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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.

Silver Wheaton: The Ultimate Streaming Service
May 2, 2016

Silver Wheaton CEO Randy Smallwood (right) with USGI portfolio manager Ralph Aldis

“There’s a healthy appetite for streams right now.”

That’s according to Randy Smallwood, CEO of Silver Wheaton, who stopped by our office last week during his cross-country meet-and-greet with investors.

Randy should know about the appetite for streams. His company had a phenomenal 2015—“the best year we ever had,” he says—highlighted by two successful stream acquisitions, strong production and fully-funded growth. Silver Wheaton stock is up more than 51 percent for the year. And the company just received the Viola R. MacMillan Award, presented by the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), for “demonstrating leadership in management and financing for the exploration and development of mineral resources.”

We were one of Silver Wheaton’s seed investors in 2004. In the summer of that year, the company was spun off from Wheaton River, a producer that took its name from a stream in the Yukon where one of its mines, the Luismin property, produced silver. It was founded by Ian Telfer, chairman and CEO of Wheaton River, and the company’s then-chief financial officer, Peter Barnes, who later headed up Silver Wheaton management. My friend, the mining financier and philanthropist Frank Giustra, also had a hand in its conception.

As the only pure silver mining company, Silver Wheaton couldn’t have been founded during a more opportune time. The commodities boom was still young. I remember that when the idea for the company was shared with me, what I found most attractive was that it had virtually no competition. Franco-Nevada, which had been acquired by Newmont in 2001, wouldn’t be spun off for three more years. It was a no-brainer to put capital in this new endeavor.

Wheaton River was eventually bought by Goldcorp—the entire story is told at length in the book “Out of Nowhere: The Wheaton River Story”—and today, Silver Wheaton is the world’s largest precious metals streaming company, with a market cap of over $9 billion.

But Wait, What’s a “Stream”?

A “stream,” in case you were wondering, is an agreed-upon amount of gold, silver or other precious metal that a mining company is contractually obligated to deliver to Silver Wheaton in exchange for upfront cash. (The company’s preferred metal is silver because, as Randy puts it, it’s a smaller market and has a higher beta than gold.) The payment generally comes with less onerous terms than traditional financing, which is why miners favor working with Silver Wheaton (or one of the other royalty companies such as Franco-Nevada, Royal Gold and Sandstorm.)

Overview of Royalty and Stream Financial Model
click to enlarge

Streaming allows producers to “take the value of a non-core asset and crystallize that into capital they can invest into their core franchise,” Randy explains in a video prepared for the PDAC awards.

With operating costs mounting and metals still at relatively low—albeit rising—prices, royalty and streaming companies have become an essential source of financing for junior and undercapitalized miners. Between 2009 and 2014, operating and capital costs per ounce of gold rose 50 percent, from $606 to $915 per ounce, according to Dundee Capital.

Gold and Silver at 15-Month Highs

Paradigm Capital estimates that between 80 and 90 percent of global miners’ operating costs are covered when gold reaches $1,250 an ounce. The metal is now at this level—it’s currently at $1,298, up 22 percent so far this year—but as recently as December, prices were floundering at $1,050, which cut deeply into producers’ margins.

Royalty and streaming companies, on the other hand, get by with a materially lower cost of $440 an ounce.

From only 11 stream sales in 2015, miners collectively raised $4.2 billion, which is double the amount they raised in 2013.

These partnerships are a win-win. The miner gets reliable, hassle-free funding to cover part of its exploration and production costs, and the streaming company gets all or part of the output at a fixed, lower-than-market price. A 2004 streaming arrangement made with Primero on the San Dimas mine in Mexico entitles Silver Wheaton to buy all of its silver for an average price of $4.35 an ounce. With spot prices now at more than $17.89 an ounce, up 29 percent year-to-date, the San Dimas property is one of Silver Wheaton’s more lucrative assets. (The mine represents an estimated 15 percent of Silver Wheaton’s entire operating value, according to RBC Capital Markets.)

As part of its contracts, Silver Wheaton gets the added value of optionality on any future discoveries. This is important, since an estimated 70 percent of all silver comes as a byproduct of other mining activity, including gold, zinc, lead and copper. According to Randy, all of Silver Wheaton’s silver is byproduct.

Seventy Percent of Silver Is a Byproduct of Other Mining Activity

click to enlarge

Huge Rewards, Minimal Risk

Investors find royalty companies such as Silver Wheaton attractive for a number of reasons, not least of which is that they have exposure to commodity prices but face few of the risks associated with operating a mine.

