Share this page with your friends:

Print
New Economic Report Card Shows that the U.S. Still Has the Competitive Edge
October 16, 2014

America’s still got it.

That’s according to the latest Global Competitiveness Report, which names the U.S. the third-most competitive nation in the world, our highest ranking since 2008.

For 10 years now the World Economic Forum (WEF) has published its annual competitiveness report, which assesses the strength of 144 countries’ 12 “pillars,” including institutions, infrastructure, health and primary education and higher education. It then ranks these countries based on their overall ability to promote prosperity for their citizens.

Singapore retains its number two spot for the fourth straight year, while Switzerland leads for the sixth year in a row.

Top 20 Countries in 2013 - 2014 Global Competiveness Index
click to enlarge

From 2006 until 2008, the U.S. held the top position, but following the financial crisis, our ranking slipped to number seven in 2012.

This year, the WEF notes:

“U.S. companies are highly sophisticated and innovative, and they are supported by an excellent university system... Combined with flexible labor markets and the scale opportunities afforded by the sheer size of its domestic economy—the world’s largest by far—these qualities make the United States very competitive.”

You might be thinking: But wait, didn’t China’s economy just exceed our own?

Yes and no.

It’s true that, when U.S. and China’s economies are not adjusted for costs of living, the U.S. is still “the world’s largest by far.” Our GDP stands at around $16.8 trillion whereas China’s is $9.3 trillion.

But based on purchasing power parity (PPP), a calculation that factors in relative costs of living to make comparisons between and among countries “fairer,” China has indeed caught up with and surpassed the U.S.

China's Economy Surpasses the U.S.'s Based on Purchasing Power Parity
click to enlarge

This news might bruise some readers’ egos, but it’s actually a tailwind for both commodities and our China Region Fund (USCOX). China is such an important player in the global economy that it’s nearly impossible for any serious investor to see China’s ascent as anything but positive.

Below are some of the key takeaways from the Global Competitiveness Report.

Strengths

The economic report card gives the U.S. many accolades, including its capacity to attract and retain talented people from abroad. I always say that when people want to innovate and start businesses, they typically come here to the United States. The report reveals it’s relatively easy in the U.S. for “entrepreneurs with innovative but risky projects to find venture capital.” Our financial services are strong, and we have ready access to bank loans for sound business plans. When it comes to the ease of raising money by issuing shares on the stock market, we come in at sixth place, following Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Africa, New Zealand and Qatar.

The United States ranks high in company spending on research and development.Only Switzerland beats us in our capacity for innovation.

We score very well in our availability and corporate adoption of the latest technologies, as well as availability of scientists and engineers, quality of scientific research institutions and company spending on R&D. We rank eleventh in the number of patent applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), amounting to 149.8 per one million U.S. citizens.

In the business sophistication pillar, we excel above all other countries in our use of sophisticated marketing tools and techniques.

Areas for Improvement

It comes as no surprise that the top three most problematic factors for doing business in the U.S., according to the report, are tax rates, tax regulations and inefficient government bureaucracy. It’s for these reasons that some businesses, including Burger King, Medtronic and Chiquita, are in the process of moving their corporate headquarters to countries with friendlier tax rates—Ireland, Canada and Singapore, among others.

High tax rates, burdensome regulations and inefficient government bureaucracy are all cited as "problematic factors" for doing business in the U.S.To prevent such tax inversions from occurring, our tax code sorely needs amending. Our 35-percent corporate income tax rate is the highest among the 34 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and we actually rank 32 out of 34 in the 2014 International Tax Competitiveness Index. Only Portugal and France fare worse.

Indeed, the Global Competitiveness Report shows that, to a large extent, taxes reduce the incentive to work: in this department we come in at number 37, just between China and Ghana. As for wastefulness of government spending, we rank number 73, trailing France by one point and China by 49 points. The report also shows that it can often be difficult for some businesses to comply with U.S. government regulations.

If our government were to simplify the tax code and ease regulations, there’s no doubt that the U.S. could once again claim top honor.

Other crucial areas for improvement include quality of electrical supply (we come in at number 24, following Barbados), soundness of banks (number 49), gross domestic secondary enrollment rate (59) and quality of math and science education (51).

Emerging Countries 

Some of the emerging markets that we track at U.S. Global Investors either made gains this year or maintained their positions.

Poland, for instance, held on to its rank of 43. The WEF noted the country’s “improvements… in institutions, infrastructure and education,” its “increased flexibility in labor market efficiency” and its “[c]ontinued structural reforms geared toward strengthening its innovation and knowledge-driven economy.” A well-educated population and secure financial market make Poland globally competitive, but to truly boost its innovative capacity, it needs to improve its infrastructure, soften regulations and make settling business disputes more efficient.

Greece jumped 10 spots to reach the rank of 81. Despite its high levels of government debt, the Mediterranean country has managed to improve the functioning of its goods and labor markets and reduce its budget deficit. However, its government is still inefficient and its financial market has yet to recover from the recent crisis that hit parts of Europe. A lack of access to financing is the most problematic factor for doing business in Greece.

Other key emerging markets that rose up the list were China, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Keep Investing in America

Despite a few areas for improvement, the United States is still the preeminent place on earth to invest, with plenty of openings for growth. As we continue to recover from the recession, now is the most opportune time in years to place your trust in America’s future.

