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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.

Did Oil Prices Just Find a Bottom?
March 14, 2016

At 2,717 feet, Burj Khalifa looms over downtown Dubai.

At 2,717 feet, Burj Khalifa looms over downtown Dubai.

As the Middle East’s main business hub, Dubai is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and home to the world’s tallest manmade structure, the 163-story Burj Khalifa, which climbs to a neck-craning 2,717 feet. Designed by Adrian Smith, who attended Texas A&M University, the Khalifa Tower is an engineering marvel and stands as a symbol not only of the futuristic and forward-thinking look of this oil-rich country but also its emphasis on seeking intellectual capital from all over the world.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the annual Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) event, held this year in Dubai, where I learned best practices on leadership as well as how to strike the right balance between business and family life. The YPO has 24,000 peer-to-peer members who together employ 15 million people across 130 countries and generate $6 trillion in revenue every year.

It was an enriching experience, equaled only by my admiration for what the UAE has managed to accomplish with its oil revenues. Tall construction cranes can be seen in every corner of Dubai, signaling urban growth. There are plans to expand its efficient light rail system, which shuttled me from the airport to downtown for only $1. I was happy to see many of the train stations colored gold.

A sleekly designed monorail station in Dubai

Five Guys in Dubai

As is the case in China and elsewhere, spending on infrastructure is key for long-term sustainable growth. Countries and city-states such as Singapore, Hong Kong and now Dubai have spent wisely on new airports, sea ports, subways, light rail and hospitals—all wise fiscal spending that has always given the U.S. a huge advantage. With oil revenues, UAE leadership has paid for citizens to earn degrees in America and military training in the U.S., including San Antonio, Texas. The city of Dubai has a massive U.S. naval base for regional security.

The Dubai Mall, the second-largest in the world, is a wonder to explore. It contains 1,600 stores and restaurants from the U.S. and Europe and also features the Dubai Aquarium, one of the world’s largest. You truly feel as if you are in America, with the most popular restaurants being Five Guys Burgers and Fries, the Cheesecake Factory and U.S. pizza chains. I was surprised to see Tex-Mex food being delivered on motorcycles.

The Palazzo Versace is one of Dubai's leading 5-star fashion hotels.

This is the sort of extravagance and attention to detail travelers have come to expect from the country’s most popular attractions. At the Palazzo Versace hotel in Dubai, for instance, visitors can beat the desert heat by relaxing in air-conditioned sand. In Abu Dhabi, the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque is believed to have the world’s largest carpet, capable of accommodating more than 44,000 worshippers. The intricate craftsmanship of the marble and gold along the walls and columns is breathtaking to behold.

The Sheikh Zayed Mosque

The Impact of Electronic Payments

I also want to point out that the digital banking system has made a huge impact on the UAE’s economy. I just read an article in the Khaleej Times newspaper, reporting that electronic payments have boosted the UAE’s GDP by $3.7 billion in five years. This increase is indicative of a trend of rising card usage across many countries, as you can see in the chart below.

In the same edition of the newspaper, I was interested to read that for the third year in a row, Singapore has been listed as the most expensive city in the world, followed by Zurich and Hong Kong.  According to the article, “Falling commodity prices have created deflationary pressures in some countries, but in others, currency weakness caused by these falls has led to spiraling inflation.”

Light at the End of the Tunnel? The IEA Calls a Bottom in Oil Prices

Despite its relatively small size in population and land mass, the UAE is the world’s sixth-largest oil producer, following the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and Canada. Among Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members, it’s the second-largest, after Saudi Arabia.

These rankings might very well rise in the coming years, however, as the Middle Eastern country plans to expand production between 30 and 40 percent by 2020, even as Brent crude prices have struggled to crack $40 per barrel.

But on a global scale, oil production is finally dropping—and that’s constructive for prices. In a report released on Friday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) writes that “prices might have bottomed out,” citing a February decline in both OPEC and non-OPEC output and hopes of U.S. dollar weakness.

Although I’m cautious, the current recovery is in line with oil’s seasonality trends for the five- and 15-year periods, which show that prices have risen between March and the beginning of the busy summer travel season.

