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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 OPEC Just Cry Uncle?
October 3, 2016

Toronto

Last week I was in beautiful Toronto, where I presented the keynote address and participated in a panel discussion at the annual Mines and Money conference.  It was the first time the highly respected gathering of precious metals analysts and investors came to the Americas, and they couldn’t have chosen  a better city than my hometown. Toronto has long served as a major hub for mining finance and is home to some of the world’s largest gold producers.

Toronto is also one of the most multicultural municipalities on earth. According to its website, over 140 languages and dialects can be heard in the city, with a third of its population speaking a language other than English or French at home. This makes it an extremely attractive destination for professional millennials from all over the globe.

I had the pleasure of attending a Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) event in Toronto as well. The YPO is the world’s preeminent group for global business leaders and executives, providing peer-to-peer learning and networking opportunities among its 24,000 members. The companies they lead generate an impressive $6 trillion in global annual revenue. The daylong event, titled “Culture Shock,” focused on the societal effects of disruptive technology, including advanced robotics, 3D printing, the internet of things and more.

Frank Holmes accepting the award for Best Americas Based Fund Manager, presented by the Mining Journal

While at the Mines and Money conference, the Mining Journal presented its Outstanding Achievement Awards. I’m humbled to share with you that Ralph Aldis and I were co-recipients of the Best Americas Based Fund Manager award. It’s a great honor to have been selected from among such an esteemed group of portfolio managers.

The award symbolizes U.S. Global Investors’ strong commitment to its investors and shareholders. It’s my firm belief that we’ve consistently been a leader in the metals and mining space. I’m deeply proud of what we’ve managed to accomplish over the years, starting almost 30 years ago when I bought a controlling interest in the company. Since then, our funds have been recognized numerous times by Lipper and Morningstar, two trusted independent financial authorities.

OPEC Decision Helps Oil Post Its Second Straight Month of Gains

You’ve probably heard by now that, in an effort to lift oil prices, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) tentatively agreed to a production cut at its meeting in Algiers last week. The cartel, which controls more than a third of world output, plans to limit daily production to between 32.5 million barrels and 33 million barrels, down from 33.2 million barrels.

Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih pushed for product cuts

This comes more than two years since oil prices were kneecapped, wreaking havoc on several OPEC member nations’ economies. Saudi Arabia currently faces a steep budget deficit, as oil revenues make up close to 90 percent of the country’s budget. Meanwhile, Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, has become so worthless that it’s now cheaper to use it as a napkin than to buy actual napkins. Airlines flying to the U.S. won’t even accept bolivars. (Of course, this has more to do with the government’s woeful mismanagement of the country than oil prices.)

It’s important for investors not to get too excited over OPEC’s decision. At the moment, none of this is set in stone. Some OPEC members are already wavering, with Iraq questioning output numbers and Nigeria moving to boost production.

Plus, American producers are likely to step into the void OPEC would create. Compared to last year, production is down only 535,000 barrels a day—and that’s with far fewer operating rigs. But it appears companies are eager to get back to work. In 12 of the last 13 weeks, North American drillers reactivated mothballed rigs. I expect to see the pace rise as it becomes clearer OPEC will make good on its resolution.

American Oil Producers Are REactivating Rigs
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Consolidation Could Ease the Pain

For the past two years, OPEC’s pump-at-will policies have flooded the market with cheap supply, causing economic pain for producers with higher cash costs, including those involved in fracking, the Canadian oil sands and deepwater drilling.

Since January 2015, more than 100 U.S. and Canadian producers have declared bankruptcy, representing a combined $67 billion in debt, according to Dallas law firm Haynes and Boone.

Number of North American Oil and Gas Bankruptcy Filings Exceeds 100
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To weather the low-price environment, global exploration spending has been slashed for two consecutive years. As Bloomberg reports, total investment in world oilfields stands at $450 billion, a significant 24 percent decline from last year. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects the cost-cutting to extend into next year.

This has driven new oil discoveries to their lowest point since 1947.

It also underscores the need for industry consolidation. With exploration budgets down, major oil companies will rely on acquisitions to replace up to half of their reserves, according to energy consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie. When the airline industry was mired in bankruptcies a decade ago, we saw a huge wave of mergers and acquisitions, and we should expect to see the same in the oil patch.