Our two U.S. equity funds, All American Equity Fund (GBTFX) and Holmes Macro Trends Fund (MEGAX), have been impacted by the global economic slowdown and growth scare. Cyclical stocks—the kind we focus on in these two funds—have lagged defensive stocks, by about 6 percent in the last month and a half.

Cyclicals are those types of goods and services consumers can afford to purchase when the economy is performing well. Examples include discretionary-type companies such as Apple, Priceline and Tesla Motors. Defensives, on the other hand, typically remain stable, even in times of market downturns. Examples include electricity, gas and food.

Cyclical Stocks Have Dropped 6 Percent in Last Month-and-a-Half Compared to Defensive Stocks
click to enlarge

This might sound like troubling news, but we view it as an opportunity. As you can see, a similar discrepancy between cyclical and defensive stocks occurred in April and May of last year, and yet mean reversion corrected it. We’re optimistic that such a turn will occur again, which means that now might be an ideal time to accumulate cyclicals.

Our Near-Term Tax Free Fund invests in the schools that keep America competitive.Another way to potentially capitalize on our nation’s successes is U.S. Global Investors’ Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX), which invests in high-quality, U.S. municipal bonds. A significant portion of the fund is invested in health services, public schools and higher education, three of the 12 pillars that the WEF assesses. To keep these services operational and efficient, state and local governments rely on funding from the very bonds we invest in, which in turn improves Americans’ livelihood as well as the businesses they run.

Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, NEARX has delivered positive tax-free income for the past 13 years. The fund seeks preservation of capital and has an attractive floating $2 net asset value (NAV) that has demonstrated minimal fluctuation in its share price.

Near-Term Tax Free Fund Annual Total Return
click to enlarge

Because of its risk-adjusted returns, NEARX has earned the coveted five-star rating from Morningstar* for the five-year performance period and four stars overall. Check out its performance here.

To learn more about how you can help keep the United States competitive, I encourage you to request an information packet.

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

Morningstar Rating

Overall/164
3-Year/164
5-Year/137
10-Year/103

Morningstar ratings based on risk-adjusted return and number of funds
Category: Municipal National Short-Term Funds
Through: 09/30/2014

Bond funds are subject to interest-rate risk; their value declines as interest rates rise. Tax-exempt income is federal income tax free. A portion of this income may be subject to state and local income taxes, and if applicable, may subject certain investors to the Alternative Minimum Tax as well. The Near-Term Tax Free Fund may invest up to 20% of its assets in securities that pay taxable interest. Income or fund distributions attributable to capital gains are usually subject to both state and federal income taxes. The Near-Term Tax Free Fund may be exposed to risks related to a concentration of investments in a particular state or geographic area. These investments present risks resulting from changes in economic conditions of the region or issuer. Though the Near-Term Tax Free Fund seeks minimal fluctuations in share price, it is subject to the risk that a decline in the credit quality of a portfolio holding could cause a fund’s share price to decline. Stock markets can be volatile and can fluctuate in response to sector-related or foreign-market developments. For details about these and other risks the Holmes Macro Trends Fund may face, please refer to the fund’s prospectus. Foreign and emerging market investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and less public disclosure, as well as economic and political risk. By investing in a specific geographic region, a regional fund’s returns and share price may be more volatile than those of a less concentrated portfolio.

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 Global Competitiveness Index, developed for the World Economic Forum, is used to assess competitiveness of nations. The Index is made up of over 113 variables, organized into 12 pillars, with each pillar representing an area considered as an important determinant of competitiveness: institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market sophistication, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation.

The Tax Foundation’s International Tax Competitiveness Index (ITCI) measures the degree to which the 34 OECD countries’ tax systems promote competitiveness through low tax burdens on business investment and neutrality through a well-structured tax code. The ITCI considers more than forty variables across five categories: Corporate Taxes, Consumption Taxes, Property Taxes, Individual Taxes, and International Tax Rules.

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

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the funds mentioned as a percentage of net assets as of 09/30/2014: Burger King (0.00%), Medtronic (0.00%), Chiquita (0.00%), Apple, Inc. (4.35% in All American Equity Fund, 4.56% in Holmes Macro Trends Fund), The Priceline Group, Inc. (3.00% in All American Equity Fund, 3.03% in Holmes Macro Trends Fund), Tesla Motors, Inc. (2.09% in All American Equity Fund, 2.93% in Holmes Macro Trends Fund).  

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. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Share “New Economic Report Card Shows that the U.S. Still Has the Competitive Edge”

Warning: Market Correction Last Week… Did You See the Opportunity?
October 13, 2014

While stocks fell around the world last week amid growing concerns over global economic growth, Europe’s slowdown can’t stop emerging market population growth that drives long-term commodity demand. If the short-term market volatility concerns you, a solution is short-term tax-free municipal bonds. Check out the 5 Reasons Why.

Last week we saw a continued selloff in energy stocks and a slump in commodity prices, specifically oil. In light of this, I've highlighted some key points portfolio manager Brian Hicks and I made during our latest webcast that might offer investors some clarity and insight into our management strategy when such market nervousness occurs.

Everything that appears in italics is commentary from the webcast.

PMI: Commodities’ Crystal Ball

You look at the stock market as a precursor to economic activity six months out. If you’re looking at commodities, you must be looking at PMIs.

JP Morgan Global Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index
click to enlarge

What our research has shown is that there is a 60- to 80-percent probability of commodities and commodity stocks rising when the global PMI’s one-month reading is above the three-month trend. When its one-month is below the three-months, there is a high probability of these sectors and stocks falling over the next six months.

