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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.

Here’s Why China Region Stocks Are in the Spotlight Right Now
September 29, 2017

Chinese automaker geely saw an 80% increase in sales in the first eight months of 2017

Between escalating tensions with North Korea and a U.S. Congress in gridlock, it can sometimes be challenging to stay positive. That’s why I’m pleased to share with you this good news: Our China Region Fund (USCOX) was up more than 45 percent for the 12-month period as of September 22, 2017, beating its benchmark, the Hang Seng Composite Index (HSCI), which gained 20.7 percent over the same period. This means USCOX outperformed the index by roughly 25 percent.

China Region Fund USCOX outperformed its benchmark by roughly 25% for 12-month period
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Put another way, USCOX has beaten the HSCI in eight of the past 11 months, or 73 percent of the time, with the greatest monthly spread between fund and index occurring in June.

china region fund uscox bet its benchmark 73% of past 11 months
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One of the main contributors to our outperformance is our overweight positions in information technology and consumer discretionary stocks, which made up a combined 61 percent of the fund as of September 22. As we see it, these sectors are where the growth is, driven by innovative tech firms, from Sunny Optical to Tencent, and automakers such as Geely Automative, Guangzhou Automotive and Great Wall Motor.

asian stocks excluding Japan are the frontrunner of 2017
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Asian Stocks Look Cheap Compared to the American and European Markets

When measured against the American and European markets, Asian stocks, excluding Japan, have been the top performers of 2017 so far, returning more than 30 percent year-to-date. That’s compared to an 11.7 percent gain for the S&P 500 Index and 20 percent gain for the STOXX Europe 600.

Asian stocks also have a more attractive valuation than these other two regions. With the S&P 500 trading at 21.4 times earnings and the STOXX Europe 600 trading at 21.2 times earnings, the MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan Index looks more reasonable at 15.6 times earnings.

The China Region Fund, meanwhile, trades at 15.5 times earnings, making it, I believe, an exceptional value.

Cars, Tech and Sportswear Driving Growth

We believe our exposure to Chinese automakers and tech firms makes USCOX well-positioned for long-term growth. Not only is China the largest passenger car market in the world, it was also the fastest growing. In the first eight months of this year, auto sales in the country were up close to 5 percent compared to the same eight months in 2016, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Geely, which completed its acquisition of Volvo in 2010, sold 718,000 vehicles during this period, an amazing 88 percent increase year-over-year.

Tech manufacturers, especially those that supply Apple, look very attractive. Our favorite right now is Sunny Optical, which specializes in lenses for a number of advanced applications. The company announced that shipments of handset lenses surged 96 percent in August, while vehicle lenses rose 65 percent. For the 12-month period as of September 22, its stock was up 264 percent.
We’re also fans of Anta Sports Products, China’s largest sportswear company by revenue. By selling pricier athletic gear under its Fila brand, the company is seeking to capitalize on rising incomes and the Chinese government’s push to boost participation in sports. According to Bloomberg, the government aims for 435 million of its citizens, a third of its population, to work out more frequently by 2020. This bodes well for Anta.

The sportswear company is among our top 10 holdings.

See what other companies round out the fund!

 

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

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.

Total Annualized Returns as of 6/30/2016
  One-Year Five-Year Ten-Year Gross Expense Ratio
China Region Fund 33.80% 7.01% -0.35% 2.76%
Hang Seng Composite Index 28.24% 9.43% 4.60% n/a

Expense ratios as stated in the most recent prospectus. The Adviser of the China Region Fund has voluntarily limited total fund operating expenses (exclusive of acquired fund fees and expenses of 0.02%, extraordinary expenses, taxes, brokerage commissions and interest, and advisory fee performance adjustments) to not exceed 2.55%. With the voluntary expense waiver amount of 0.38%, total annual expenses after reimbursement were 2.36%. U.S. Global Investors, Inc. can modify or terminate the voluntary limit 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 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.