West Texas Crude Oil Historical Patterns
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The PHLX Oil Service Sector Index has gained 4.4 percent since the beginning of the year, while prices have rallied above their 50-day moving average, touching three-month highs.

Oil Responds to Easonality Trend
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As the IEA points out, this rally is being spurred by optimism that OPEC and Russia can agree on a production freeze—not a cut, as some people think. A meeting date has yet to be decided upon, however, presumably because Iran announced it will not agree to an output freeze until it reaches its pre-sanction market share.

Like Iran, Saudi Arabia has resisted capping production. To plug up the deficit, it’s reportedly seeking up to $8 billion from international banks, the first time it has done so in more than a decade. The kingdom is also considering issuing foreign bonds and listing a part of its state oil company, Saudi Arabian Oil, or Aramco.

With WTI up 25 percent in 2016 and 3 percent in March, investor sentiment has improved since October, when it crossed into “panic” territory for the first time since 2011.

Investor Sentiment Improving after October Dip
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U.S. Companies Looking for $50 Per Barrel

To remain profitable, most U.S. producers need oil prices to be above $50 per barrel—a level we haven’t seen in eight months. In such an environment, U.S. oil companies are finally beginning to make meaningful production cuts, with the IEA expecting producers to remove more than half a million barrels per day from the market this year. In December, the monthly year-over-year change in production turned negative for the first time since September 2011.

U.S. Oil Production Dropping Off
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The number of North American rigs in operation fell below 400 for the first time since December 2009, according to Baker Hughes, helping to support prices.

Oil Prices Jump on Further Rig Count Declines
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Until now, per-well productivity has been slow to budge. Years of $100-per-barrel oil incentivized companies to develop new ways to extract crude, including fracking, and these technological advancements have greatly increased efficiency. Today, not only can a new well be drilled in record time, it can also produce four to five times what it could have only five years ago.

What Oil Companies Can Learn from Airlines

Highly-leveraged companies across the globe have had little choice but to trim their workforces, curb expenditures and let go of undeveloped projects. According to consulting firm AlixPartners, overall capital spending fell 20 percent in 2015, with a further decline of at least 30 percent expected this year.

Global Oil Companies Slash Exploration and Production Spending
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These adjustments, the most severe since the oil rout in the 1980s, have saved or raised global exploration and production (E&P) companies $130 billion, says Deloitte Consulting. But this won’t be enough for many companies: Nearly a third of all pure-play E&P companies worldwide are at high-risk of bankruptcy this year.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A little over a decade ago, the airline industry also found itself in extreme duress. A large percentage of carriers landed in bankruptcy court, and a wave of consolidation swept through the industry. Today, airlines are positing record quarterly profits.

In the past year, we’ve already seen some huge mergers and acquisitions in the oil industry—think Dutch Royal Shell and BP, as well as the proposed Halliburton and Baker Hughes deal. It’s likely we’ll see many more in the coming months. In the meantime, short of geopolitical turmoil, a coordinated production cap agreement among OPEC and non-OPEC countries might be the only option to firm up prices.

 

Some links above may be directed to third-party websites. U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by these websites and is not responsible for 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.

The PHLX Oil Service Sector Index (OSX) is a price weighted index composed of companies involved in the oil services sector.

The Credit Suisse Risk Appetite Index is a sentiment indicator designed by Credit Suisse comparing risk-adjusted returns across a wide spectrum of global assets.

Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 12/31/2015: Baker Hughes Inc.

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To Jumpstart Its Economy, China Embraces… Reaganomics?
March 7, 2016

Chinese President Xi JinpingChinese President Xi Jinping is about to tell millions of government workers: “You’re fired.”

Reuters reported last week that China plans to lay off between five and six million state workers over the next two to three years, in an effort to curb overcapacity in what’s being described as “zombie companies”: those that are being kept alive on bank loans despite bleeding revenue. Close to two million of these layoffs will come from the coal industry alone.

The layoffs are part of a series of sweeping reforms that were announced ahead of the National People’s Congress (NPC) meeting. Every year, close to 3,000 Chinese officials and executives from all over the country convene in Beijing to develop and assess the status of the country’s Five-Year Plan. In response to worldwide demands that China manage its slowing economy better, President Xi Jinping this year has proposed what he calls “supply-side structural reform.”

