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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.

Gold Glimmers as the Pool of Negative-Yielding Debt Surges
March 18, 2019

Gold Glimmers as the Pool of Negative-Yielding Debt Surges

It was a tragic week, to say the least. It began with a fluke Ethiopian Airlines crash, which led to the grounding of all Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets worldwide, and ended with a hateful terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. On behalf of everyone at U.S. Global Investors, I want to extend my deepest sympathies to all those who were affected.

I’ll have more to say on airlines in a moment.

For now, I want to share with you a tweet by Lisa Abramowicz, a reporter for Bloomberg Radio and TV who often comments on the “fear” market.

“The pool of negative yielding debt has risen to a new post-2017 high of $9.2 trillion,” she writes. “Mind boggling at a time when the global economy is supposedly still recovering.”

Since Lisa tweeted this last Wednesday, the value of negative-yielding bonds has ticked up even more, to $9.32 trillion. This is still below the 2016 high of $12.2 trillion, but, as Lisa said, mind-boggling nonetheless. It also indicates that investors fear global economic growth is slowing.

The Pool of Negative-Yielding Bonds Has Climbed to a New High
click to enlarge

The yield on Japan’s 10-year government bond is back in negative territory, trading at negative 3 basis points (bps) today, while Germany’s was trading at a low, low 8 bps.

As I’ve explained to you before, low to negative-yielding debt has historically been constructive for gold prices. The yellow metal doesn’t have a yield, but in the past it’s been a tried-and-true store of value when other safe haven assets, such as government bonds, stopped paying you anything. In the case of Japanese bonds right now, investors are actually paying the government—and that’s before you factor in inflation.

This is just one of many reasons why I recommend a 10 percent weighting in gold, with 5 percent in physical bullion and jewelry, the other 5 percent in high-quality gold stocks and funds. Remember to rebalance at least once a year.

For more on gold, watch my interview last week with Daniela Cambone, live from Kitco’s New York studio! Click here!  

Aircraft Are Safer, Easier to Fly

Back to the Ethiopian flight. I’m confident we’ll soon learn what malfunctioned in the 737 MAX—both last week and in October during Indonesia’s Lion Air flight—so that accidents like this may never happen again.

Having said that, I think it’s important to keep in mind that commercial air travel today has never been safer in its approximately 100-year history. In 2017, the safest year for aviation on record, not a single life was lost in a commercial plane crash, despite more than 4 billion people around the world taking to the skies on scheduled passenger flights. You would be hard-pressed to find another major global industry, one that operates 24/7, with such an impressive safety track record.

Commercial Air Travel Has Never Been Safer
click to enlarge

This is all largely thanks to continuous improvements in aviation technology. Over the decades, aircraft have progressively gotten safer and easier to fly, according to one aeronautics professor at MIT.

“The automation systems that we have on airplanes have demonstrably made airplanes safer,” R. John Hansman, director of MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation, told Boston’s WBUR radio station last week.

And the technological advancements continue today, with artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) already starting to change the way we fly.

Consider Aireon. Founded in 2011, the aerospace tech firm is responsible for developing a next-generation airline tracking and surveillance system that has the capacity to measure every aircraft’s speed, heading, altitude and position—all in real-time. Using as many as 66 satellites, Aireon’s team gathers data broadcast by tiny transponders, which all U.S. and European planes will be required to carry by next year.

Aireon diagram

It was the company’s data, in fact, that ultimately convinced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to join the rest of the world in temporarily grounding the 737 MAX.

“Take a Ride on the Airline Stocks,” Writes the National Bank of Canada

In light of the accident, a number of research houses and brokerage firms released notes to investors reassuring them that Boeing’s troubles should have only minimal impact on the airline industry as a whole.

Shares of Boeing, the largest company in the Dow Jones Industrial Average by market cap, surged as much as 2.5 percent on Friday after it was announced that the jet manufacturer plans to roll out a software update for the MAX 8 and 9 within the next 10 days—much sooner than initially expected.