They have minimal overhead and carry little to no debt. Franco-Nevada, in fact, added debt for the first time ever last year to buy a stream from Glencore. By year-end, the company had already paid down half this debt, and it plans to tackle the rest this quarter.

Royalty companies also hold a more diversified portfolio of mines and other assets than producers, since acquiring new streams doesn’t require any additional overhead. This helps mitigate concentration risk in the event that one of the properties stops producing for one reason or another.

Royalty Companies Hold a More Diversified Portfolio of Assets

Consequently, margins have historically been huge. Even when the price of gold and gold mining stocks declined in the years following 2011, Franco-Nevada continued to rise because it had the ability to raise capital at a much lower cost than miners. And with precious metals now surging, royalty companies are highly favored, with Paradigm Capital recommending Franco-Nevada, which has “exercised the most buying discipline among the royalty companies,” and the small-cap, highly diversified Sandstorm.

Gold Royalty Company vs. Gold Bullion vs. Gold Miners
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With only around 30 employees, Silver Wheaton has one of the highest sales-per-employee rates in the world. According to FactSet data, the company generates over $23 million per employee per year. Compare that to a large senior producer like Newmont, which generates “only” $200,000 per employee.

Royalty Companies Have a Superior Business Modelclick to enlarge

Royalty companies can often minimize political risk because they don’t normally deal directly with the governments of countries their partners are operating in. This is especially valuable when working with miners that operate in restrictive tax jurisdictions and under governments with high levels of corruption. Silver Wheaton’s contract with Brazilian miner Vale, for instance, stipulates that Vale is solely responsible for paying taxes in Brazil, which are among the highest in Latin America. Vancouver-based Silver Wheaton pays only Canadian taxes.

Political risk is still a thorny issue, however. When government corruption is too pervasive, or the red tape too tortuous, the miner’s corporate guarantee is obviously threatened. In cases such as this, Silver Wheaton can simply elect not to work with the producer, as it had to do recently with an African producer.

A key risk right now is Silver Wheaton’s ongoing legal feud with the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), regarding international transactions between 2005 and 2010. Randy says the company might finally be nearing a resolution to the dispute.

“We do have resource risk. We do have mining production risk,” he says. “But with that risk comes rewards, and I think if we’re selective in terms of our investments, the rewards far outweigh the risks. I think we’ve been really successful making sure we invest in good quality, high-margin mines. We really put a strong focus on mines that are very profitable.”

A New Precious Metals Upcycle Has Begun

Want more on silver, gold and other precious metals? I’ll be speaking at the MoneyShow in Las Vegas, May 9 – 12. Registration is completely free. I hope to see you there!

 

MoneyShow Las Vegas Frank Holmes

 

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.

Beta is a measure of the volatility, or systematic risk, of a security or a portfolio in comparison to the market as a whole.

The S&P/TSX Global Gold Index is an international benchmark tracking the world's leading gold companies with the intent to provide an investable representative index of publicly-traded international gold companies.

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 3/31/2016: Silver Wheaton Corp., Goldcorp Inc., Franco-Nevada Corp., Royal Gold Inc., Barrick Gold Corp. 

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China: Still the World’s Number One Heavy Metal Rock Star
April 26, 2016

I want to begin with a quote from a recent Cornerstone Macro report that succinctly summarizes the research firm’s view on growth prospects in emerging markets and China specifically. Emphasis is my own:

Our most out-of-consensus call this year is the belief that China, and by extension many emerging markets, will see a cyclical recovery in 2016. We understand the bearish case for emerging markets on a multiyear basis quite well, but we also recognize that in a given year, any stock, sector or region can have a cyclical rebound if the conditions are right. In fact, we’ve already seen leading indicators of economic activity and earnings perk up in 2016 as PMIs have rebounded in many areas of the world. That is all it takes for markets, from equities to CDS, to respond more favorably as overly pessimistic views get rerated. And like in most cyclical recoveries that take place in a regime of structural headwinds, we don’t expect it to last beyond a few quarters.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but I’ll say upfront that Cornerstone’s analysis is directly in line with our own, especially where the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) is concerned. China’s March PMI reading, at 49.7, was not only at its highest since February 2015 but it also crossed above its three-month moving average—a clear bullish signal, as I explained in-depth in January.

I spend a lot of time talking about the PMI as a forward-looking indicator of commodity prices and economic activity. As money managers, we find it to be far superior to GDP in forecasting market conditions three and six months out. In the past I’ve likened it to the high beams on your car.

GDP and PMI

We were one of the earliest shops to make the connection between PMIs and future conditions, and we continue to be validated. Just last week, J.P.Morgan admitted in its morning note that “stocks are taking their cues from the monthly PMIs,” the manufacturing surveys in particular, as opposed to GDP.