And if that sounds a little like Reaganomics, that’s kind of the point.

Besides layoffs, Xi’s plan includes tax cuts, deregulation and reductions in state spending—economic policies you might expect to come from the desk of Reagan or Thatcher. We might also expect the results of these policies to be the same in China as in the U.S. and United Kingdom in the 1980s: a boom in entrepreneurship and innovation.

These reforms come at a crucial time for China, whose manufacturing sector has been in contraction mode for a year now as the country’s economy shifts toward domestic consumption. In February, China’s purchasing manager’s index (PMI) fell to 48.0 from 48.4 in January.

Chinese Manufacturing in Contraction Mode for 12 Straight Months
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We closely follow government policy changes in China for a number of reasons. For one, its economy is the second largest in the world, and when based on purchasing power parity (PPP), its GDP is actually the largest, followed by the U.S., India and Japan. China’s economy, then, has a huge effect on the rest of the world, touching everything from commodities demand to consumption.

In 2015, total retail sales in China touched a record, surpassing 30 trillion renminbi, or about $4.2 trillion. By 2020, sales are expected to climb to $6.4 trillion, representing 50 percent growth in as little as five years. This growth will “roughly equal a market 1.3 times the size of Germany or the United Kingdom,” according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

One of the main reasons for this surge in consumption is the staggering expansion of the country’s middle class. In October, Credit Suisse 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 durable and 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.

But middle-income families aren’t the only ones growing in number. The WEF estimates that by 2020, upper-middle-income and affluent households will account for 30 percent of China’s urban households, up from only 7 percent in 2010.

Gold’s Back in a Bull Market at the BMO 25th Metals and Mining Conference

Last week I returned from sunny Florida, where I had been attending the BMO Metals and Mining Conference, widely regarded as the best in the business. Sentiment toward gold was very optimistic, as I told Kitco News’ Daniela Cambone in last week’s edition of Gold Game Film. As always, Daniela did a fabulous job covering the event, interviewing all of the CEOs and other mining executives.

Frank Holmes: This Rally Has Room to Grow - Kitco News - 25th Global Metals & Mining Conference

The yellow metal is 2016’s best-performing asset class so far, having climbed more than 19 percent. It just had its strongest February since 1975.

What’s more, gold appears as though it’s back in a bull market, often defined as a 20 percent gain from a recent trough. Short-term, though, it’s way overbought, so a correction at this point would be healthy.

Follow the Money, Follow the Gold Flows

At the BMO Conference, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with my friend Pierre Lassonde, cofounder of Franco-Nevada, and company CEO David Harquail. Pierre told me that for every $1 billion that flows into the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), the price of gold rises approximately $30 per ounce. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen about $9.3 billion flow into the GLD. During the same period, gold has risen 20 percent from its six-year low of $1,049.60 per ounce on December 17 to end Friday trading at $1,259.25.

The first breakout signal occurred on December 31, 2015, when money started to flow into gold, and the second important signal was when gold flows surpassed the 200-day, or 10-month, average, on February 1, 2016. Since the beginning of the year, gold has surged.

Outstanding Shares in the SPDR Gold Trust
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Like bullion, gold miners had a particularly gainful February, its best since 1998. The NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index rose an impressive 38.7 percent, compared to the 0.4 percent the S&P 500 Index lost in February. Year-to-date, production leaders Goldcorp, Newmont Mining and Barrick—which has recently lowered its debt-to-equity ratio—are thriving with prices pushing higher.

Gold Rush for Miners
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Gold is surging right now for a number of reasons, many of which I’ve covered in the last few weeks, including stronger inflation, negative interest rates and other components of the Fear Trade.

Global growth concerns have also spooked many investors, driving them into gold’s arms. Last week we learned that the global PMI fell pretty dramatically to a neutral 50.0 reading in February, down from 50.9 in January. Anything below 50.0 indicates manufacturing deterioration, and while I hope we don’t cross into that territory, the PMI has been trending downward over the last two years. We haven’t seen sub-50 readings since 2012.

Manufacturing Activity Stumbles in February
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As I’ve discussed many times before, we use PMIs to help forecast global manufacturing conditions three to six months out. (I’ve likened the economic indicator to the high beams on your car, with GDP serving as your rearview mirror.) That the PMI remains below its three-month moving average doesn’t bode well for commodities or energy in the short-term. The weakness underscores the need for global economies to reform their tax systems and relax regulations, as China is attempting to do.