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 Hang Seng Composite Index is a market-cap weighted index that covers about 95% of the total market capitalization of companies listed on the Main Board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The STOXX Europe 600 Index is derived from the STOXX Europe Total Market Index (TMI) and is a subset of the STOXX Global 1800 Index. With a fixed number of 600 components, the STOXX Europe 600 Index represents large, mid and small capitalization companies across 18 countries of the European region. The MSCI AC Asia Pacific Index captures large and mid-cap representation across 5 Developed Markets countries and 9 Emerging Markets countries in the Asia Pacific region. With 1,034 constituents, the index covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country. The MSCI AC Asia Pacific ex-Japan Index captures large and mid-cap representation across 4 of 5 Developed Markets countries (excluding Japan) and 9 Emerging Markets countries in the Asia Pacific region.

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 6/30/2017: Tencent Holdings Inc. 6.20%, Sunny Optical Technology Group Co. Ltd. 6.75%, Apple Inc. 0.00%, AAC Technologies Holdings Inc. 3.00%, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. Ltd. 4.63%, Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. 8.96%, Great Wall Motor Co. Ltd. 1.01%, HSBC Holdings PLC 0.00%, AIA Group Ltd. 0.00%, ANTA Sports Products Ltd. 2.57%.

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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The Biggest Global Tax Break Ever Bubbles Up from Texas Oil Industry
September 25, 2017

What Makes Texas Unique and Great

Recently, I had the privilege of appearing on “Countdown to the Closing Bell,” Liz Claman’s program on Fox Business. When asked if I was nervous that stocks are heading too high, I said that I’m very bullish. All around the world, exports are up, GDPs are up and the global purchasing manager’s index (PMI) is up.

Oil prices continue to remain low, however, thanks in large part to the ingenuity of Texas fracking companies. As I told Liz, this has served as a multibillion-dollar “peace dividend” that has mostly helped net importing markets, including “Chindia”—China and India combined, where 40 percent of the world’s population lives—Japan and the European Union.

What Makes Texas Unique and Great

I can’t emphasize enough how impressive it is that Texas shale oil producers continue to ramp up output even with crude remaining in the $50 per barrel range.

This underscores their efficiency and innovation in drawing on oil reserves that were largely out-of-reach as recently as 10 or 12 years ago. What’s more, common law property rights here in the U.S. benefit mining companies in ways that simply can’t be found in Latin America and other parts of the world that operate under civil law.

According to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) most recent report on drilling productivity, total U.S. shale oil output is expected to climb above 6 million barrels a day for the first time in September. The biggest contributors are Texas shale oilfields, which will exceed 4 million barrels a day. West Texas’ Permian Basin alone represents nearly 400 percent of these gains, according to research firm Macrostrategy Partnership.

Drilling productivity up in Texas shale regions despite lower oil prices
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The typical Permian well remains very profitable even with $50-a-barrel oil, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The research group estimates that oil would need to drop below $45 a barrel for some Permian wells to become unprofitable.

Christi Craddick, the Texas Railroad Commissioner, praised the Texas fracking industry in her address at the annual Panhandle Producers and Royalty Owners Association (PPROA) meeting last week. She noted how essential shale oil producers are to the Texas economy, adding that despite the downturn in oil prices, “the Texas oil and gas industry has shown extraordinary resilience.”

“When times were tough, the industry did what it does best—innovate,” she said. “Because of your ingenuity, we’re seeing industry growth today despite the price of oil.”

Again, it’s this ingenuity that’s kept oil prices relatively low, which in turn has helped strengthen GDPs in oil-importing emerging markets and squeeze the revenue of exporters such as Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and others.

Texas-based oil and gas exploration company Anadarko Petroleum was one of the top performing natural resource stocks last week, gaining more than 12 percent. The surge came on the heels of the company’s announcement that it approved a $2.5 billion stock buyback program.

Explore investment opportunities in oil and other natural resources!

Coming Together as a Community

A month after the Texas Gulf Coast was devastated by the unprecedented wind and rains of Hurricane Harvey, the cleanup and rebuilding continues. As I shared with you in an earlier post, the Texas economy is one of the strongest in the world, and its residents are committing to rebuilding Houston and other affected areas better than ever before. As a proud Texan by way of Canada, I can say that it’s in our culture to come to one another’s aid in times of need and help rebuild.