We eagerly await China’s April PMI reading and are optimistic that this cyclical recovery has legs.

Cornerstone’s outlook is supported by a recent study conducted by CLSA, which found that 73 percent of “Mr. and Mrs. China” expect to be better off three years from now, while only 3 percent expect to be worse off:

Optimism is strongest among those in higher-tier cities, reflecting the disparity in economic vibrancy across tiers: as many as 80 percent of families in first-tier cities have optimistic outlook. The figure is lower, albeit still strong, at 68 percent among families in the third tier.

More than half of those surveyed said they expected to be driving a nicer car and living in a bigger home in the next few years, which is a boon for materials and metals such as platinum and palladium, used in catalytic converters.

As a reflection of growing demand for new homes, house prices in China are climbing right now in first-tier and, to a lesser extent, lower-tier cities, a sign that more and more citizens are seeking the “Chinese dream.”

Housing Prices Rising in China, Year-over-Year Growth
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China’s Insatiable Appetite for Metals

China’s appetite for metals—gold, silver, copper, iron ore and more—is growing, another sign that the Asian giant is in turnaround mode.

China is the world’s largest importer, consumer and producer of gold. Last year, physical delivery from the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) reached a record number of tonnes, more than 90 percent of total global output for 2015. Meanwhile, the People’s Bank of China continues to add to its reserves nearly every month and is now the sixth largest holder of gold—the fifth largest if we don’t include the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As of this month, the bank holds 1,788 tonnes (63 million ounces) of the yellow metal, which amounts to only 2.2 percent of its total foreign reserves, according to calculations by the World Gold Council.

Now, in a move that’s sure to boost China’s financial clout in global financial markets even more, the country just introduced a new fix price for gold, one that is denominated in Chinese renminbi (also known as the yuan).

Gold is currently priced in U.S. dollars. That’s been the case for a century. But since gold demand has been shifting from West to East, China has desired a larger role in pricing the metal. The Shanghai fix price is designed with that goal in mind.

It’s unlikely that Shanghai will usurp New York and London prices any time soon, but over time it will allow China to exert greater control over the price of the commodity it consumes in vaster quantities than any other country.

China’s gold consumption isn’t the only thing turning heads. I shared with you earlier last week that the country imported 39 percent more copper in March than in the same month last year. (Shipments also rose 18.7 percent in renminbi terms in March year-over-year.)

The heightened copper demand has fueled renewed optimism in the red metal. Prices are up 6 percent month-to-date.

Housing Prices Rising in China, Year-over-Year Growth
click to enlarge

Caixin reports that China’s iron ore imports are surging on lower prices. In the first two months of 2016, the country purchased 86 percent more iron than it needs. What’s more, total imports were up 84 percent from the same time last year.

Steel production, which requires iron ore, is likewise ramping up.  Output is currently at 70.65 million tonnes, an increase of nearly 3 percent year-over-year.

Chinese Steel Production is on the rise
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For reasons unknown, China has also been growing its silver inventories pretty substantially for the past six months, according to an article shared on Zero Hedge. This month, as of April 19, the Shanghai Futures Exchange added a massive 1,706 tonnes, which is a 452 percent increase from the amount it added in April 2015. Shanghai silver inventories are now at their highest level ever.

Silver Mountain
click to enlarge

Though unconfirmed, it’s possible this silver will eventually be used in the production of solar panels, every one of which uses between 15 and 20 grams of the white metal. China is already the world’s largest market for solar energy—it surpassed Germany at the end of last year—with 43.2 gigawatts (GW) of capacity. (By comparison, the U.S. currently has 27.8 GW.) But get this: It plans on adding an additional 143 GW by 2020, which will require a biblical amount of silver.

Not to be outdone, India also plans significant expansion to its solar capacity, with a goal of 100 GW by 2022, according to the Indian government.

Metals Still Have Room to Rock

We know that money supply growth can lead to a rise in commodity prices. Note that Chinese money supply peaked in 2010 and has since fallen, along with commodity prices.

New Loans and M2 Money Supply in China
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New bank loans in China have spiked dramatically this year while money supply has grown more than 13 percent year-over-year, which is good for metals and manufacturing.

The increase in metals demand, not to mention the weakening of the U.S. dollar, has allowed silver to become the top performing commodity of 2016 after overtaking gold.

Metals Make Huge Gains
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Despite the rally, gold doesn’t appear to be overbought at this point, based on an oscillator of the last 10 years. We use the 20-day oscillator to gauge an asset’s short-term sentiment. When the reading crosses above two standard deviations, it’s usually considered time to sell. Conversely, when it crosses below negative two standard deviations, it might be a good idea to buy.

