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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.

An Olympian's Guide to the Market Selloff: Seeking Rewards In High-Risk Situations
February 12, 2018

Frank Holmes Robert Friedland

Today I’d like to share a few words about the Olympics, but first, two words: Don’t panic.

The stock selloffs last Monday and Thursday were the two biggest daily point drops in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, but in terms of percentage point losses, they don’t even come close to cracking the top 10 worst days in the past 10 years alone.

After a year of record closing highs and little to no volatility, it was expected that the stock market would need to blow off some steam. Last Monday, the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, surged nearly 116 percent, its biggest one-day increase since at least 2000.

volatility returns to the markets
click to enlarge

As I explained last week, the selloff appears to have been triggered by a number of things, including the positive wage growth report. This stoked fears of higher inflation, which in turn raised the likelihood that the Federal Reserve, now under control of newcomer Jerome Powell, will raise borrowing costs more aggressively than expected to prevent the economy from overheating.

Also contributing to the uncertainty was news from the Treasury Department that the U.S. government plans to borrow nearly $1 trillion this year, compared to almost half that last year. In the first quarter alone, the Donald Trump administration will issue $66 billion in long-term debt, the first such boost in borrowing since 2009, as the U.S. Treasury seeks to cover budget deficits brought on by higher entitlement spending, not to mention the recently passed tax overhaul.

On Friday, the S&P 500 Index briefly plunged below its 200-day moving average before rebounding in volatile trading.  

stocks plunge below their 200-day moving average
click to enlarge

With stocks down more than 8 percent from its closing high on January 26, we're closing to entering correction territory. Historically, it’s taken four months for stocks to recover from a correction, according to Goldman Sachs analysis. By comparison, a bear market, which is generally defined as more than a 20 percent drop, can take up to two years.

I’m not saying a bear market is imminent—only that it might be time to reevaluate your tolerance for risk and, if appropriate, act accordingly. It’s times like these that highlight how important it is to be diversified in a number of asset classes such as gold, commodities, municipal bonds and international stocks.

Diversity Is Key in Volatile Times

I remain bullish on the U.S. market, but there will always be risk—even in a booming economy. This is one of the biggest reasons why I recommend a 10 percent weighting in gold and gold stocks, with additional diversification in commodities, international stocks and other asset classes.

But to get the greatest benefits, it’s important to rebalance at least once a year, based on your risk tolerance.

Last week, gold was under pressure from surging Treasury yields. Since its 52-week low in September, the 10-year yield has increased almost 40 percent. Not only is it at a four-year high but it’s also above its five-year average of 2.1 percent.

north american shale activity expected to drive global well demand
click to enlarge

Keep in mind that fundamentals remain robust. The U.S. economy is humming along. Unemployment is at a 17-year low, and wage growth is finally bouncing back after the financial crisis. The global manufacturing sector began 2018 on strong footing, with the purchasing manager’s index (PMI) registering 54.4 in January.

Like an Olympic cross-country skier, take the long-term approach and keep your eyes on the prize.

A Year for Olympic Record-Breaking

Before it even began, this year’s Winter Olympics was breaking records. A historic number of athletes, around 3,000, qualified to compete for an unprecedented 102 medals. For the first time ever, an African country—Nigeria—will be represented in the bobsled category, making this also the country’s first visit to the Winter Games. And not only is this South Korea’s first go-round hosting the Winter Olympics, but PyeongChang could be among the coldest host cities ever, with wind chills in some cases dropping temperatures to an arctic negative 25 degrees Celsius, or negative 13 degrees Fahrenheit.

pyeongchang winter olympics 2018

One record that won’t be broken, though, is the cost to host the Games. South Korea spent an estimated $13 billion to bring the rugged, mountainous ski destination up to Olympic standards, building not just stadiums and arenas but also rail, roads, energy infrastructure and more. Amazingly, newly-constructed wind farms in Gangwon Province will generate more than enough energy to power the 16-day event, according to Hyeona Kim, a project manager with the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic Games (POCOG).

Thirteen billion dollars sounds like a lot, but it pales in comparison to the record-breaking $50-55 billion Russia spent to host the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

Sochi Gets Soaked in Debt

Sochi is the most expensive Olympics ever—Winter or Summer. But because Russia’s original price bid was $16 billion, it’s also among the most expensive in terms of cost overruns, according to a 2016 report by the University of Oxford. Looking just at Winter Games, only Lake Placid in 1980 has a bigger cost increase. (The 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal is biggest of all at 720 percent over budget.)

five most expensive winter olympics by cost overruns
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To put Sochi’s overrun in perspective, the average cost per event is now estimated at $223 million, or a mind-boggling $8 million per athlete.

