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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.

These Olympian Gold Royalty Companies Are Insanely Attractive
August 22, 2016

Why You Should LIke These Gold Medal Royalty Companies

In a note last week, UBS echoed its earlier assessment that gold has indeed “entered a new bull run,” as I shared with you last month. The precious metal had a spectacular first half of the year, with total global demand reaching 2,335 tonnes, the second-highest on record, according to the World Gold Council (WGC).

Despite this, gold is still under-owned, accounting for only 3 percent of total ETF assets under management, UBS writes. The group adds there is room for new or returning market participants who might have cleared out their gold positions during the recent bear market.

Driving the bull run, according to the group, are “a prolonged period of depressed real yields” and “elevated macro uncertainty.” These are themes I’ve returned to many times in the past six months, with global government bond yields continuing to drop below zero and economic and geopolitical unrest advancing following the Brexit referendum and ahead of the U.S. presidential election this November.

Confidence in monetary policy and appetite for government debt continues to erode. According to Zero Hedge, foreign central banks dumped a record $335 billion in U.S. Treasuries during the last year. The top seller in June was China, which cleared $28 billion in Treasuries off its balance sheet. Over the same period, the world’s second-largest economy added to its official gold reserves—500,000 ounces in June alone—in an effort to diversify its holdings.

China Winding Down U.S. Treasuries, Loading Up on Gold
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Investors should take heed of the fact that even central banks have become net buyers of gold. It’s always been my recommendation to maintain a 10 percent weighting in your portfolio—5 percent in gold bullion, another 5 percent in gold stocks.

A Superior Way to Gain Exposure to Gold

One of the best ways to play gold, I believe, is royalty and streaming companies. As a reminder, these companies serve as specialized financiers to explorers and producers. In return for upfront financing, they can receive one of two different types of payments. In one way, they can receive a royalty, or percentage, on whatever future sales the debtor company makes during the life of the mine.

In another way, they can buy a stream of precious metals at a low, fixed price. Discounts on gold, for instance, could be as much as 75 percent. This has typically been the preferred method for paying back the royalty company.

Some of our favorite names in this space include Franco-Nevada Mining, Silver Wheaton, Royal Gold and Sandstorm Gold, all of which have outperformed underlying gold for the 12-month period. Click the hyperlinks to read my special reports on Franco-Nevada and Silver Wheaton.

Royalty Companies Outshining Gold
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Better Allocators of Capital

Royalty and streaming companies show great opportunity on the upside but avoid many of the risks and operating expenses that explorers and producers must deal with.

Interestingly, they all employ a small group of technically skilled mining geologists, engineers, metallurgists and financial mining executives to analyze and monitor their investments.

Because they’re not responsible for buying mining machinery and building, operating and maintaining mines, they have a much lower total cash cost per ounce of gold than miners do. (In this context, cash cost refers to operational expenses that are paid using cash, rather than credit.) Their overhead is kept at a minimum, and they have some of the highest sales per employee in the world. As you can see below, their debt per share is much lower than senior miners Newmont Mining and Barrick Gold—the Army to royalty companies’ more agile and tactical Navy SEALs. Last year, Barrick cut $3.1 billion in debt last year and is on track to pay down an additional $2 billion this year.

We Believe Royalty Companies Have a Superior Business Model
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Their margins have typically been much larger than traditional explorers and producers, allowing them to remain profitable even during gold bear markets.

Take Sandstorm, one of the younger royalty companies. Its second-quarter cash cost per ounce of gold was a mere $261, giving it operating margins of $994 per ounce.

Compare this to Barrick, the world’s largest gold producer. Barrick reported cash costs of $578 per ounce, nearly double that of Sandstorm—and Barrick has some of the lowest costs compared to other miners, according to Motley Fool.