Silver is currently sitting at 1.2 standard deviations, suggesting a minor correction at this point would be normal.

Gold Still Has Plenty of Upside Potential, Silver Long in the Tooth?
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Time to Take Profits in Oil?

The same could be said about Brent oil, which has returned 61 percent since hitting a recent low of $27.88 per barrel in January. This has driven up the Russian ruble and energy stocks. (We’ve recently shown the correlation between world currencies and commodities.)

The rally has been so strong over the past three months that it’s signaling an opportunity to take profits or wait for a correction. Based on the 20-day oscillator, Brent’s up 1.3 standard deviations, which suggests a correction over the next three months.

Brent Crude Oil 20-Day Percent Change Oscillator
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Oil has historically bottomed in January/February. The rally this year has not disappointed. Further, it has helped many domestic banks that have been big lenders to the energy sector. High(er) oil prices translate into stronger cash flows for loans.

 

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

The S&P GSCI Total Return Index in USD is widely recognized as the leading measure of general commodity price movements and inflation in the world economy. Index is calculated primarily on a world production weighted basis, comprised of the principal physical commodities futures contracts.

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.

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country's borders in a specific time period, though GDP is usually calculated on an annual basis. It includes all of private and public consumption, government outlays, investments and exports less imports that occur within a defined territory. The Purchasing Manager’s Index is an indicator of the economic health of the manufacturing sector. The PMI index is based on five major indicators: new orders, inventory levels, production, supplier deliveries and the employment environment.

M2 Money Supply is a broad measure of money supply that includes M1 in addition to all time-related deposits, savings deposits, and non-institutional money-market funds.

The 100 Cities Index tracks pricing data for 100 Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 cities in China.

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9 Ways Short-Term Munis Can Make You Scream “Oh Yes!”
April 25, 2016

9 Ways Short-Term Munis Can Make You Scream “Oh Yes!”

Who says municipal bonds aren’t sexy? They were the top fixed-income asset class of 2015, compared to U.S. Treasuries and corporate bonds, and they even outperformed the S&P 500 Index. Still not convinced? Check out the following ways short-term munis can make you scream “Oh yes!”

1. Tax. Free. Income.

One of munis’ most titillating qualities is that they’re tax-free at the federal level.

But they can also be tax-free at the state level depending on where you live. There are only seven states without an income tax, meaning you’re on the hook if you live in those other 43 states. Municipal bonds can minimize the burden.

Average Income Tax by State
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Discover the top five states in our Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX) by percentage.

2. Capital preservation

Because munis are tax-free, you get to keep more of your wealth in your own pocket.

NEARX - Capital Preservation - Sexy Muni Bonds - tax-free municipal bonds

NEARX seeks preservation of capital and has had a net asset value (NAV) that’s floated in the $2 range. It’s demonstrated minimal fluctuation in its share price, even during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

10+ Years Minimal Daily Drama
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3. Low default rate

True or false? The odds are greater that you will be struck by lightning than a high-quality muni will default on a payment.

True! Between 1970 and 2014, not a single Aaa-rated muni defaulted, while Aa and A-rated bonds—the kinds NEARX heavily invests in—were highly unlikely to default. Corporate bonds, on the other hand, had an increasing rate of defaults the lower their credit rating and further out from their issuance, according to Moody’s.

The chart below illustrates Moody’s findings of default rates between 1970 and 2014. It shows the rise in such rates between year one of a bond’s issuance, which could be at any time within the chart’s range, and year 10. You can see that munis’ default rate is near-zero and that Aaa-rated bonds don’t even register.

Municipal vs. Corporate Bond Default Rates by Year, 1970 - 2014
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4. Calm in times of market turmoil

Speaking of “moody,” even when the S&P 500 was acting sporadically, munis were steady growers. Check out the following chart, which shows a hypothetical investment of $100,000 in the Near-Term Tax Free Fund and S&P 500 stocks at the end of 1999. (You cannot directly invest in an index.) The equity market had two massive declines during this period, while NEARX rose steadily. In fact, it took 14 years for the equity market to catch up. (Figures include reinvestment of capital gains and dividends, but the performance does not include the effect of any direct fees described in the fund’s prospectus which, if applicable, would lower your total returns.)

Near-Term Tax Free Fund vs. S&P 500 Index
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Granted, the two major drops in value during this period—first when the tech bubble burst, then during the financial crisis—were among the worst the market has ever witnessed. Investors shouldn’t expect NEARX to outperform at all times.