A few big oil and gas deals have come out of the price rout—Royal Dutch Shell’s acquisition of BG, worth $70 billion, is the largest by far—but more will likely take place in the near term. Antitrust officials prevented energy giants Halliburton and Baker Hughes from realizing their $35 billion deal, announced back in November 2014.

America’s Gas Binge Hits a New Record

Oil inventories might be brimming all over the globe, but demand remains strong and expected to swell alongside the global middle class. As I told you in June, India is expected to have the fastest growing demand for crude between now and 2040, replacing China. 

But don’t count the U.S. out. Even with fuel efficiency improving in automobiles, Americans burned through a massive 406 million gallons a day in June, the most recent month of data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This sets a new record, beating the previous one set in July 2007, soon before the recession. The record might be short-lived, however, once the July and August data are released.

Americans Drove to REcord Gasoline Consumption in June
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Low prices have emboldened many Americans to purchase vehicles with lower fuel efficiency such as trucks, vans and SUVs, which has been great for auto companies and lenders.

People are also taking longer road trips. According to the Transportation Department, motorists logged 287.5 billion miles in July, the most ever for the busy summer travel month. That’s the equivalent of taking 3,000 round trips to the sun, which is what it feels like after all the flights I’ve taken recently.

 

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. None of the securities mentioned in the article were held by any accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 6/30/2016.

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The Case for Natural Resource Equities
September 26, 2016

The Case for Natural Resource Equities

Last week I attended the Denver Gold Forum along with three other U.S. Global Investors representatives, including our resident precious metals expert Ralph Aldis. I was happy to see sentiment for gold way up compared to last year’s convention, as was turnout. I was also pleased to see Franco-Nevada, Silver Wheaton and Royal Gold in attendance, all of which I’ve written extensively about.

One of the most interesting presentations was held by Northern Star Resources—the third biggest listed gold producer in Australia, a dividend payer and a longtime holding of USGI. I’ve always appreciated Northern Star’s insistence on being a business first, a mining company second. This shareholder-friendly mantra is reflected in its stellar performance.

Compared to other companies in the NYSE ARCA Gold Miners Index (GDM), Northern Star is a sector leader in a number of factors, including five-year cash flow return on invested capital. Whereas the sector average is negative 1.6 percent over this period, Northern Star’s is a whopping 27 percent, the most of any other mining company in the GDM.

This has helped it return an amazing 800 percent over the last five years as of September 23. Compare that to the GDM, which returned negative 56 percent over the same period.

Australian gold miners as a whole trade at an impressive discount to North American producers, 5.7 times earnings versus 8.3 times earnings, according to Perth-based Doray Minerals.

Top Performing Australian Gold Producers Based Relative Valuations
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Screening for high cash flow returns on invested capital, as you can see, helps give us a competitive advantage and uncovers hidden gems such as Northern Star and others.

Resource Equities Offer Attractive Diversification Benefits

A recent whitepaper published by investment strategist firm GMO makes a very convincing case for natural resource equities. I urge you to check out the entire piece when you have the time, but there are a few salient points I want to share with you here.

In the opinion of Lucas White and Jeremy Grantham, the paper’s authors, “prices of many commodities will rise in the decades to come due to growing demand and the finite supply of cheap resources,” presenting an attractive investment opportunity. Over the long-term, resource stocks have traded at a discount and outperformed their underlining metals and energy by a wide margin.

According to White and Grantham, a portfolio composed of 50 percent energy and metals, 50 percent all other equities, had a standard deviation that’s 35 percent lower than the S&P 500 Index. What’s more, the returns of such a portfolio outperformed those of the S&P 500, resulting in a risk-adjusted return that’s 50 percent higher than that of the broader market.

Long Term Diversification Benefits Resource Stocks
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Resource equities have also historically shown a low to negative correlation to the broader market, which might appeal to bears. The reason? When metals and energy have risen in price, it’s been a drag on the economy. The reverse has also been true: Low prices have been a boon to the economy.

The thing is, general equities currently do not give investors enough exposure to natural resources. The weight of energy and metals in the S&P 500 has been halved in the last few years as oil and other materials have declined. Considering the diversification benefits, investors should consider a greater allocation to the sector.