Royalty Companies: Capturing the Upside, Avoiding the Downside
  Mining Companies Royalty Companies
Precious metals price upside X X
Exploration upside X X
Production rate upside X X
No sustaining costs   X
No exploration costs   X
No capital expense overruns   X
Fixed cash costs   X

Investors like royalty companies because they’re a skilled team of former miners and mining executives who generate substantially greater gross margins and have materially fewer employees, with less general and administrative expense.

Further, they offer spectacular optionality. They often buy an asset with a payload over 10 years. However, these deposits often extend for 30 years, so they have potential for a much bigger payback. If the mining company expands production, it’s free additional cash flow, and if they make a large discovery near the producing mine, the royalties have free upside growth.

For further reading, one of the strongest overviews of royalty companies is Streetwise Reports’ “Precious Metal Royalties: The New Landscape.”

A New Entrant

Just as there still might be ample scope for gold investors to participate in the market, one CEO is betting there’s still room for another entrant into the precious metals royalty company space. Long-time precious metals commentator David Morgan recently helped found Lemuria Royalties, which reported in June that it had acquired its first silver royalty from a Peruvian mine operated by a subsidiary of Fortuna Silver Mines.

In January of this year, Morgan summed up his reasoning for establishing a new royalty company: “We favor the streaming and royalty companies a great deal because the risk is very low relative to, let’s say, an exploration company or even a producing company.”

This is precisely why we continue to find the royalty business model very attractive.

 

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

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 06/30/2016: Barrick Gold Corp, Fortuna Silver Mines, Franco-Nevada Corp, Newmont Mining Corp, Royal Gold Inc., Sandstorm Gold Ltd., Silver Wheaton Corp.

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Gold Spending in India Is Set to Get a Boost from a Strong Monsoon Season
August 18, 2016

Since before recorded human history, the people of India have had an insatiable appetite for gold, treasuring it not only for its flawless natural beauty and religious significance but also as a superb store of value. This tradition carries on today, with India’s demand for gold jewelry in 2015 reaching more than 668 tonnes, nearly a third of total global demand and second in size only to China.

India and China Dominate Global Gold Jewelry Market
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I’ve pointed out many times before that the price of gold is largely driven by the Love Trade in India. Demand fluctuates year-to-year depending on several factors, the two most significant being the number of Indian weddings held in the fourth quarter and the amount of crop revenue that’s generated as a result of the summer monsoon season.

The wedding season is still three months away, but the June to September monsoon season is currently in full swing. It’s impossible to overstate just how crucial this period is to India’s important agriculture sector. During an average monsoon season, the Indian subcontinent can receive close to 80 percent of its total annual precipitation.

Most reports so far this year indicate surplus rainfall, with 12 inches being dumped nationwide last month alone, the fifth best month since the 1990s. This should come as welcome relief to Indian farmers, whose incomes have been squeezed by two long years of drought.

It’s also good news for gold consumption.

Converting Crops into Gold

Because of the above-average monsoon, gold spending in India is expected to increase 11 percent in 2016/2017 over the previous September to August crop season, according to Thomson Reuters. This would help reverse weak second-quarter jewelry demand in India due to a gold jewelers’ strike that closed the market for six weeks early in the quarter, a new 1 percent excise duty on jewelry and rising prices.

Gold has Rallied 26% Year-to-Date
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About a third of Indian gold demand comes from rural farmers, who have traditionally converted a percentage of all crop revenue into the precious metal to be held as insurance and sold in times of dire need. A GFMS/Thomson Reuters study conducted last year found that, between 1985 and 2014, there was a strong positive correlation between Indian crop revenue and spending on gold.

Following the crop season, we have Diwali and the Indian wedding season to look forward to.

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is arguably the most sacred holiday in Hinduism, celebrated by millions of people all over the globe. Much like Christmas, it serves as a major shopping season. Families splurge on expensive items such as cars, appliances, clothes—and gold jewelry. You can see how, in past years, the price of gold has ramped up in August and September as Indian merchants and jewelers restock inventories in preparation for the fall festival.  

Gold has Rallied 26% Year-to-Date
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150 Million Indian Weddings Between Now and 2021?