Analysts at Raymond James point out that the “737 MAX 8/9 aircraft are still a small part of overall fleet for most U.S. airlines, which in off-peak travel season can likely be covered by higher utilization of existing fleet or delays in certain aircraft retirements.”

Vertical Research’s Darryl Genovesi, an expert in airline revenue, says that he believes the 737 MAX grounding will have an “immaterial” effect on U.S. airlines’ first-quarter earnings per share (EPS). And if the grounding is extended into the second quarter, or into the second half of the year, we may even see higher EPS due to a supply demand imbalance.

Genovesi writes that Vertical’s models indicate that, in the event of an extended grounding, “system RASM [revenue per available seat mile] would increase by ~200 bps… This would be ~3 percent accretive to second-quarter EPS, on average, across the group including a ~9 percent EPS boost for Alaska Airlines, JetBlue and Spirit Airlines and low-single-digit boost for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Continental and Allegiant Air, partially offset by a low-single-digit EPS reduction for Southwest Airlines.”

Southwest has the largest number of 737 MAX 8s in the world, with a reported 34 planes in its fleet.

Air Canada the Leading Carrier in the Country
click to enlarge

Finally, looking at the Canadian market, the National Bank of Canada says that both Air Canada and WestJet Airlines “remain constructive despite the recent turbulence.”

“The negative news has not changed the overall positive trend in [Air Canada’s] stock,” analyst Dennis Mark writes.

Like what you read? Get even more award-winning market analysis by subscribing to our Investor Alert. 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. 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.

The Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Negative Yielding Debt Market Value Index measures the stock of debt with yields below zero issued by governments, companies and mortgage providers around the world which are members of the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index.

Earnings per share (EPS) is the portion of a company's profit allocated to each share of common stock. Earnings per share serve as an indicator of a company's profitability.

A basis point one hundredth of one percent, used chiefly in expressing differences of interest rates.

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): The Boeing Co., Alaska Air Group Inc., American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., Spirit Airlines Inc., Allegiant Travel Co., JetBlue Airways Corp., Air Canada.

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Getting In on the Ground Floor With World-Class Companies
March 4, 2019

AI Will Add $15 Trillion to the Global Economy by 2030

Last week I had the privilege of attending BMO's 28th Annual Global Metals & Mining Conference in Hollywood, Florida, along with portfolio manager and precious metals expert Ralph Aldis. The BMO conference is an epic event that brings together the “who’s who” of mining and natural resources—think Pierre Lassonde, Robert Friedland, Marin Katusa and many, many more.

Sentiment was cautiously bullish on gold and precious metals, while mega-mergers and takeovers were top of mind for many attendees and presenters. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the news of Barrick Gold’s bid for rival Newmont Mining dominated the buzz. In case you’re not aware, Barrick is currently seeking to persuade shareholders to support its $18 billion hostile takeover of the Colorado-based miner.

Top 10 Patent Applications in the AI Field

This latest round of industry consolidation follows the Barrick-Randgold Resources merger, announced back in September, as well as Newmont’s own deal with Goldcorp in January. If Barrick is successful in its bid, however, Newmont must break off the $10 billion deal with Goldcorp.

Even before all of this began, Barrick was the world’s largest gold producer, with a market cap of nearly $21 billion. If it manages to acquire Newmont, it would become an untouchable behemoth.

Here’s an illustration of just how big the resultant company would be: World gold output stood at 158 million ounces last year, and of that, Barrick, Randgold and Newmont produced a combined 10.85 million ounces. Those three companies alone, then, were responsible for one out of every 14 ounces or so worldwide.

I have so much more to say on this, but for now, I invite you to watch my interview with Kitco News’ Daniela Cambone, direct from the BMO conference. Click here to see it!

A Record of Early-Stage Investing

The metals and mining industry could be undergoing some dramatic changes in the near future. It’s important for investors to get in on the ground floor when this happens.

