regional fund’s returns and share price may be more volatile than those of a less concentrated portfolio. The Emerging Europe Fund invests more than 25% of its investments in companies principally engaged in the oil & gas or banking industries.  The risk of concentrating investments in this group of industries will make the fund more susceptible to risk in these industries than funds which do not concentrate their investments in an industry and may make the fund’s performance more volatile.

The MICEX Index is the real-time cap-weighted Russian composite index.  It comprises 30 most liquid stocks of Russian largest and most developed companies from 10 main economy sectors.  The MICEX Index was launched on September 22, 1997, base value 100.  The MICEX Index is calculated and disseminated by the MICEX Stock Exchange, the main Russian stock exchange.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Europe 10/40 Index (Net Total Return) is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure equity performance in the emerging market countries of Europe (Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and Turkey).  The index is calculated on a net return basis (i.e., reflects the minimum possible dividend reinvestment after deduction of the maximum rate withholding tax). The index is periodically rebalanced relative to the constituents' weights in the parent index.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure equity market performance in the global emerging markets.

The Borsa Istanbul Banks Index (XBANK) is a capitalization-weighted free float adjusted Industry Group Index composed of National Market listed companies in the banking industry. All members of the index are also constituents of the XUMAL Sector Index.

The Market Vectors Russia Index is a modified market cap weighted index that tracks the performance of the largest and most liquid companies in Russia. Its unique pure-play approach expands local exposure to include offshore companies that generate at least 50% of their revenues in Russia.

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

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the Global Resources Fund and Emerging Europe Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 9/30/2014: Berkshire Hathaway 0.00%, Cubist Pharma 0.00%, Market Vectors Russia ETF 0.00%, Merck & Co., Inc. 0.00%. 

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. 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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Solar Shines on Silver Demand
November 24, 2014

Back in the olden days, before the advent of digital cameras, photographers used a curious thing called film. Surely you remember having to feed a roll of the stuff into your analog camera. Then you’d take the roll to your local drug store and wait a week for it to be developed, only to discover that you had the lens cap on during the entirety of Cousin Ted’s birthday party.

What some people don’t know about film is that it’s coated with a thin layer of silver chloride, silver bromide or silver iodide. Not only is silver essential for the production of film but it was also once necessary for the viewing of motion pictures. Movie screens were covered in paint embedded with the reflective white metal, which is how the term “silver screen” came to be.

Since 1999, photography has increasingly gone digital, and as a result, silver demand in the film industry has contracted about 70 percent. But there to pick up the slack in volume is a technology that also requires silver: photovoltaic (PV) installation, otherwise known as solar energy.

For the first time, in fact, silver demand in the fabrication of solar panels is set to outpace photography, if it hasn’t already done so.   

Silver-Fabrication-Demand-Has-Shifted-Toward-Electronics
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Every solar panel contains between 15 and 20 grams of silver. At today’s prices, that’s about $20 per panel. When silver was hanging out in the mid-$30s range a couple of years ago, it was double that.

Other industrial uses of silver can be found in cell phones, computers, automobiles and water-purification systems. Because the metal also has remarkable antibacterial properties, it’s used in the manufacturing of surgical instruments, stethoscopes and other health care tools. Explore and discover more about the metal’s many industrial uses in our “Brief History of Silver Production and Application” slideshow.

Going Mainstream

Solar energy was once generally considered an overambitious pie-in-the-sky idea, incapable of competing with and prohibitively more expensive than conventional forms of energy. Today, that attitude is changing. Year-over-year, the price of residential PV installation declined 9 percent to settle at $2.73 per watt in the second quarter of this year. In some parts of the world, solar is near parity, watt-for-watt, to the cost of conventional electricity.

According to a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center:

The United States has the potential to produce more than 100 times as much electricity from solar PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) installations as the nation consumes each year.

Additionally, president and CEO of solar panel-maker SunPower Tom Werner says solar could be a $5 trillion industry sometime within the next 20 years, calling it “one of the greatest ever opportunities in the history of markets.”

This investment opportunity will likely expand in light of the climate agreement that was recently reached between the U.S. and China. Back in April I discussed how China, in an effort to combat its worsening air pollution, is already a global leader in solar energy, accounting for 30 percent of the market.

Commenting on how government policy can strengthen investment in renewable energies, Ken Johnson, vice president of communications for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), notes: “If governments are smart and forward-looking and send ‘clear, credible and consistent’ signals as called for by the International Energy Agency (IEA)… solar could be the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050.”

These comments might seem hyperbolic, but as you can see in the chart below, installed capacity has been increasing rapidly every year. According to the SEIA, a new PV system was installed every 3.2 minutes during the first half of 2014.