Synchronized Global Growth Is Finally Here: OECD

What Makes Texas Unique and Great

I believe that my bullishness was validated last week with the release of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) quarterly economic outlook. According to the Paris-based group, synchronized global growth is finally within sight, with no major economy in contraction mode for the first time since 2008. World GDP is expected to advance 3.5 percent in 2017—its best year since 2011—and 3.7 percent in 2018.

A synchronized short term global upturn
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This news comes only a couple of weeks following the release of the August global manufacturing PMI, which shows that manufacturing activity around the world accelerated to its highest level in over six years. Not only is the index currently above its three-month moving average, but it’s also now held above the key 50 threshold for a year and a half, indicating strong, sustained industry expansion.

Global manufacturing PMI at 75 month high in August
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As I’ve shown before, the global PMI has been a good indicator of exports and commodity prices three to six months out, so I see this as very positive.

Where to Invest in the Global Bull Run

World markets seem to agree. Not only are domestic averages closing at record highs on a near-daily basis, but global stocks continue to head higher as well. The MSCI World Index, which tracks equity performance across 23 developed countries, is up 14 percent so far this year as of September 20. And just so we’re clear that emerging countries aren’t being left out, the MSCI Emerging Markets Index has gained close to 30 percent over the same time period.

One of the most attractive regions to invest in right now is Asia, specifically the China region, which has outperformed both the American and European markets year-to-date. The Hang Seng Index has advanced more than 27 percent, driven mostly by financials and tech stocks such as Tencent and AAC Technologies.

In addition, Asian stocks look very cheap, trading at only 13.97 times earnings. The S&P 500 Index, by comparison, is currently trading at 21.44 times earnings.

 

A Rebalance of Monetary and Fiscal Policies Needed for Sustainable Growth

But back to the OECD report. The group points out that the good times could easily come to an end if world governments don’t make efforts to balance monetary and fiscal policies, something I’ve been urging for years now.

Central banks are eyeing the stimulus exit door, with the Federal Reserve planning to begin unwinding its $4.5 trillion balance sheet as early as next month. The European Central Bank (ECB) ready to reduce its monthly bond-purchasing program sometime in early 2018, and the Bank of England (BOE) isexpected to raise interest rates in November for the first time since 2007.

As such, governments need to strengthen business investment, global trade and wage growth. The OECD adds that “more ambitious structural reforms” in emerging economies “are needed to ensure that the global economy moves to a stronger and more sustainable growth path.”

Only then can this new period of synchronized global growth be sustained in the long term.

 

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 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 MSCI World Index is a free-float weighted equity index. It was developed with a base value of 100 as of December 31, 1969. The index includes developed world markets, and does not include emerging markets. The MSCI EM (Emerging Markets) Index is a free-float weighted equity index that captures large and mid-cap representation across Emerging Markets (EM) countries. The index covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country. The Hang Seng Index is a free-float capitalization-weighted index of a selection of companies from the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. The components of the index are divided into four subindices: Commerce and Industry, Finance, Utilities, and Properties. The index was developed with a base level of 100 as of July 31, 1964. The S&P 500 Index is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks. The Index is designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries. The index was developed with a based level of 10 for the 1941-43 based period.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 6/30/2017: Tencent Holdings Ltd., AAC Technologies Holdings Inc.

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The Blockchain Could Potentially Be as Disruptive as Amazon Was in the 1990s
September 18, 2017

By Frank Holmes
CEO and Chief Investment Officer
U.S. Global Investors

Block chain map

A quote often attributed to St. Augustine, the early Christian theologian, is: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” I feel blessed to be able to travel as much as I do—not because I’m a big fan of 10-hour flights or living out of a hotel room. I feel blessed because travel allows me to meet and speak at length with some truly fascinating and successful people, from CEOs of firms both large and small, to deal lawyers, to audit partners.

Hearing varying opinions on global issues and politics has helped expand the scope and depth of my “book,” or understanding of the world. In turn, I enjoy sharing some of these thoughts with you, as regular readers of Investor Alert and Frank Talk know well.

Opinions come a dime a dozen, of course, and in today’s hyper-partisan world, it’s impossible to expect everyone to agree on all things all of the time.

