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Will 2019 Be the Year of King Copper?
February 19, 2019

Summary

  • Corporate purchasing of copper-gobbling renewable energy more than doubled from 2017 to 2018.
  • Sales of electric vehicles, which use three to four times the amount of copper as traditional vehicles, are booming in China.
  • Copper miners get upgraded by the big banks.

Goldspot

Because of its wide availability and exceptional conductivity, copper is found in everything from consumer products to automobiles to semiconductors. Last year global demand for the red metal stood at 23.6 million tons, and by 2027, it’s projected to reach just under 30 million tons, representing an average annual growth rate of about 2.6 percent.

This phenomenal growth is attributable not just to the rise of middle class consumers. It’s also thanks to our steady rotation into clean, renewable energy such as wind and solar—which is good news for copper demand going forward.

As I’ve shared with you before, renewables require many more times the amount of copper as traditional energy sources. A typical wind farm—those that blanket whole areas of West Texas, California and some other states—can contain as much as 15 million tons of the metal.

2018 Was a Record-Breaking Year for Renewables

Whether you’re a believer in renewable energy or not, the tipping point may have already occurred. Among the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. right now are wind turbine service technician and solar panel installer, for whatever that’s worth. And according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), corporate purchasing of renewable energy more than doubled from 2017 to 2018. Globally, companies bought 13.4 gigawatts (GW) last year, compared to the previous record of 6.1 gigawatts in 2017. Over 63 percent of the purchasing activity occurred right here in the U.S. Facebook alone was responsible for consuming 2.6 GW of renewables, three times as much as the next biggest corporate energy buyer, AT&T.

Global Corporate Clean Energy Buying Hit a New Record in 2018
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The trend toward renewables is expected to accelerate at a white-knuckle pace for years to come. Take a look at the chart below, courtesy of McKinsey’s “Global Energy Perspective 2019.” Analysts believe that, by 2035, renewable energy will account for more than half of all power generation as its price falls below that of coal and gas-generated energy. Fifteen years after that, nearly three quarters of total energy consumed around the world will be derived from renewable means, chiefly wind and solar.

Renewable Energy Projected to Account for Three Quarters of Global Power Generation
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If this is compelling at all to you, now might be an excellent time to start participating. One of the best ways, I believe, is with exposure to high-quality, well-managed copper miners as well as funds that have a large position in copper mining.

China Will Lead the Transition from Internal Combustion Engines to Electric Cars

And we haven’t even mentioned electric vehicles (EVs), which are notorious copper gobblers. As I’ve shared with you before, EVs consume between three and four times the amount of copper as traditional internal combustion engines.

China is leading the world in EV adoption and will likely continue to do so for some time. In the fourth quarter of last year, China was responsible for 60 percent of global EV sales, according to Bloomberg, which adds that the country holds half of all vehicle-charging infrastructure. By the end of last year, electric cars made up about 7 percent of total new vehicle sales in China, with a compound growth rate of 118 percent since 2011. In about a decade, the Asian country will account for nearly 40 percent of the global EV market, followed by Europe (26 percent) and the U.S. (20 percent), according to BNEF.

China leads the world in electric vehicle adoption
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Not only does China have national subsidies in place, but its carmakers are also incentivized to manufacture EVs thanks to the country’s “New Energy Vehicle” credit system. The system acts as an EV quota, requiring carmakers to generate credits through the sale of electric cars. According to BNEF, this is the “single most important piece of EV policy globally and is shaping automakers’ electrification plans.”

Adding to this acceleration is the fact that China has elevated the adoption of new “Phase 6” emissions standards under its anti-pollution “Blue Sky Defense” action plan. Just as we’re seeing in parts of Europe right now, China will soon begin banning the production of the most polluting diesel engines.

Many cities in China see the writing on the wall and have already enacted restrictions on gasoline-powered vehicle sales. In 2018, Shenzhen and Shanghai collectively led the world with more than 165,000 EV sales. That’s more than Norway and Germany combined.

With demand for EVs so high, it’s little wonder that China’s copper imports climbed to 479,000 tonnes in January, the second-highest on record.

Morgan Stanley Bullish on Copper, Upgrades Freeport-McMoRan

All of this leads me to believe that 2019 could be not only copper’s year but also copper miners’ year. The price of the red metal is up about 6 percent so far in 2019, trading at close to $2.80 a pound. That’s about 67 percent short of the metal’s all-time high of $4.62, set in February 2011.