Timing Is Key

There’s mounting evidence that now might be an opportune time to get back into resource stocks. Following the sharpest decline in crude oil prices in at least a century, as well as a six-year bear market in metals, the global environment could be ripe for a commodity rebound. From its January trough, the Bloomberg Commodity Index has rallied 17 percent, suggesting commodities might be seeking a path to a bull market.

During the down-cycle, many companies managed to bring costs lower, upgrade their asset portfolios and repair their balance sheets. As a result, many of them are now free cash flow positive and are in a much better positon to deliver on the bottom line when commodity prices increase.

I’ve often written about the imbalance between monetary and fiscal policies. My expectation is that unprecedented, expansionary global monetary policy will be followed by fiscal expansion. Consider this: Total assets of major central banks—including those in the U.S., European Union, Japan and China—have skyrocketed to $17.6 trillion dollars as of August 2016, up from $6.3 trillion in 2008.

Total Assets Major Central Banks
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This expansion is expected to result in significant inflation gains over the next decade, an environment in which natural resource stocks have historically outperformed the broader market.

Infrastructure Spending About to Increase?

China largely drove the global infrastructure build out over the past decade as rapid economic growth and rising incomes increased the demand for “advanced” and “quality of life” infrastructure. This resulted in a breathtaking commodities bull market.

Infrastructure Spending Evolves Regions Economic Growth
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Now, other advanced countries, the U.S. especially, are readying to sustain the next cycle to repair its aging and uncompetitive infrastructure.

As you can see, most major economies dramatically cut infrastructure spending after the financial crisis, indicating it might be time to put some of that $17.6 trillion to good use.

Time Major Economies Boost Public Infrastructure Spending
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According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the U.S. is presently facing a funding gap of $1.7 trillion on roads, bridges and transit alone—to say nothing of electricity, schools, airports and other needs. Meanwhile, state and local infrastructure spending is at a 30-year low.

If this financing can’t be raised, says the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), each American household could lose an estimated $3,400 per year. Inefficient roadways and congested airports lead to longer travel times, and goods become more expensive to produce and transport.

Let’s look just at national bridges. After an assessment of bridges last year, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) found that 58,495, or 10 percent of all bridges in the U.S., are “structurally deficient.” To bring all bridges up to satisfactory levels, the U.S. would currently need to spend more than $106 billion, which is six times what was spent nationwide on such projects in 2010.

Infrastructure backbone US economy

Fortunately, both U.S. presidential candidates have pledged to boost infrastructure spending—one of the few things they share with one another. Hillary Clinton says she will spend $275 billion over a five-year period, while Donald Trump says he’ll spend “double” that.

Trump’s central campaign promise, as you know, is to build a “big, beautiful, powerful wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border, which analysts at investment firm Bernstein estimate could cost anywhere between $15 billion and $25 billion, requiring 7 million cubic metres of concrete and 2.4 million tonnes of cement, among other materials.

As I like to say, government policy is a precursor to change. I’ll be listening closely for further details on Trump and Clinton’s infrastructure plans this coming Monday during the candidates’ first debate. I hope you’ll watch it too! Media experts are already predicting Super Bowl-sized audiences.

Don’t Count China Out

In the past year, a lot of ink has been devoted to China’s slowdown after its phenomenal spending boom over the last decade, but there are signs that spending is perking up—a tailwind for resources. According to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese economic activity rebounded in August, driven by government spending on infrastructure and rising property taxes.

“In the first seven months of 2016,” the WSJ writes, “China invested 962.8 billion yuan ($144.1 billion) in roads and waterways, an 8.2 percent increase from the previous year.”

The Asian giant still accounts for a large percentage of global trade in important resources such as iron ore, aluminum, copper and coal. This is why we closely monitor the country’s purchasing manager’s index (PMI), which, according to our own research, has been a reliable indicator of commodity price performance three and six months out.

 

EXPLORE INVESTING OPPORTUNITIES IN NATURAL RESOURCES

 

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.

Cash Flow Return on Invested Capital (CFROIC) is defined as consolidated cash flow from operating activities minus capital expenditures, the difference of which is divided by the difference between total assets and non-interest bearing current liabilities. 