5. …AND in times of rising and falling interest rates

You might think longer is always better, but in the case of munis, it pays to be short. Short-term munis—such as the ones that mostly make up NEARX—are less sensitive to interest rate stimulation than longer-term instruments. (Bond prices fall when rates go up, and vice versa.) Below, we use Treasury yields to illustrate how munis could be similarly affected:

Potential Interest Rate Increase Of and Potential Price Movement

6. CD rates are abysmal right now

Compare Yields - 30-Day SEC, Tax Equivalent, NEARXSpeaking of which: Interest rates are at near-zero lows right now, which has tarnished the attractiveness of CDs. Plus, early withdrawals come with a penalty, unlike munis.  

NEARX yields are as of 3/31/2016. CD rates from FDIC.gov national average as of 3/18/2016. NEARX SEC yield without waiver and reimbursement 0.08 percent.

Compare Near-Term Tax Free Fund with Bank CD
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7. And savings accounts are even worse

Skinny piggy bank - Savings AccountsRemember when your savings account returned 6 percent? Yeah, that hasn’t been the case since the mid-1980s. Today, the savings rate (as of April 18, 2016) is a hardly-there 0.06 percent, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). You can do better than that.

Municipal bond funds, including NEARX, aren’t bank accounts; nor are they FDIC-insured, as bank accounts are. But it’s worth making the comparison.

8. Make America strong

Want to “make America great again”? Well, if you invest in short-term munis, you’re already doing it! This $3.7 trillion market funds everything from schools to roads to hospitals to utilities—and more.

Munis Fund Schools

9. 21 straight years of positive returns

Since 1995, NEARX has delivered positive annual returns—no matter what interest rates were doing, no matter the condition of the market. This is not to say that NEARX will continue to perform like this indefinitely, only that the fund has a well-tested history of “no drama.”

In Various Interest Rate Environments, NEARX has had 21 STraight years of Positive Returns - 2016
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Interested in learning more on “tax-free, stress-free income”? Listen to the replay of our muni bond webcast, hosted by myself and fixed-income investment strategist Juan Leon. Then, be sure to request information on this exciting product!

Tax-Free, Stress-Free Income: The Power of Muni Bonds - Webcast On Demand

 

Please consider carefully a fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For this and other important information, obtain a fund prospectus by visiting www.usfunds.com or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS (1-800-873-8637). Read it carefully before investing. Foreside Fund Services, LLC, Distributor. U.S. Global Investors is the investment adviser.

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Total Annualized Returns as of 3/31/2016
Fund One- Year Five-Year Ten-Year Gross
Expense
Ratio
Expense
Cap
Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX) 1.43% 2.38% 3.08% 1.08% 0.45%
Barclays 3-Year Municipal Bond Index 1.54% 1.80% 3.07% N/A N/A
S&P 500 Index 1.78% 11.58% 7.01% N/A N/A

Expense ratio as stated in the most recent prospectus. The expense cap is a contractual limit through April 30, 2016, for the Near-Term Tax Free Fund, on total fund operating expenses (exclusive of acquired fund fees and expenses, extraordinary expenses, taxes, brokerage commissions and interest). Performance data quoted above is historical. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Results reflect the reinvestment of dividends and other earnings. For a portion of periods, the fund had expense limitations, without which returns would have been lower. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. The principal value and investment return of an investment will fluctuate so that your shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Performance does not include the effect of any direct fees described in the fund’s prospectus, which, if applicable, would lower your total returns. Performance quoted for periods of one year or less is cumulative and not annualized. Obtain performance data current to the most recent month-end at www.usfunds.com or 1-800-US-FUNDS.

Bond funds are subject to interest-rate risk; their value declines as interest rates rise. Though the Near-Term Tax Free Fund seeks minimal fluctuations in share price, it is subject to the risk that the credit quality of a portfolio holding could decline, as well as risk related to changes in the economic conditions of a state, region or issuer. These risks could cause the fund’s share price to decline. Tax-exempt income is federal income tax free. A portion of this income may be subject to state and local taxes and at times the alternative minimum tax. 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 invests at least 80 percent of its net assets investment-grade municipal securities. At the time of purchase for the fund’s portfolio, the ratings on the bonds must be one of the four highest ratings by Moody’s Investors Services (Aaa, Aa, A, Baa) or Standard & Poor’s Corporation (AAA, AA, A, BBB). Credit quality designations range from high (AAA to AA) to medium (A to BBB) to low (BB, B, CCC, CC to C). In the event a bond is rated by more than one of the ratings organizations, the highest rating is shown.