Back in 2017, we were seed investors in HIVE Blockchain Technologies, the world’s first publicly traded cryptocurrency mining firm. We also recognized the value of the disruptive jewelry manufacturer Mene, and were able to make a private investment months before it was listed on the TSX Venture Exchange. More recently, I introduced you to GoldSpot Discoveries, the very first company to harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) in the mineral exploration process. We made a sizeable allocation in the company, and I was named chairman of the board.

Goldspot Discoveries tweet

We’re not new to any of this, of course. I’m proud of our track record of getting in early with a number of now-phenomenally successful companies. We were among the original financers of American Barrick Resources, before it changed its name to Barrick Gold in 1995. Ditto for Wheaton River Minerals, now known as Wheaton Precious Metals—one of our favorite royalty and streaming companies.

This is just one among many reasons why I believe active management still plays an essential role in investors’ portfolios. It also brings to mind the concept of “synchronicity.”

Be Mindful of Meaningful Connections

The word “synchronicity” was first coined by the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, a disciple of Sigmund Freud. It says that events are meaningful coincidences if they occur with no causal connection yet seem to be meaningfully related.

Jung conceived of synchronicity after he observed a curious incident. A client described to him a dream she had the previous night of a golden scarab—a very expensive piece of jewelry. The very next day, while meeting with the same client, an insect struck his office window. Upon closer inspection, Jung saw that it was a scarab beetle, which closely resembled the piece of jewelry from his client’s dream. The insect is very rare in Jung’s native Switzerland. “Here is your scarab,” he reportedly told her.

Goldspot Discoveries tweet

Photo by: Chrumps, CC BY-SA 3.0

The two events—the dream and the insect encounter—cannot reasonably be called causally connected. But they’re meaningfully related.

Synchronicity was one of many topics we discussed this year at Harvard Business School, where I go every year along with as many as 150 CEOs from dozens of different countries.

The theme really rang true for me and many of my fellow CEOs. Many of us believe that luck, ambition and positive thinking all play a role in our lives and business decisions, and have helped us get where we are today.

I feel grateful and blessed every day that I’m in a position to find solutions, to stay curious to learn and improve and to find opportunities—opportunities such as HIVE, Mene, GoldSpot and many more.

Feeling left out? Make sure you subscribe to the U.S. Global Investors YouTube channel by clicking here!

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 12/31/2018: Barrick Gold Corp., Newmont Mining Corp., Mene Inc., Wheaton Precious Metals Corp.

Frank Holmes was appointed non-executive chairman of the Board of Directors of HIVE Blockchain Technologies. Both Mr. Holmes and U.S. Global Investors own shares of HIVE, directly and indirectly. Investing in crypto-coins or tokens is HIGHLY SPECULATIVE and the market is largely unregulated.

Frank Holmes was appointed chairman of the Board of Directors of GoldSpot Discoveries. Both Mr. Holmes and U.S. Global Investors own shares of GoldSpot.

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AI Will Add $15 Trillion to the World Economy by 2030
February 25, 2019

AI Will Add $15 Trillion to the Global Economy by 2030
Photo: bagogames/flickr | Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to an exciting new company called GoldSpot Discoveries, conceived and headed by mining visionary Denis Laviolette. GoldSpot is the world’s first exploration company to use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in the discovery process for precious metals and other natural resources. Not yet three years old, it’s already had a number of successes locating optimal target zones.

I’m pleased to inform you now that GoldSpot began trading last week on the TSX Venture Exchange under the ticker SPOT. This is a giant leap forward not just for the company and its team but also AI in general.

I’m also thrilled to have been named chairman of GoldSpot’s board of directors, effective today.

It’s important for readers to realize that AI is no longer the stuff of science fiction. The technology is already disrupting multiple industries, many of which impact you on a daily basis. Own an iPhone X? Its facial recognition system is powered by AI. Ever been redirected by Google Maps because of an accident or construction ahead? You guessed it: AI.

