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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.

Coinbase and the IRS: A Win for Both
December 14, 2017
http://www.usfunds.com/investor-library/frank-talk-live/coinbase-and-the-irs-a-win-for-both/#.WjQBU1VKvcs

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Visit the Top Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Power Hubs of the World (VIDEO)
December 13, 2017

bitcoin accepted everywhere

The revolution might not be televised, but it will most certainly be digitized.

That’s the message, at least, of my friend Jonathan Roth’s short film on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, titled “Cryptocurrency Revolution: On the Frontlines of the World’s Hottest Tech Opportunity.”

I was very honored to participate in the making of this film, which takes viewers on a tour of some of the world’s key power hubs in the cryptocurrency industry. That includes Iceland, home of the Enigma Ethereum Mine.

The largest such mining farm in the world, Enigma is the crown jewel of Genesis Mining, whose billionaire cofounder and CEO, Marco Streng, likes to compare blockchain to the earliest days of the internet.

“Everyone knows by now that this space has huge potential and drives innovation, but we can’t know how big it will be,” Marco says in the film.

Similarly, few people in the mid-1990s could have guessed just how dominant Google and Amazon would become in people’s day-to-day lives.

This is a sentiment shared by my good friend Frank Giustra, founder of Lionsgate Entertainment, who was instrumental in helping HIVE Blockchain Technologies become the world’s very first publically-traded blockchain and cryptocurrency mining company.

“This game will evolve. It’s not going to stay static,” Frank says. “We just have to figure out how to stay relevant and part of what will be a technology that is not going to go away.”

Be a part of the digital revolution by watching the video below!

 

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

Free cash flow (FCF) is a measure of a company's financial performance, calculated as operating cash flow minus capital expenditures. FCF represents the cash that a company is able to generate after spending the money required to maintain or expand its asset base.

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 9/30/2017.

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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This Week in Bitcoin: The IRS Targets Coinbase, Venezuela to Mint Its Own Cryptocurrency
December 11, 2017

bitcoin accepted everywhere

Writing about blockchain and bitcoin right now is a little like buying a new computer in the 1990s. The tech was advancing so fast in those days that as soon as you brought the thing home, it was sorely outdated. Similarly, the cryptocurrency world is changing so rapidly at the moment that even before “the ink dries” on one of my posts, some important new development has already surfaced.

Case in point: When Bloomberg ran a particular story last Monday—Bitcoin Is Now Bigger Than Buffett, Boeing and New Zealand”—bitcoin’s market cap hovered just above $185 billion, making it worth more than the likes of PepsiCo, Boeing and McDonald’s.

Bitcoin is now worth more than some of the worlds biggest companies as of decemeber 4
click to enlarge

Well, here it is a week later, and this chart is already outdated. As of Monday morning, bitcoin’s market cap topped $275 billion, bringing its total value comfortably above Coca-Cola, Toyota and Verizon (and now Bank of America, Walmart, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer, AT&T and Chevron). Next stop is Alphabet, which had a market cap of $288 billion at the end of the third quarter.

Or consider this: In May 2011, an early bitcoin investor named Greg Schoen tweeted his regret that he sold at $0.30, as the currency had then risen to $8.00 apiece.

I wish I kept my bitcoin tweet

Obviously we’ve seen earth-shattering appreciation since then. As of my writing this, bitcoin has breached the $17,000 level, up nearly 5.6 million percent—yes, you read that right, 5,600,000 percent—from our friend Greg’s exit point in 2011.

Bitcoin, of course, is just the largest fish in the entire universe of cryptocurrencies, which now number somewhere in the vicinity of 1,340, according to CoinMarketCap. If we combine the total market cap of all “altcoins” Monday morning, the amount exceeded $440 billion. That’s larger than the economies of Thailand, Nigeria and Austria. As of my writing this, as many as 15 coins had market caps over $2 billion.

total cryptocurrency universe market cap exceeded 400 billion for first time
click to enlarge

Coinbase Now Has More Accounts Than Charles Schwab

opening a coinbase account is as easy as opening a tinder account

This meteoric growth has attracted not just retail investors but also, inevitably, regulators. San Francisco-based Coinbase, which allows users to trade digital currencies, now boasts more active users than fellow San Francisco-based Charles Schwab, the second biggest brokerage firm following Fidelity. As of December 1, Coinbase had 13 million accounts, Schwab 10.6 million.