Last week Morgan Stanley joined Citi and Goldman Sachs in making a bullish call on the metal. The investment bank projected a 14 percent upside for copper in 2019, based on a widening supply deficit and the likelihood of a resolution to the U.S.-China trade spat.

As for copper miners, Morgan Stanley upgraded Freeport-McMoRan, while Goldman Sachs recently upgraded Rio Tinto. Piyush Sood, lead analyst at Morgan Stanley, said in a note that Freeport’s “earnings sensitivity to copper is still the highest among its peers, and combined with its high trading liquidity, we believe it will emerge as the go-to large-cap stock for exposure to a copper price rally.” Shares of the Phoenix-based company’s stock jumped nearly 7 percent on the news last Wednesday.

Singapore-based DBS Bank also sees a copper shortage over the mid-term. Analysts expect supply to be in a deficit each year between now and at least 2022, when it could be at its widest since 2004.

Copper Price Projected to Rise on Widening Supply Deficit
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“Copper is king for this electrification trend taking over the global economy,” Matt Gilli, CEO of Nevada Copper, told Reuters. “We see demand increasing steadily in the years ahead and, so far, supply is not keeping up.”

To meet surging demand, four U.S. copper projects are set to open by next year, the first to do so in decades, according to Reuters. And Ivanhoe Mines, founded by my friend Robert Friedland, is in the process of developing the Kamoa-Kakula copper deposit in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which Robert describes as the second-largest copper mine in the world.

“You’re going to need a telescope to see copper prices in 2021,” Robert told us when he visited our office last year.

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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.

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 (12/31/2018): Freeport-McMoRan Inc., Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., Citigroup Inc.

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Here's Why the Price of Palladium Just Zoomed Past Gold
January 22, 2019

EPalladium Strengthens on increased demand from automobile manufactures

Palladium might not fill headlines the way gold does, but it’s been on fire lately. Not only has the precious metal been the best performing commodity for two years straight, but its price also just shot past gold for the first time since 2001. For the first time ever, it broke through $1,400 an ounce last week before pulling back somewhat. From its 52-week low set in August, palladium has climbed almost 70 percent. It’s added about 16 percent in the past 30 trading days alone.

Shares of North American Palladium have surged on greater demand
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Supply is tight, but like many other things, we largely have government policy to thank for the palladium rally. In this case, I’m talking specifically about governments in Europe, which have recently strengthened their vehicle emission standards. The “Euro standard,” as it’s called, classifies vehicles on a scale from one to six, with one being the most polluting and six being the least polluting.

Some European cities have already banned the dirtiest “Euro 1” vehicles from their streets. Old diesel cars and trucks were outlawed in Brussels effective January 2018. In May 2018, Hamburg became the first German city to do the same.

Diesel Engines in the Crosshairs

But now that it’s a new year, some city governments are escalating the ban to include Euro 2 automobiles that run on diesel. Next month, Frankfurt—Germany’s financial hub—will go so far as to ban all Euro 4-and-worse diesel vehicles, and all Euro 1 and 2 gasoline-burning vehicles.

I believe this escalation was prompted in part by a comment made by Elzbieta Bienkowska, a European commissioner whose responsibilities include oversight of industry and entrepreneurship. Speaking to Bloomberg in May, she said that “diesel cars are finished.”

Diesel vehicle sales continue to plunge in Europe

And then, as if to hasten Bienkowska’s prediction, a damning study on diesel engines was issued in June by the very same group that blew the whistle on Volkswagen’s emissions scandal back in 2015. According to the study, conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), even the newest, cleanest diesel vehicles failed to meet Europe’s strict emission standards in “real world” driving conditions. Peter Mock, the ICCT’s managing director, defended the report, saying that “pretty much all Euro 6 diesels on the market are not clean.”

European sentiment of diesel was already in freefall, but momentum is increasing. In the first half of 2018, sales of diesel vehicles within the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) fell more than 16 percent compared to the same period in 2017. For all of 2018, British sales of diesels were down nearly 30 percent, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Between 2016 to 2018, diesel’s share of new vehicle sales in the EU plunged dramatically, from nearly half of all sales to just under a third.

Palladium Has Been the Beneficiary

So what does all of this have to do with palladium? The metal, as you probably know, is used in the production of catalytic converters, which “scrub” pollutants from the exhaust of internal combustion engines. And because of Europe’s enforcement of strict new standards, demand for these devices is surging, along with palladium itself.