Commodities and Commodity Stocks Historically Rose Six Months After PMI CrossOver
click to enlarge

The global PMI reading is a composite of each country’s unique PMI. So we look at individual countries and try to gauge what their monetary and fiscal policies are going to be. These government policies have a high correlation to commodity demand, which is significant to resource investments.

Brian Hicks

Brian HicksBrian Hicks, portfolio manager of our Global Resources Fund (PSPFX), stepped in to share his thoughts on the resources sector, devoting special attention to the recent performance of crude oil.

Despite the recent selloff, I believe it’s actually an excellent time to be looking at resource stocks and energy stocks in particular.

 

 

The Polarity of the Dollar and Crude Oil

The following chart mathematically depicts the oversold nature of crude oil:

Year-Over-Year Percent Change Oscillator: S&P 1500 Energy vs. U.S. Dollar
click to enlarge

The dollar is significantly overbought relative to crude oil. The dollar is up almost two standard deviations, crude oil down almost one standard deviation. History has shown, whether it’s in 2011 or 2012, that this has been a good time to buy crude oil.

Natural Resources Stocks Priced to Move

Another factor that gets me excited about these energy stocks and natural resource stocks is the metrics that we’re seeing from a fundamental standpoint. Looking at the top 50 holdings for our Global Resources Fund, what jumps out immediately is just how cheap these stocks are relative to their growth rate, trading at 20 times in the last quarter earnings. Sales were growing at over 20 percent.

Global-Resources-Fund-Portfolio-Construction
click to enlarge

These companies are very profitable, generating return on equity of 25 percent, paying a dividend yield on average—about 2.7 percent—and growing that dividend at about a 30-percent click. And as you can see, these stocks have outperformed the S&P 500 Index so far year-to-date (YTD), even with this pullback.

A Thirst for Oil

Looking at global oil demand, you can see it’s been unrelenting through recessions, through bull markets, bear markets, and it looks like it’s going to continue to go up at a fairly steady level based on latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Global Oil Demand Reaching New Highs
click to enlarge

Below is a very important point to consider. Where oil prices are now, we’re getting to the area where production could be cut off because prices are not high enough to incentivize new development, new production and new drilling.

2015 U.S. Tight Oil Production by Incentive Price
click to enlarge

If you look at crude oil price somewhere in the area of $80 to $90, we have about 650,000 barrels per day of production that need to be supported at that particular level. So we really can’t go too much lower in terms of pricing. Otherwise, we would see a significant drop in the supply of oil.

Just to give you a sense of the scale here, we’re expected to grow demand by one million barrels per day, and we have 650,000 barrels that need an oil price north of $80.

Pricing Black Gold to Stay in the Black

Another significant factor is the price that’s necessary for countries that produce crude oil or export crude oil out of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) or non-OPEC.

Producer Country Budget Breakeven Prices
click to enlarge

On average, you need to see $95-per-barrel prices in order for these countries to balance their budgets—their fiscal budgets. What really sticks out is Russia and Saudi Arabia. They’re the two largest exporters of crude oil and, as you can see above, Russia requires an oil price north of $100, Saudi Arabia right at about $95 per barrel on a Brent basis, and we’re below that number now.

The next OPEC meeting is in November. I would be surprised if we did not see another production cut if oil prices remain at these levels. I think that OPEC and the Saudis need to come in and support prices even more so than they already have following the cut in August.

U.S. Gushing Oil

One area that’s been very topical and interesting as of late is the growth in U.S. crude oil production. It’s at a new 25-year high.

U.S. Crude Oil Production at a 25-Year High
click to enlarge

We’ve gone from basically 4.5 million barrels in 2008 to 8.5 million barrels. Energy stocks are no longer just the commodity play. They’re also a volume growth play.

You can see this paradigm shift in that many of these shale producers have gone out and invested a lot of capital over the years and now, over the next two years or so, we’re going to start to see a free cash flow payback on that initial investment and infrastructure in fracking and developing their resource.

U.S. Oilfield Cash Flow and Capital Expenditure
click to enlarge

Because they’re going to start seeing free cash flow, I think there’s the potential we could get a rerating in multiples to that cash flow. Instead of trading four to six times, maybe we trade higher, somewhere between seven or eight times due to that positive free cash flow metric.

Commodities: A Value Play

Commodities have way underperformed other asset classes, bonds, U.S. equity, and we feel like this is where the value is at. This is the area where you can put capital to work for the long term and outperform, whereas some of the other areas such as in bonds or U.S. stocks may not perform as well.

Class Returns
click to enlarge

There are pockets of strength within the commodity sector where I think we will see companies profit and do well. On the whole, given this pullback, I’m very optimistic about resources going forward.


No Faith in the G20 Central Bankers

G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in WashingtonLast weekend the finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s top 20 economies met in Washington to discuss, among other issues, solutions to Europe’s weak economic performance. The region, whose sluggishness has negatively affected the global market, is at risk of dipping into its third recession since 2008.

I have no confidence that this body can persuade Europe to act sooner rather than later to dig itself out of further economic hardship. As I’ve observed in my global travels, the G20 central bankers are not interested in promoting and facilitating trade among nations. Instead, they’re interested foremost in levying more taxes and imposing more regulations that actually impede international trade.