Contributing to the budget bust was Russia’s need to boost the region’s electricity capacity by as much as 800 percent, leading to the construction of 49 new energy projects. As one deputy minister put it, the undertaking was the country’s largest since Stalin’s time.

Of course, this all raises the question of what economic benefits, if any, hosting the Olympics brings to a city. It took Montreal 30 years to pay off its debt. The 2004 Summer Games in Athens—the birthplace of the Olympics—is now partially blamed for triggering the Greek debt crisis. And in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, host of the 2016 Summer Games, a number of multimillion-dollar stadiums and arenas sit unused and have become eyesores. (PyeongChang, by contrast, plans to raze the stadium it built for opening and closing ceremonies after the Games are complete.)

Like any other type of investing, there’s no reward without some risk—and, as last week has proven, it’s all about how you manage it.

A Case Study in Good Financial Planning

One city that got it right was Los Angeles.

For many of you, California might not immediately come to mind as a shining example of good fiscal management. But when the city was awarded the Olympics for 1984, the reins were turned over to Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who had previously founded and run a successful travel company. Under his leadership, the 1984 Summer Olympics became the first privately financed Games. A committee was set up that operated more like a corporation. Financing came from private fundraising, corporate sponsorships, TV deals and more.

It certainly didn’t hurt that L.A. was already a highly developed metropolitan area with world-class infrastructure, but Ueberroth urged fiscal restraint and rationality. The results were better than anyone could have anticipated. Remember Sochi’s $8 million price tag per athlete? L.A. ended up spending only around $100,000 per competitor (in 2015 dollars), among the best records ever in Olympic history.

What’s more, the L.A. Games turned a tidy profit, netting the city more than $225 million, all of which was plowed back into the U.S. Olympic Committee. As recently as 2016, those profits were still helping athletes gear up for Olympic glory, according to Ueberroth himself.  

In 1984, Ueberroth was selected as TIME’s Person of the Year for developing “a new model for the Games” and proving that “in a free society, anything is possible.”

Last week I had the chance to speak with Peter Smyrniotis of Market One Media Group about cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology and initial coin offerings (ICOs). Watch the interview 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.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 blue chip stocks that are generally leaders in their industry.

Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index (VIX) shows the market's expectation of 30-day volatility.

The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies.

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.

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You'll Want to Read This Living Legend's Thoughts On Copper
January 22, 2018

Frank Holmes Robert Friedland

Last week the U.S. Global Investors office was visited by a living legend in the junior mining industry, billionaire founder and executive chairman of Ivanhoe Mines, Robert Friedland. In case you don’t know, back in the mid-1970s, Robert was caretaker of an apple orchard south of Portland that one of his buddies from Reed College would often visit. That buddy’s name was Steve Jobs, who later went on to found a little company he named—what else?—Apple.

Before Robert and Steve Jobs began palling around, Jobs was known as shy and withdrawn. It was Robert who taught him his skills in what’s been described by many as “reality distortion.” Having seen numerous speeches by Robert over the years, I can attest to his masterful ability to utterly command a room of hundreds with his electric charisma. Some of that charisma must have rubbed off on Jobs, helping the future iPhone innovator evolve into the shrewd, larger-than-life business leader he’s celebrated as today.

frank holmes and robert friedland ivanhoe mines

Robert’s “reality distortion” was on full display during his visit. I was pleased and honored, as were my U.S. Global team members, to have the opportunity to hear his unique insights on a wide range of issues, from the debilitating smog in Delhi, India; to China’s efforts to become the world’s leading electric vehicle (EV) economy; to Ivanhoe’s development of the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, independently ranked as the largest high-grade copper discovery in the world.

Robert made a very compelling case for Kamoa-Kakula, which he calls “the most disruptive Tier One copper project in the world today.” In its first year of production, its average copper grade is estimated to average an ultra-high 7.3 percent. Because the site is flat and uninhabited, and wages are paid in local currency, the cash cost for the life of the mine is projected to be a low, low $0.64 per pound of copper. As of my writing this, copper is priced at $3.20 a pound, so the margin is significant. After an initial $1.2 billion in capital costs to develop the project, the company expects a payback period of only 3.1 years.

It’s all a very attractive proposition.

Robert Friedland: You're Going to Need a Telescope

I reminded Robert that we’re bullish on both copper and the industries it supports, including the imminent EV revolution and massive electricity demand in emerging markets, especially China and India. EVs, as I’ve pointed out before, require three to four times as much copper as traditional gas-powered vehicles. By 2027, as much as 1.74 million metric tons of copper will be needed to meet EV demand alone, up from only 185,000 tons today, according to the International Copper Association.