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 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 S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The Bloomberg Commodity Index is made up of 22 exchange-traded futures on physical commodities. The index represents 20 commodities, which are weighted to account for economic significance and market liquidity.

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.

There is no guarantee that the issuers of any securities will declare dividends in the future or that, if declared, will remain at current levels or increase over time.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 6/30/2016: Franco-Nevada Corp., Silver Wheaton Corp., Royal Gold Inc., Northern Star Resources Ltd., Doray Minerals Ltd., Saracen Minerals Holdings Ltd., Evolution Mining Ltd., St. Barbara Ltd.

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11 Reasons Why Everyone Wants to Move to Texas
August 30, 2016

Texas Wind Power

As many of you know, I was born in Canada but moved to the great State of Texas 26 years ago when I bought a controlling stake in U.S. Global Investors. As a “Tex-Can,” I’m so proud of my adoptive state and grateful for all that it’s done to help our company flourish.

But you don’t have to be a business owner to love and appreciate Texas. As you’ll see, many people are moving to the Lone Star State to take advantage of its many employment opportunities, tax advantages and all-around greatness. Below are just 11 reasons why more and more people want to move to Texas!  

1. Check out Our Mettle

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro now belongs to history, and by a very wide margin, American competitors walked away with the most medals: 121 altogether. Looking at gold medals, the U.S. still ranked first, with 46 won. But if we took away what Texas collected, the Land of the Free would have fallen to third place, behind the U.K. and China.

Texas would rank third in Olympic gold medals if it were its own country
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Houston was the winningest Texas city. Home to Olympic medalists Simone Biles, Simone Manuel, Kerron Clement and more, H-Town is now 10 gold medals richer.

2. Moneybags

Texas is competitive in more than just Olympic events, of course. The state has the second-largest gross domestic product (GDP) in the Union, following California. If it were its own country, Texas would clock in at number 12 in the world, snuggled in between Canada and Australia.

Texas would rank twelth in GDP if it were its own country
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3. Tex-Can

If Texas were its own nation, in fact, its economy would be about the same size as Canada’s.

The Global Scale of America's Economy
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4. This Is Oil Country

Another thing Texas has in common with Canada? Black gold. Barrelsful of it.

Last month, Oslo-based Rystad Energy shared a report that shows the U.S. as now having the world’s largest reserve of recoverable oil, with 264 billion barrels in existing fields, unconventional shale and as-yet undiscovered areas. This is the first time such a report has moved the country ahead of both Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Were it not for the contributions of oil-rich Texas, however, this might not be the case. Thanks in large part to fracking in prolific fields such as the Eagle Ford Formation and Sprayberry Trend, the state leads all others in crude production, annually gushing out more than a third of total U.S. output.

You can see how the fracking boom helped propel the state into the same league as major OPEC nations Iraq, Iran, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

Texas Oil Production Raced Up to OPEC Gulf States
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5. A Mighty Wind

Texas is more than oil, of course. The natural-resource-rich state is also known for its natural gas production (it leads the nation), coal, electricity (again, number one in the States) and renewable energy—specifically, wind energy.

Texas Wind Power

Thanks to Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) and $33 billion in invested capital, Texas ranks first in the nation for installed wind capacity and the number of megawatts generated by wind. In 2015, close to 10 percent of the state’s electricity production came from wind, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

With an estimated 17,000 Texans already employed in the state’s wind energy industry, Texas is in the process of installing an additional 5,200 megawatts.

6. Men at Work

Speaking of employment, that’s something else you can find a lot of in the Lone Star State. The oil industry might have taken a hit from falling crude prices, but the Texas economy has proven resilient. As you can see, the 2007-2008 global financial crisis had much less of an impact on state unemployment rates compared to other major countries and regions such as Canada, Australia, the European Union and United States.  

Texas Currently Has Lowest Unemployment Rate Among Selected Countries and Regions
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7. All Roads Lead to Texas

Welcome to Texas, drive friendly The Texas Way

Important to keeping business and commerce flowing, as well as helping commuters travel to and from their work, are roads. Texas has them in spades. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the state is connected by 313,596 miles of public road, the most of any state. With 18 numbered interstate highways, it also has more interstate miles than any other does.