It’s Economics 101: Capital cannot be spurred or created with high taxes and strangulating regulations.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi assures the media that the eurozone will recover soon, but as we wait, the region continues to underperform and drag the rest of the markets down with it. European growth in the second quarter was flat, and this quarter doesn’t look as if it will fare much better. France’s manufacturing sector has steadily contracted. Over the last 12 months, it’s seen only two PMI scores above 50, which would indicate expansion. Even usually-reliable Germany, the eurozone’s largest economy, is in the midst of a downturn.

The U.S. has been gradually recovering from its worst economic period since the Great Depression, and to continue this progress, we need strong trading partners. Investors have become impatient waiting for Europe to get its fiscal act together and stop trying to rationalize even more taxes and regulations.

If it weren’t for the U.S. and Canada propping up the rest of the world, Europe would likely be in a more depressed state than it already is. 

Again, you can still catch the replay of last week’s webcast, which includes more on macroeconomics and a timely discussion of gold and gold stocks with portfolio manager Ralph Aldis.

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

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

The J.P. Morgan Global Purchasing Manager’s Index is an indicator of the economic health of the global manufacturing sector. The PMI index is based on five major indicators: new orders, inventory levels, production, supplier deliveries and the employment environment.

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 500 Materials Index is a capitalization-weighted index that tracks the companies in the material sector as a subset of the S&P 500. The S&P 500 Energy Index is a capitalization-weighted index that tracks the companies in the energy sector as a subset of the S&P 500. The S&P 1500 Energy Index is an unmanaged market capitalization index that tracks the companies in the energy sector as a subset of the S&P 1500.

There is no guarantee that the issuers of any securities will declare dividends in the future or that, if declared, will remain at current levels or increase over time. Note that stocks and Treasury bonds differ in investment objectives, costs and expenses, liquidity, safety, guarantees or insurance, fluctuation of principal or return, and tax features.

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.

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. Past performance does not guarantee future results. 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.

Share “Warning: Market Correction Last Week… Did You See the Opportunity?”

How Alibaba Could Capitalize on the EBay-PayPal Split
October 7, 2014

Ebay and Paypal Split - U.S. Global InvestorsInternet auctioneer and retailer eBay announced last week that it will be spinning off its online payment service PayPal into two listed companies. This decision, heralded by activist shareholder Carl Icahn, among other investors, will allegedly enable both companies to focus exclusively on what they do best.

The split makes a lot of sense. PayPal’s non-eBay business is growing three times faster than eBay-related transactions. Freeing itself from its parent company will strengthen its brand and marshal its troops under one banner. It will also enable PayPal to allocate more intellectual bandwidth toward improving its mobile payment services in order to stay ahead of serious competitors such as Square Cash, Google Wallet and newcomer Apple Pay, which launched with the iPhone 6. Facebook might also be looking into mobile payment services soon, as a recent hack revealed that Facebook Messenger contains hidden code to accommodate friend-to-friend payments.

But another repercussion of the split is that eBay will give up much of its market value. The company is currently valued at roughly $70 billion, and of that amount, PayPal might be entitled to $47 billion. When the two go their separate ways, eBay will then be worth $23 billion.

Which is very close to the amount Alibaba Group raised on the first day of its historic IPO.

Alibaba Tops the List of the 10 Largest U.S. IPOs to Date
click to enlarge

Even though eBay CEO John Donahoe, who will be stepping down once the spinoff is complete, has roundly denied rumors that the company is for sale, Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma is in the buying mood.

Alibaba is a company founded by Chinese people but that belongs to the world - Jack MaAlibaba, which we now own in our China Region Fund (USCOX), has already made several recent high-profile investments and acquisitions. It currently owns about 30 percent of Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter; 26 percent of Intime Retail, a Chinese department store; 16.5 percent of Youku Tudou, a Chinese Internet video company; UCWeb, a Chinese mobile e-commerce firm; and even 50 percent of the Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club.

In his letter to investors, Ma hinted that Alibaba is now looking beyond China’s borders:

From the very beginning our founders have aspired to create a company founded by Chinese people but that belongs to the world. In the past decade, we measured ourselves by how much we changed China. In the future, we will be judged by how much progress we bring to the world.

There was a time when eBay appeared likely to dominate not just the American market but the Chinese market as well. Then-CEO Meg Whitman stated in 2004: “Ten to 15 years from now, I think China can be eBay’s largest market on a global basis… We think China has tremendous long-term potential and we want to do everything we can to maintain our number one position.”

Whitman was certainly right about China’s tremendous potential.

Today, Taobao, Alibaba Group’s eBay-like consumer-to-consumer marketplace, does more business and moves more inventory annually than eBay does in China alone. If Ma were interested in reaching American consumers, eBay could very possibly be his entry point.

“The only way Alibaba can break into the American market is to have an American company like eBay,” Marth Stokes, CEO of TechniTrader, told International Business Times. “Otherwise, they’re going to have a really tough sell.”

Asian E-Commerce Companies Making Huge Strides

Led by giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.com, U.S. Internet companies maintain a firm upper hand over the rest of the world. Of the $1.5 trillion represented below, American companies control close to $1 trillion.

But Asian Internet companies, Chinese in particular, are gradually gaining ground.

The World's Largest Publically Listed Internet Companies by Market Capitalization
click to enlarge

Alibaba, fueled by its record IPO, has already surpassed Facebook in market cap. It’s now the second-largest company in the Nasdaq Internet Index behind Google, and were it in the S&P 500 Index, it would be the 11th largest company.