Contributing to Coinbase’s attractiveness is the ease with which someone can join. Whereas it can take up to two weeks to create a Schwab account, a Coinbase account can be opened in mere minutes, and as effortlessly as a Tinder account. This is one of the many reasons why both the popular online trading platform and dating service appeal to millennials.

According to Coinbase, as much as $50 billion have been traded on its platform since its inception, but as the number of accounts grows, we’ll likely see this dollar figure surge exponentially. This is the effect of Metcalf’s law, which I featured in an earlier post and discussed with SmallCapPower during the Mines and Money conference in London last month.

Frank Holmes speaking at Mines and Money Conference in London

The Rule of Unintended Consequences

If you recall, President Reagan once said: “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops, subsidize it.” Surprising no one, then, Coinbase’s success has raised alarm bells for regulators and other government officials.

Ironically, it’s regulators that have unintentionally created the current environment in which cryptocurrencies now thrive. Back in May, I shared with you the fact that the number of listed companies here in the U.S. fell by more than half between 1996 and 2016. The addition of new financial rules and regulations, from Sarbanes-Oxley to Dodd-Frank, has encouraged more and more startups to avoid going public altogether, which is why we’re seeing an explosion right now in both stock prices—fewer listed companies means greater consolidation of fund flows into select stocks—and nontraditional methods of fundraising, from initial coin offerings (ICOs) to angel investing.

mob boss al capones bootlegging business thrived in the era of restrictive government policies

Consider the unintended consequences of Prohibition. Thanks to the 18th Amendment, the U.S. saw a sharp rise in organized crime and the emergence of notorious figures such as Al Capone.

By invoking “Scarface,” I’m not suggesting that all activities involving cryptocurrencies are illegal or malicious. I’m only saying that when rules and regulations become too restrictive, it invites new opportunities in unexpected ways.

And the beat goes on. After a months-long pushback, Coinbase agreed at the end of November to turn over the identities of 14,000 of its users to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which asserted that only 800 to 900 taxpayers reported bitcoin earnings between 2013 and 2015.

The tax agency initially requested access to all 13 million of Coinbase’s users, so I would call this an overall win for the exchange.

Bad News Is Good News

You might presume the IRS’ crackdown on Coinbase would discourage some potential bitcoin investors from participating. I would argue that the IRS incident is actually constructive for bitcoin because there’s very recent precedent of similar setbacks being turned into a windfall for digital currencies.

In mid-September, we saw the price of bitcoin dip sharply after China restricted new ICOs and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon knocked the digital currency as a “fraud,” comparing it to the Dutch tulip bubble in the 17th century. The one-two punch purged the market of weak-stomached investors, resulting in an intraday loss of $711 per coin.

Since mid-September, though, bitcoin has rallied close to 380 percent, even after the IRS came for its pound of flesh. On November 29, bitcoin swung wildly from as high as $11,427 to as low as $9,001, a difference of $2,426.

Those who managed to tolerate these swings in the past will likely continue to stay aboard the S.S. Bitcoin—after all, the big banks and IRS’ opposition to digital currencies is precisely why they’re in the game in the first place. Bitcoin enthusiasts value the currency because it’s decentralized, anonymous, finite and cannot be manipulated by “the powers that be,” unlike fiat money.

Put another way, that some world governments, big banks and the IRS seek to quash bitcoin is unequivocal confirmation of its value.

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

That brings us to Venezuela’s recent announcement that it plans to launch its own cryptocurrency, dubbed the “petro,” which will reportedly be backed by oil, gold and diamond reserves.

The revelation comes as the beleaguered South American country’s economy continues to deteriorate since Nicolás Maduro took office in 2013. The country owes around $60 billion to bondholders yet has only $9.6 billion sitting in the bank. An estimated 80 percent of Venezuelans currently live in poverty. Food, medicine and other necessities are dangerously scarce, and inflation right now is among the worst the world has ever seen, comparable to Germany in the 1920s and Zimbabwe in the 80s.