The CD interest rate is typically a fixed rate of interest, and payable on a set maturity date. The 30-day yield is used for bond funds, balanced funds, and stock funds. It consists of the interest income the fund pays over a 30-day period, net of expenses, expressed as an annualized percentage of the fund’s share price. Tax Equivalent Yield is the before-tax yield you would have to get from a higher-paying but taxable investment to equal the yield from a tax-exempt investment and was computed assuming a 43.4% tax rate.

Unlike bank savings accounts, an investment in a municipal bond fund is neither insured nor guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Although the Near-Term Tax Free Fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment, it is possible to lose money by investing in the fund.

The Barclays 3-Year Municipal Bond Index is a total return benchmark designed for short-term municipal assets. The index includes bonds with a minimum credit rating BAA3, are issued as part of a deal of at least $50 million, have an amount outstanding of at least $5 million and have a maturity of 2 to 4 years. The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies.

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

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Why One Analyst Believes Gold Could Hit $3,000 an Ounce
April 18, 2016

An analysis of previous bull-bear cycles suggests we may be entering a new bull market for gold. World Gold Council (WGC)

After finishing its best quarter in 30 years, gold extended its gains, rising more than 17.2 percent year-to-date to become the best performing asset class among other commodities, U.S. Treasury bonds and major world currencies and equity indices.

We are likely entering a new gold bull market, writes the World Gold Council (WGC). If so, it would be the first time since the previous one concluded in September 2011, when the metal reached its all-time high of $1,900 per ounce. Since 1970, we’ve seen five gold bull markets, each one lasting an average 63 months and returning an average 385 percent, according to the WGC.

Now, as reported on Mining.com, one precious metals analyst predicts gold could rise to $3,000 within the next three years. Speaking at the Dubai Precious Metals Conference this week, Dr. Diego Parrilla, coauthor of the book “The Energy World Is Flat,” stated that “a perfect storm for gold is brewing” as uncertainty over global central bank policies is deepening. We might have reached the limit of what quantitative easing (QE) programs and negative interest rate policies (NIRP) can accomplish.

Three thousand dollars might be an overstatement, but several prominent financial institutions, including HSBC, RBC Capital Markets and Credit Suisse, are currently bullish on the metal.

For the 12-month period as of April 13, our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) was up 31.96 percent, while the World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX) returned 36.34 percent. This puts us ahead of the funds’ two benchmarks, the FTSE Gold Mines Index and NYSE Gold Miners Index.

U.S. Global Investors Gold Funds Beating their Benchmarks
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I’m also pleased to say that as of March 31, USERX continues to hold its overall four-star rating from Morningstar among 71 Equity Precious Metals funds, based on risk-adjusted returns.

Drivers of Gold: The U.S. Dollar and Real Interest Rates

The U.S. dollar has been weakening relative to other major currencies, recently hitting an 11-month low of 94.06, down 4.8 percent year-to-date. Gold is priced in dollars, so when the greenback drops, the yellow metal becomes less expensive, and therefore more attractive, for buyers in other countries.

More meaningful to price movements, however, are negative real interest rates. When inflation picks up, making short-term government bond yields drop below zero percent, savvy investors turn to other so-called “haven” assets, gold among them. This is what I call the Fear Trade. In September 2011, when gold hit $1,900, the real fed funds rate was sitting close to negative 4 percent.

Zero Hedge found that since 2008, the correlation between gold prices and real negative rates has been particularly high, adding:

Based on a regression analysis holding gold as the independent variable, a negative 0.5 percent real rate level would suggest a gold price of $1,380 an ounce and a negative 1.0 real rate level would suggest a gold price of $1,546 an ounce… The potential for inflation rates to move upwards and match U.S. Treasury yields, which continue to be held down in the short-term, could create a 1970s-esque phase in real rates.

There were two gold bull markets in the 1970s, according to the WGC. The first, which lasted from January 1970 to January 1975, returned a cumulative 451 percent. The second, lasting from October 1976 to February 1980, gained a whopping 721 percent. 

As of April 11, the 2-year Treasury yield has contracted 93 percent in 2016, the 5-year yield more than 32 percent. This doesn’t take inflation into account, which takes a further 2.2 percent from these yields, based on the most recent consumer price index (CPI) reading.

Gold Rises as Treasury Yields Fall
click to enlarge

Interested in taking a deeper dive into gold? On May 10, I’ll be speaking at the 35th annual MoneyShow conference, which will be held this year at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Registration is absolutely free. I hope to see you there!