Alibaba’s hypothetical acquisition of eBay would be a major tipping point, further tilting e-commerce in China’s direction. Not only would the auction site fall under the umbrella of the Alibaba Group, but much of PayPal’s business might also drift to Alipay Wallet, which handles much of the transactions made through Alibaba’s many marketplaces. Although Alibaba no longer has ownership of Alipay, it’s already the world’s leading mobile payment service. Last year alone, 2.78 billion transactions were made using Alipay, amounting to $150 billion—far exceeding PayPal and Square’s combined $50 billion in volume.

Competition Mounting

Despite the success of digital behemoths such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.com, American Internet stocks are actually lagging behind their Asian counterparts. Whereas the former have returned only 0.55 percent, the latter have delivered 2.59 percent year-to-date (YTD).

Asian Internet Stocks Are Outperforming U.S. Internet Stocks year-to-date
click to enlarge

This might very well persist as more and more people in the Asia region gain connectivity and spend their money online. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), around 45 percent of the world’s Internet users will be from the Asia-Pacific region by the end of this year. In China alone, there are 618 million Internet users. Of those, 302 million—nearly the population of the United States—shop online.

Again, Donahoe claims neither eBay nor PayPal is for sale. But this is the same man who on numerous occasions opposed Icahn’s suggestion to split the two. With Internet company mergers and acquisitions accelerating—Facebook, for instance, just closed on a deal to acquire popular instant messaging service WhatsApp for $22 billion—it’s not out of the realm of possibility that eBay might one day be subsumed by Alibaba Group.

U.S. Global Investors analysts and investment team stay current on global e-commerce companies “EBay may be a shark in the ocean, but I am a crocodile in the Yangtze River,” Ma stated in 2005. “If we fight in the ocean, we lose—but if we fight in the river, we win.”

We at U.S. Global Investors are curious to see how a growing Chinese middle-class will shift the global online marketplace ecosystem and payment service industry. The winners will likely be Asian companies such as Alibaba. Smartphones such as the Apple 6 will also benefit, as more and more people will use them to make transactions. The losers could possibly be cash and second-tier credit cards such as Discover.

But like a weathervane, our investment team will be sensitive to the direction Internet companies take—on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

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

Foreign and emerging market investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and less public disclosure, as well as economic and political risk. By investing in a specific geographic region, a regional fund’s returns and share price may be more volatile than those of a less concentrated portfolio.

The NASDAQ Internet Index is a modified market capitalization-weighted index designed to track the performance of the largest and most liquid U.S.-listed companies engaged in internet-related businesses and that are listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or NYSE Amex. The Bloomberg Asia Pacific Internet Index is a capitalization-weighted index of internet companies from the Asia Pacific Region. The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the China Region Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 6/30/2014: EBay (0.00%), PayPal (0.00%), Square, Inc. (0.00%), Google (0.00%), Apple (0.00%), Facebook (0.00%), Alibaba Group (0.00%), Visa (0.00%), General Motors (0.00%), Kraft (0.00%), UPS (0.00%), CIT (0.00%), Travelers Group (0.00%), HCA (0.00%), Goldman Sachs (0.00%), Weibo (0.00%), Twitter (0.00%), Intime Retail (0.00%), Youku Tudou (0.25%), Amazon.com (0.00%), TechniTrader (0.00%), Tencent Holdings (4.55%), Baidu (0.00%), Priceline Group (0.00%), Yahoo! (0.00%), JD.com (0.00%), Netflix (0.00%), LinkedIn (0.00%), Naver (0.00%), Yahoo! Japan (0.00%), Rakuten (0.00%), WhatsApp (0.00%), Venmo (0.00%), MasterCard (0.00%), Discover (0.00%).

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. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Share “How Alibaba Could Capitalize on the EBay-PayPal Split”

600 Million Reasons to Keep Your Eyes on India
October 6, 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tells America's top Businesses: "Come, make in India."In the wake of his rock star reception at Madison Square Garden last Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphatically announced to our nation’s top corporate and political leaders that India is now open for business. Between September 26 and 30, he met with not only President Barack Obama and other high-profile politicians but also the CEOs of some of our nation’s largest and most successful companies: Google—which we own in both our All American Equity Fund (GBTFX) and Holmes Macro Trends Fund (MEGAX)—Boeing, PepsiCo and General Electric, among others.

The only thing missing was a ribbon cutting ceremony. 

Although U.S. Global Investors typically doesn’t invest in India, the country has recently found itself in the driver’s seat of global resources demand and production. This is a tailwind for our Global Resources Fund (PSPFX), which maintains heavy exposure in the industries that India will increasingly need to support its more than 1.25 billion (and counting) citizens: oil and gas, chemicals, energy services and infrastructure, precious metals and food.

India’s culture is ancient, dating back more than five millennia, but it has a disproportionately young population. As the world’s second-most populous country, India is home to roughly 600 million people under the age of 25. That’s close to half of its own population and a little less than twice the entire U.S. population. Over the next few years, this one generation will largely be responsible for charting the country’s trajectory into its next stage of economic development.  

As old as India’s culture is, millions of its citizens seek the contemporary American dream of opportunity and prosperity. They rely on their new leader, former tea merchant Narendra Modi, as their ambassador of “hope for change,” as he put it in his September 25 Wall Street Journal op-ed.