The red metal was one of the best performing commodities last year, surging more than 30 percent, and with investment demand near all-time highs, I predict another year of phenomenal returns. That would represent a third straight year of positive gains, something copper hasn’t accomplished this decade.

As you can see below, open interest in copper futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) is still historically high, even after cooling somewhat from its all-time high set in late July, when contracts hit an average 319,000 contracts. Open positions last month averaged more than 285,000, up 7.3 percent from the previous month and 26.9 percent from December 2016.

Open interest in copper futures off record still historically high
click to enlarge

Robert expressed confidence that copper—along with aluminum, cobalt, nickel, platinum and scandium—will be among the biggest beneficiaries of the global transition to EVs and clean energy.

“You’re going to need a telescope to see copper prices in 2021,” he told us theatrically.

A rally is already in the works. From its recent low two years ago this month, the Bloomberg Industrial Metals Subindex, which tracks aluminum, copper, nickel and zinc, has surged more than 65 percent. Support looks strong, and copper prices could be headed even higher on global supply disruptions, as labor negotiations continue in Chile, the world’s top producer of the red metal.

“There are between 20 and 25 collective negotiations expected. If some of them lead to significant strikes, that would have a positive impact on [copper] prices,” explained Sergio Hernandez, vice president of Cochilco, Chile’s state copper commission.

Industrial metals exhibiting strong upward momentum
click to enlarge

Other fundamental trends are driving commodities, as I’ve noted earlier. The global purchasing manager’s index (PMI), a gauge of the manufacturing industry, is near a seven-year high. Construction confidence in the eurozone turned positive. And construction spending here in the U.S. hit $1.257 trillion in November, a new high.

China and India Cleaning Up Its Act

About half of all the copper produced globally every year is consumed by China. Last year, the Asian giant set a new record in importing the red metal. Imports climbed to a never-before-seen 17.35 million metric tons in 2017, up 2.3 percent from the previous year.

Chians copper imports notched yet another record in 2017
click to enlarge

The metal is needed not just for the construction of new buildings but also to manufacture millions of new electric vehicles in the world’s largest auto market. Sometime this year, China is expected to announce when it plans to outlaw gas-powered vehicles, joining a growing number of other countries, including the U.K. (which is shooting for a 2040 ban), France (2040), Germany (2030), India (“next 13 years”) and more.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, about 1,293 gigawatts per hour (GWh) are forecast for the lithium-ion battery market. That’s up spectacularly from only 19 GWh in 2015. About two thirds of the demand will come from China and the U.S.

Forecasted demand for lithium ion batteries from electric vehicles
click to enlarge

To accommodate all these new EVs, China has pledged to build a charging station for every vehicle on the road by 2020. That equates to around 4.8 million charging outlets and stations, requiring a total investment of $19 billion. China had 190,000 charging stations at the end of September, so to call this goal ambitious is an understatement. The U.S., by comparison, has a little over 64,000 outlets and stations around the country, according to the Department of Energy.

Even William Ford Jr., Ford Motor’s executive chairman, acknowledged that the Chinese are more aggressive than most in their mission to fully embrace the electric vehicle. “When I think of where EVs are going,” Ford said in Shanghai last month, “it’s clearly the case that China will lead the world in EV development.”

Not only was China the largest importer of copper, crude oil, natural gas and other natural resources, it also outspent every other country in new clean energy capacity. The country invested as much as $132.6 billion in 2017, about 16 percent more than the U.S. and Europe combined. The government’s efforts already seem to be having a positive effect, as sales of face masks and air purifiers in Beijing have fallen dramatically compared to last winter.

Sales of face masks in beijing are down this year thanks in part to the governments huge investment in clean energy

Another market that’s in urgent need of clean energy is India. In Delhi, the country’s capital territory, the air quality has become so noxious and filled with heavy metals that the World Health Organization has likened it to smoking at least 50 cigarettes a day. The city’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, went so far as to call it a “gas chamber.”

Shell Shelling Out for Electricity Provider

It’s not just governments seeking to diversify their energy mix. Royal Dutch Shell, the largest oil company in Europe, is steadily acquiring smaller providers of electrical power and natural gas. In December it announced a deal to buy retail energy provider First Utility. It’s just the latest in a series of purchases by large oil and gas companies looking ahead to the day when charging stations, rather than gas stations, might be the norm.

In an interview this month, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden sees the current energy transition as an opportunity.

“We have to embrace the future, and the future will include battery electric cars,” van Beurden said. “Importantly, I believe Shell can achieve this without destroying value in the company. It is about identifying real business opportunities to thrive through the energy transition.”