Join Me at The Money Show Las Vegas and Learn How to Position Your Portfolio for Success! Frank Holmes

 

Please consider carefully a fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For this and other important information, obtain a fund prospectus by visiting www.usfunds.com or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS (1-800-873-8637). Read it carefully before investing. Foreside Fund Services, LLC, Distributor. U.S. Global Investors is the investment adviser.

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Total Annualized Returns as of 3/31/2016
  One-Year Five-Year Ten-Year Gross Expense Ratio Expense Cap
Gold and Precious Metals Fund 24.07% -16.32% -3.02% 1.97% 1.90%
World Precious Minerals Fund 26.49% -21.56% -6.62% 1.99% 1.90%
FTSE Gold Mines Index 20.65% 17.69% -4.42% n/a n/a
NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index 11.02% -18.60% -5.21% n/a n/a

Expense ratios as stated in the most recent prospectus. The expense cap is a voluntary limit on total fund operating expenses (exclusive of any acquired fund fees and expenses, performance fees, extraordinary expenses, taxes, brokerage commissions and interest) that U.S. Global Investors, Inc. can modify or terminate at any time, which may lower a fund’s yield or return. Performance data quoted above is historical. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Results reflect the reinvestment of dividends and other earnings. For a portion of periods, the fund had expense limitations, without which returns would have been lower. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. The principal value and investment return of an investment will fluctuate so that your shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Performance does not include the effect of any direct fees described in the fund’s prospectus (e.g., short-term trading fees of 0.05%) which, if applicable, would lower your total returns. Performance quoted for periods of one year or less is cumulative and not annualized. Obtain performance data current to the most recent month-end at www.usfunds.com or 1-800-US-FUNDS.

Morningstar Rating

Overall/71
3-Year/71
5-Year/70
10-Year/50

Morningstar ratings based on risk-adjusted return and number of funds
Category: Equity Precious Metals
Through: 3/31/2016

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.)

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

Note that gold stocks, gold bullion and Treasury bonds differ in investment objectives, costs and expenses, liquidity, safety, guarantees or insurance, fluctuation of principal or return, and tax features. Treasury bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.

The FTSE Gold Mines Index Series encompasses all gold mining companies that have a sustainable and attributable gold production of at least 300,000 ounces a year, and that derive 75% or more of their revenue from mined gold. The NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index (GDM) is a modified market capitalization weighted index comprised of publicly traded companies primarily involved in the mining of gold and silver in locations around the world.

The consumer price index (CPI) is one of the most widely recognized price measures for tracking the price of a market basket of goods and services purchased by individuals.  The weights of components are based on consumer spending patterns.

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

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If You’re Not Following this Energy Trend, You’re Being Left in the Dust
April 18, 2016

Investor and author Gianni Kovacevic visited USGI office this week. My Electrician Drives a Porsche book

Last week our office was visited by my friend, investor and author Gianni Kovacevic, who is at the halfway point of a cross-country book tour to promote the latest edition of “My Electrician Drives a Porsche?” As part of the tour, he’s driving a Tesla Model S from Boston to Palo Alto, California—Tesla’s hometown—to demonstrate the potential of green energy and spread his message that “the future is now.”

His book features a successful young man—the titular electrician, and an analogue of Gianni himself—who instructs his older family doctor on how to invest in the rise of the new spending class. Not only is “Electrician” a fact-filled, convincing treatise on the importance of following long-term trends in China, copper and other “financial soap operas,” it’s also a real page-turner. I urge you to grab a copy and check it out.

Copper: Beneficiary of Unprecedented Number of New Consumers

Central to the book’s thesis is a concept that is both simple and yet profound: As the size of the world’s middle class continues to grow, demand for “things that come with an electrical cord” will surge. Below is a brief excerpt:

My point is that once a group of people make the move from rural to urban, from peasant to worker and on to consumer, their way of life changes. Subsistence disappears from their vocabulary and their lives begin to revolve around the three Cs: comfort, convenience and communication. And in order to achieve any of those things, it takes a whole lot more stuff than ever before. We get a dishwasher to free up time and a television to waste it. We get an air conditioner to stay cool and a heater to stay warm. Then later on, we get other luxuries like solar panels on our roofs and newer, more modern cars. When a society achieves its very own consumer revolution, as China and the developing world are undergoing right now, life becomes less about needs and more about wants. With an unprecedented number of new consumers, these luxuries need way more stuff to make them possible.

Back in 2014, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates predicted that by 2035, there will be “almost no poor countries left in the world.” You might scoff, but for a moment let’s imagine this turns out to be the case. What effect would that have on energy demand? Millions more people joining what Gianni calls the spending class will increase the demand for millions more things—dishwashers, air conditioners, smartphones, cars—and necessitate the production of thousands more megawatts of electricity than the world currently generates.