The largest owners of gold in Indian are women, as it is auspicious to give them gifts of gold jewelry before their weddings. Because India lacks a formal social security system, it’s vital for women in particular to have some form of wealth preservation in the event of divorce or widowhood. This is what’s known as stridhan—a portion of a married couple’s wealth that is controlled exclusively by the wife and to which she is entitled, even after separation from her husband.

As World Gold Council CEO Aram Shishmanian put it during our joint webcast in June: “In India, a marriage is not a marriage without gold.”  

Indian Weddings and Gold Infographic

So how many weddings are we talking about, and how much gold? Let’s look at the numbers. According to the Indian government, there are 300 million Indians between the ages of 25 and 29 from now until 2021. During this period, a projected 150 million weddings will take place. And for each wedding, roughly 35 percent to 40 percent of total expenses will be devoted to gold in the form of bullion, coins and jewelry.     

Put another way, it’s estimated that the amount of gold purchased for a typical Indian wedding ranges between 20 and 2,000 grams—equivalent to a little over 70.5 ounces, or $95,457 at today’s prices. The wealthier the family, of course, the more gold they can afford to buy.

But gold is just as popular and valued—if not more so—among lower income families, many of whom depend on monsoon rains to nourish their crops. Here’s to a bountiful yield!

 

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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Go Gold!
August 15, 2016

Last Friday marked one week since the start of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and it’s been nothing short of amazing. Michael Phelps, whose name should forevermore be synonymous with the Olympics, won his 22nd overall gold medal. He also was awarded his 13th individual gold, effectively breaking a record last set in 152 B.C. by legendary runner Leonidas of Rhodes.  

What I find most remarkable about Phelps’ success is that he’s had to overcome strong personal challenges to reach the level he’s at. He was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at a young age, and when he chose to get off his medication, he turned to swimming. More recently, he’s dealt with alcoholism, which landed him a DUI in 2014. His is a quintessentially American story of otherworldly success born out of failure, of meeting the obstacles that block his path to his goals head on.

When Phelps made the decision to compete in his fourth Olympics, he reteamed with his longtime swim coach Bob Bowman and set his mind to training harder than he ever had before—which, at his “advanced” age of 31, would be necessary if he hoped to have a shot at winning the gold.

The most decorated Olympian in history, Phelps, like all winners, focuses on winning. Losers, on the other hand, focus not on winning but on the winners in front of them. They’re more concerned about the short-term noise, at the expense of their long-term goal. The image at the top is a perfect illustration of this, with Phelps’ competitor clearly more concerned with “the Baltimore Bullet” than his own performance.

But many investors, I’ve found, are the same way. Today there’s a lot of noise and distraction, which can influence investment decisions. Much of that distraction is coming from the presidential election, which is already turning out to be one of the most negative and highly contentious in American history.

Trump Self-Sabotages

Someone who could benefit from Phelps’ steadfastness and commitment to his craft is the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who all too often sabotages his own campaign with controversial and incendiary remarks.

We saw this happen last week. While speaking to the Detroit Economic Club, Trump promised that, if elected, he would place a “temporary moratorium” on any new financial regulation. Further, he would repeal the Dodd-Frank Act and reform the tax code to include only three income-tax brackets, down from the current seven.

These are solid proposals, appealing to not only everyday taxpayers but also many of the CEOs I speak with on a regular basis. After all, they’re the ones who must deal with regulations on a daily basis.

The problem, though, is that Trump can’t stay on message. In the opening image, Trump is more like the guy who’s distracted by Phelps rather than Phelps himself. Trump invariably will say something inflammatory soon after making a sensible remark on policy, thereby effectively resetting the news cycle. In last week’s case, it was his comment on “Second Amendment people”—a veiled threat against Hillary Clinton, some interpreted—that dominated the headlines, taking all attention away from the moratorium on financial regulations.  