Venezuela expected to face even higher hyperinflation

click to enlarge

This is inexcusable for such a resource-rich country. Venezuela, which depends on oil for around 95 percent of its export revenues, sits atop the world’s largest known oilfield. Amazingly, though, its output has been declining for several straight months. In September, production fell below 2 million barrels a day, a three-decade low, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Conditions aren’t likely to improve for the country since Maduro consolidated power in July, effectively making himself absolute dictator and inviting harsh economic sanctions from the U.S. government.

This is precisely what drives Maduro’s interest in establishing a cryptocurrency—to circumvent U.S.-led sanctions. The petro will serve as a “buffer” between transactions, encrypting all incoming and outgoing money to free up the country’s monetary system from controls imposed by the U.S.

As explained by Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky, foreign investors “will be able to lend money to Venezuela and get repaid in cryptocurrency, which Maduro wants them to spend on oil and other Venezuelan commodities” that are tied up by the U.S.

Russia has similar ambitions with its “CryptoRuble,” unveiled in October. Like Venezuela, Russia grapples with steep U.S. and international sanctions following its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Below is a flowchart— courtesy of Zura Kakushadze, professor of quantitative finance at Free University of Tbilisi, and Jim Kyung-Soo Liew, assistant professor of finance at John Hopkins University—illustrating how the CryptoRuble is designed to allow the Russian government to maintain full control of money flow into and out of the country’s coffers.


Schematic depiction of the money flow into and from cryptoruble

click to enlarge

According to Kakushadze and Kyung-Soo Liew:

With government-issued cryptocurrencies, central banks and sovereign governments will gain even more control, not less, than with the current banking system… This is any government’s dream come true!

To be clear, the way in which Venezuela and Russia plan to use cryptocurrencies is antithetical to their appeal in the eyes of many investors. Unlike bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and other popular digital currencies, the petro and CryptoRuble are centralized—they are conceived and will be controlled exclusively by the Venezuelan and Russian governments.

And unlike bitcoin, they will not be mined, as gold is, but issued by governments, as fiat money is.

Again, Kakushadze and Kyung-Soo Liew:

The world order as we know it is changing, right before our eyes. This disruptive technology—cryptocurrencies—will indeed end up disrupting the status quo. However, at least in the mid-term, forward-thinking sovereign states that embrace and adapt it to their advantage will end up being the disruptors as opposed to disrupted. The U.S. is the sovereign state with the most to lose in their process, with a clear policy implication: adapt to the changing reality, issue CryptoDollars now, or risk being marginalized.

This assessment dovetails perfectly into a November report from Deutsche Bank strategists Jim Reid and Craig Nicol, who reflect on what they see as the end of traditional fiat money within the coming decades. Because fiat currencies are “inherently unstable and prone to high inflation,” Reid and Nicol write, “We may need to find an alternative.” Among other solutions, the two suggest cryptocurrencies, which “are as much about blockchain as anything else.”

Speaking of blockchain, Australia’s main stock market, the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), is soon poised to become the first in the world to use blockchain’s superior ledger technology to process transactions, according to Bloomberg. It wouldn’t surprise me if other global stock markets, including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), quickly embraced this exciting new technology. 

How to Gain Exposure to Bitcoin Without Owning Any

And finally, both the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) have set the table to offer bitcoin futures contracts for the first time ever this month—the CBOE this past Sunday, the CME a few days later. This will give investors a new way to participate in bitcoin and, in many skeptics’ minds, help “legitimize” the currency as a serious asset.

There are other ways to participate without actually owning bitcoin. In a recent Bloomberg story, Tom Lee of market research firm Fundstrat lists several companies and funds with exposure to the digital currency. Among his favorites is HIVE Blockchain Technologies, a blockchain infrastructure company involved in the mining of fresh new coins, never before traded. The first company of its kind to sell shares to the public, HIVE began trading on the TSX Venture Exchange on September 18.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say on these topics at a later time. In the meantime, I invite you to watch this short, 16-minute film titled “Cryptocurrency Revolution: On the Frontlines of the World’s Hottest Tech Opportunity.” It features myself, Frank Giustra and Marco Streng, co-founder and CEO of Genesis Mining, the world’s largest cloud bitcoin mining company.

 

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. Some links above may be directed to third-party websites. U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by these websites and is not responsible for their content.

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): The Boeing Co., Chevron Corp.