As my friend Robert Friedland sees it, those business opportunities lie in copper, aluminum, cobalt and other key industrial metals.

“We’re in the battery business,” he told us, adding that very little of lithium-ion batteries is actually lithium.

Racing for Bitcoin

Have 48 bitcoins this lamborghini could be yours

Last week I was in Delray Beach, Florida, attending the Black Diamond Investment Conference, where I was excited to see a 2007 Lamborghini Murcielago for sale. It wasn’t so much the fact that it was a Lamborghini but that the sellers were seeking payment in cryptocurrency only. In case you have 48 bitcoins lying around—valued at a little over half a million dollars at today’s price—you could be the proud new owner of a top-quality sports car. I’m pleased to see even more transactions being made in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

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

The 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 Bloomberg Industrial Metals Subindex is composed of longer-dated futures contracts on aluminum, copper, nickel and zinc. It reflects the return on fully collateralized futures positions and is quoted in USD.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and 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 of U.S. Global Investors Funds as of 12/31/2017: Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

 

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Recipe Calls for a Broad Commodities Rally in 2018
January 16, 2018

At the beginning of every year, we update what’s typically one of our most popular pages, the Periodic Table of Commodity Returns. I encourage you to explore 10 years’ worth of data on basic materials such as aluminum, zinc and everything in between. A word of warning, though—the interactive feature makes the table highly addictive. Please feel free to share it with friends and family!

best of the year top 5 frank talk posts of 2017

It was a photo finish for commodities in 2017. The group, as measured by the Bloomberg Commodity Index, barely eked out a win for the second straight year, edging up 0.7 percent. Spurred by a weaker U.S. dollar and strengthening materials demand from factories, the index headed higher thanks to a breathtaking rally late in the year that lasted a record 14 consecutive days.

The annual return might not look too impressive, but I believe the economic conditions are ripe for a broad commodities rally in 2018. I’m not alone in predicting they’ll be among the best performing asset classes by year end, perhaps even beating domestic equities as quantitative tightening threatens to put a damper on the nine-year bull run.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs, for instance, are overly bullish on commodities, recommending an overweight position for the next 12 months. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is calling for a $7,700-a-tonne copper price target by mid-2018, up from $7,140 today. In last Friday’s technical market outlook, Bloomberg Intelligence commodity strategist Mike McGlone writes that the “technical setup for metals is similar to the early days of the 2002-08 bull market.” Hedge fund managers are currently building never-before-seen long positions in heating oil and Brent crude oil, which broke above $70 a barrel in intraday trading Thursday for the first time since December 2014. It’s now up close to 160 percent since its recent low of $27 a barrel at the beginning of 2016.

Few have taken such a bullish position, though, as billionaire founder of DoubleLine Capital Jeffrey Gundlach, whose thoughts are always worth considering.

Commodities Ready for Mean Reversion?

Last month I shared with you a chart, courtesy of DoubleLine, that makes the case we could be entering an attractive entry point for commodities, based on previous booms and busts. The S&P GSCI Total Return Index-to-S&P 500 Index ratio is now at its lowest point since the dotcom bubble, meaning commodities and mining companies are highly undervalued relative to large-cap stocks. We could see mean reversion begin to happen as soon as this year, triggering a commodities super-cycle the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 2000s.

the new periodic table of commodity returns 2017
click to enlarge

Gundlach has more to say on this subject. During his annual “Just Markets” webcast, he told investors that “commodities will outperform in 2018” because they “always rally sharply—much more sharply than they have so far—late in the business cycle as we head into a recession.”

Speaking to CNBC, he added that the S&P 500 “may go up 15 percent in the first part of the year, but I believe, when it falls, it will wipe out the entire gain of the first part of the year with a negative sign in front of it.”

Gundlach might be in the minority here, but it’s hard to ignore the tell-tale signs that we’re approaching the end of the business cycle, as I’ve pointed out before. We’ve begun a new interest rate hike cycle, both here in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. The Federal Reserve has started to unwind its massive balance sheet. The Treasury yield curve continues to flatten. And the S&P 500 just had its least volatile year on record.

All of these indicators, among others, have historically preceded a substantial market correction.

In his 2018 outlook, David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Canadian wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff, makes similar observations, writing that “it is safe to say that we are pretty late in the game.”

the equities bull market is 90% through, or past the seventh inning stretch.

How late? After looking at a number of market and macro variables, Rosenberg and his team concluded that we’re about “90 percent through, which means we are somewhere past the seventh inning stretch in baseball parlance but not yet at the bottom of the ninth.”

Look for mean reversion this year, Rosenberg adds, “which would be a good thing in terms of opening up some buying opportunities.”