Research Firm: Get Ready for Madam President Clinton

The cover of TIME’s August 22 edition displays a striking likeness of Trump melting like an Air Wick candle. A single word punctuates the stark image: “Meltdown.” Whether or not you support the New York billionaire, you must admit that the “Trump train” has repeatedly jumped the track since the Republican convention. What’s more, we just learned that GOP Chairman Reince Priebus is being pressured by dozens of Republican insiders to withdraw all party support, including campaign financing, from Trump’s candidacy.

Things aren’t looking good. Even regression analysis now appears to show that Trump’s chances are retreating.

In a new report, investment research firm Ned Davis makes the case that, based on historical precedent, economic as well as stock and bond market performance so far this year is pointing to an incumbent party victory in November. The chart below shows that the upward trajectory of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 2016 more closely resembles the average performance seen in all years when the incumbent party—Republican or Democrat—held on to office.

Dow Jones Industrial Average Performance Pointing to Incumbent Party Win in November
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According to Ned Davis strategists Ed Clissold and Victor Jessup, “When the economy has not been in a recession, the odds of the incumbent party retaining control of the White House has jumped to 71 percent.” Since 1900, presidential elections have landed during recessions five times. In four of these instances (1920, 1932, 1960 and 2008), the incumbent party lost. The exception was 1948 when Harry Truman won—just barely, if you remember your history—but the recession began the same month as the election.

The group points out, however, that it’s extremely rare for a two-term Democrat to pass the baton to a new Democrat via election. How rare? The last time this happened was in 1836, when Andrew Jackson—the very first Democratic president—was succeeded by Martin Van Buren.

Hillary for Precious Metals

I’m very often asked which candidate will be better for gold: Trump or Clinton? The honest truth is that the answer changes week-to-week. Sometimes it’s Trump because he has demonstrated unpredictability and unpreparedness. Other times, it’s Hillary because she has proposed policies that were clearly inspired by the socialist leanings of Bernie Sanders, who still remains very popular among far-left Democrats. In her economic address last week, she laid out her plan to make college “debt-free” and tuition absolutely “free” to children from families who earn less than $125,000 a year.

To make this plan happen, of course, income taxes will most likely need to be hiked. And if history tells us anything, it’s that gold demand has increased when socialist policies threatened economic growth. The price of gold is inversely correlated with the five-year and 10-year Treasury yields, which fall when the economy is floundering. This makes the yellow metal all the more attractive to investors.

That’s why I always recommend a 10 percent weighting in bullion and gold stocks, in both good and bad times. Gold has a history of holding its value even during economic turmoil, which is why it’s prudent to maintain an allocation in your portfolio.

Alibaba Beats Expectations. Is China Next?

Last Thursday, giant Chinese ecommerce site Alibaba posted spectacular numbers, suggesting a turnaround for the world’s second biggest economy possibly isn’t too far behind. Alibaba—whose 2014 IPO stands as the largest in U.S. history, according to Renaissance Capital—posted quarterly revenues of $4.8 billion, a whopping 60 percent increase from the same time last year, and the biggest ever since before the company went public.

This is constructive news for China. Alibaba works with a reported 8.5 million sellers, from mom-and-pop-type shops to multibillion-dollar, international corporations, making for a good cross-section of the Chinese economy. (You could argue the same of Amazon and the U.S. economy.) That Alibaba’s sales are up indicates that consumption in China is stronger than perhaps analysts anticipated. Indeed, Beijing reported that retail sales grew nearly 11 percent in the second quarter  year-over-year, beating estimates of 9.9 percent.   

 

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.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. None of the securities mentioned in the article were held by any accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 6/30/2016.

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The Olympic Games Reflect Our Love of Gold
August 11, 2016

a gold laurel wreath dating from the 3rd or 4th century BCE

Every child knows Olympic gold medals are for first place, silver for second and bronze for third. But where does this tradition come from?