All of which is a boon for copper. However energy is produced, the red metal is needed for conductivity. In fact, even more copper wiring is used in new energy technologies than in traditional sources. An electric car such as the Tesla Model S uses three times as much copper wiring than an internal combustion engine vehicle.

Each New Generation of Car Needs More Copper Wiring
click to enlarge

It was reported this week that China imported 39 percent more copper (and 13 percent more crude oil) in March than in the same time last year, a sign that the Asian giant’s appetite for commodities and energy remains strong. Despite a slowdown in GDP growth, China is still the number one importer of metals and number two consumer of oil.

China's Copper Imports Surge in March
click to enlarge

Shipments out of China also rebounded the most in a year, rising 11.5 percent in the first quarter. This suggests its economy fared much better than what analysts were predicting.

China Exports Surge 11.5 Percent in First Quarter
click to enlarge

The country’s manufacturing industry saw very welcome improvement last month as well, with the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) coming in at 49.7—still below the key 50 threshold, but the highest reading since February of last year. The PMI was also above its three-month moving average for the first time since October.

Chinese Manufacturing Edges Close to Expansion
click to enlarge

The Rise of the Chinese Spending Class

Consider the dramatic difference in size between college graduates in older and younger Chinese generations. According to Gianni’s book, there are 160 million people aged 56 to 65, yet this cohort has only one million graduates. Meanwhile, millennials are 415 million strong—100 million more than the entirety of the U.S. population—and of those, 107 million have college degrees. So far. As this number rises, so too will incomes as well as the desire to live a more “Western” lifestyle filled with stuff.

This new generation is not only big in size, but also big in aspirations

You can check out the entire Visual Capitalist infographic on Gianni’s website.

The Asian country’s middle class is already larger than America’s. In October, Credit Suisse reported that there are more than 109 million middle-class consumers in China, compared to 92 million in the U.S.

109 Million. For the first time, the size of China's middle class has overtaken the U.S., 109 million compared to 92 million.

Indeed, domestic consumption in China is following a staggering upward trajectory. In 2015, total retail sales touched a record, surpassing 30 trillion renminbi, or about $4.2 trillion. By 2020, sales are expected to climb to $6.5 trillion, representing 50 percent growth in as little as five years. This growth will “roughly equal a market 1.3 times the size of Germany or the United Kingdom,” according to the World Economic Forum.

By 2020, Chinese Private Consumption Will Have Grown $2.3 Trillion
click to enlarge

The new Chinese spending class is still very concentrated along the country’s highly-urbanized eastern coast, in megacities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangdong and Shenzhen. But this is changing rapidly, with 39 percent of middle-class growth shifting inland toward more rural areas by 2022, according to McKinsey & Company. This will introduce new investment opportunities as these areas will require modern roads, railways and—most important—energy infrastructure.  

Chinese Middle-Class Growth is Shifting Inland

It’s estimated that between 2010 and 2025, 300 million Chinese citizens—a little less than the entire population of the U.S.—will migrate from rural areas to cities. As Gianni points out, lifestyles drastically change when this occurs, shifting from one of subsistence to one that revolves around convenience and comfort.

Tesla Disrupts the Auto Market

Key to this migration is transportation. In 1979, there were only 60 privately-owned automobiles in China. (That’s according to a 2006 report by legendary Canadian investment strategist Don Coxe, and cited in “My Electrician Drives a Porsche?”) Fast forward to today and China is now the world’s largest auto market. More than 21.1 million passenger cars were sold in the country last year, a 7.3 percent increase from 2014. Compare that to the U.S., the number two car buyer, where sales totaled 17.5 million, an all-time record.

By the way, 2015 sales of the Toyota Corolla, one of the top-selling sedans in the U.S., were a little over 350,000. That’s slightly more than the number of preorders for the Tesla Model 3, the company’s first mass-produced vehicle, within a single week of its unveiling on March 31. In a blog post, Tesla promptly proclaimed it “the week that electric vehicles went mainstream.”

The future, as Gianni says, is indeed now.

 

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

The Caixin China Manufacturing PMI, released by Markit Economics, is based on data compiled from monthly replies to questionnaires sent to purchasing executives in over 400 private manufacturing sector companies.

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 12/31/2015: Microsoft Corp.

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Net Asset Value
as of 05/02/2016

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.25 -0.03 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $8.39 -0.10 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $6.65 -0.05 China Region Fund USCOX $7.07 0.02 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $5.84 -0.02 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $23.87 0.14 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $17.81 0.14 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.25 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.01 No Change