Resource stocks, I believe, could be an attractive place to look, as they’ve traditionally outperformed in the last phase of an economic cycle.

Manufacturing and Construction Booms Underway

You don’t have to bet on a recession to be bullish on commodities. The dollar appears to have peaked, making materials less expensive for overseas markets, and the Global Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) ended 2017 at 54.5, close to a seven-year high. The sector has been in expansion mode now for the past 22 months, with the eurozone signaling its fastest growth in the series’ two-decade history.  

Global PMI Ended 2017 at Near Seven-Year High
click to enlarge

That’s not the only constructive news out of Europe. The European Commission’s headline economic sentiment indicator jumped more than economists had anticipated in December, ending the year at a 17-year high. Construction confidence in the eurozone also looks as if it’s fully recovered and is trending in positive territory for the first time since the financial crisis.

Strong eurozone economy a tailwind for commodities demand (Dec. 1997 - Dec. 2017)
click to enlarge

Strong manufacturing and construction expansion here in the U.S. is likewise supportive of commodity prices. December’s ISM Manufacturing PMI clocked in at a historically high 59.7. New orders grew 5.4 percent from the precious month to 59.4, its highest reading since January 2004. What’s more, U.S. construction spending in November rose to an all-time high of $1.257 trillion, according to this month’s report from the Census Bureau.  

Strong eurozone economy a tailwind for commodities demand (Dec. 1997 - Dec. 2017)
click to enlarge

Which Commodities Are Set to Rally the Most?

Palladium was the best performing commodity of 2017, climbing more than 56 percent on a weaker dollar, concerns of a supply crunch and a robust global auto market. Along with its sister metal, platinum, palladium is used primarily in the production of catalytic converters, which curb emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles.

For the first time since 2001, palladium traded higher than platinum beginning in September, and the week before last it hit an all-time intraday high of $1,099 an ounce. A healthy correction at this point wouldn’t be surprising, as the metal’s looking overbought compared to platinum.  

Palladium looks overheated compared to platinum
click to enlarge

“Pressured by diesel-emission scandals, platinum appears too low vs. palladium,” writes Bloomberg’s Mike McGlone. We might be in for another price reversal this year.

As I wrote recently, gold’s Fear Trade growth drivers are firmly in place. If a “Fed rally” occurs similar to the past two rallies, we could see gold climb to as high as $1,500 an ounce by summer. We also have the Chinese New Year to look forward to, which falls on February 16.

I believe 2018 could also be silver’s year to shine. The white metal rose 6.42 percent in 2017, with Indian silver bullion imports jumping an amazing 90 percent compared to imports the previous year, according to Metals Focus. Goldman Sachs analysts point out that silver has historically fared better than gold near the end of the business cycle, “as it is more strongly leveraged to global growth, given its significant industry use.”

A recent online survey conducted by Kitco News found that nearly 40 percent of respondents believed silver would outperform in 2018, compared to four other metals. Twenty-seven percent of readers said gold would outperform, followed by a quarter for copper. About 10 percent were most bullish on either platinum or palladium.

HIVE Blockchain Technologies Gets a New Ticker: HVBTF

Investors should be aware that HIVE Blockchain Technologies, the blockchain infrastructure company that U.S. Global Investors made a strategic investment in last year, recently got approval to change its ticker on the OTC Markets. HIVE will now trade under the stock symbol HVBTF. It was previously trading under the symbol PRELF. No action is required by current shareholders, but I thought they should be made aware nonetheless.

 

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

The Bloomberg Commodity Index (BCOM) is a broadly diversified commodity price index distributed by Bloomberg Indexes. The index was originally launched in 1998 as the Dow Jones-AIG Commodity Index (DJ-AIGCI) and renamed to Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index (DJ-UBSCI) in 2009, when UBS acquired the index from AIG.

The S&P GSCI (formerly the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index) serves as a benchmark for investment in the commodity markets and as a measure of commodity performance over time. It is a tradable index that is readily available to market participants of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index, often abbreviated as the S&P 500, or just the S&P, is an American stock market index based on the market capitalizations of 500large companies having common stock listed on the NYSE or NASDAQ. The S&P 500 index components and their weightings are determined by S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) is an indicator of the economic health of the manufacturing sector. The PMI is based on five major indicators: new orders, inventory levels, production, supplier deliveries and the employment environment.

Frank Holmes has been 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.

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5 Big Questions for 2018
December 18, 2017

bitcoin accepted everywhere

Today marks the seventh day of Hanukkah, and in only seven days, many families across the world will be celebrating Christmas. Not only is it the season of giving, but it’s also time to reflect back on the past 12 months and look ahead to 2018.