Like most everything else relating to the Olympics, we can trace the tradition back to the ancient Greeks, who assigned metals (not medals) to different Ages of Man. First among them was the Golden Age, characterized as a peaceful time when humans and gods lived in harmony and food was plentiful. The Greeks believed this to be the pinnacle of our existence, after which it all went downhill. Following that golden period came the Silver Age, when childhood lasted 100 years. Then, the Bronze Age, a time of violence and destruction among warring tribes.

The Greeks weren’t alone in their reverence of gold, of course. It fascinates me that nearly every ancient people, no matter the continent or region, imbued the precious metal with the same degree of sacredness and purity. One of the earliest known metals, gold was valued for its resemblance to the sun, itself worshipped as a powerful deity in many cultures. The ancient Incans, in fact, referred to gold as “sweat of the sun.” When you held a gold nugget, it was believed, you held a piece of the gods themselves.

Michael Phelps showing off his Olympic gold medals on the August 2008 cover of Sports IllustratedAlthough most of us no longer believe gold emerged from the sweat glands of great celestial beings, we nevertheless still hold the metal in very high regard. This is what I often refer to as the Love Trade, the proof of which can be seen all around the globe—from beautiful gold wedding rings in the U.S., to finely crafted bridal jewelry in India, to gold coins given to newborn babies in South Korea. So high is our regard for gold that we reward the world’s most gifted athletes—our modern day Greek gods and goddesses—with a small disk of the stuff.

More or less.

Alas, today’s Olympic gold medals contain only a small trace of the yellow metal. According to Kitco News, they’re about 95 percent silver and 1.2 percent gold, making them worth nearly $570 at current prices. (Of course, the real value is much higher. A gold medal earned by an obscure athlete can go for $10,000 at auction, and the price goes up from there. Jesse Owens’ gold medal, awarded during the 1936 Berlin Games, sold for $1.47 million in 2013.) The last (and only) time medals were 100 percent pure was during the 1912 games in Stockholm.

If this seems disappointing, it’s better than it once was. In ancient Greece, winners weren’t awarded a medal of any kind. Instead, they were crowned with wreaths of olive branches, a tradition that was observed in the first modern Olympics, the 1896 Athens Games. It wasn’t until the 1904 St. Louis Games that the current practice of awarding gold for first, silver for second and bronze for third was standardized.

Gold Has Taken the Gold Compared to Most Major Asset Classes

the first Olympic gold medal was awarded during the 1904 Games in St. Louis Besides the pageantry and superhuman athleticism, fans and viewers are drawn to the competitiveness that’s on display at the Olympic Games. Athletes have trained for countless hours to prepare for their events, often costing their families tens of thousands of dollars in the hopes that they will stand atop the winners’ podium and be awarded the gold medal.

Likewise, many investors, myself included, gain a lot of pleasure (and heartache) watching their favorite asset classes perform in global markets—including gold.

There was much heartache indeed during the recent bear market that sunk gold from its 2011, all-time high of $1,900 an ounce to its trough of $1,053 near the end of 2015. Since the start of the year, however, the yellow metal has rallied more than 26 percent, leading many analysts and brokers— including Paradigm Capital, HSBC, RBC Capital Markets and the World Gold Council (WGC)—to declare this the beginning of a new upcycle, as uncertainty over central bank policy is deepening.

gold has outperformed most asset classes
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According to the WGC, gold has outpaced other major benchmarks and asset classes for both the one-year (horizontal axis) and year-to-date (vertical axis) periods of return. In addition, the metal’s volatility has been fairly comparable to S&P 500 Index stocks. (In the chart above, volatility is represented by the size of the circles.) The Love Trade is still strong globally, but much of gold’s appeal right now stems from investors’ concerns that unconventional monetary policies have not been effective at jumpstarting growth.

Gold is up not just in U.S. dollars. It’s also rising steadily in countries with a major presence in the gold-mining space, including the U.K., Turkey and Russia. Note the huge spike in pound sterling-priced gold following the Brexit vote and subsequent currency drop.

gold returns priced in various currencies
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These Gold Funds Are Built to Compete

That doesn’t mean all gold funds have provided the same level of performance. Like a highly trained Olympian, our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX)and World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX) have demonstrated a competitive edge in a cutthroat competitive space.