India Opening Its Wallet to International Sellers

At its current rate of population growth, the South Asian country will in the coming years be in need of biblical amounts of natural resources to meet the ambitious economic and social plans the newly-elected prime minister has laid out.

Among other goals, Modi envisions “affordable health care within everyone’s reach; sanitation for all by 2019; a roof over every head by 2022; electricity for every household; and connectivity to every village.”

The energy infrastructure alone will require staggering amounts of copper conductors, iron, electrical steel and oil. As I wrote back in May, Modi has a proven track record for bringing electricity to Indians who previously never had it.

The prime minister also asserts: “The number of cell phones in India has gone up from about 40 million to more than 900 million in a decade; our country is already the second-largest market for smartphones, with sales growing ever faster.”

China is currently the world’s largest smartphone market.

Most smartphones require a combination of many precious metals, minerals and other materials, including gold, aluminum, glass, steel, lithium and various rare earth elements you might never have heard of such as yttrium, praseodymium and dysprosium.

Since Modi’s election in late May, the consumer outlook index in India has risen nearly 8 percent. At 45.2, however, it’s still about five points shy of 50, the pivotal threshold that indicates, on balance, that more consumers perceive the economy to be improving.

India's COnsumer COnfidence for September Reaches a Two-and-a-half Year High
click to enlarge

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

As population mounts and business and manufacturing activity increases, India’s need for additional cars and trucks has accelerated this year. Vehicle production uses not only many of the materials already mentioned but also palladium, lead, zinc and others.

Indian Domestic Car and Truck Sales Are on the Rise
click to enlarge

India, the world’s largest importer of weapons, also has its eyes on American-made military aircraft—more than $3 billion worth. The Asian country is already the U.S.’s leading defense market, and companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky are no doubt pleased to hear that Modi’s government is committed to ramping up its defense spending.

According to the Wall Street Journal,among the possible purchases Prime Minister Modi discussed during his visit to the U.S. were 22 Apache attack helicopters, 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters and 24 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

Below is a video courtesy of National Geographic that illustrates just how many metals, chemicals and other materials go into the assembly of a single Apache helicopter.

Going Long in India

Many economists and pundits have already likened Prime Minister Modi’s transformative pro-business position to that of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher—and his media darling status to that of Barack Obama circa 2008.

Even before Modi’s election, India was drawing the attention of global investors seeking growth and opportunity. Last month the portfolio manager of our China Region Fund (USCOX), Xian Liang, had the pleasure to attend a presentation in Hong Kong by CLSA’s Chris Wood, recognized as the one of the best strategists in Asian markets. During his speech, Wood maintained that India has been and continues to be his favorite market in the region, now more than ever since Modi’s ascent:

CLSA's Chris Wood is extremely bullish on India, deeming it the most attractive BRIC for investors.

I have, in fact, allocated 41 percent of my long only portfolio to India… I am not going to pull out because I am viewing India as a five-year story given the fact that Modi has been elected for five years. Modi is the most pro-business, pro-investment political leader in the world today.

Wood went on to argue that among the four BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia and China included—India is the best place for investors to be right now.

But with Brazil’s economy limping along at less than a 1-percent growth rate and Russia’s wounded by international sanctions, it’s hardly an intellectual feat to declare India the BRIC country with the greatest potential.

The chart below places India in context with other emerging Asian countries. As you can see, whereas the economies of China, Indonesia and the Philippines are flat or slowing, India’s is growing rapidly and projected to have a 7.2-percent growth rate by 2016, a 60-percent jump since 2012.

India's Economic Growth Forecast Leads Other Asian Emerging Economies by 2016
click to enlarge

With Modi actively seeking partnerships with some of America’s largest companies, it appears more and more likely that India can realize this optimistic growth rate.

The Challenges Ahead  

Despite all of the good news, India has many economic and political challenges to overcome before it can truly take off and achieve legitimate powerhouse status. According to the World Bank Group, the country ranks 134 in its Ease of Doing Business 2014 Rank, just below Yemen and Uganda. And out of 144 countries, India ranks 71 in the World Economic Forum’s recently-released Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015, scoring 4.21 out of 7.

Tortuous trade barriers, which Modi has expressed his resolve to liberalize, still hinder constructive international business dealings. Gold import duties remain in effect, which has allegedly led to an increase in smuggling.

Also, although India’s manufacturing sector in September showed modest growth for the eleventh consecutive month, the pace at which it grew is the slowest we’ve seen since December 2013. For the first time since March, the one-month moving average for the country’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) crossed below the three-month. This move contributed to the J.P. Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI’s recent cross below the three-month, which, as I discussed recently, could be a headwind for commodities and commodity stocks.

India's Manufacturing Sector Continues to Expand, But as Slower Pace
click to enlarge

But such challenges don’t appear to daunt the new prime minister.

“India is going to march ahead at a very fast pace,” Modi told his nearly 20,000 attendees at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. “The 21st century will be that of India. By 2020, only India will be in a position to provide workforce to the world.”

We at U.S. Global Investors wish Prime Minister Modi, his new government and the 1.25 billion Indians all the best.

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

Foreign and emerging market investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and less public disclosure, as well as economic and political risk. Stock markets can be volatile and can fluctuate in response to sector-related or foreign-market developments. For details about these and other risks the Holmes Macro Trends Fund may face, please refer to the fund’s prospectus. Because the Global Resources Fund concentrates its investments in specific industries, the fund may be subject to greater risks and fluctuations than a portfolio representing a broader range of industries. By investing in a specific geographic region, a regional fund’s returns and share price may be more volatile than those of a less concentrated portfolio.