And those are just a couple of small examples. By one estimate, AI contributed a whopping $2 trillion to global GDP last year. By 2030, it could be as much as $15.7 trillion, “making it the biggest commercial opportunity in today’s fast changing economy,” according to a recent report by PwC.

Artificial Intelligence Projected Impact on Global GDP
click to enlarge

AI: The “New Electricity”

Not every industry and sector will be affected equally, but none will go untouched.

“AI is the new electricity,” says Chinese-English computer scientist and entrepreneur Andrew Ng. “I can hardly imagine an industry which is not going to be transformed by AI.”

Among the industries that have been fastest to adopt AI, according to PwC, are health care, automotive and financial services. Earlier and more accurate diagnostics, powered by AI, means earlier treatment of life-threatening diseases. Once on the market, self-driving cars will free up an estimated 300 hours the typical American spends driving every year. And more and more people are putting their trust in robo-advisors to manage their wealth.

Robo-Advisor Platforms Forecast to Continue Growing Around the World
click to enlarge

AI patents have surged in the past five years alone, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). From 2013 to the end of 2017, the number of patents grew nearly three times, from 19,000 to more than 55,600.

The massive increase in patenting “means we can expect a very significant number of new AI-based products, applications and techniques that will alter our daily lives—and also shape future human interaction with the machines we created,” comments WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry.

A majority of the top 500 applicants are from China, the U.S. and South Korea. Only four are from Europe. At the top of the list sits IBM, with an incredible 8,290 inventions (so far), followed by Microsoft, which has 5,930 patents to its name.

Top 10 Patent Applications in the AI Field
click to enlarge

As you might imagine, the U.S. government wants to ensure that the country remain competitive against Asia. This very month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order urging federal agencies to prioritize AI investments in research and development. The American AI Initiative, as it’s called, says that these measures  are “critical to creating the industries of the future, like autonomous cars, industrial robots, algorithms for disease diagnosis and more.”

“I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible,” Trump tweeted last week, presumably in response to news that Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE could be first to bring fifth-generation cellular technology to market. “American companies must step up their efforts or get left behind. There is no reason that we should be lagging behind on… something that is so obviously the future.” 

Bringing AI to the Miners

Interestingly enough, the industry that’s been slowest to adopt AI is manufacturing, including industrial products and raw materials, according to PwC.

The metals and mining industry has been especially resistant to adoption, with spending on innovation far below that of other industries.

To be fair, not every miner has been behind the curve. For more than 10 years now, Rio Tinto has been using AI-powered autonomous trucks to haul materials, reducing fuel consumption and increasing safety in the process. The London-based producer also uses autonomous loaders and drills, and its highly anticipated “intelligent mine” in Western Australia is slated to begin operations in 2021.

But much more could be done, Denis says, especially when it comes to utilizing the mountains of data already at our fingertips. Miners were “paying for all this data, but no one was really doing anything with it,” he told me earlier this month.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal in December, Denis commented that he had seen “an awful lot of posturing” when it came to miners claiming to be interested in modernizing operations and integrating AI. “They say they are working on this internally, then you find out they haven’t got anywhere.”

This is precisely why he conceived of GoldSpot Discoveries. I’m fully convinced that mining’s future belongs to AI, with Denis and GoldSpot leading the way. I invite you to learn more by visiting the company’s website by clicking 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.

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 12/31/2018.

Frank Holmes has been appointed chairman of the Board of Directors of GoldSpot Discoveries. U.S. Global Investors owns shares of GoldSpot.

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This AI Company Is the Future of Gold Exploration
February 11, 2019

 

Goldspot

Gold mining is one of the very oldest human occupations. The earliest known underground gold mine, in what is now the country of Georgia, dates back at least 5,000 years, when people were just starting to develop written language.

Over the centuries, a number of innovations have emerged that disrupted and forever changed how we explore and mine for gold and other metals. Think dynamite, or the steam engine.