If it were its own country, Texas would rank 13th by road network size, somewhere between Germany and Sweden.

At only $0.20 per gallon, the Texas gas tax is among the most reasonable in the nation. And because almost that entire amount goes to public transportation—$0.05 is devoted to public education—Texas has some of the best roads in the U.S.

While we’re on the topic of transportation, Texas also boasts the most airports of any state—1,415, according to StateMaster. Two of the four major U.S. carriers, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, are headquartered in the Lone Star State.    

8. No Income Tax

There are only seven states without an income tax, Texas among them. (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming round out the list.) 

Average Income Tax by State
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Neither does the state impose a corporate income tax, and last summer, Governor Gregg Abbott approved $4 billion in tax cuts for businesses and homeowners.

9. Gold Star State

The Texas bullion depository will be first in the nation

Governor Abbott is also responsible for what will be a first in the United States. More than a year after he signed a law to repatriate $1 billion in Texas gold bullion from a private HSBC vault in New York, construction will soon begin on the Texas Bullion Depository. Such a state-run gold depository doesn’t currently exist anywhere else in the U.S. It’s hoped that it will help turn Texas into a “financial Mecca,” in the words of one state senator.

10. Population Destination

Low taxes are one of the main appeals driving Texas’ rapid population growth. According to the Census Bureau, five of the 11 fastest-growing U.S. cities by population can be found in Texas. Ranking number two in the nation is New Braunfels, a lovely town originally settled by Germans that lies midway between San Antonio and Austin.

Between July 2014 and July 2015, the Lone Star State added 490,036 new residents, the most of any state by a wide margin.

Texas Added More REsidents than any other STate
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To put this in perspective, the number of new Texas arrivals alone between 2014 and 2015 exceeds the total populations of several countries, including Malta (population: 429,366, as of December 2014), Brunei (411,900, as of July 2014) and Iceland (336,060, as of June 2016). 

11. Bet on Tech

Texas Leads the Nation in Technology Exports

It’s not just people moving to Texas, though. Companies are as well—specifically tech companies, and, to get even more granular, Silicon Valley tech companies. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that, in recent years, more than $1 billion in taxable income has flowed from the Bay Area to Texas, as tech firms have sought not just lower taxes but also simpler regulation.

Indeed, the Lone Star State has emerged as a formidable tech hub to rival Silicon Valley. Employing more than 270,000 people, the state’s tech industry supports firms ranging in size from hip Austin startups to massive Fortune 500 companies such as Dell, Texas Instruments and Rackspace Hosting (which just agreed to a $4.3 billion acquisition deal by private equity firm Apollo Global Management).

For the last three years, Texas has led the nation in high-tech exports—everything from semiconductors to communications equipment. Last year, in fact, the state’s total sales amount exceeded California’s by a whopping $6.3 billion.

No wonder so many people are choosing Texas as the place to hang their hat!

 

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 6/30/2016: American Airlines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co.

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Silver Takes the Gold: Commodities Halftime Report 2016
July 11, 2016

Silver Takes the Gold: Commodities Halftime Report 2016

Here we are at the halfway point of the year, less than two months away from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. As a group, commodities are the top performing asset class, beating domestic equities, the U.S. dollar and Treasuries.

Commodities, the Top Performer in First Half of 2016

Below is our ever-popular Periodic Table of Commodities Returns, updated to reflect the first half of 2016. Click to see an enlarged version.

The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns
click to enlarge

Commodities’ performance is quite a reversal from the weakness we’ve seen lately, particularly last year, but we shouldn’t expect another 2004 or 2005, when global trade was humming. Conditions are still not ripe for a real takeoff, with manufacturing activity in China and the eurozone struggling to gain momentum.

But there’s hope. Many of the challenges standing in the way of growth were exposed when Britain voted last month to leave the European Union (EU), which I’ve been writing about for the past few weeks. Most recently, I highlighted some of the winners to emerge from Brexit, among them gold investors, U.S. homeowners and British luxury goods makers.