Check out the stats: According to Morningstar data, the Gold and Precious Metals Fund ranked six out of 73 Equity Precious Metals funds for total return for the one-year period as of June 30, 2016. The fund also ranked seven out of 69 and 35 out of 50 such funds for total return for the five- and 10-year periods.

As for the World Precious Minerals Fund, it ranked two out of 73 Equity Precious Metals funds for the one-year period, 44 out of 69 funds for the five-year period and 47 out of 50 funds for the 10-year period as of June 30.

What’s more, USERX and UNWPX have BOTH been recognized by Morningstar, with USERX earning four stars overall among 71 Equity Precious Metals funds and UNWPX receiving five stars for the three-year period among the same number of funds.

Morningstar Rating
  Gold and Precious Metals Fund   World Precious Minerals Fund
Overall/71 Overall/71
3-Year/71 3-Year/71
5-Year/69 5-Year/69
10-Year/50 10-Year/50

Morningstar ratings based on risk-adjusted return and number of funds
Category: Equity Precious Metals
Through: June 30, 2016

Don’t settle for the bronze! I invite you to explore the performance and holdings of the Gold and Precious Metals Fund and World Precious Minerals Fund.

SHOW ME THE WAY TO GOLD INVESTING!

 

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. Foreside Fund Services, LLC, Distributor. U.S. Global Investors is the investment adviser.

Performance data quoted above is historical. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Results reflect the reinvestment of dividends and other earnings. For a portion of periods, the fund had expense limitations, without which returns would have been lower. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. The principal value and investment return of an investment will fluctuate so that your shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Performance does not include the effect of any direct fees described in the fund’s prospectus (e.g., short-term trading fees of 0.05%) which, if applicable, would lower your total returns. Performance quoted for periods of one year or less is cumulative and not annualized. Obtain performance data current to the most recent month-end here or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS.

Gold, precious metals, and precious minerals funds may be susceptible to adverse economic, political or regulatory developments due to concentrating in a single theme. The prices of gold, precious metals, and precious minerals are subject to substantial price fluctuations over short periods of time and may be affected by unpredicted international monetary and political policies. We suggest investing no more than 5% to 10% of your portfolio in these sectors.

Morningstar Ratings are based on risk-adjusted return. The Morningstar Rating for a fund is derived from a weighted-average of the performance figures associated with its three-, five- and ten-year (if applicable) Morningstar Rating metrics. Past performance does not guarantee future results. For each fund with at least a three-year history, Morningstar calculates a Morningstar Ratingä based on a Morningstar Risk-Adjusted Return measure that accounts for variation in a fund’s monthly performance (including the effects of sales charges, loads, and redemption fees), placing more emphasis on downward variations and rewarding consistent performance. The top 10% of funds in each category receive 5 stars, the next 22.5% receive 4 stars, the next 35% receive 3 stars, the next 22.5% receive 2 stars and the bottom 10% receive 1 star. (Each share class is counted as a fraction of one fund within this scale and rated separately, which may cause slight variations in the distribution percentages.)

The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The S&P GSCI Total Return Index in USD is widely recognized as the leading measure of general commodity price movements and inflation in the world economy. Index is calculated primarily on a world production weighted basis, comprised of the principal physical commodities futures contracts. The Barclays High Yield Index covers the universe of fixed rate, non-investment grade debt. Pay-in-kind (PIK) bonds, Eurobonds, and debt issues from countries designated as emerging markets (e.g., Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, etc.) are excluded, but Canadian and global bonds (SEC registered) of issuers in non-EMG countries are included. Original issue zeroes, step-up coupon structures, and 144-As are also included. The Barclays 1-3 Month Treasury-Bill Index includes all publicly issued zero-coupon U.S. Treasury Bills that have a remaining maturely of less than 3 months and more than 1 month, are rated investment grade and have a $250 million or more of outstanding face value. The Barclays U.S. Credit Bond Index represents publicly issued U.S. corporate and specified foreign debentures and secured notes that meet the specified maturity, liquidity and quality requirements. To qualify, bonds must be SEC-registered. The index includes both corporate and non-corporate sectors. The corporate sectors are Industrial and Finance, which include both U.S. and non-U.S. corporations.