US-Solar-Installation-Forecast
click to enlarge

With PV installation on the rise, silver demand is ready for a major surge. About 80 metric tons of the metal are needed to generate one gigawatt, or 1 million kilowatts, of electricity—enough to power a little over 90 typical American homes annually. In 2016, close to a million and a half metric tons of silver are expected to be needed to meet solar demand in the United States alone. 

An impressive 87 percent of IKEA's facilities here in the U.S. are powered by solar.Another clear indication of solar’s success and longevity is the rate at which employment in the industry is growing. Currently there are approximately 145,000 American men and women drawing a paycheck from solar energy, in positions ranging from physicists to electrical engineers to installers, repairers and technicians. Between 2012 and 2013, there was a growth rate of 20 percent in the number of solar workers, and between 2013 and 2014, the rate is around 16 percent. Nearly half of all solar companies that participated in a recent survey said they expected to add workers. Only 2 percent expected to lay workers off.

What this all means is that solar isn’t just for granola homeowners and small businesses. On the contrary, it has emerged as a viable source of energy that will increasingly play a crucial role in powering residences, businesses and factories. Already many Fortune 500 companies make significant use of the energy—including Walmart, Apple, Ford and IKEA—with many more planning to join them. This helps businesses save money over the long run and improve their valuation.

It’s also good news for silver demand.

Bullish on Bullion

Crude Cost of Production Rises as Demand Grows

Solar is only part of what’s driving demand right now. Since July, the metal has fallen close to 25 percent, attracting bargain-seeking investors.

“Commodities are depressed right now, but we’re seeing far fewer redemptions in silver ETFs than in gold ETFs,” says Ralph Aldis, portfolio manager of our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) and World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX).

Below you can see how silver ETF holdings continued to remain steady as gold ETFs lost assets earlier this year.

US-Solar-Installation-Forecast
click to enlarge

Ralph attributes much of this action to solar energy: “Investors recognize silver’s importance in manufacturing solar cells, and it doesn’t hurt that silver is currently pretty inexpensive relative to gold.”

It’s also oversold, as the chart below shows.

US-Solar-Installation-Forecast
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Last month about $1 billion was pulled out of New York’s SPDR Gold Shares, the world’s largest gold bullion-backed ETF, while holdings in silver-backed ETFs set a new record in September. Demand in India is booming, and sales of American Eagle silver coins rose last month to a two-year high of 5.8 million ounces, nearly doubling the sales volume from last October.

Silver-Prices-vs-American-Eagle-Silver-Coin-Sales
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A Note on Emerging Europe

As many of you might know, our Emerging Europe Fund (EUROX) began divesting out of Russia as early as December of last year, even before President Vladimir Putin started stirring up trouble in Ukraine, and was completely out by the end of July.

Our fund is all the better because of the decision to pull out. Between international sanctions and low oil prices, Russia’s economy has been wounded. Its central bank announced earlier this month that economic growth will likely stagnate in 2015, and the World Bank cited the ruble’s depreciation as a growing risk of stability.

Meanwhile, Greece, the third-largest weighting in the fund, has officially recovered after six years of recession. Its economy is finally in the black this year, expanding at an annual rate of 1.7 percent in the third quarter, its best performance since 2008. Next year the economy is expected to grow 2.9 percent. Greek auto sales are up 21.5 percent year-to-date.

Finally, be sure to read my story about two guys, one who invested in an S&P 500 Index fund, the other who chose a less dramatic path. Happy investing!

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. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Gold, precious metals, and precious minerals funds may be susceptible to adverse economic, political or regulatory developments due to concentrating in a single theme. The prices of gold, precious metals, and precious minerals are subject to substantial price fluctuations over short periods of time and may be affected by unpredicted international monetary and political policies. We suggest investing no more than 5% to 10% of your portfolio in these sectors.

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 concentrated portfolio. The Emerging Europe Fund invests more than 25% of its investments in companies principally engaged in the oil & gas or banking industries.  The risk of concentrating investments in this group of industries will make the fund more susceptible to risk in these industries than funds which do not concentrate their investments in an industry and may make the fund’s performance more volatile.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the funds mentioned as a percentage of net assets as of 9/30/2014: SunPower Corp. 0.00%, Walmart 0.00%, Apple 0.00%, Ford 0.00%, IKEA 0.00%, SPDR Gold Shares 0.32% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund.

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

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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Everyone Loves a Discount—But Where’s the Support for Oil Prices?
November 10, 2014

Christmas comes more than a month early.For the first time since 2010, the average price of a gallon of gas in the United States has fallen below $3, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. An estimated $40 billion will be saved this year alone. That’s money that can be put toward other expenses—bigger cars, children’s education, retirement and investing.