Demand is so high, in fact, that there are now reports, in the U.K. and U.S., of thieves stealing catalytic converters, sometimes in broad daylight, to extract the precious metal. On Thursday, it traded as high as $1,434.50, according to CNBC.

Supply Worries Have Remained High

There’s more to the story of palladium’s bull run. For the past several years, supply has been in deficit. That’s mostly because around 80 percent of all palladium (and platinum) production is concentrated in two countries—South Africa and Russia. The geopolitical risks are high. When South African laborers went on strike in 2014, all production of the platinum metals, including palladium, grinded to a halt. 

Where is palladium mined
click to enlarge

Besides supply issues, the biggest risk facing palladium right now is substitution risk. With palladium trading above $1,400 an ounce, how long will it be before auto manufacturers switch to its sister metal, platinum, which is currently trading at around $800 an ounce?

In the meantime, there could be money to be made.

A Palladium Miner With Incredible 87 Percent Income Growth

One of our favorite ways to play the rally is North American Palladium. The company, headquartered in Toronto, mines both palladium and gold (and other metals as a byproduct), and has seen quite a rally itself on higher metal prices. For the 24-month period, its shares are up a remarkable 120 percent.

Trading places palladium overtook gold again
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North American Palladium had a phenomenal third quarter in 2018. According to results, income after taxes and expenses was $22.9 million, up a whopping 87.7 percent from $12.2 million during the same period the previous year. That translated to earnings per share (EPS) of $0.39, up from $0.21 in 2017. I’m eagerly awaiting the company’s results for the fourth quarter!

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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.

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 12/31/2018: North American Palladium Ltd.

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Gold and Commodities Set to Soar in 2019
January 14, 2019

Summary:

  • An update to the Periodic Table of Commodity Returns.
  • Goldman Sachs issues an overweight recommendation for gold and commodities.
  • Paradigm Capital says royalty companies are the “best bet” in metals and mining.

Our ever-popular Periodic Table of Commodity Returns has been updated for 2018 and is now available on the U.S. Global Investors website! I invite you to get lost using the interactive feature, which easily allows you to highlight a certain commodity, the top performer, the most volatile and more.

Explore the new periodic table of commodity returns 2018

Palladium was the best performing commodity for the second year in a row, returning 18.59 percent in 2018 after ending the previous year up a phenomenal 56.25 percent. As we’ve noted before in the Investor Alert and elsewhere, palladium and gold prices are now near parity, with a razor-thin spread of only around $2 separating the two at the moment. Late last year, the white metal actually overtook the yellow metal for the first time since 2001 on increased demand from automobile manufacturers. More than 80 percent of world supply is used in the production of catalytic converters.

Not to be outdone, gold ended 2018 on a high note, beating global equities and commodities for the fourth quarter. And as I mentioned before, it was the sixth most liquid asset class, with daily trading volumes nearly identical to that of S&P 500 companies.

Goldman Bullish on Gold, Forecasts $1,425

With a majority of investors now betting that the current rate hike cycle has peaked, the U.S. dollar looks to be in retreat, having lost about 1.7 percent over the past month. Mike McGlone, commodity strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence, writes that he believes the “2019 dollar downtrend has legs.” This is constructive for metals and commodities in general, gold specifically. On Friday, in fact, the yellow metal achieved a “golden cross,” whereby the 50-day moving average crosses above the 200-day moving average—a very bullish sign.

Gold Achieves a Golden Cross
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Among those that are most bullish on the precious metal is Goldman Sachs. In a report last week, the investment bank maintained its overweight recommendation and raised its 12-month price forecast up from $1,350 an ounce to $1,425, a level last seen in August 2013. Goldman analysts contend that the gold price “will be supported primarily by growing demand for defensive assets, with a slower pace of Fed rate hikes in 2019 boosting demand only marginally.”

The World Gold Council (WGC) made a similar case in its 2019 outlook last week, predicting that global investors will “continue to favor gold as an effective diversifier and hedge against systemic risk.” The rise in protectionist policies around the world is chief among the risks since they tend to lead to higher inflation and slower economic growth over the long term, according to the WGC.

I believe the current government shutdown, over funding for a wall along the southern border, is evidence of the risks protectionist policies pose. Now the longest in U.S. history, and with no end in sight, the shutdown could start to take a toll on the economy the longer it lasts, according to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, and perhaps even cost the U.S. its triple-A credit rating.