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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The Last Known Gold Deposit
August 8, 2016

Goldcorp CEO Chuck Jeannes called 2015 the eyar for peak gold, citing the lack of new major gold discoveries. Do the facts line up with his predictions?

Gold is one of the rarest elements in the world, making up roughly 0.003 parts per million of the earth’s crust. (For some perspective, one part per million, when converted into time, is equivalent to one minute in two years. Gold is even rarer than that.) If we took all the gold ever mined—all 186,000 tonnes, from the bullion at Fort Knox to India’s bridal jewelry to King Tut’s burial mask—and melted it down to a 20.5 meter-sided cube, it would fit snugly within the confines of an Olympic-size swimming pool.

The yellow metal’s rarity, of course, is one of the main reasons why it’s so highly valued across the globe and, for most of recorded history, recognized and used as currency. Unlike fiat money, of which we can always print more, there’s only so much recoverable gold in the world. And despite the best efforts of alchemists, we can’t recreate its unique chemistry in a lab. The only way for us to acquire more is to dig.

But for how much longer?

Goldman Sachs analyst Eugene King took a stab at answering this question last year, estimating we have only “20 years of known mineable reserves of gold.”

The operative word here is “known.” If King’s projection turns out to be accurate, and the last “known” gold nugget is exhumed from the earth in 2035, that won’t necessarily spell the end of gold mining. Exploration will surely continue as it always has—though at a much higher cost.

(In fact, our insatiable pursuit of gold might one day soon take us to space, as President Barack Obama signed legislation in November that permits commercial mineral extraction on asteroids and the moon. Many near-Earth asteroids are said to contain trillions of dollars’ worth of precious metals and other minerals. But that’s a discussion for another time.)

We’ll probably see a surge in mergers and acquisitions, as I told Kitco News’ Daniela Cambone last week. I think that as long as they have reliable output, mid-cap companies could be gobbled up by the Barricks and Newmonts of the world.

Another consequence of recovering the last known nugget? The gold price could spike dramatically to levels only imagined. My colleague Jim Rickards, in his book “The New Case for Gold,” puts it at $10,000 an ounce. GoldMoney founder James Turk says it’s closer to $12,000. There’s really no way of knowing how high gold could go.

Did Gold Production Peak in 2015?

What we do know is that global gold output has been contracting since 2013. Last year might have been the tipping point, however, in line with Goldcorp CEO Chuck Jeannes’ prediction that peak gold was within spitting distance.

“There are just not that many new mines being found and developed,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 2014, adding that this was “very positive” for the gold price going forward.

This year, second-quarter mine supply was 2 percent less than the same period in 2015, according to preliminary estimates made by Thomson Reuters GFMS. Some analysts now expect global production to fall 3 percent in 2016, after seven straight years of growth.

world quarterly mine production is trending down
click to enlarge

What’s more, few new projects and expansions are expected to come online this year, writes Thomson Reuters, “and those in the near-term pipeline are generally fairly modest in scale, hence our view that global mine supply is set to begin a multiyear downtrend in 2016.”

Indeed, if we look at projects that opened in just the last two or three years, we see that they’re of lower grade, meaning they don’t produce nearly as much as older, easy-to-mine gold deposits.

new mines are making small contributions to global gold production
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The truth of the matter is, when it comes to discovering new gold deposits, the low-hanging fruit has likely already been picked. Gone are the days when someone could stumble upon an exposed hunk of gold at the bottom of a riverbed, as James Marshall did in 1848, setting off the California Gold Rush. Every year, the pursuit of gold becomes increasingly more challenging—not to mention more expensive—requiring ever more sophisticated tools and technology, including 3D seismic imaging, direction drilling and airborne gravimetry. (A satisfactory “gold fracking” method, however, seems unlikely to become reality any time soon.)

