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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.

Turkey Is the Big Winner Following the Crisis in Ukraine
June 19, 2014

Turkey Is the Big Winner Following the Crisis in Ukraine

Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the possibility of further action taken in Ukraine and other former Soviet Bloc nations have led many investors to wonder, understandably so, what impact the crisis has had on investment opportunities in Eastern Europe. To unravel these concerns and more, U.S. Global’s Director of Research John Derrick caught up with Gavin Graham of VoiceAmerica’s “Emerging and Frontier Markets Investing” program.

Below you can read some of the interview highlights, in which John speculates on who were the winners and losers in the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. He also touches briefly on the violence that has recently erupted in Iraqi Kurdistan and what effect it might have on neighboring Turkey.

Which European countries have the greatest potential and have benefited the most from what’s been happening?

I think Poland’s been a beneficiary. It’s used as a safe haven in the region: stable economy, stable political environment. It’s benefited from the European recovery and doesn’t have that much trade with Russia.

I think Turkey has benefited, more from a money flow standpoint. If you were worried about what was going on in Russia and some of the longer-term implications, I think money flowed into places like Turkey. Money also flowed into places like Greece because a lot of the international investors tend to be regional investors, and within that region, there are shift allocations into places like Turkey, which has been a very strong performer this year. Part of that money is coming out of Russia.

That’s a very fair point because, as you say, if you’re running a dedicated Eastern European fund, Russia’s been overwhelmingly the largest weight within it, though a fair number of people were underweight even before Crimea because of concerns about governance and the like. Nonetheless, where are you going to go? Turkey is obviously a major market. Some of the reasons you like it include the demographics as well as the government’s pro-business attitude.

Exactly. If you just take a step back and look at the long-term secular growth, the demographics are very positive. There’s an entrepreneurial culture in Turkey: good government policies generally speaking toward business development, toward foreign investors. Basically business can get done, businesses can be created, and all those kinds of things that most Americans can relate to.

It’s still an emerging market country, and they’ll do things that you’ll look at and scratch your head, like banning Twitter or Facebook. But the political situation has definitely calmed down, and so I think the long-term secular story for Turkey is probably the best long-term secular story in the region. That’s what you want to hitch your wagon to over the long run.

Now I know that maybe one or two eyebrows will have been raised by you mentioning that Greece has been seen as a safe haven, but you are very right and very early in picking Greece as a market that had some very positive changes taking place. Do you want to just briefly recap where we are now?

Six years into a recession, Greece is finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They’ve made some significant structural changes. Essentially the banking system has been consolidated down. There are now four major players there. All in the last month, they actually have recapitalized, raised money. That put some pressure on the Greek market and banks over the last month or so, and it puts them on a much firmer footing. The banking system can function more properly, and you can actually start seeing real growth.

The European Central Bank (ECB) has been very supportive. The ECB announced a TARP-like program where you can get long-term funding—essentially a four-year repo currently at 25 basis points. That’s going to be positive for peripheral banks in general whether it’s Greece or Spain or Italy.

They’ve also talked about doing a securitization program where you get some kind of quantitative easing. All those kinds of incremental things are very positive for Greece. After six years of recession, they’re finally starting to come out of it. It’s just like a natural cycle. It doesn’t stay bad forever. That’s going to continue for the next 12 to 18 months.

Which is about as long as one can look ahead, especially with exciting things like the Ukrainian crisis happening. Briefly, in terms of those countries, which don’t look as attractive? Presumably the Baltic republics, which are seen as being more vulnerable, given what happened with Crimea and Ukraine?

Definitely. There’s concern there that Russian expansionism is going to continue. Will NATO really defend those countries if Russia tries to re-exert its influence in those regions? I think those have been areas that have been hurt by the crisis because they’re viewed as the next dominoes, if you will. Obviously those are not big markets and have limited investment opportunities, but definitely I think they’ve been negatively impacted. People aren’t really sure what the Russians’ ultimate goals are here, what they’re really trying to accomplish: are they done, or are they trying to recreate the Soviet Union?

Just to finish up, in terms of talking about military action, you were mentioning earlier about what’s been happening in Iraq where an al-Qaeda-linked group has taken over the second major city, Mosul, in Iraq and led to hundreds of its inhabitants fleeing. Maybe that’s going to have some effect on next-door neighbor Turkey?

The Turkish market is down about 3 percent today, and currency’s down 1 percent or so. Obviously it sounds like the situation in Iraq is deteriorating pretty rapidly. That’s a pretty significant development. It just raises a lot of questions about what’s happening there and what’s going to be the impact for Turkey. There’s a fair amount of trade that goes across there—oil pipelines that they’ve finally got up and running, particularly in the north in the Kurdistan region, sending oil to Turkey. There’s still some controversy about who’s going to buy it because they don’t have an agreement with the central government.

Nevertheless, there’s oil and gas and all those kinds of things that are good for Turkey in the long run. I look at today’s developments as probably likely a buying opportunity in Turkey.