But that discount comes with a price. Cheap gas might help consumers and companies in certain industries, but they’re a drag on oil producers, retailers and entire nations. This affects everyone. We live in a global economy, after all.

Since June, crude oil has tumbled 30 percent to prices we haven’t seen in about three years. For the past 20 days and 60 days, it’s down about two standard deviations. We can blame this dip on a number of things: geopolitics, the slowing of real GDP growth across the globe, a huge oil surplus here in the U.S. and a strong dollar. The strength of the dollar, as you can see, has historically had an inverse relationship with the price of oil.

A Strong U.S. Dollar Puts Pressure on the Price of Crude Oil
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Recent cuts to our military budget have also affected oil prices. The U.S. military uses more oil than any other institution on earth. Every year it consumes over 100 million barrels to fuel ships, aircraft and other vehicles, but that number is dropping at the same time supply is rising.

Meet the Frackers

Because of the success of unconventional extraction methods such as fracking, the U.S.’s production level is at a 25-year high. What would the rate of depletion be if fracking were no longer profitable at $70 or $60 per barrel and production had to be halted? There’s no definitive answer to that question because it’s not clear how many companies would be affected and to what extent. But what should be clear is that reserves would begin to shrink and we would go back to the days of an overreliance on foreign oil.

Below are the estimated breakeven points for some of the most important shale plays in the U.S. With crude currently priced at slightly under $80 per barrel, many companies, especially those that practice fracking, are starting to feel the pinch. Each play has its own unique set of challenges, one of the most significant being the region’s geology. As you can imagine, the harder it is to get the crude out of the ground, the costlier it becomes.

Estimate of Breakeven Points for Key U.S. Shale Plays
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Some analysts believe that approximately a third of all U.S. shale oil producers operate in the red when the price per barrel falls below $80. At $70 a barrel, these producers will need to make drastic changes such as production cuts and layoffs. According to energy research firm Wood Mackenzie:

If WTI prices were below $70 for most of 2015, we predict that around 0.6 million b/d [barrels per day] of U.S. tight oil supply growth would be under serious threat by the end of the year—a figure which would continue to increase with low prices.

And if crude were to fall to $60 per barrel? An estimated 80 percent of U.S. companies that extract tight oil, or shale oil, through fracking would be shut down and all new supply would diminish quickly due to the rapid decline rate.

Already oil producers must contend with the challenge of decreased production. When a well is first drilled, it might begin producing 1,200 barrels a day but, throughout the year, gradually decline between 5 and 20 percent. By the end of the year, the site is producing only around 100 barrels a day. Oil producers are often able to recoup exploration and production costs in that timeframe, but then it’s necessary to move on to the next drill site.

Oil Production Rate Declines Every YEar - Eagle Ford Shale
click to enlarge

Unconventional extraction methods accelerate the decline rate. If frackers were forced to halt production now, our reserves would dwindle even more rapidly.

Man on treadmill.It’s critical that America keeps running on this treadmill, so to speak. The results of stopping now would be similar to those of a workout buff who suddenly quits going to the gym. We all know how much harder it is to get back in shape than it is to stay in shape.

Layoffs would especially hurt, given that the tight oil revolution has significantly contributed to the U.S.’s economic recovery. Think not just of general oilfield roustabouts but also geoscientists, petroleum engineers and the thousands of other incidental professionals who face losing their jobs if prices continue to slip.

Meanwhile, people continue to have babies, drive their vehicles to work and heat their homes, all of which requires oil.

And there’s reason to believe that we’ll especially need oil for heating this winter. Already an intense storm even larger than Superstorm Sandy, Typhoon Nuri, is moving west along Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and is expected to bring freezing temperatures to much of the northern part of the U.S. It looks as if winter has arrived earlier than normal this year.

Bundle up! Typhoon Nuri is expected to bring freezing temperatures to much of the U.S.

Tiffany Stock Was a Better Investment Than Diamonds Were.For the time being, however, we can all enjoy lower gas prices this year. With the money saved, we can make better investment decisions. It’s as if we received an unexpected tax break. Lower gas prices leads to more consumer spending, which means that luxury goods stocks such as Tiffany & Co., which we own in our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX), might benefit.

Speaking of Tiffany & Co., did you know that buying the company’s stock in 1987, the year it went public, would have been a better investment than buying an actual diamond? You can read about it here.

Enter the Saudis: Who Will Blink First?

Many of the world’s major oil-producing countries are also feeling the pressure of low prices. Of those shown below, only four—Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates—are still able to balance their books with Brent oil flirting with $80 a barrel.