Commodities Could Also Be a Buy Right Now

Goldman Sachs isn’t just bullish on gold. Commodities also look like a strong buy, the bank’s analysts say, after prices were slashed late last year. Before the fourth quarter, commodities were following the “late-cycle playbook.” Up 16 percent, they were the best performing asset class of 2018. But with the Fed now “on hold” and there being “low risk” of a recession, Goldman says it can now argue “with confidence” that the sell-off last year was a “mid-cycle pause.”

This is actually good news for commodities, as mid-cycle pauses have historically been a buying opportunity. Look at the chart below. It shows that, with few exceptions, commodity prices rallied in the days and weeks following a “pause” signal from the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). And as you might already know, Powell recently commented that the Fed “can afford to be patient” and “flexible” when it comes to additional rate hikes.    

Mid-Cycle Pauses Have Historically Been a Buy Signal for Commodities
click to enlarge

Goldman maintains an overweight recommendation for commodities, with a 12-month forecast of 9.5 percent.

Gold Royalty Companies Are the “Best Bet,” Says Paradigm Capital

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of royalty and streaming companies. (You can read my posts featuring Franco-Nevada and Wheaton Precious Metals.) I’ve long admired these companies for generating profits and creating value, even when the metals market is flat or weak.

Last week, Paradigm Capital reaffirmed my conviction in the royalty model. The Canadian investment dealer shared its research into the long-term performance of the various tiers in gold mining, from juniors to seniors, from explorers to developers. The royalty companies—which include not just Franco and Wheaton but also Royal Gold, Sandstorm and Osisko Royalties—are the “best bet” when seeking to “make money in gold equities,” according to Paradigm’s senior analyst, Don MacLean. He adds: “Royalty companies have the best business model in the sector, by far.”

Below, you can see that royalty companies have outperformed all other tiers, including gold itself. They collectively delivered 16 percent in compound annual growth from 2004 to 2018. Put another way, they returned a massive 884 percent in cumulative change, compared to gold at 300 percent.

Gold Royalty Companies Have Outperformed All Other Tiers Since 2004
click to enlarge

Many junior and senior producers have struggled over the same time period, but Paradigm writes that gold equities are like “coiled springs” and should outperform the precious metal if a “meaningful” gold rally of 10 percent or more occurs. Right now large-cap seniors are leading the rally, having increased 24 percent over the past three months, followed by intermediates (up 18 percent) and royalty companies (up 15 percent). This is in line with past gold equity rallies, Paradigm says, as the largest producers have historically performed best at the start.

My focus lately has been on how the idea of “peak gold” might drive the need for mergers and acquisitions (M&As) within the metals and mining industry. It’s been almost a decade since the last round of deals, and because there’s a sore lack of big discoveries right now to replenish reserves, I feel as if we’re due for more M&A activity this year. The Barrick Gold-Randgold merger, announced last September, might have been just the start of a new wave of consolidation.

We learned just today, in fact, that Newmont Mining plans to buy Goldcorp for a reported $10 billion, thereby making the world’s biggest gold producer. Look for my thoughts on this later!

On a final note, our very own Ralph Aldis, precious metals expert and portfolio manager, shared his top stock pick for 2019 with MoneyShow. To find out which one it is, click here!

 

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 S&P GSCI Total Return Index in USD is widely recognized as the leading measure of general commodity price movements and inflation in the world economy. Index is calculated primarily on a world production weighted basis, comprised of the principal physical commodities futures contracts.

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 12/31/2018: Franco-Nevada Corp., Wheaton Precious Metals Corp., Royal Gold Inc., Osisko Gold Royalties Inc., Sandstorm Gold Ltd., Newmont Mining Corp., Barrick Gold Corp. 

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Talking Tech With Pulitzer Prize Nominee Michael Robinson
November 28, 2018

Michael Robinson, chief technology strategist of Money Map Press, is a lot of things: devoted son and father, technologist, avid skier and gun enthusiast, accomplished blues guitarist, Pulitzer Prize nominee.

Readers of his popular newsletters know him for his mantra, "The road to wealth is paved with tech.” As editor of Strategic Tech Investor, Nova-X Report and Radical Technology Profits, Michael has helped curious investors get in early on small-cap and micro-cap names involved in biotech, defense, cannabis research and more.

I got to see Michael’s presentation at the Black Diamond Investment Conference in October and was impressed by his energy, interesting life story and deep knowledge of niche markets.