Below are five questions to help guide your thinking when making investment decisions in the new year.  

1. Will stocks follow the historical presidential cycle?


U.S. presidential cycles and stocks click to enlarge

Next month marks President Donald Trump’s first year in office and the beginning of his second. How have markets responded to his pro-growth policies, including pledges to lower taxes and slash regulations?

The answer: Overwhelmingly. As of my writing this, the S&P 500 Index is up 19 percent year-to-date, far outperforming the historical returns we’ve seen in the first year of a president’s four-year term.

In the second year, returns have traditionally been lower than the first. From 1928 to 2016, such years produced average market gains of just above 4 percent, making it the weakest year.

The reason for lower returns in the first two years, according to CLSA analysts this week, could be that “an administration looks to put as much bad news and painful actions into the first two years to form a good bias for getting reelected or paving the way for the predecessor of its own party.” Recall that President Bill Clinton didn’t hesitate to hike taxes after getting elected—he signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act just eight months into his first term.

But Trump has taken a different strategy. As CLSA puts it, “all the good news is being front loaded in the first half of this presidential cycle.” Right out of the gate, Trump placed major executive and legislative agenda items on the docket, from an Obamacare repeal to deregulation to sweeping tax cuts.

Not all of these efforts have borne fruit, of course. Even last week, his tax overhaul appeared to be imperiled after serious concerns were raised by moderate Republican senators such as Marco Rubio, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake.

I remain optimistic, though, and I see no reason at the moment to think that 2018 won’t be an encore of 2017. We’re nine years into the current equities bull market, the second-longest in U.S. history, but there could still be plenty of “gas in the tank,” according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report this week.

So with only a month remaining to Trump’s first term, it’s important to remember the words of Warren Buffett a day before the president was sworn in. Even though Buffett backed Hillary Clinton in the election, he said that “America works and I think it’ll work fine under Donald Trump.”

2. Will S&P 500 Index companies continue to post record-level earnings per share (EPS) in 2018?


s and p 500 index could report record-level earnings per share in 2018
click to enlarge

Earnings per share (EPS) growth is one of the most reliable and closely monitored indicators of market health. It’s one of the key metrics we use to find the most growth-driven and profitable companies.

As my good friend Alex Green said in an interview back in August, “if you look back through history, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single example of a company that increased its earnings, quarter over quarter, year after year, and not see its stock tag along.”

Except for a slight dip from 2014 to 2015, when EPS for the S&P 500 Index fell from $119.70 to $117.55, earnings have been rising steadily since 2009.

As of today, EPS for 2017 stands at $133.73, a new record and up nearly 13 percent from last year.

Next year we could see them climb even higher, if estimates prove to be accurate. In a report last week, FactSet analysts predict EPS by year-end in 2018 to reach $143.17, a 7 percent increase from 2017.

In other words, the American stock market is poised to continue its record-setting bull run in 2018.

3. Can small and mid-size businesses get any more pumped than they are now?


u.s. small cap stocks head higher as optimism hit a near record high in november
click to enlarge

The short answer here is: Yes, they can—but not by much before a new all-time record is reached.

For the past 44 years, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has taken a monthly survey to measure the optimism of small-business owners, and in November, the index climbed to a skyscraping 107.5. That’s the second-highest reading ever, after the index hit 108.0 way back in July 1983 on the hopes of additional Reagan tax cuts.

If we drill down into the various index components, we find that owners are most optimistic about the next three months, with 27 percent saying it will be a “good time to expand,” up from only 11 percent one year ago. They’re ready to unleash capital, buy new equipment and increase labor.

In their monthly commentary, NFIB economists William Dunkelberg and Holly Wade wrote: “There is still much uncertainty about health care and taxes, but it appears that [small-business] owners believe that whatever Congress finally comes up with will be an improvement and so they remain positive.”

That positivity is shared by small-cap stock investors, who’ve driven up the Russell 2000 Index more than 12 percent since the beginning of the year.

4. What will drive gold prices higher?


U.S. dollar forecast to complete a seven year cycle in 2018 click to enlarge

As of Friday, gold was up more than 9 percent for the year. If it stays at its current price level, gold will log its best year since 2011, when it returned 10 percent.

The yellow metal has faced a number of significant headwinds in 2017, including surging equity markets around the world and rate hikes by the Federal Reserve. Under the circumstances, I would describe its performance as highly respectable.

Potential tailwinds in 2018 could help the yellow metal crack the $1,300 level and head higher.