Producer Country Budget Breakeven Prices
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Oil reserves would be necessary if the U.S. ever engaged with a country as powerful as RussiaHere’s where geopolitics comes into play. Russia is currently the second-largest oil exporter in the world and set to overtake Saudi Arabia very soon. This might help explain why the Saudis aren’t in any hurry to limit their own production and support prices. They have everything to lose and nothing to gain by reducing output. They’re in a better position to maintain current levels and still be profitable with $80 oil than Russia, the U.S. and most of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The kingdom has already lowered the price of the oil it exports to the U.S., a sign that it’s aiming to undercut the competition and hang on to its status as the world’s top exporter.

As oil and gas policy expert Dr. Kent Moors argues in a recent article, Saudi Arabia is fighting a losing battle against three fronts: Russia, over control of the Asian market; neighboring OPEC members such as Iraq and Iran; and the U.S., a market the Saudis don’t want to lose to more efficient fracking companies here in America. And, of course, the U.S. and Russia are locked in their own energy skirmish, one that Casey Research’s Marin Katusa calls The Colder War, the title to his latest book.

OPEC officials will be meeting later this month, and hopefully an agreement can be reached. During our webcast last month, Brian Hicks, portfolio manager of our Global Resources Fund (PSPFX), emphasized the point that the current price of oil just isn’t sustainable:

I would be surprised if we did not see another production cut if oil remains at these levels. I think that OPEC and the Saudis need to come in and support prices even more so than they already have following the cut in August.

One Word: Plastics

Just as consumers have benefited from sliding oil prices, so too have many companies, including those in the transportation sector. Below you can see that near the start of September, the oil and gas industry decoupled from the transportation sector, composed of airline, trucking, delivery services, railroad and marine transportation companies. Currently there’s more than a 35-point spread between the Dow Jones Transportation Average and SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF.

Transportation Stocks Have Decoupled from Oil and Gas Stocks since the Start of September
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Manufacturers of plastics and synthetic rubber, of which crude is the main component, have also benefited. The U.S. producer price of plastics and rubber products is up $1.20 year-to-date. In 30 days, Cooper Tire & Rubber has shot up 13 percent, Berry Plastics 14 percent, Goodyear 15 percent.

Shell, on the other hand, has given back 5 percent.

This is precisely why we’re attracted to low-cost oil producers such as EOG Resources and Devon Energy. Many, but not all, of them are nimbler and more adaptable in uncertain economic climates than the big names are. We strive to buy only those that have been well screened and fit our models.

Learn more about our investment process here at U.S. Global Investors.


Late last month I noted that the the eurozone is in trouble because its monetary and fiscal policies are sorely out of balance. The region relies too much on punitive taxes and entitlement spending and not enough on stimulation. Right now its GDP growth rate is a sluggish 0.1 percent, its inflation rate 0.4 percent.

I suggested that the eurozone should look to China to see how it’s handling its own slowdown—the government has cut hundreds of lines of regulation and plans to cut more—but members of the European Union, and especially the European Central Bank (ECB), might also do well to look to China’s neighbor, Japan.

A week ago the Bank of Japan (BOJ) surprisingly unveiled a gargantuan $724 billion-a-year stimulus package to combat deflation. The monetary measure will essentially turn the BOJ’s governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, into the world’s largest hedge fund manager. The market seemed to like the announcement, as the Nikkei 225 has risen 3 percent since then.

Janap's Monetary Policy on Steroids
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Such a plan, of course, is too extreme for the ECB to make, and there’s no guarantee that it will work. But at least no one can fault Japan for refusing to use both tools, monetary and fiscal policy, to jumpstart its economy and effect change.

 

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. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Foreign and emerging market investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and less public disclosure, as well as economic and political risk. Because the Global Resources Fund concentrates its investments in specific industries, the fund may be subject to greater risks and fluctuations than a portfolio representing a broader range of industries.

Gold, precious metals, and precious minerals funds may be susceptible to adverse economic, political or regulatory developments due to concentrating in a single theme. The prices of gold, precious metals, and precious minerals are subject to substantial price fluctuations over short periods of time and may be affected by unpredicted international monetary and political policies. We suggest investing no more than 5% to 10% of your portfolio in these sectors.

The Dow Jones Transportation Average is a price-weighted average of 20 U.S. transportation stocks.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the funds mentioned as a percentage of net assets as of 9/30/2014: Berry Plastics 0.00%, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company 0.00%, Devon Energy Corp. 1.82% in Global Resources Fund, EOG Resources, Inc. 2.13% in Global Resources Fund, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company 0.00%, Royal Dutch Shell 0.00%, SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF 0.00%, Tiffany & Co. 0.44% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund. 

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

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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Net Asset Value
as of 11/22/2017

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.97 0.03 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $7.36 No Change World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $5.76 0.03 China Region Fund USCOX $12.18 0.03 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $7.09 0.04 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $24.06 -0.05 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $21.36 -0.06 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.21 -0.01 U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change