Comparing Countries’ Compliance Complexity

South America, which represents 10% of world GDP, has some of the most difficult economies for navigating red tape.The TMF Group, a professional services firm, just released its annual Global Benchmark Complexity Index, which ranks countries according to the complexity of their business compliance standards. As you might expect, dominating the top 10 most complex governments are those found in South America, including Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and, at number one, Argentina.

Colombia climbed—or fell, depending on your perspective—18 spots, from 21 to three, mainly due to the tax changes its government rolled out last year courtesy of its socialist finance minister, Mauricio Cárdenas Santa Maria. The South American country is now in the process of raising its income tax incrementally, from 40 percent this year to 43 percent in 2018, and with the agreement of other countries, it may now also tax the wealth its citizens hold in other jurisdictions (very similar to FATCA, or the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, here in the U.S.).

For the third consecutive year, Argentina ranks as the world’s most complex country in terms of business compliance. Back in November I wrote about the election of free-market advocate Mauricio Macri, expressing my hopes that the new president can bring significant reforms to the country’s business infrastructure and eliminate corruption. I’m still encouraged, but as we all know, political change is fraught with challenges and can take some time.

Champagne socialist: Colombian Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas Santa Maria

It’s a shame that Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and many other resource-rich countries in South America can’t move more quickly to eliminate the roadblocks that stand in the way of growth and prosperity. Brazil, which is on course for its worst recession in over a century, shrank 3.8 percent in 2015, the largest decline since 1990, and its central bank expects it to shrink a further 3.45 percent this year.

Reform would benefit not just their own capital markets but the world economy as a whole. South America represents about 10 percent of the global economy, meaning a 1 or 2 percent rise or fall in GDP could have a significant effect on world GDP.

As a reminder, I will be in Carlsbad, California, April 13-16, speaking at the Oxford Club’s 18th Annual Investment U Conference. I’m honored to be joined by other respected minds in the world of investing, including Alexander Green, Marin Katusa and Keith Fitz-Gerald. Reserve your seats today by clicking the link above. I hope to see you there!

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. By clicking the link(s) above, you will be directed to a third-party website(s). U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by this/these website(s) and is not responsible for its/their content.

The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index is a modified market capitalization weighted index comprised of publicly traded companies involved primarily in the mining for gold and silver.  The index benchmark value was 500.0 at the close of trading on December 20, 2002.

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. The Global Benchmark Complexity Index ranks 95 jurisdictions in order of business compliance complexity.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 12/31/2015: Newmont Mining Corp.

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Airlines Start Their Engines as Scheduled Service Returns to Cuba
February 17, 2016

For millions of tourists every year, Las Vegas is the premiere travel destination for luxury hotels, glitzy nightclubs and extravagant casinos. But for a time, hordes of high-rolling American celebrities and affluent vacationers were beckoned also by the sultry nightlife of Havana, Cuba. Dozens of regularly scheduled flights by the day carried pleasure-seekers from Miami to the glittering shores of the Cuban capital.

This all came to an end, of course, once the U.S. imposed a strict embargo on the Caribbean nation, following the coup led by Fidel Castro, whose rise to power devastated Cuba’s once-thriving economy.

Now, more than 50 years later, this market is set to open up once again, and airlines couldn’t be more delighted. The U.S. and Cuba both agreed this week to reestablish scheduled air service, authorizing up to 120 commercial flights a day—20 between the U.S. and Havana, another 10 between the U.S. and nine other Cuban cities.

Competition to secure route access is likely to become red hot. American Airlines, United and JetBlue have already expressed interest, with American saying it “looks forward to submitting a Cuba service proposal.” But expect many more carriers to submit counter proposals in an attempt to gain the first-mover advantage.

Once regular service begins, possibly as early as this summer, an estimated 1.5 million American tourists will make their way to Cuba within the first year alone. This raises the question of whether the island’s tourism infrastructure is ready for such an influx of visitors, representing a huge opportunity for not just airlines but also car rental companies, food and beverage companies and hotel chains. To prepare for this explosion of visitors, the Cuban government is already seeking foreign investors.