Below are snippets from our recent discussion, which touches on topics ranging from trap shooting to cannabis legalization to blockchain technology.

Tell us about your start in military tech and biotech.

I grew up in a military household. My dad was a Marine Corps officer, and later he became the senior military editor at Aviation Week & Space Technology. He was among the earliest to write about the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), popularly known as Star Wars. So as a high schooler, I was exposed to all of these exotic defense technologies—materials, sensors, warheads and the like—which really gave me a leg up.

My dad and I ran a high-tech military newsletter in the 1980s. This put me in a position to visit Silicon Valley pretty regularly and talk with scientists and CEOs about cutting edge tech—materials that made battleships and submarines quieter, for example.

As a young auto analyst and reporter, I managed to break some big tech stories because I was willing to look away from the mainstream. The biggest story I did actually led to the firing of two executive vice presidents, which cost the bank close to $80 million. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal ended up having to cover the story, so that helped put me on the map.

I got involved in biotechnology later through my work at what was then the Oakland Tribune. The biotech sector was brand new in the mid-80s, and I was in California where it was all happening. While there, I did a five-part series on Betaseron, the first FDA-approved biotech drug to treat multiple sclerosis (MS).

How did you make the leap to the financial world?

That just felt like the natural next step. Every time I left a Silicon Valley presentation on some new tech, I would think: "That's really cool, but how can you make money off of it?" So even though I consider myself a technologist, I'm always looking at the financial angle.

What’s more, I served on the advisory board of a venture capital company. The experience gave me a different way of evaluating startups than a standard financial analyst, who might be trained only to do ratio analysis and things like that. There's nothing wrong with ratio analysis, but it's not going to give you the kinds of insights and instinct you need to figure out which companies really have it together and which don’t.

You’re known to have a strong interest in guns and shooting. Did that come out of your dad’s military background?

I never really thought of it that way. I just love shooting guns. Mostly these days I shoot trap and skeet. I joined the National Rifle Association (NRA) because I wanted to qualify as a Triple Distinguished Expert in pistols, rifles and shotguns. Shotgun was the most difficult, I thought.

The amount of concentration that's required to shoot at a high level really appeals to me. You have to block out all distractions. In that respect, shooting is a lot like investing. One of the things I remind readers and clients is to separate the signal from the noise. You can't become a good shot if you can't block out all the external distractions and things. Similarly, investors must learn to block out short-term market noise before they pull the trigger, so to speak.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

Besides my dad, I would have to say the renowned economist Milton Friedman. I had the great pleasure to interview him once for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). I remember he had a portrait of himself done, but his wife wouldn’t let him hang it up on the wall in their Nob Hill condo. It’s funny—here’s one of the world’s greatest economic thinkers, a Nobel Prize winner, and he had his portrait just sort of propped up in a corner somewhere.

In any case, Friedman was a huge influence on the way that I think about economics. In my freshman year when I was signing on to be an economics major, I remember reading about how iconoclastic he was, how out of step he was with the rest of the economics community, which was very Keynesian at the time. I learned the true value of contrarianism from studying him and looking at things like freedom to choose. Ayn Rand was another huge influence in that respect.

Michigan just voted to legalize recreational cannabis, making it the first Midwest state to do so. Is this a tipping point?

I think the tipping point probably occurred in 2016, when as many as nine states had cannabis legalization on their ballots. That year is also when we launched our investment report, the Roadmap to Marijuana Millions. All 30 of the stocks we recommended made money. The reason I say that is not to brag about our track record, but to point out that we saw large numbers of new investors coming in, willing to take the risk, wanting to be early and understand the industry.

Michigan, for me, was an affirmation of this critical mass. It’s also a reminder of what we need more of to attract institutional investors: initial public offerings (IPOs), mergers and acquisitions (M&As), up-listings to major exchanges.

Obviously the biggest catalyst would be something out of Washington—an effort to reclassify marijuana off of Schedule I, for instance. I would love to see that happen, as would my dad, the Marine Corps officer, but I don’t believe the support is there right now.

You recently argued that blockchain technology should not be used for voting, for reasons involving secrecy and anonymity. In what industries do you see its application making the most sense?

Literally everything. Supply chain management is a huge area that could benefit from blockchain. Look at the oil industry, which still uses this old paper-based system. Companies that have already shown interest in blockchain are British Petroleum (BP) and Royal Dutch Shell, among others.