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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Gold Looks Like a Bargain Just in Time for Christmas
December 4, 2017

Gold christmas tree decorations

One of the most compelling and engaging presenters at the Precious Metals Summit in London last month was Ronald-Peter Stöferle, a managing partner at Liechtenstein-based asset management company Incrementum. Incrementum, as you may know, is responsible for publishing the annually-updated, widely-read “In Gold We Trust” report, which I’ve cited a number of times before.

During his presentation, Stöferle shared the fact that his wife prefers to do her Christmas decoration shopping in January. When he asked her why she did this—Christmas should be the last thing on anyone’s mind in January—she explained that everything is half-off. A bargain’s a bargain, after all.

This is very smart. Here we are several days before Christmas, and demand for ornaments, lights and other decorations is red-hot, so be prepared to pay premium prices if you’re doing your shopping now. But mere hours after the Christmas presents have been unwrapped and Uncle Hank has fallen asleep on the couch with a glass of boozy eggnog, stores will begin slashing prices to get rid of inventory.

Gold bullion and mining stocks are currently in the “January” phase, so to speak, according to Stöferle. The Barron’s Gold Mining Index, which goes all the way back to 1938, recently underwent its longest bear market ever, between April 2011 and January 2016. And as I already shared with you, the World Gold Council (WGC) reported last month that gold demand fell to an eight-year low in the third quarter.

Barrons gold mining index bear markets since 1942
click to enlarge

“Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is,” Warren Buffett famously said. “The time to get interested is when no one else is.”

The same logic applies to Christmas decorations, gold and mining stocks.

Gold on Track for Its Best Year Since 2010

As of my writing this, gold is trading around $1,280, up 11 percent in 2017. That’s off 5 percent from its 52-week high of $1,351 set in September. If it stays at its present level until the end of the year, the metal will end up logging its best year since 2010, when it returned 30 percent.

former national security advisor pleaded guilty to lying to fbi

Gold traded up on Friday as the U.S. dollar weakened following news that former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russian officials last December during the presidential transition. It’s possible that the details Flynn might provide as part of a plea bargain could help special prosecutor Robert Mueller advance his investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

But back to gold. Considering it’s faced a number of strong headwinds this year—a phenomenal equities bull run that’s drawn investors’ attention away from “safe haven” assets, lukewarm inflation and anticipation of additional rate hikes, among others—I would describe its performance in 2017 as highly respectable.

And yet if you listen to the mainstream financial news media, gold is “boring” and “flat.” Speaking to CNBC last week, Vertical Research partner Michael Dudas called the gold market “eerily quiet.”

10 day standard deviation

click to enlarge

Dudas was specifically describing gold’s volatility, but even here the facts tell a slightly different story. In the table to the right, you can see the 10-day standard deviation for a variety of assets, using data from the past 12 months. Gold traded with higher volatility than domestic equities, the U.S. dollar and global emerging markets. Of those measured, only oil and bitcoin showed higher volatility.

Based on volatility alone, it’s stocks that look pretty “boring” and “quiet” this year, but you’re not likely to hear a pundit or analyst describe them that way.

And with good reason. The S&P 500 hasn’t fallen more than 3 percent from a previous high for more than 388 days now, the longest stretch ever for the index. And for the first time in its 120-year history, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has reached four 1,000-point milestones in a single year—with a whole month left to go. It’s possible that excitement over the Senate’s tax bill will be enough to push the Dow above 25,000 sometime before the ball drops in Times Square. The drama involving Flynn, however, could threaten to derail those chances.

Dow jones industrial average made history again
click to enlarge

What this means is that, compared to domestic equities, gold is highly undervalued right now. The gold-to-S&P 500 ratio, a time-tested trading indicator, is near 50-year lows. I see this as a strong buy signal, especially now as we await the Federal Reserve’s decision to lift rates this month. If you recall, gold broke out strongly following the December rate hikes in 2015 and 2016.

Gold is a bargain right now compared to stocks
click to enlarge

In his December outlook on precious metals, Bloomberg Intelligence commodity strategist Mike McGlone writes that “gold is ripe to escape its cage soon,” adding that “prices just don’t get as compressed as they did for gold in November, indicating a breakout soon.”

Is a Recession Brewing? History Says Maybe

So what are the catalysts that could trigger a breakout? Stöferle mentions two: a possible recession and stronger inflation.

“I think the odds are pretty high that a recession might be upon us sooner or later because we’re in this rate hike cycle, and as always the central banks are way behind the curve,” he said.