It’s important to point out here that the embargo has been lifted for all forms of travel to Cuba except pure tourism. Americans can currently visit for up to 12 different approved reasons—including business, family, education and religious activities—but if policy continues to evolve at its current rate, pleasure should also be included one day.  

American Business Returns to Cuba

Just as American tourists once flocked to Havana, so too were American businesses deeply entrenched in Cuba. Before the embargo, U.S. financial interests were involved in Cuban mines, utilities, railways, sugar production and more.

That’s set to change too, as the U.S. government just granted an Alabama company permission to build a small factory in Cuba—the first to do so in over half a century, it’s believed. The company, Cleber, will produce affordable tractors designed for the Cuban market.

With normalization between the U.S. and Cuba being restored, and populations trending younger, many Americans are starting to abandon their Cold War-era attitudes. Since 1996, Gallop has polled Americans on their overall opinion toward Cuba, and for the first time this year, a majority of respondents—54 percent—held a favorable view of the island-nation.

Majority of Americans View Cuba Favorably for First Time
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Favorability has been rising steadily since 2006, in fact, which suggests that Americans increasingly see Cuba as a potential place to visit and do business in. This is what U.S. airlines, not to mention companies in other industries, are hoping to capitalize on.

 

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

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 12/31/2015: American Airlines Group Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp.

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Christmas Edition: 2015 in Review
December 28, 2015

Wishing you robust health, buckets of wealth, and tons of happiness

Christmas is my favorite holiday, as I’m sure it is for many of you reading this. We probably all agree that 2015 had more than its fair share of pain and tragedy around the world. But during Christmas, love and charity triumph—if only for a day—helping us recharge as we approach the new year.

I remember accompanying my mum, who was a social worker in downtown Toronto, as she delivered what we call “Star boxes” to needy children on Christmas Eve. Named after the Toronto Daily Star, which still operates the Santa Claus Fund that started in 1906, the purpose of the gift parcels remains the same:  to make sure that no child in Toronto under 13 is overlooked by Santa Claus.

Delivering these packages was more instructive than any textbook. It helped me keep my own family’s financial struggles in perspective and encouraged me to count my blessings. Although we didn’t have much, things could have been many times more challenging. I was grateful to have lots of love and plenty to eat when so many had neither during the cold, snowy Canadian winters.

The experience also showed me that love, family and friends should all be cherished much more highly than any material things. Having money is important, but real happiness can be found only in helping to spread happiness to others.

Merry Christmas: President Signs $680 Billion Business Investment Deal

President Obama signing the $1.1 trillion spending bill

Before we reach 2016, I want to reflect back on 2015. Everyone is talking about interest rates and monetary policy right now, but the role fiscal policy plays is just as important—if not more so. As I always say, government policy is a precursor to change, and very recently we saw this firsthand.

Only a day after President Barack Obama signed the spending deal Tuesday that lifted the oil export restriction that’s been in place since the mid-1970s, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil rallied $2 and is now trading higher than its European counterpart, Brent, oil for the first time since 2010.

WTI Crude Oil Cross Above Brent Crude
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Time and again, when regulations are rolled back and markets are allowed to act freely, we see constructive moves such as the WTI rally. It’s much more significant than a 0.25 percent rate hike.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was Instrumental in Passing the Spending Bill

Along with $1.1 trillion, the bipartisan deal includes $680 billion in tax cuts over the next decade, which should help accelerate the velocity of money and lead to the creation of new jobs. This is a positive development that wouldn’t have happened without the much-needed leadership of the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.

It’s important for investors to follow the money in this case, just as it was important in February 2009 when the $800 billion stimulus package was signed into law. House Speaker Ryan was able to negotiate a reasonable extension to government spending and usher in a substantive tax incentive program as we head into 2016, an election year.

Top 10 Frank Talk Posts of 2015

As we head into the final days of 2015, I want to share with you the 10 most popular Frank Talks of the year. Among other things, they tell the story that gold, despite being oversold, managed to hold its value better than many other investments deemed “safe.” I’m optimistic to see what 2016 has in store for the yellow metal.