That includes a weaker U.S. dollar. CLSA analysts this week noted that the dollar has traditionally risen in seven-year cycles. Between 1978 and 1985, it gained 68 percent; between 1995 and 2000, 41 percent. The current bull market so far has seen the dollar rise 35 percent, which has been a challenge for gold, commodities and U.S. exports.

That might be set to change in 2018, when we could see a completion of the seven-year cycle. As CLSA writes, “our tactics through 2018 would be to sell U.S. dollar strength in anticipation of break below 91-92 support.”

Other possible tailwinds include geopolitical risks, negative real interest rates across the globe, continually expanding global debt and overvalued equities.

On Monday, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) raised concerns that Russia has developed a ground-launched cruise missile system that might violate a 1987 Cold War pact banning such weapons. It’s believed the missile system would be able to strike Europe on very short notice. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department is working around the clock to dissuade North Korea from continuing its nuclear weapons program. As a store of value, gold has historically performed well in such uncertain times.

Meanwhile, two-year government bond yields in a number of European countries—the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Spain and more—are below zero. As I’ve explained many times before, negative real rates have traditionally been constructive for gold in that particular country’s currency.

Finally, there’s some concern that too much money is flowing into equities right now. According to Bloomberg, the total market cap for world equities is now just a “whisker” away from hitting $100 trillion—a monumental sum, to be sure. Should there be a correction, the investment case for gold and precious metals will become stronger than ever.

5. Can anything stop bitcoin?


Bitcoin trading thrives wherever regulators crack down most
click to enlarge

Bitcoin made some people a whole lot of money this year. One year ago today, the cryptocurrency was trading in the $770 to $780 range. On Friday, it briefly broke above $18,000. That’s a phenomenal return of 2,200 percent. The total market cap of all cryptocurrencies has already crossed above $500 billion and is well on its way to $1 trillion.

So is there anything that could stop its progress?

The most obvious answer might be regulations, but remember, bitcoin made these unexpected gains even as several countries clamped down on the digital currency. Venezuela, which will introduce its own government-sanctioned cryptocurrency, is scheduled to begin regulating bitcoin, but as the bolivar loses more and more of its value, residents have had to rely on bitcoin to survive.

It’s not surprising at all to see that bitcoin has undergone the greatest surge in peer-to-peer trading in countries that have imposed some of the most stringent regulations on cryptocurrencies. This is a currency, after all, that does not require any third-party involvement to trade. It’s able to bypass governments, central banks and borders with ease.

As I said last week, this is precisely why bitcoin is appealing to many investors. And according to Metcalfe’s law, more investors could mean higher ask prices.

Bitcoin might be very appealing right now, but it’s important to keep in mind that this has been a very volatile market. If I didn’t readily have the money to buy bitcoin, I wouldn’t go into debt and certainly wouldn’t mortgage my house to get my hands on it, as some people are reportedly doing.

 

I wish you all a Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

 

 

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

The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The Russell 2000 Index is a small-cap stock market index of the bottom 2,000 stocks in the Russell 3000 Index. The index is maintained by FTSE Russell, a subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange Group.

The U.S. Dollar Index (USDX, DXY) is an index (or measure) of the value of the United States dollar relative to a basket of foreign currencies, often referred to as a basket of U.S. trade partners' currencies.

The NFIB Small Business Economic Trends is an index derived from 10 components, with 1986=100. The index is seasonally adjusted for variations within the year. Monthly surveys are derived from a large sample of respondents drawn from the membership files of the NFIB. The NFIB survey provides an early health check on small businesses, which are critical to the economy. Small businesses account for about half of the nation's private workforce.

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Gobble, Gobble: Thanksgiving Dinners Stuffed with Savings Despite Rising Fuel Costs
November 27, 2017

Live turkeys

I spend a lot of time writing and talking about inflation, especially as it affects the price of gold, oil and other commodities and raw materials. The year-over-year percent change in the cost of living has been reasonably low for the past five years, averaging about 1.3 percent on a monthly basis. For commodities, the average change has been even lower at negative 0.9 percent, as measured by the producer price index (PPI). This hasn’t been too constructive for gold and oil producers, but it’s been a windfall for American consumers and manufacturers.

A helpful way to look at inflation is the changing cost of a typical Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people. For the second straight year, the cost actually declined from the previous year’s holiday, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). This year’s feast, including staples such as turkey, rolls, sweet potatoes and more, fell $0.75 to a five-year low of $49.12. On an inflation-adjusted basis, that’s down more than $10 from 30 years ago. The turkey alone cost about 1.6 percent less than last year.

Cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people 1986 to 2017
click to enlarge

So why’s this happening? Obviously there’s no shortage in demand for turkey, with an estimated 88 percent of American households enjoying it during last week’s Thanksgiving feast. U.S. turkey consumption, in fact, has nearly doubled over the past 25 years, according to the National Turkey Federation (NTF). As you might expect, this has led to an explosion in production over the same period, which has helped keep costs relatively stable for a generation.

On Friday, shares of Tyson Foods, one of the top processors of the poultry, were trading above $80, up more than 30 percent year-to-date.

Again, this is good news for consumers. Also good? Multiple studies have found that Americans gain only about a pound in weight as a result of engorging themselves on Thanksgiving Day. So don’t feel so guilty about having helped yourself to that extra slice of pumpkin pie.

Record Number of Americans Hit the Road and Take to the Skies

Holiday gasoline prices, however, are on the rise, with the cost per gallon rising to its highest level since 2014. A trip to the pump this past Thanksgiving will cost motorists an extra 18 percent compared to last year and nearly 25 percent more compared to 2015. 

Thanksgiving gas prices
click to enlarge

As I shared with you earlier this month, oil prices climbed to two-year highs following Saudi Arabia’s purge of princes and ministers. Markets also appear to be pricing in expectations that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will extend production cuts to the end of 2018.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was trading on Friday at a 52-week high of $59 a barrel. The next stop is $60, a level we haven’t seen since May 2015. In a strategy report last week, BCA Research recommended an overweight position in energy.

Higher fuel costs aren’t expected to discourage domestic travel, though. This Thanksgiving season, approximately 51 million Americans were projected to travel 50 miles or more from home on U.S. roads, highways, airlines, rails and waterways, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). That’s up 3.3 percent from last year and the highest volume since 2005. President Donald Trump mentioned the impressive figure in a tweet last week, adding that “traffic and airports are running very smoothly!”

Trump tweets about travel

Looking at air travel alone, a record 28.5 million passengers were estimated to take to the skies this year during the 12-day Thanksgiving period, according to Airlines for America (A4A). That equates to an additional 2.38 million passengers a day.

Record number of passengers expected to fly on US carriers this Thanksgiving
click to enlarge

With the economy improving, incomes on the rise and consumer confidence at multiyear highs, airline executives expressed optimism in continued flight demand growth and profitability. According to October’s Airline Business Confidence Survey, conducted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), 80 percent of airline chief financial officers (CFOs) said profits improved in the third quarter compared to the same three-month period in 2016. An overwhelming 87 percent were confident such profitability would persist or improve over the next 12 months. Eighty-six percent of CFOs reported increased passenger demand year-over-year in the third quarter, while 71 percent expected traffic volumes to rise a year from now.

Holiday Shopping Sales Could Exceed $107 Billion

On a final note, retailers were bracing for a blowout holiday shopping season. Earlier this month, Adobe Analytics released its forecast that U.S. sales during the Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday could climb above $107 billion, a year-over-year increase of 13.8 percent. Cyber Monday alone might generate as much as $6.6 billion, 16.5 percent more than last year, making it the largest online sales day in history. Among the most hotly anticipated gift items this year are Apple Air Pods, home assistants (Amazon Echo and Google Home) and Sony PlayStation virtual reality (VR) headsets.

Looked at another way, more than 164 million consumers, or nearly 70 percent of all Americans, planned to shop during the Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF). Today, Black Friday might have seen the largest volume of potential shoppers at 115 million, or 70 percent of those polled, followed by 78 million on Cyber Monday.  

More than 164 million consumers plan to shop during Thanksgiving weekend and cyber Monday
click to enlarge

So how could investors take advantage of these findings? According to a recent report from LPL Financial, since 2009 the S&P Retail Select Industry Index has seen the strongest gains during the months of February and March, after companies report sales for the fourth quarter. Retailers are actually down about 6 percent year-to-date, and LPL Financial adds that “it is likely that the performance of individual company stocks be more dispersed than they have been historically, which may favor active management in the sector moving forward.” I agree with this assessment, as we’ve seen quite a lot of volatility in the space.

I want to wish everyone a blessed week! I often say that having gratitude improves your altitude in life. It’s important that we take stock not only in our finances but also the people who matter most, from family and friends to coworkers and business associates.  

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

The Producer Price Index (PPI) is a weighted index of prices measured at the wholesale, or producer level. A monthly release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the PPI shows trends within the wholesale markets, manufacturing industries and commodities markets.

The S&P Retail Select Industry Index represents the retail sub-industry portion of the S&P Total Market Index (TMI). The S&P TMI tracks all the U.S. common stocks listed on the NYSE, AMEX, NASDAQ National Market and NASDAQ Small Cap exchanges. The Retail Index is a modified equal weight index.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of (09/30/2017): Tyson Foods Inc.

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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