Lately, however, innovation has slowed. Mining companies are in cost-cutting mode, and many producers have favored generating short-term cash flow, often to the detriment of longer-term value. In last year’s “Tracking the Trends” report, Deloitte analysts observed that “miners from 50 years ago would find little has changed if they entered today’s mines, a situation that certainly doesn’t hold true in other industries.”

Mining has consistently underspent in innovation relative to other industries
click to enlarge

Consider the earth-shattering change that’s taken place in oil and gas over the past two decades. Fracking and horizontal drilling have completely revolutionized how we extract resources from the ground, making hard-to-reach oil and natural gas accessible for the first time.

No equivalent technology exists in precious metals. Some companies are now using cutting-edge technology like blockchain to improve supply chain efficiency and transparency, but to date there’s no “gold fracking” method. As a result, metal ore grades are decreasing, and large-scale gold discoveries are becoming fewer and farther between.

One company thinks it has the formula to reverse this trend. I think it could be sitting on a gold mine, pun fully intended.

Meet Goldspot Discoveries

“Some people call it ‘peak gold,’ but I tend to think of it more as ‘peak discovery,’” says Denis Laviolette, the brains behind Goldspot Discoveries, a first-of-its-kind quant shop that aims to use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to revolutionize the mineral exploration business.

A geologist by trade, Denis conceived of Goldspot while serving as a mining analyst with investment banking firm Pinetree Capital. His vision, as he described it to me last week, was to disrupt mineral exploration as profoundly as Amazon disrupted retail and Uber the taxi business.

Central Banks Haven't Bought This Much Gold Since Nixon Was President

“We have more data at our fingertips than ever before, yet new discoveries have been on the decline despite ever increasing exploration spending on data collection,” Denis continues. “We believe Goldpsot can change that. Harnessing a mountain’s worth of historic and current global mining data, AI can identify patterns necessary to fingerprint geophysical, geochemical, lithological and structural traits that correlate to mineralization. Advances in AI, cloud computing, open source algorithms, machine learning and other technologies have made it possible for us to aggregate all this data and accurately target where the best spots to explore are.”

Hence the name Goldspot—though I should point out that Denis considers the Montreal-based company “commodity agnostic,” meaning it collects and aggregates data for all metals, including base metals, not just gold.

Moneyball for Mining

Denis has the record to back up his extraordinary claims. In 2016, Goldspot took second place in the Integra Gold Rush Challenge, a competition with as many as 4,600 worldwide applicants. After consolidating more than 30 years of historical mining and exploration data into a 3D geological model, the company was able to identify several target zones with the highest potential for gold mineralization in Nevada’s Jerritt Canyon district, among several others.

Moneyball

Goldspot’s targeting approach was a complete success. New zones were discovered by AI, validating the company’s models of finding patterns in the data that humans alone couldn’t have seen.

The exercise stands as an example of what can be unlocked when machine learning is applied to geoscience.

“When I first entered the field, geologists were still using pen and paper, and I’m not even that old,” Denis says. “We were paying for all this data, but no one was really doing anything with it.”

 

Denis’ quant approach to discovery reminds me a lot of Billy Beane, the former general manager of the Oakland A’s and subject of the 2003 bestseller and 2011 film Moneyball. Beane was among the first in sports to pick players, many of them overlooked and undervalued, based on quantitative analysis. His strategy worked better than anyone anticipated.

Although the A’s had one of the lowest combined salaries in Major League Baseball—only the Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays had lower salaries—the team finished the 2002 season first in the American League West.

Similarly, Goldspot seeks to help mining companies cut some of the costs and risks associated with discovering high-quality deposits—something it’s managed to do for a number of its clients and partners, including Hochschild Mining, McEwen Mining and Yamana Gold.

And speaking of teams, Denis has assembled an impressive roster of PhDs and experts in geology, physics, data science and other fields.

But Wait, There’s More…

The company, not yet three years old, does more than assist in exploration. It also invests in and acquires royalties from exploration companies, similar to the business model practiced by successful firms such as Franco-Nevada, Wheaton Precious Minerals, Royal Gold and others.>

The difference, though, is that Goldspot has developed an AI-powered screening platform to identify the very best and potentially most profitable investment opportunities.