10. Show Me the Stocks, Not the Cash, Say Optimistic CEOs (May 4)

A growing trend among chief executives of successful companies is to be compensated in company stock rather than cash. In May we learned that American Airlines CEO Doug Parker elected to do just that.
“This is the right way for my compensation to be set,” Parker wrote, “at risk, based entirely on the results achieved.”

9. How These 12 TPP Nations Could Forever Change Global Growth (October 12)

One of the most significant news stories to come out of 2015 was the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by 12 participating Pacific Rim nations, the United States among them. Many analysts believe that Vietnam is poised to see the biggest upside potential, as precipitously high tariffs on its important textiles, apparel and footwear exports will vanish.  

Vietnam Poised to Benefit Most From Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
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8. China to Take Reins in Funding Regional Infrastructure Projects (March 31)

A similar development that’s likely to have huge global consequences is the establishment of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), designed as a competitor to the U.S.-led International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Part of the reasoning behind China’s creation of the bank was to firm up the renminbi as a preferred global reserve currency on par with the U.S. dollar. And indeed, in late November the IMF voted to include the renminbi, also known as the yuan, in its Special Drawing Rights (SDR) currency basket.

7. Gold Holds Its Own Against These Media Darlings (August 10)

July 2015 was the seventh-worst-performing month for commodities going back to January 1970. Gold in particular was hit hard. But then in the week ended August 7, U.S. media companies took a huge dive, losing $60 billion for shareholders. Compared to that amount, gold managed to hold up well.

Media Stocks Collapse, Gold Hold Its Own
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6. Currency Wars Heat up as Central Banks Race to Cut Rates (February 2)

After Switzerland unexpectedly unpegged its currency from the euro in mid-January, it became clear that 2015 would be the year of the central banks. In that month alone, 14 countries cut interest rates and loosened borrowing standards. The U.S. stands as the only major economy, in fact, that has started to tighten its monetary policy.

5. Why We Invest in Royalty Companies (February 26)

One reason gold royalty companies have outperformed over the years is because, simply put, they’re not the ones getting their hands dirty. Their only obligation is to lend capital to the producers. Since its initial public offering (IPO) in 2007, Franco-Nevada, the world’s largest gold royalty company, has torn past both spot gold and most gold equity benchmarks.

Gold is Second Best Performing Currency of 2014
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4. Gold on Sale, Says the Rational Investor (August 3)

In late July, gold experienced its first “flash crash” in 18 months after five tonnes of the metal appeared on the Shanghai market. In what many called a “bear raid,” gold fell through its key support of around $1,150 and began to look extremely oversold.

Gold Price Falls Through Key Support Level
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3. Will Gold Finish 2015 with a Gain? (October 19)

In October, two events occurred almost simultaneously: The U.S. dollar signaled a “death cross”—meaning its 50-day moving average fell below its 200-day moving average—while gold broke above its 200-day moving average. At the time, it appeared as if gold might have a chance at doing something it hasn’t done since 2012—end the year in positive territory.

2. A Tale of Two Economies: Singapore and Cuba (March 28)

It’s almost impossible to believe now, but Cuba was once a wealthier nation than Singapore. But in 1959, Fidel Castro and Lee Kuan Yew both assumed power and took their countries in very different ideological and economic directions.

Yew, who passed away in March 2015, emphasizes free trade and competitive tax rates, which helped transform Singapore from an impoverished third world country into a bustling metropolis and leading global financial hub.

Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore Flourished while Fidel CAstro's Cuba Floundered
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1. Gold in the Age of Soaring Debt (June 18)

The world now sits beneath a mountain of debt worth an astonishing $200 trillion. That’s greater than twice the global GDP, which is currently $75 trillion. If we were to distribute this amount equally to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth, we would each owe around $28,000.

More surprising is that if gold—at its June 2015 price level—backed total global debt 100 percent, it would be valued at $33,900 per ounce.

Make sure to check out our most popular interactive favorites from 2015:

To all of our readers around the world, to our investors and shareholders, and to our friends and family, I wish you happiness and good health in the new year!

 

Some links above may be directed to third-party websites. U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by these websites and is not responsible for 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.

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

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 09/30/2015: American Airlines Group Inc., Franco-Nevada Corp, Time Warner Cable Inc.