The HSBC India Manufacturing PMI is based on data compiled from monthly replies to questionnaires sent to purchasing executives in over 500 manufacturing companies. The panel is stratified geographically and by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) group, based on industry contribution to Indian GDP. The J.P. Morgan Global Purchasing Manager’s Index is an indicator of the economic health of the global manufacturing sector. The PMI index is based on five major indicators: new orders, inventory levels, production, supplier deliveries and the employment environment.

ZyFin Research’s Consumer Outlook Index is India’s monthly barometer of consumer sentiment. The index is based on a monthly survey of 4,000 consumers across 18 cities. The Index reflects consumers’ current and future spending plans, employment and inflation outlook. The Global Competitiveness Index, developed for the World Economic Forum, is used to assess competitiveness of nations.  The Index is made up of over 113 variables, organized into 12 pillars, with each pillar representing an area considered as an important determinant of competitiveness: institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market sophistication, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the funds mentioned as a percentage of net assets as of 6/31/2014: Google (1.98% in All American Equity Fund, 2.25% in Holmes Macros Trends Fund); Boeing (0.00%); PepsiCo (0.00%); General Electric (0.94% in All American Equity Fund); Lockheed Martin (0.00%); Sikorsky (0.00%); Raytheon Co. (0.00%).

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.

Share “600 Million Reasons to Keep Your Eyes on India”

5 Reasons Why Short-Term Municipal Bonds Make Sense Now
September 29, 2014

Last week Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen insisted that record-low interest rates will stay as they are for a “considerable time.” So what does that mean for bond investors? Many people realize that rising interest rates affect yields and prices, but what others might not know is that if you stick closely to short-term, investment-grade debt securities—the very kind our Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX) invests in—the impact of such a rate hike is not as dramatic as some investors might think.

As you can see in the chart below, NEARX has been a steady grower over the years, in times of rising and falling interest rates as well as extreme market downturns. In fact, it’s taken nearly a decade and a half for the S&P 500 Index to surpass NEARX using a hypothetical $100,000 investment back in June 2000.

Think of NEARX, then, as the emotionally-stable, no-drama fund.

Near-Term Tax Free Fund vs. S&P 500 Index
click to enlarge

Take a look at the latest performance of the fund here.

Although short-term bonds might not be as sexy as common stocks in fashionable brands like Apple and Tesla, they play an important role in any serious investor’s portfolio. Below are five reasons why investing in municipal bonds makes sense now more than ever.

1. Short-term, investment-grade municipal bonds are less volatile in a climate of rising interest rates.

Interest rates are currently at 50-year lows, but as I wrote about previously, they can’t stay near zero forever. And when rates do rise, bond prices will fall. At first glance, this inverse relationship might seem illogical, but it makes sense. If newly issued bonds carry a higher yield, the value of existing bonds with lower rates fall.

Let’s imagine the Fed raised rates tomorrow. What potential implications would that have on the yield curve and bond prices? As you can see in this hypothetical example using a two-year, 10-year and 30-year Treasury, the farther out the maturity date and higher the rate hike, the more your security would be affected. Remember, these are Treasuries, not municipal bonds, but munis could be similarly affected.

the Longer the Maturity, the Greater the Price Volatility
click to enlarge

As you might guess, what this indicates is that investors should take advantage of short-term bonds, which are less sensitive to rate increases than longer-term bonds that are locked into rates for greater periods of time.

I want to reassure investors that when the Fed raises rates next year, as many economists and analysts speculate, it will most likely be done incrementally over the course of several months rather than in one fell swoop. Just as deep sea divers risk getting the bends when they surface too fast, there’s economic risk in allowing rates to rise too much too quickly. The Fed is well aware of this.

Below is one research firm’s projection of what rates might look like at different time periods in the future. As you can see, the probability of higher rates rises gradually over time. Some readers might perceive this forecast as too dovish, but it makes the point that an unexpectedly huge rate hike that some investors fear is unlikely.

Probability of an Interest Rate Hike
click to enlarge

What the chart also shows is that there’s still time to gain exposure to short-term securities, which are less sensitive to interest rate hikes. NEARX not only invests in such securities but is actively managed by professionals who closely monitor the bond market and interest rate environment.

John Derrick, Director of Research at U.S. Global Investors and portfolio manager of the Near-Term Tax Free Fund, stated during his recent interview with Oxford Club Radio that rising interest rates can actually work in the fund’s favor: “When interest rates rise, we’ll try to step in and use that volatility to our advantage. You just try to be prudent about how you position duration and maturity structure.”

2. Investment-grade munis have a low default risk.

In 2013, your chances of investing in a reliable, secure municipal bond from an issuer that wouldn’t default were roughly 99.9 percent. That’s according to the number of bond issues in the S&P Municipal Bond Index that defaulted last year. Out of more than 21,000 bonds in the index, only 23 failed to meet their payment obligations.

In the table below, you can see there’s a greater likelihood that an issuer won’t default the higher its rating and the shorter its maturity. Bottom line: these securities are relatively safe.

Muni Bond Issuers' Cumulative Default Rose by Initial Moody's Rating
click to enlarge

In a July Frank Talk, John held that:

"On a tax-adjusted basis, municipal bonds have a very compelling risk-reward profile, which means the risk-adjusted returns are high. To take advantage of this, I would encourage investors to add exposure to their portfolio by investing in a product that holds high-quality, traditional municipal bonds."