What Stöferle is referring to is the strong historical correlation between new U.S. rate hike cycles and recessions. Going back more than 100 years, 15 of the last 18 recessions were directly preceded by monetary tightening.


Recessions have historically followed us rate hike cycles click to enlarge

The Federal Reserve isn’t just raising rates, remember. It’s also begun to unwind its $4.5 trillion balance sheet, which was built in the years following the financial crisis. This carries historical risk. The central bank has embarked on similar reductions six times in the past—in 1921-1922, 1928-1930, 1937, 1941, 1948-1950 and 2000—and all but one episode ended in recession.

“Quantitative tightening will fail,” Stöferle predicted.

Obviously, there’s no guarantee that this particular round will have the same outcome as past cycles, but if you agree with Stöferle, it might be prudent to have as much as 10 percent of your wealth in gold bullion and gold stocks.

 

The Risks Surrounding Tax Reform

Inflation is a trickier thing to forecast. A lot of people, myself included, had expected the cost of living to show signs of life this year in response to some of President Trump’s more protectionist and policies. But nearly 10 months into his term, no major legislation has been passed or signed.

That might be about to change with the highly anticipated tax reform bill, which the Senate passed late Friday night. If the bill reaches Trump’s desk, it will be the first time in a generation that the U.S. has amended its tax code.

But will the $1.5 trillion bill, as it’s currently written, lead to stronger economic growth and pay for itself, as its most vehement supports insist? My hope is that it will. As I’ve been saying for a while now, it’s time we begin relying more on fiscal policies to drive growth, especially now that the Fed is beginning to tighten policy.

In the spirit of staying balanced, though, there are troubling signs and forecasts that the bill could actually end up being a disappointment. After reviewing the bill, the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates that its enactment could lead to a whopping $1.4 trillion increase in the deficit between now and 2027. Even if we factor in economic growth that might come as a result of reforms, the JCT says, we’d still be looking at a $1 trillion shortfall.

Many economists are also skeptical. A recent University of Chicago Booth School of Business survey of economists from Yale, MIT, Princeton, Harvard and other Ivy League schools found that over half did not believe the current tax bill will “substantially” grow GDP. Only 2 percent thought it would, and more than a third were uncertain. Additionally, nearly 90 percent believed that if the bill is enacted, the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio will be “substantially” higher a decade from now.

And then there’s the Kansas experiment from five years ago. In May 2012, Governor Sam Brownback signed a sweeping state tax reform bill that in many ways resembles the Senate’s current tax bill. It slashed personal and business income taxes, consolidated the state’s three tax brackets into two and eliminated a number of credits and exemptions. Hopes were high that the reforms would kickstart economic expansion, help taxpayers and attract new business to the state.

Instead, none of that happened. Following the bill’s enactment, Kansas GDP growth remained stagnant, trailing the national growth rate as well as that of neighboring states and even its own rate from years past. This year, the nonprofit financial watchdog group Truth in Accounting gave Kansas a failing financial grade of D, citing its inability to pay its debts or balance its budget.


Kansas 2012 tax cuts failed to spur growth a lesson for the us click to enlarge

In June of this year, Kansas’ Republican-controlled state legislature voted to raise taxes for the first time since reforms were enacted and eventually had to override Governor Brownback’s veto. Many of those state legislators who initially supported the Kansas tax cuts are now warning federal lawmakers that similar outcomes could occur on a nationwide scale.

I’m not sharing this to discredit tax reform—in fact, I’m strongly in favor of it. However, I believe it’s important to highlight the fact that nothing in life is guaranteed. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. What steps can you take now in the event the tax reform bill doesn’t accomplish what it’s designed to do—or worse? This type of uncertainly has historically made gold shine the brightest.

Think Gold Has Fallen Short of Expectations this Year? Don’t Blame Bitcoin

At conferences I’ve attended and spoken at recently—the Silver & Gold Summit in San Francisco and Mines and Money in London among them—the suggestion has been made by a few big-name investors and money managers that bitcoin’s meteoric rise is to blame for the market’s apparent disregard for gold and gold stocks right now. With bitcoin up more than 1,050 percent since the beginning of the year, even after a 21 percent dip last Wednesday, many market-watchers might simply be too star-struck by the newness of bitcoin to be bothered by the “barbarous relic.”