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This Industry Is Set to Post Record Profits on Lower Fuel Costs
December 14, 2015

Global Airlines are Expected to Post a Collective $33 Billion in Net Profits This Year

Everyone knows there are winners and losers in any bear market, including the recent commodity rout. Low crude oil prices have definitely hurt explorers and producers. Airlines, on the other hand, appear to be thriving.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a global airlines trade group, the industry is set to post a collective $33 billion in net profits this year—a record—on fuel cost savings and stronger passenger flight demand.

Want to know how significant a record this is? In 2014, profits came in at $17.4 billion—about half of what they are today.

What’s more, profits are expected to be even larger next year.

World demand grew 6.7 percent from a year ago, the IATA says, and is estimated to rise a further 6.9 percent in 2016. And with oil likely to stay relatively low, the group forecasts that airlines will spend $135 billion on fuel in 2016, down nearly a quarter from $180 billion in 2015.

This, coupled with improved fuel efficiency, is expected to contribute toward the group ending next year with estimated total net profits of $36.3 billion.

You can see below that global airline stocks have soared in recent years, especially in response to flagging oil, airlines’ largest expense.

Low Oil Prices Have Been a Huge Windfall for Airlines
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In the past, airlines were notorious for their inefficiency and tendency to destroy capital. These claims were probably exaggerated, especially by Warren Buffett, who has repeatedly decried the industry as a money-loser. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Buffett didn’t do as bad as he claimed.

Former US Airways CEO Ed Colodny explained in 2013 that after Buffett’s shares didn’t appreciate, he wrote down his investment and got out when he could.

“I think at the end of the day, he got all his dividends paid and his principal back,” Colodny said.  

In any case, airlines are now going into their third year of the present secular bull market. These often last much longer. We believe this cycle is different, in that the U.S. airline industry could easily create $20 billion of free cash flow this year and next. Low fuel costs have been the cherry on top.

Where Does Oil Go from Here?

Bloomberg Businessweek

Indeed, 2015 was not kind to oil and other commodities, with many of them slumping to multiyear and, in some cases, multi-decade lows.

Back in August, the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek featured a whole gaggle of bears, which delighted bulls. (There’s an old belief that the market will soon do the exact opposite of what the press predicts.) Yet here we are four months out, and the commodities rout has only extended itself further.

Crude oil is presently testing financial crisis support levels, making many investors wonder whether the bottom for black gold has been reached—or if more pain is to be expected.

There’s no shortage of analysts and experts right now sharing their (wildly divergent) predictions of where oil might be headed from here. Some are calling for $20 per barrel; others, such as legendary hedge fund manager T. Boone Pickens, $70 or more in the next six months.

We can’t say whether Pickens is right or wrong. It’s worth pointing out, though, that crude has pretty closely followed its five-year trading pattern, with 52-week lows reached in late November, early December. The short-term trend shows oil rallying sharply starting in January, according to Moore Research analysis.

West Texas Crude: Historical Patterns
click to enlarge

Here’s another way of looking at it. The following heat map shows that, in the last five years, the oil price historically popped in February after months of losses. What this means is that January might be a good time to buy.

Average Crude Oil Price Change by Month
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The oscillator below confirms that. Right now crude is down 1.2 standard deviations—already signaling a buy, but it might have further to fall, based on past incidences.

Average Crude Oil Price Change by Month
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One of the more balanced perspectives comes from energy strategist Dr. Kent Moors, who tempers his optimism with a dose of reality:

The Five Most Searched-For Trends by Visitors to ETFdb.com Right Now
We are not racing back to $100 a barrel oil. Absent the outlier of a geopolitical event that impacts supply, more subdued rises are in order. But we certainly do not need triple-digit oil to make some nice investment returns, especially in a sector that has been so oversold.

I agree. I’m not interested in adding my own forecast to the ever-lengthening list so much as I am in finding ways to make money at current prices.

As are other investors. Based on the most searched-for trends on ETFdb.com right now, you can clearly see what’s on their minds.

OPEC Members Revolt against Saudis as Oil Slips

One of the main reasons why prices are so depressed, of course, is that the world is awash in the stuff. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), responsible for about 40 percent of global supply, just had its most productive month since 2012, pumping 31.7 million barrels in November. That’s 1.7 million barrels over its “official” production ceiling.