Indeed, having reduced our exposure in Russia following the events in Ukraine, our Emerging Europe Fund (EUROX) now invests the largest percentage of its assets in Turkey (24.29 percent), followed by Poland (14.75 percent) and Greece (11.80 percent).

You can listen to John’s entire interview below, starting 18 minutes into the program.

Please consider carefully a fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For this and other important information, obtain a fund prospectus by visiting www.usfunds.com or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS (1-800-873-8637). Read it carefully before investing. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

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.

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

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

 

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Where a Resources Manager is Uncovering a Sweet Find
June 18, 2013
Cocoa Pod Sierra Leone

After traveling nearly 6,000 miles by plane, helicopter and jeep, Evan Smith, portfolio manager at U.S. Global, is walking along a dirt path in Kenema past dilapidated shops covered with rusted, corrugated metal. He can hardly believe he has arrived at his destination. Surrounded by hundreds of miles of forest and savannah, it's tough to imagine an agricultural diamond-in-the-rough nearby.

Kenema is in Sierra Leone, a country in the Western part of sub-Saharan Africa with 5.6 million people recovering from a decade-long civil war that ended 11 years ago. Today, the rural people, mostly farmers and fishermen, are peaceful and friendly, says Evan, who explored the opportunity for the Global Resources Fund (PSPFX).

To get here, Evan flew from San Antonio, Texas to the largest city in Sierra Leone, Freetown, making stops in New York City, Ghana and Liberia. Then he boarded a four-person helicopter to fly east 150 miles, enduring heart-pounding drops and lifts between clouds and mountains before safely arriving at a cocoa plantation development.

Evan Smith Kenema  Sierra Leone

The heart of Africa has been beating strong in recent years due to elevated commodity prices and resilient domestic demand, despite the global economic slowdown. Among the sub-Saharan African countries, Sierra Leone was the fastest growing country last year, according to the World Bank. Its economy experienced growth that is as rare today as Fancy Red diamonds. GDP increased a whopping 18 percent.

Non-profit organizations are taking note of the country’s progress. The Freedom House recently categorized Sierra Leone as a free country, which is unusual in sub-Saharan Africa. Among 50 countries and 900 million people, only 13 percent of people are considered free under the organization’s definition.

Sierra Leone is also becoming more attractive for business. In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2013 report, the country ranked 140, up from 148. One of its main findings this year is that “among the 50 economies with the biggest improvements since 2005, the largest share—a third—are in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Looking ahead, these countries are expected to be among the fastest growing economies in the world. The International Monetary Fund estimates that out of the top 20 countries with the highest projected compound annual growth rate from 2013 through 2017, 10 are in this area of the world.

This is the growth Agriterra is looking to capture in its development of a cocoa plantation that Evan traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to check out. Agriterra is a London-based company that invests in African agricultural businesses to serve the fast-growing economies of frontier markets, such as Mozambique and Sierra Leone.

When Evan toured the grounds, he snapped pictures of the initial stages of development, as the company nurtures 250,000 seedlings in a technically advanced and irrigated nursery. Each cocoa sprout is planted in its own bag, under a canopy of screens which provides just the right amount of light. An irrigation system nourishes the plants, delivering the perfect amount of water and fertilizer.

Agriterras Cocoa Nursery
Cocoa Bean Plants Kenema

After a few months, the seedlings will be mature enough to be transplanted to an area that provides the right amount of shade. You can see a three-meter grid of stakes designating where each plant will go in this photo below.

You may not think about where your Godiva chocolate originates, but the areas are limited. Cocoa grows best along the equator belt between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. Tropical conditions of plentiful rain and high humidity are ideal and “shading is indispensable in a cocoa tree's early years,” says the International Cocoa Organization (ICC).  

While Sierra Leone is geographically situated along this band, it isn’t among the largest cocoa-producing countries. Most of the world’s chocolate originates from beans grown in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Indonesia. Cocoa has traditionally been raised on small, individually owned farms, many of which have aging plants and therefore, lower yields. But with Agriterra’s advanced applications and solid operations, the development seems to be off to a sweet start.

So why is an oil and materials manager getting his boots dirty in Sierra Leone? The cocoa plantation is only one example of a company producing a commodity that we believe will be sought by the world’s growing middle class population. As more and more people reach this status, consumption of discretionary items, including chocolate, should increase.

Rather than limit the fund to energy and materials stocks, the portfolio managers take a multi-faceted approach, looking at 10 industries. By including companies such as grain processors, plantations and ranch lands, and agriculture companies, such as chemical and fertilizer stocks, we believe the fund can enhance returns with less volatility.

That’s why we keep our eyes open and boots on the ground because you never know where in the world you’ll find a sweet or savory opportunity.

Thanks to Evan Smith, who contributed to this commentary.

Please consider carefully a fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For this and other important information, obtain a fund prospectus by visiting www.usfunds.com or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS (1-800-873-8637). Read it carefully before investing. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

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

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

Holdings in the Global Resources Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 3/31/13: Agriterra Ltd 0.57%

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100 Innovative Ways World Cities Are Improving Our Urban Landscape
August 3, 2012

Infrastructure 100KPMG recently published Infrastructure 100: World Cities Edition which showcases the greatest infrastructure projects around the globe. The 100-page publication covers nearly every continent with projects in developed markets including Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia to those in emerging markets such as Brazil, India, Mexico and Turkey.