Hopefully we can add global trade to the list. Brexit has brought to light some of the corruption and economic strangulation by regulation that chokes the flow of capital. Last week I had the opportunity to speak with some EU citizens. Their frustration was palpable. The cronyism among the EU’s unelected officials is nothing new, but it’s only worsened over the past decade and a half, they said. The British referendum has encouraged a balanced, intercontinental discussion on the direction Brussels must take now that the corruption and depth of discontent have been exposed for the world to see.    

Precious Metals Shine Brightly on Macroeconomic and Geopolitical Concerns

Silver demand had a phenomenal 2015, with retail investment and jewelry fabrication both reaching all-time highs. Led by consumers in the U.S. and India, coin and bar investment soared 24 percent from the previous year, while jewelers gobbled up a record 226.5 million ounces. According to the Silver Institute’s World Silver Survey 2016, metal demand for photovoltaic installation climbed 23 percent in 2015, offsetting some of the losses we continue to see in photographic applications.

Global Demand for Silver Bars Surged 24% in 2015
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Caused by worries of a summer interest rate hike and uptick in the U.S. dollar, gold and silver both stalled in May but have since rallied on the back of Brexit and with government bond yields in freefall. For the first time ever, Switzerland’s entire stock of bonds has fallen below zero, with the 50-year yield plummeting to negative 0.03 percent on July 5.

Switzerland 50-Year Bond Yield
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All-time low yields can also be found in the U.S.—where the 10-year Treasury yield fell nearly 38 percent in the first half—U.K., Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Japan and elsewhere. Roughly $10 trillion worth of global government debt, in fact, now carry low to subzero yields.

This has been highly constructive for gold and silver, as yields and precious metals tend to be inversely related.

What’s more, the rally doesn’t appear to be done, with UBS analysts making the case last week that we’re in the early stages of a new bull run. Credit Suisse sees gold testing the $1,500 an ounce mark as early as the beginning of 2017. As for silver, some forecasters place it at between $25 and $32 an ounce by year’s end.

The risk now is that higher prices are pushing away some potential investors. Today Bloomberg reported that gold imports in India plunged a sizable 52 percent in the first half of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015.

Supply and Demand Rebalancing?

Much of the price appreciation has been driven by a global rebalance in supply and demand. Dismal prices over the last couple of years compelled explorers and producers to cut activity and other capital expenditures, while demand continues to rise.

This dynamic certainly helped  zinc, the best performing industrial metal of 2016 so far. During the first four months of the year, mine production fell 8.1 percent from the same time a year earlier due to declines in Australia, India, Peru and Ireland, according to the International Lead and Zinc Study Group. In January, London-based Verdanta Resources made its last zinc shipment from its Lisheen Mine in Ireland, which for the last 17 years had produced an average 300,000 tonnes of zinc and 38,000 tonnes of lead concentrate per year.

Meanwhile, the demand for refined zinc, used primarily to galvanize steel, is expected to increase 3.5 percent this year. What might surprise you is that a large percentage of this growth can be attributed to China, which is still investing heavily in infrastructure, even as money supply growth has slowed.

This rebalancing has also bolstered crude oil prices, up 73 percent since its 2016 low in February. Unplanned production outages in Canada, Nigeria, Iraq and elsewhere removed a collective 3.6 million barrels per day off the market in May alone. Coupled with ongoing declines in the North American rig count—U.S. crude production is now at a two-year low—this helped nudge prices up to levels not seen since July 2015.

Month-over-month change in global oil supply disruptions
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At the same time, global consumption is expected to increase by 1.5 million barrels a day both this year and next, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with North America and Asia, particularly China and India, responsible for much of the growth.

Record Automobile Sales Support Commodities

Crude consumption is also being supported by robust automobile sales, which set a six-month record in the U.S. following six straight years of growth. Between January and June, sales reached an all-time high of 8.65 million units, up 1.5 percent from the same period last year. In China, the world’s number one auto market, 10.7 million vehicles were sold in the first five months, an impressive year-over-year increase of 7 percent. Sales of light vehicles, especially motorcycles, have been strong in India.

As you might expect, this has likewise benefited demand for platinum and palladium, both used in the production of autocatalysts. The CPM Group anticipates palladium demand to reach an all-time high this year, up 3 percent from last year, on tightened emissions standards and the purchase of larger cars and trucks in the U.S. on lower fuel costs. (The larger the engine, the more palladium or platinum is needed to reduce emissions.)