Compounding the issue is the fact that the number of years between discovery of a new major deposit and production is widening, due to the increase in feasibility assessments, compliance, licenses and more—and that’s all before nugget one can be extracted. The average lead time for gold mines worldwide is close to 20 years, though it can sometimes be more, depending on the jurisdiction. This highlights the need for worldwide policy reform to remove many of the barriers that obstruct responsible mining.

number of years between deposit discovery and production is growing
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In The Goldwatcher, the book I co-wrote with John Katz, I expressed the importance of knowing which developmental stage of a mine’s lifecycle a project currently falls into, as this has a strong influence on stock performance. Investing, like life, is all about managing expectations.

lifecycle of a mine
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Few New Mines as Companies Deleverage

What all of this means is we’ll probably continue to see fewer and fewer major discoveries, or those that yield more than a million ounces. As you can see below, new gold discoveries peaked in 1995. Exploration spending peaked nearly 20 years later when the price per ounce averaged $1,600.

Where Have All the Gold Discoveries Gone
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With gold now trading above $1,340 an ounce, up 26 percent for the year, many investors expect producers to begin lifting spending on exploration and production (or dividends).

Instead, most companies are in cost-cutting mode, using this opportunity to pay down debt and liquidate assets. According to Reuters, North American gold producers have managed to lower their debt levels 30 percent since late 2014.

Speaking to Mining.com, Newmont Mining CEO Gary Goldberg said his company, the second-largest gold producer in the world, is one of the few that’s currently building new mines—specifically the Merian project in Suriname and Long Canyon in Nevada. Because of the lack of new mines being built, he sees supply falling 7 percent between now and 2021.

Demand for the yellow metal, on the other hand, should remain strong during this period, helping to support prices even more.

Massive Inflows into Gold Funds

Daily Percent Change Following Positive Jobs Report

In the meantime, gold continues to find support from global monetary policy and low to negative government bond yields. Last week the Bank of England cut rates as part of a stimulus package, which both weakened the British pound 1.5 percent and gave the yellow metal a jolt.

These gains were erased, however, following Friday’s better-than-expected U.S. jobs report, which sparked a rally in Treasuries. This contributes to the narrative that gold and government debt are inversely related, a key component of the Fear Trade.

When priced in the local currencies of the U.S., Canada, South Africa or Australia—four of the largest gold-producing countries—bullion is up, which has boosted miners’ profits. Gold stocks, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, have appreciated 128.92 percent in the last 12 months.

Gold Priced in Local Currencies
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For the first half of 2016, inflows into commodities have been the strongest since 2009. Gold and other precious metals account for about 60 percent of the new money, which has pushed commodity assets under management above $235 billion. Barclays believes 2016 could be the best year on record for gold-related ETFs and other funds, with many big-name hedge fund managers, from Stan Druckenmiller to Paul Singer to Bill Gross, singing the praises of the yellow metal.

 

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All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. By clicking the link(s) above, you will be directed to a third-party website(s). U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by this/these website(s) and is not responsible for its/their content. This news release may include certain “forward-looking statements” including statements relating to revenues, expenses, and expectations regarding market conditions. These statements involve certain risks and uncertainties. There can be no assurance that such statements will prove accurate and actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements.

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.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 6/30/2016: Barrick Gold Corp., Newmont Mining Corp.

 

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Net Asset Value
as of 08/24/2016

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.67 -0.07 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $9.17 -0.66 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $8.53 -0.59 China Region Fund USCOX $7.61 -0.05 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $5.51 -0.03 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $23.71 -0.08 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $18.98 -0.09 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.26 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.01 No Change