The focus of the report is to highlight education, health, recycling, waste management, and water solutions to promote better urban living. About half of the world’s population is living in a city someplace on the globe and this number is only set to rise. However, the challenges that cities face are not insurmountable: “All around the world, we see inspirational and innovative examples of projects that are sure to transform not only the urban setting, but also the way the world’s urban population interact with their infrastructure, their governments, their cities and the environment,” says KPMG.

The report highlights too many projects to list here, including the infrastructure for the World Cup and the Olympics that is transforming Brazil, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City that is collaboratively being developed by China and Singapore, and the Kartal Pendik Project in Turkey.

Download your copy of the report now.

By clicking the link above, you will be directed to a third-party website. U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by this website and is not responsible for its content.

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Capturing the Making of a Bridge
July 26, 2012

Shareholder ReportThe bridge at Hoover Dam is a fantastic example of breathtaking infrastructure built in the U.S. Linking Phoenix and Las Vegas, a 2,000 foot long bridge now arches over the Colorado River, shaving as much as two hours off a driver’s commute between the cities.

Nearly halfway completed in this photo, it’s the first concrete-steel composite arch bridge built in the U.S., named after decorated Korean War veteran and governor of Nevada Mike O’Callaghan, and Pat Tillman, who gave up a multi-million dollar football career to enlist in the U.S. Army and fight in Afghanistan where he was killed by friendly fire.

Construction for the $114 million arch began in 2005 as part of the Hoover Dam Bypass Project and was open for traffic on October 19, 2010. The photographer of the image is Jamey Stillings from Santa Fe, who was in between assignments when he took a road trip to capture Lake Mead’s mineral deposits. Heading home, Hoover Dam’s infrastructure caught his eye and compelled him to return to the area by helicopter and car to photograph the infrastructure and surrounding area. The New York Times Magazine featured an incredible slideshow showing the tremendous scale of Stillings’ project.

See the Slideshow.

According to an article in The New York Times about Stillings, his passion was fueled by “the wider historical significance of the construction. The Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, the Hoover Dam—the imagery their births created is burned into the collective memory.”

We believe the bridge underscores the ongoing need for natural resources. You’ll find more awe-inspiring stories like this one in the latest Shareholder Report, as we cover what you need, what you want and how much it will cost.

Click on the link below to see the online version now. If you’d like to read it in print, call us at 1-800-873-8637 or email at editor@usfunds.com.

Download the Report

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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Full Steam Ahead for China Rails
March 16, 2012

China’s economic engines of growth have begun to accelerate again, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the chart below. After approvals for new railroad projects spiked to a five-year high in the third quarter of 2010, the number of new plans slowed, then completely halted throughout 2011, decreasing 89 percent by value, says J.P. Morgan.

There were multiple reasons for the slowdown in railroad construction, says BCA. A bullet train crash caused heightened concern for safety last summer. Also, the government intentionally delayed projects as it pulled the brakes to decelerate growth and curb inflation.

Since China received signs of slowing inflation over the past few months, it can now shift its attention toward growth. Recent policies are sending a “full steam ahead” message to railway investment. According to J.P. Morgan, in December and January, China announced tax benefits on interest income for railway bondholders, issued bonds for railway projects, and injected cash into the two largest train makers. This concerted effort should help the country meet its long-term goal to connect 100 percent of cities with a network of high-speed rail.

China's High Speed Rail Network Should Connect 100 Percent of Cities by 2019

Over the past two decades, China’s railway system has come a long way very quickly, with track length increasing 50 percent since 1995. Demand has increased at a faster rate, though, as “passengers travelling on the country’s railway system per year doubled during the same period, while railway freight increased by 150 percent,” says BCA.

And, on a per capita basis, China’s rail length is much lower than most major economies, according to BCA Research. When you compare the total length of railways in developed and emerging markets, Australia has the most rail per capital, with 1.77 kilometers of railway per 1,000 persons; Brazil has considerably less, with only 0.15 kilometers of rail track per 1,000. However, as you can see below, China lands in last place for the total length of railway per capita.

China Rail Lengths; total and per 1000 persons

Although China has been busy constructing its railways over the past few years, this comparison shows that this infrastructure buildout has been more of a “catch-up process,” rather than an “overshoot,” says BCA.

New! Webcast on China

Learn more about China and what’s expected throughout 2012 by joining CLSA’s Andy Rothman and me for a webcast on April 5.  Register today for Hard or Soft Landing in China? Navigating China’s Transition to a Consumer-Driven Economy. 

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

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Net Asset Value
as of 12/12/2018

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $4.59 0.03 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $6.46 -0.01 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $3.03 -0.02 China Region Fund USCOX $7.97 0.06 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.18 -0.01 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $24.18 0.06 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $18.17 0.13 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.19 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change