I happen to think this is a mistake. As much as I believe in the value of bitcoin, gold and gold stocks still play a crucial role in the modern portfolio.

As I told Kitco News’ Daniela Cambone at the Silver & Gold Summit, bitcoin isn’t responsible for dismantling gold. Although both assets are currencies, I don’t see them at odds because they serve very different functions. For one, gold is more than money—it’s worn as jewelry, widely used in dentistry and can be found in art and even some high-end foods. It’s been traded around the world for millennia and, unlike bitcoin, does not require electricity. Indeed, it conducts electricity, which is why you can find it in your iPhone and GoPro camera’s circuitry.

Frank Holmes on CNBC london

Bitcoin is more than money as well. It’s the most influential spokesperson, if you will, of blockchain technology, upon which the currency is built. Speaking with SmallCapPower’s Angela Harmantas at the Mines and Money conference in London, I made the comparison that bitcoin is to email as blockchain is to the internet. In the earliest days of the internet, few people truly understood what it was or could predict the implications of this new technology—but email they understood. It’s what woke people up to the idea of using the internet. Bitcoin is doing just that for blockchain.

But blockchain’s utility goes far beyond finance. As a decentralized, highly encrypted ledger, it has untold potential to change the way we run our lives, businesses and governments. Among other tasks, the technology can help manage digital rights to intellectual property, bring transparency to supply chains and reliably track the spending of public funds. It can even be used as a tamper-proof voting system, whether you’re voting for a new chairman of the board or president of the United States. One day soon, we might all be e-voting from our smartphones and tablets, reassured that our vote cannot be compromised.

For more on my outlook on bitcoin and blockchain, and to get my thoughts on why I think HIVE Blockchain Technology is well-positioned to be an industry leader, watch my full interview with Angela Harmantas.

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.

Standard deviation is a measure of the dispersion of a set of data from its mean. The more spread apart the data, the higher the deviation. Standard deviation is also known as historical volatility.

The Standard & Poor's 500, often abbreviated as the S&P 500, or just the S&P, is an American stock market index based on the market capitalizations of 500 large 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 Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ. The DJIA was invented by Charles Dow back in 1896. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is an index created by Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) designed to measure equity market performance in global emerging markets. 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 Barron’s Gold Mining Index (BGMI)  consists of publicly traded companies involved primarily in the mining for gold

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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Move Over, Tesla! China Holds the Keys to Electric Vehicles
November 28, 2017

Woman holding electric car keys

Earlier this month, I shared with you a quote from Arnoud Balhuizen, chief commercial officer of BHP Billiton, the largest mining company in the world. In a September interview with Reuters, Balhuizen called 2017 the “revolution year [for electric vehicles], and copper is the metal of the future.”

Balhuizen’s assessment couldn’t be more accurate, and the implications for investors is too compelling to ignore.

In the third quarter, global sales of electric vehicles (EVs) soared 63 percent compared to the same period last year, 23 percent compared to the second quarter. A total of 287,000 units were reportedly sold in the September quarter, leading Bloomberg New Energy Finance to project total annual sales to exceed 1 million units for the first time.

As the world’s largest auto market, China was responsible for about half of the sales as the crackdown on polluting industries has propelled renewable alternatives from power generation to consumer products.

60 Million Electric Cars by 2040?

This is only the beginning. The chart below, highlighted by Katusa Research and originally provided by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, takes a look at annual global EV sales forecasts through the year 2040. As you can see, China, the U.S. and Germany will push the adoption of EVs forward, with the rest of the world following closely behind. Many analysts believe that by 2040, the global EV market could exceed 60 million vehicles sold per year.

Projected annual global electric vehicle sales
click to enlarge

Chinese automakers are moving fast to meet the demand. Volvo Cars, owned outright by Hangzhou, China-based Geely Auto, has already stated it will cease production of fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2020. On top of that, the company is currently building electric versions of London’s iconic taxis, and Uber is rumored to buy as many as 24,000 electric Volvos.

In October, Great Wall Motors announced its plans to form a joint venture with Germany’s BMW to begin production on a new fleet of EVs. Toward that end, the manufacturer bought a 3.5 percent stake in an Australian lithium-mining company to support long-term development of battery resources and control pricing power.