For this, Goldspot has also received accolades. It was one of only five finalists in Goldcorp’s 2017 #DisruptMining challenge, for “revolutionizing the investment decision model by using the Goldspot Algorithm to stake acreage, acquire projects and royalties, and invest in public vehicles to create a portfolio of assets with the greatest reward to risk ratio.”

I’ll certainly have more to say about Goldspot in the coming weeks. For now, I’m excited to share with you that the company is scheduled to begin trading on the TSX Venture Exchange early this week. The future belongs to those that can mine data and harness the power of AI, and I’m convinced that what Denis and his partners have created fits that bill. Congratulations, and the best of luck to Denis Laviolette and Goldspot Discoveries!

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 (12/31/2018): Integra Resources Corp., Hochschild Mining PLC, McEwen Mining Inc., Yamana Gold Inc., Franco-Nevada Corp., Wheaton Precious Metals Corp., Royal Gold Inc.

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Central Banks Haven't Bought This Much Gold Since Nixon Closed the Gold Window
February 4, 2019

Central Banks Haven't Bought This Much Gold Since Nixon Was President

Something big is happening in the gold market right now, and nowhere is that more apparent than in central banks of emerging economies. Last year was a watershed in the size of official gold purchases, as banks added an incredible 651.5 tonnes (worth some $27.7 billion) to their holdings, according to the World Gold Council (WGC). Not only is this a remarkable 74 percent change from 2017, but it’s also the most on record going back to 1971, when President Richard Nixon brought a formal end to the gold standard. In the final quarter of 2018 alone, central banks purchased as much as 195 tonnes, the most for any quarter on record, according to leading precious metal research firm GFMS.

Net Central Bank Gold Purchases in Fourth Quarter 2018 Were Highest on Record
click to enlarge

As I’ve shared with you before, central banks have been net buyers of the yellow metal since 2010 in an effort to diversify their reserves away from the U.S. dollar. Last week, I had the opportunity to discuss the issue with SmallCapPower’s Vasudha Sharma. You can watch the conversation by clicking here.

Most Western nations already have a comfortable weighting in gold relative to their total reserves, so the demand is almost strictly from emerging markets. Among the biggest purchasers last year were Russia, Turkey and Kazakhstan, and we also saw China add to its holdings for the first time since 2016. Meanwhile, Hungary, Poland, India and a number of other countries took deliveries for the first time this century.

Central Banks Recognize Gold as an Effective Diversifier and Store of Value

With gold representing a whopping 74 percent of U.S. reserves, the Federal Reserve has historically had the largest position among global central banks. (Venezuela’s weighting, at 76 percent, has lately roared past the U.S., but that’s thanks solely to hyperinflation and its rapidly deteriorating economy. I’ll have more to say on Venezuela later.)

Other countries have a lot of catching up to do—i.e., gold buying—to get to the same level of diversification. Russia, for instance, has the fifth most gold in the world at 2,066.2 tonnes, but this amount represents only 17.6 percent of its total reserves. In sixth place is China, whose holdings (a reported 1,842.6 tonnes) represent a very small 2.3 percent of reserves.

Below you can see Russia’s ongoing strategy of “de-dollarization.” To date, the Eastern European country has liquidated nearly its entire position in U.S. Treasuries to fund its rotation into gold. According to the WGC, Russia bought 274.3 tonnes in 2018, its greatest amount on record, and the fourth consecutive year of purchases above 200 tonnes.

Russian Gold Reserves Have Grown as a Result of De-Dollarization of its Reserves
click to enlarge

Gold Is the Only Thing Left of Value in Venezuela

Gold made even more headlines last week as it relates to Venezuela. The beleaguered South American country, as you probably know, is in the midst of a potential transfer of power, from current president and dictator Nicolas Maduro to the more centrist Juan Guaido, whom the U.S., European Union and other world governments have recognized as the de facto head of state.