Autocatalyst Production Driving Palladium Demand
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Since January, the platinum group metals (PGMs) have increased over a third in price, marking the end of an 18-month bear cycle, according to Metals Focus’ Platinum & Palladium Focus 2016. Fundamentals have improved since last year, when EU growth concerns and Volkswagen’s emissions scandal weighed heavily on investment prospects.

Like zinc, crude and other commodities, the PGMs were supported the last six months by lower output levels, as labor disputes in South Africa—the world’s largest platinum producer and number two largest palladium producing country—disrupted operations.

EXPLORE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN PRECIOUS METALS

 

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. None of the securities mentioned in the article were held by any accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 03/31/2016.

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Canada Wildfires Still Not Reflected in Official Oil Inventories
June 16, 2016

The Alberta wildfires have knocked millions of barrels of oil offline.

A month and a half after they began, the Fort McMurray wildfires in Alberta, Canada still blaze on in contained patches. Already estimated to be the most expensive disaster in Canadian history, costing the Albertan economy $70 million per day, the fires are now believed to be the work of humans, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Regardless of how it started, “the beast,” as some call it, has been a major disruptor to oil sands operations north of the fires. Affected exploration companies are looking at a collective loss of more than $1.4 billion. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that an average of 800,000 barrels per day in production were taken offline last month, contributing greatly to May’s having the highest monthly level of unplanned global oil supply disruptions since the agency began tracking such data in 2011.

Altogether, 3.6 million barrels per day were lost in May around the world, nudging crude prices up to levels we haven’t seen since July of last year.

Month-over-Month change in global oil supply disruptions
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This month, disruptions caused by the fires are expected to average 400,000 barrels per day. Many companies such as Suncor Energy, ConocoPhillips Canada, Syncrude Canada and Athabasca Oil have returned to the oil sands and are now beginning to pump crude again, but it will be weeks before they resume full production.

Similarly, it will be days before the disruptions “show up” in the official inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, the largest commercial storage hub in the U.S. When this happens, it might prompt investors to buy crude based on lower inventories, even if only in the short term, helping to lift prices even more.

All Pipes Lead to Cushing

A lot of Canadian oil—not to mention crude from North Dakota and gas from Pennsylvania—bottlenecks in Cushing, Oklahoma, where it’s all stored and blended. From there it’s dispatched by rail and pipelines to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere.

Major U.S. Crude Oil Pip Lines


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Every week, the EIA releases a report detailing crude flows and oil stock levels in each of the nation’s Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts, or PADDs, of which there are five: New England (PADD 1), Midwest (2), Gulf Coast (3), Rocky Mountain (4) and West Coast (5). Many analysts and investors pay special attention to PADD 2 because, among other reasons, the overwhelming majority of Canada’s crude exports to the U.S. enter through the Midwest district, usually through Chicago, before ending up in Cushing.

Looking at PADD 2, then, gives you a good idea of what percentage of inventory change at Cushing is a reflection of fluctuations in Canada’s output.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Below, you can see that storage levels in PADD 2 are still above their five-year range, though with a narrower margin than the same time last year. At the tail end of the weekly amount, the line is clearly tapering down—maybe not dramatically, but it’s a good sign that supply and demand could be starting to rebalance, as I discussed in an earlier post.

PADD 2 Crude Oil Stocks
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You might infer that at least some of this drawdown is a result of the production outages in Alberta. But the truth is that we probably won’t see a meaningful decline until later this month. That’s mainly because oil moves at only three to five miles per hour through the Keystone Pipeline, creating a delay of between five and six weeks from the time it leaves Calgary to the time it arrives in Cushing. The other reason is that Canada might have initially exported some of its local inventories to make up for the supply disruption.

Sophisticated investors have already accounted for this time delay. They will also be first to act when the disruption is fully reflected in the EIA’s weekly reports.

In any case, lower inventories in the short-term should temporarily help supply and demand rebalance, along with the drop in the North American rig count.

 

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 3/31/2016:  Suncor Energy Inc.

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