And although it’s not as big a powerhouse as its peers, relative newcomer Guangzhou Automobile Group also has high ambitions to introduce EVs in as many as 14 global markets including North America, Africa, South and Eastern Europe and South East Asia. It recently signed an agreement with tech behemoth Tencent to cooperate on artificial intelligence (AI)-driving and “smart” vehicles.

Electrified shares of chinese automakers headed higher
click to enlarge

Looking ahead to 2040, China is forecast to capture more than 40 percent of the world EV market, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), as well as nearly 30 percent of total new wind, solar and nuclear capacity additions. 

China leads the push for new energy technologies
click to enlarge

As for the European market, Germany is expected to outpace its neighbors in adopting EVs as Volkswagen, the world’s number one automaker by sales, seeks to become a global leader in electric and self-driving cars. The Wolfsburg-based company announced plans to invest as much as $40 billion over the next five years to expand its selection of EVs.

China’s Campaign Against Pollution to Could Drive Global Energy Trends

China’s interest in EVs is only part of a much broader effort to improve its deteriorating air quality. Faced with worsening smog in large East Coast cities, the Asian giant has ordered thousands of factories and manufacturers, especially those that burn coal, to shut down in accordance with the government’s four-year climate action plan. The capacity cuts are contributing to higher metals prices, with the S&P GSCI Industrial Metals Index having gained more than 24 percent year-to-date.  

Take a look at the following chart courtesy of the IEA. Whereas President Donald Trump is seeking to revitalize coal mining in the U.S., coal demand in China, the world’s largest energy consumer, is expected to decline nearly 500 million tonnes of coal equivalent (mtce) between 2016 and 2040. This comes after demand stood at more than 2 billion tonnes between 1990 and 2016. Instead, the country is actively pivoting into cleaner-burning natural gas and renewables such as wind, solar and hydro.

China's switch to a cleaner energy mix will drive global trends
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According to the Wall Street Journal, coal power production in China was negative for the second straight month in October, bringing 2017 growth to negative 3 percent. Hydropower output, on the other hand, grew 17 percent.

Lots of Room for Potential Growth

Returning to EVs, adoption isn’t currently widespread across the globe, with only 14 large metropolitan areas accounting for roughly a third of all sales, according to a recent report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). The group highlights 20 “electric vehicle capitals” of the world, where EV sales beat the global norm in the past two years. China claimed seven of these cities, Europe a further seven. Only four U.S. cities made the list: New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose.

Local laws and ordinances have inevitably played a huge role in speeding up the transition from gas-powered to electric cars. In Shenzhen, for instance, all public buses must be emission-free by the end of the year, making it the first city in the world to have an all-electric fleet. Beijing will be replacing all 69,000 of its taxis with EVs. And Qingdao, about midway between Shenzhen and Beijing, is offering consumers subsidies of between $5,000 and $9,000 per electric vehicle.

Like blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, electric vehicles are still in the early innings, with great potential growth still ahead.

Metals Gaining Leadership in Commodities Space

As I’ve pointed out a number of times before, this is all very constructive for copper, cobalt, lithium and other metals that are used predominantly in the production of EVs. On average, an electric vehicle requires three to four times as much copper as a car with a traditional internal combustion engine.

The red metal is one of the best performing materials for the 12-month period, currently up more than 17 percent on increased demand and a weakening U.S. dollar. Over the same period, cobalt has returned an incredible 112 percent.

A weakening US dollar is constructive for commodities
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In a Bloomberg Intelligence report this week, commodity strategist Mike McGlone says that “positive second-half commodity-market momentum is set to accelerate in 2018,” adding that “metals are poised to sustain leadership, particularly as the dollar has peaked.”

Read more on how to invest in China’s new high-tech economy!

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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 S&P GSCI Industrial Metals Index provides investors with a reliable and publicly available benchmark for investment performance in the industrial metals market.

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 9/30/2017: BHP Billiton Ltd., Geely Automotive Holdings Ltd., Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Great Wall Motor Co. Ltd., Tencent Holdings Ltd.

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Net Asset Value
as of 12/15/2017

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.91 -0.03 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $7.27 -0.06 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $5.67 -0.05 China Region Fund USCOX $11.08 -0.09 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $7.06 -0.01 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $24.78 0.24 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $22.12 0.24 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.21 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change