John reiterated this point during his interview with Oxford Club Radio: “At the end of the day, we stick to the high-quality munis. We really don’t play in the higher yield front, where there’s more of a risk of a correction.”

3. Municipal bonds are tax-free at the federal level.

As you might already know, munis are typically exempt from federal income taxes and often from state and local income taxation as well. This fact is especially appealing to high net worth individuals who want to minimize the tax impact on their investments.

That means more money stays in your pocket and can be reinvested.

4. Munis help diversify your portfolio.

Diversify, Diversify, Diversify. It’s prudent to have a diversified portfolio of both equity and debt securities, not to mention cash and commodities such as gold. Stocks can offer you growth and capital gains while bonds provide income and can help protect your assets during more volatile times.

Even within the bond portion of your portfolio, it’s important to diversify the types of debt securities you’re investing in. NEARX, for instance, holds a wide range of municipal bonds, from school districts to transportation to utilities.

“We’re buying high-quality municipals, GOs [general obligations] and essential service revenue,” John says.

He likes to describe NEARX as a “classic municipal bond fund.”

“We operate in a very conservative manner, probably much more so than most of our peers. It’s not the kind of fund where you’re going to wake up one day and find that some high-yield security has blown up.”

5. Municipal bonds help make America strong.

Speaking of schools, transportation, utilities and other projects, bonds help state and local governments build, repair and maintain much-needed services. This is one of the most compelling reasons to invest in short-term, investment-grade munis. Not only do they have an attractive risk-reward profile and offer tax-free income, they also ensure that municipalities have the funding to provide their citizens with essential needs like education, roads and energy and help build their communities.

Below you can see what some of the largest bond issuances are earmarked for. Without exception, the revenue that bonds generate goes toward services that make America’s states, counties and cities attractive places to live.

Municipal Bond Issuances for the 21 Largest Infrastructure Purposes
click to enlarge

Also, there’s reason to believe that issuing bonds is the most effective way for governments to generate the funding necessary for specific undertakings. In a recent POLITICO Magazine article entitled “Are Conservative Cities Better?”, columnist Ethan Epstein shows that whereas some cities and municipalities rely on and raise taxes indefinitely to fund projects and programs, others prefer instead to issue bonds because they’re intended for only one sole purpose:

[B]ond issues go to specific projects, and cover only a specific amount of money. That’s different from funding a social program, or simply forking over higher taxes and hoping that the extra funds go where the government says they’re going.

People are OK with investing in their communities,” says former Mesa, Arizona, mayor Scott Smith, adding, “People don’t trust programs. They trust…tangible results.”

However one feels about social programs, Mayor Smith’s point is clear: bonds do precisely what they’re designed to do, namely, fund projects such as hospitals and roads that benefit all citizens, young and old, rich and poor.

Take a Look at NEARX.

Our Near-Term Tax Free Fund is unique for its floating $2 NAVThe Near-Term Tax Free Fund recently received the coveted five-star rating from Morningstar for the three-year performance period in the Municipal National Short-Term category, and it’s been rated four stars overall for many years. The turnover of NEARX is very low, and it has performed well against its peers. Additionally, the fund seeks preservation of capital and has a floating $2 net asset value (NAV) that has demonstrated minimal fluctuation in its share price.

For those investors who wish to seek tax-free income and portfolio diversity and who want to take an active role in strengthening America’s infrastructure, I encourage you to request an information packet.

Remember to sign up for our October 2 webcast, “One World Market, Many Central Banks: How Will Your Investments Be Impacted?” Participants can receive a continuing education (CE) credit. Also, be sure to download my latest whitepaper, “Managing Expectations: Anticipate Before You Participate in the Market.”

Stay curious!

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

Morningstar ratings based on risk-adjusted return and number of funds
Category: Municipal National Short-Term Funds
Through: 08/31/2014

Morningstar

Tax-exempt income is federal income tax free. A portion of this income may be subject to state and local income taxes, and if applicable, may subject certain investors to the Alternative Minimum Tax as well. The Near-Term Tax Free Fund may invest up to 20% of its assets in securities that pay taxable interest. Income or fund distributions attributable to capital gains are usually subject to both state and federal income taxes. The Near-Term Tax Free Fund may be exposed to risks related to a concentration of investments in a particular state or geographic area. These investments present risks resulting from changes in economic conditions of the region or issuer. Bond funds are subject to interest-rate risk; their value declines as interest rates rise.

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 Municipal Bond Index is a broad, market value-weighted index that seeks to measure the performance of the U.S. municipal bond market.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the Near-Term Tax Free Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 6/30/2014: Apple 0.00%, Tesla 0.00%.

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 Morningstar Rating metrics. Past performance does not guarantee future results. For each fund with at least a three-year history, Morningstar calculates a Morningstar Rating 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.)

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.

Past performance does not guarantee future results. Diversification does not protect an investor from market risks and does not assure a profit.

Share “5 Reasons Why Short-Term Municipal Bonds Make Sense Now”

Net Asset Value
as of 10/17/2014

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $8.21 0.06 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $6.09 -0.14 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $5.59 -0.06 China Region Fund USCOX $7.78 0.06 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $7.21 0.15 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $31.01 0.32 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $22.09 0.22 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.26 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.01 No Change