Counterfeit goods is a problem that runs in the hundreds of billions of dollar every year. Blockchain can help with that. You can use it to tag and identify goods early on, and then they can be tracked with some kind of a distributed ledger.

Or look at financial services. Frank, you’ve pointed out a number of times before that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has criticized cryptocurrencies, and yet the bank was quietly investing millions upon millions.

Speaking of cryptocurrencies, they’re down significantly this year. Do you think now is a good time to buy, or is more pain ahead?

I fear about jumping in right now. Are we at the bottom of bitcoin? I don't know. One thing I do know is that this crypto selloff may be healthy in the long-term. There’s been an insane number of initial coin offerings (ICOs), which have really hurt bitcoin and Ethereum. We need to sweep out some of the smaller coins because 2,000 cryptos is more than the world can possibly absorb. There has to be a shakeout.

Total currency market capitalization
click to enlarge

You work on several newsletters. Can you describe them for our readers and explain what value they bring?

The main value they bring is making our readers a lot of money. For starters, we have Strategic Tech Investor, which is our free service. The idea is to give investors the rules they need to succeed and not be so emotionally-driven. Because it's free and it's open format, we want to educate investors, and hopefully they'll develop an interest in my investing style and decide to subscribe to one of our paid services.

That brings us to the Nova-X Report and Radical Technology Profits.

Nova-X focuses on mid-cap stocks and the lower end of large-caps. We feel that's a good comfort zone for entry-level investors who are looking for big trends and ways to make money that aren't necessarily household names. We try to get to market early.

Radical Tech is our premium service. It’s designed for much more savvy, much more aggressive people. We swing for the fences more than we do with Nova-X. The focus is on any kind of cutting-edge technology—small-caps and even some micro-caps.

As long as my readers make money, I know I'll do well. I take breaks from time to time, but for the most part I'm up well before dawn screening charts and looking at articles—anything to make our readers as much money as I can.

I want to thank Michael for his time and enthusiasm. Be sure to check out his newsletters!

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.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 9/30/2018: BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

 

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Freezing Temperatures Could Heat Up Natural Gas Prices
November 19, 2018

Midterm Elections Gridlock Was the Best Possible Outcome

Here in San Antonio, the temperature hit a bone-chilling low of 27 degrees last Wednesday, breaking a 102-year-old record for mid-November. An out-of-state visitor, Cornerstone Macro’s Head of Portfolio Insights Stephen Gregory, speculated that the Central Texas temperature, ordinarily mild this time of year, was down more than three standard deviations. I didn’t make the calculation, but my guess would be about the same.

With temperatures so low, it’s perhaps no surprise that natural gas had one of its best days in years. Its price popped almost 18 percent last Wednesday—before falling nearly as much on Thursday. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that natural gas storage in the lower 48 states was below the five-year average as of October 31. This, combined with a stronger-than-expected start to winter, prompted traders to push prices to a four-year high of $4.84 per million British thermal units (MBtu). Meanwhile, natural gas futures trading hit an all-time daily volume record of 1.2 million contracts, according to CME Group.

Natural gas prices exploded
click to enlarge

Freezing temperatures increase demand for heating, much of which is provided by natural gas. In January of this year, when temperatures fell below the average in many parts of the U.S., demand reached a single-day record of 150.7 billion cubic feet, according to the EIA. I can’t say we’ll beat this record again in the coming months, but forecasts for more freezing weather this Thanksgiving week and beyond should support additional moves to the upside.

What kind of moves? Says Jacob Meisel, chief weather analyst at Bespoke Weather Services, the price could get to $7 or $8 per MBtus, levels we haven’t seen since 2008. “This looks like a capitulation move today, but if cold weather really takes off, the sky is the limit,” Meisel told CNBC.

Oil Selloff Steepest in Three Years, “Overdone”

Natural gas wasn’t the only commodity that broke records last week. On Tuesday, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil ended an extraordinary 12 straight days of losses, settling at a 2018 low of $55.69 per barrel, down more than 27 percent from its 2018 high in early October. Triggered by concerns of a global demand slowdown, the plunge is oil’s steepest in three years, and a stunning reversal from last month’s calls for $100-per-barrel crude.

The bears appear to have overreacted, though. “Crude-oil-position liquidations have never been this extreme, indicating the purge in WTI futures is overdone,” writes Business Intelligence strategist Mike McGlone, adding that petroleum markets have “never experienced a comparable decline over a similar period.” 