Since the U.S. and other countries have imposed heavy sanctions on Venezuela and its oil industry, the cash-strapped country has had to rely on its gold holdings to make international bond payments, mostly to Russia and China. But the days of Maduro’s plundering of Venezuela’s hard currency might be numbered, and not just because he could be removed from power soon.

Central Banks Haven't Bought This Much Gold Since Nixon Was President Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro (left) shakes hands with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Both strongmen's countries have a strong fondness and appetite for gold.
Photo: Kremlin | Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

Last week Guaido sent a letter to U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and the Bank of England (BoE), urging them not to send $1.2 billion from any sale of Venezuela’s gold reserves—held in the BoE’s vaults—to Maduro’s “illegitimate and kleptocratic regime,” according to the Financial Times. “Maduro has stolen a huge quantity of state assets,” including Venezuelan gold, a part of the letter reads. “There is no doubt that he will, if allowed, also steal the assets held by the Bank of England, which rightly ought to be saved to support the recovery of Venezuela.” The bank has honored Guaido’s request and is blocking Maduro’s efforts to sell the metal.

Later in the week, a Russian Boeing 777 allegedly landed in the capital city of Caracas and was loaded up with as much as 20 tonnes of Venezuelan gold, according to Bloomberg. It was later reported that the jet, for reasons unknown, left Caracas without the gold payment. There were additional reports, however, also by Bloomberg, that another aircraft, this one from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), had landed in the country and was awaiting delivery of the gold instead.

Venezuela's Oil Production Fell for a Third Straight Year in 2018
click to enlarge

These incidents are certainly dramatic, and I’m eager to see how they play out, but I think the key takeaway is that gold is an exceptional store of value. It’s the only asset of any value to which a socialist autocrat like Maduro still has access. The bolivar is worthless, and the country’s once powerful and influential oil industry is fading fast. Without gold, Maduro is powerless.

Four Straight Months of Gains. What’s Gold’s Next Move?

The gold rally that began late last year, when equities turned rocky, continued into the new year as the historic U.S. government shutdown gripped investors, and signs that Fed Chair Jerome Powell was set to pause monetary tightening intensified. For the fourth straight month in January, both the price of gold and gold mining stocks posted strong gains. Before then, the price of gold was down for six straight months, a losing streak we hadn’t seen in 40 years, when the yellow metal fell each month from December 1988 to May 1989.

Gold and Gold Producers Were Up For Fourth Straight Month In January
click to enlarge

The yellow metal ended last month at a nine-month high, and with the U.S. dollar expected to lose momentum on higher deficit spending, we could see prices surge to as high as $1,400 or even $1,500 an ounce this year.

I’m not alone in my bullishness. Billionaire Sam Zell, creator of the real estate investment trust (REIT), bought gold for the first time in his life, citing the fact that supply is shrinking.

And Mad Money’s Jim Cramer also came out strongly in favor of the yellow metal last week.

“We are big gold believers here,” Cramer commented. “Now gold is at $1,300, we think gold is going to $1,400, $1,500. We suggest that everybody have a little bit of gold in their portfolio.”

I second Cramer’s suggestion. My recommendation has always been a 10 percent weighting in gold, with 5 percent in bullion and jewelry, the other 5 percent in high-quality gold mining stocks and well managed gold mutual funds and ETFs.

Did you miss our updated Periodic Table of Emerging Markets? Read all about it by clicking 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.

Diversification does not protect an investor from market risks and does not assure a profit.

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.

A real estate investment trust (REIT) is a company that owns, and in most cases operates, income-producing real estate. REITs own many types of commercial real estate, ranging from office and apartment buildings to warehouses, hospitals, shopping centers, hotels and timberlands.

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Net Asset Value
as of 03/22/2019

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $4.51 -0.07 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $7.38 -0.14 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $2.79 -0.04 China Region Fund USCOX $8.50 -0.19 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.59 -0.16 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $23.42 -0.49 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $16.70 -0.31 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.21 0.01 U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change