Crude slipped below $37 per barrel on the news, a seven-year low, which is about as low as prices can go for most American companies to stay profitable. (As of this writing, WTI crude sits at $35.20, Brent at $36.83.)

Brent Crude Oil Hasn't Hit 2008 Lows
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As expected, OPEC announced after its last meeting that it would keep oil production levels the same in its bid to force higher-cost producers (re: American frackers) to trim their own operations. Solidarity among its members has weakened further, however, as it becomes clearer and clearer to them that they underestimated the resilience of American oil producers.

Five OPEC members—Venezuela, Nigeria, Libya, Iran and Ecuador—are now in open opposition to the Saudi policy of unchanged production. That the cartel as a whole exceeded its production ceiling last month suggests that each member-nation is making its own rules up anyway, regardless of what was decided.

It’s estimated that OPEC is already pumping about 900,000 barrels a day more than is needed next year. And with international sanctions against Iran about to be lifted—in exchange for an agreement to halt its nuclear program—the country has promised to increase its own production from 3.3 million barrels a day to as many as 4 million barrels a day by the end of 2016.

OPEC is pumping 900,000 barrels of oil a day more than the world needs.

Venezuela in particular is in deep turmoil. Low oil prices have battered its currency and left its economy in tatters, with food shortages worsening every day. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the South American country—which has the largest proven oil reserves in the world—to contract 10 percent this year and has declared it the worst-performing economy in the world right now.

In the recent parliamentary elections, rightfully fed-up Venezuelans responded by ousting members of Hugo Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), giving the opposition party, the more-centrist Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a supermajority that could challenge President Nicolás Maduro.

This countrywide rejection of failed, far-left leadership is an encouraging sign that Latin America’s political ideology is finally shifting away from European-style socialist economic models of no growth. We’ve seen South American countries tax away growth and impose envy policies on the financial sector. Mining and oil executives have seen their cash flow confiscated by value-added taxes, leading to drops in capex and job creation.

But just last month we saw Argentina elect its first business-friendly president, Mauricio Macri, in decades. And now Venezuela is demanding change, so there’s hope.

As head of the cartel, Saudi Arabia hasn’t gone unscathed in the oil rout either. For the first time, the kingdom will tap international bond markets to make up for lost oil revenues.

Also in the hard-to-believe category is Alaska’s plan to institute an income tax for the first time in 35 years to “close a $3.5 billion dollar deficit the state is carrying,” according to Zero Hedge. The Last Frontier is known, of course, for giving all Alaskan residents an annual dividend based on oil revenue. In 2015, that amount was $2,072.

But since oil revenue has been cut in half, hard measures must be taken to keep the dividend running, Alaska Governor Bill Walker argues.

“This plan keeps the permanent fund permanent,” Walker tweeted last Wednesday.

And Yet Oil Demand Is Still Outpacing Supply

Crude oil reserves here in the U.S. are currently at levels not seen since 1972. That’s with a 65 percent decline in rigs in operation from a year ago, a clear indicator of how efficient American producers have become.

U.S. Crude Oil Stocks Still at High Capacity
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But some analysts have suggested the oversupply isn’t as bad as we might think. Tom Kloza, head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) told CNBC this week that it’s important to think of oil supply in the context of population growth:

This is a glut in terms of the most crude oil we’ve ever had in North America. But if you measure it versus the population, it’s not altogether that much. We’ve had much more crude-per-population back in previous decades.

Kloza has a fair point. In 1970, at the height of U.S. oil production, the country’s population was just over 205 million and the total number of registered vehicles—passenger cars, motorcycles, trucks and buses—was 111 million, according to the Department of Transportation. Today the population hovers just north of 319 million and, as of 2013, the number of registered vehicles has more than doubled to 255 million.

World Crude Oil Demand Not Slowing Down
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It’s worth reminding ourselves that the U.S. isn’t the only growing country. Population is booming all over the globe. People continue to have babies—Chinese couples even more so now that the one-child policy has been lifted—and the global middle class is swelling rapidly. This helps oil demand continue to rise, as well as air travel demand.

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 NYSE Arca Airline Index (XAL) 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.

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

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