World Needs the Equivalent of Another Russia’s Worth of Crude

Again, the oil selloff halted last Tuesday, the same day the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced its estimate that U.S. shale will need to add the equivalent of Russia’s entire oil production by 2025 to prevent a global shortage. In its flagship “World Energy Outlook 2018,” the Paris-based group says that world oil consumption will increase significantly in the coming decades due to “rising petrochemicals, trucking and aviation demand.”

“U.S. shale production, which has already been expanding at record pace, would have to add more than 10 million barrels a day from today to 2025, the equivalent of adding another Russia to global supply in seven years—which would be an historically unprecedented feat,” according to the IEA.

Jets fyling high

The U.S. produced 11.7 million barrels of crude per day in the week ended November 9. That means shale producers would need to ramp up output to at least 21 million barrels in seven years, if the IEA’s estimates are accurate.

I think this would be a challenge, but a real possibility. The reason I think this is because the U.S. fracking industry continues to prove it can produce more with less. According to a recent report by the EIA, U.S. crude oil and natural gas production increased in 2017, despite there being fewer wells. This is thanks in large part to horizontal wells, which “contact more reservoir rock and therefore produce greater volumes” of oil and gas. Although more expensive to drill, horizontal wells are growing faster than traditional vertical wells. In 2017 they accounted for 13 percent of total well drills, up from only 10 percent three years earlier.

Also in the IEA’s outlook: By 2040, emerging markets, led by China and India, will account for 40 percent of global energy demand, up from 20 percent in 2000. Below, note how the European Union is expected to be displaced by India and Africa in terms of energy demand within the next couple of decades.

Emerging markets will account for 40 percent of global energy demand by 2040
click to enlarge

I believe only the U.S. fracking industry would be able to meet this demand. Russia and Saudi Arabia are pumping at record levels right now, but production cuts of as much as 1.4 million barrels per day are being discussed among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to firm up prices. If cuts do go into effect, U.S. producers can be expected to fill in the supply gap.

“It can happen but would be a small miracle,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

U.S. Shale “More Profitable Than Ever”

Normally, ever greater supply would weigh on prices and weaken profitability. Based on new data, it looks as if the U.S. fracking industry has changed the game.

According to Reuters, “U.S. shale firms are more profitable than ever after a strong third quarter,” according to the agency’s analysis of 32 independent producers. “These companies are producing more efficiently, generating more cash flow and consolidating in a wave of mergers.”

Nearly a third of these 32 companies “generates more cash from operations than they spent on drilling and shareholder payouts, a group including Devon Energy, EOG Resources and Continental Resources. A year ago, there were just three companies on that list,” Reuters writes.

Thanksgiving Travel to Hit 13-Year High

On a final but related note, this week is Thanksgiving, the busiest travel season of the year in the U.S. The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts that the number of travelers on Thanksgiving Day, by auto and air, will top 54.3 million people, an increase of almost 5 percent from last year, and the highest volume since 2005.

Similarly, Airlines for America (A4A) believes U.S. Thanksgiving air travel demand between last Friday and November 27 will climb to an all-time high of 30.6 million passengers. “It is thanks to incredibly accessible and affordable flight options that more travelers than ever before are visiting loved ones, wrapping up year-end business or enjoying a vacation this Thanksgiving,” commented A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich.

Thanksgiving 2018 US air travel demand estimated to rise 5 percent from last year
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While I’m on the topic of aviation, A4A also reported that U.S. airport revenues have grown faster than the consumer price index (CPI) as well as the number of air passengers and aircraft departures. From 2000 to 2017, airport revenues rose 87 percent, double the pace of U.S. inflation. Increased growth came thanks to a number of resources, from taxes and fees to the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) and Airport & Airway Trust Fund (AATF).

US airport revenues have grown faster than flights passengers and inflation
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According to Fitch Ratings, “strong overall performance for U.S. airports should continue undeterred for the foreseeable future.” Over 90 percent of the airports Fitch currently rates have a “Stable Rating Outlook,” signifying continued stability deep into 2019.

Curious to learn more? Explore our latest slideshow, “How Do Airports Make Money?”

 

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.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is one of the most widely recognized price measures for tracking the price of a market basket of goods and services purchased by individuals.  The weights of components are based on consumer spending patterns.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. None of the securities mentioned in the article were held by any accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 9/30/2018.

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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