Case in point: I recently polled readers on their approval of the way Donald Trump has handled his job as president so far. This isn’t a scientific poll by any stretch of the imagination, but for whatever it’s worth, a combined 56 percent of participants said they approve of the president. Amazingly, that’s roughly the percentage of Electoral College votes given to Trump in November. (The exact figure is 56.87 percent.)

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as President
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Some could easily take from this poll that Frank Talk readers are huge Trump supporters—and many of them are—but that would be overlooking the fact that nearly 40 percent said they disapprove of the way he’s handled his job.

I share this because it serves as a relatively accurate cross section of the types of opinions and perspectives I come across during my travels. Some of those opinions end up informing my own thinking, some don’t—but all of them are added to my “book.”

Now with North Korea launching even more rockets over Japan, the market continues to make new highs. This is what I was asked most often last week on CNBC Asia, Bloomberg Radio and Fox Business. As I said then, I’m bullish because the purchasing manager’s index (PMI) is up and oil prices are down, thanks to the ingenuity of Texas fracking, which has created a global peace tax break. The weaker dollar is also favorable for exports and gold.

Block chain map

Bitcoin on Sale After the China-Dimon One-Two Punch

Someone whose opinion I greatly admire, even if I don’t always agree with it, is Jamie Dimon’s. The highly-respected JPMorgan Chase CEO was asked last week at a global financial services conference in New York to share his thoughts on bitcoin—which can be as polarizing as President Trump. Some people love the cryptocurrency, some people hate it.

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon

Dimon, who’s decidedly in the latter camp, didn’t mince his words.

Although he likes blockchain technology, which bitcoin is built on top of, he began by saying he would fire any JPMorgan trader who was caught trading bitcoin, which he went on to call “stupid,” “dangerous” and “a fraud.”

“You can’t have a business where people can invent a currency out of thin air,” he said.

With all due respect to Dimon, some might point out that “inventing a currency out of thin air” is how we got Federal Reserve Notes and other forms of paper money in the first place. Even he admits this:

“The first thing a nation does when it forms itself—literally the first—is forming currency.”

Bitcoin—and any of the 800 other cryptocurrencies—takes this idea to the next level, the main difference being that no third party or monetary authority controls its issuances or transactions. It’s all peer-to-peer.

Governments tend to resist anything that disrupts the status quo, which is why we saw China restrict new initial coin offerings (ICOs) the week before last. I suspect we’ll see a few more countries attempt to regulate ICOs in other ways, and as long as these regulations are fair and reasonable, I welcome them.

The bitcoin price was knocked down following the one-two punch of China and Dimon, falling 39 percent from its peak of $4,919 on September 1. Last Thursday it lost more than $611 a unit, one of its worst days ever, but on Friday the cryptocurrency rallied strongly again.

With its ability to validate all transactions in an immutable electronic ledger, the blockchain has the potential to be as disruptive as Amazon was in the late 1990s. When the company went public in 1997, there were serious doubts whether people would willingly give up their credit card information just to buy a book. Since then, Amazon stock is up 8,000 percent, and founder Jeff Bezos briefly overtook Bill Gates in July to become the world’s wealthiest person.

If you’re curious to learn more about how blockchains work, I recommend that you watch this engaging two-minute video.

Gold Price Correlated to Money Supply Growth

In some ways, cryptocurrency more closely resembles gold. Just as there’s only so much gold that can be mined in the world, the number of bitcoins that can ever be mined is set at 21 billion. But the exact amount is irrelevant. It could have been set at 21 trillion—the point is that supply is limited and finite.

bicion

The same cannot be said of the U.S. dollar, or any fiat currency, which today is printed “out of thin air” with abandon. This has led to hyperinflation in some instances and destroyed the value of several countries’ currency, including the Zimbabwean dollar and, more recently, the Venezuelan bolivar.

I’m not suggesting we’ll see the same thing happen here in the U.S. Nevertheless, rampant money-printing has certainly contributed to many people’s dwindling trust in traditional monetary systems. A 2016 Gallup poll found that Americans’ confidence in banks is stuck below 30 percent, where it’s been since the beginning of the financial crisis nearly 10 years ago.

When more money is printed, gold has traditionally been a beneficiary, for two key reasons: 1) If the money-printing is accompanied by economic growth, greater access to capital might boost demand for luxury items, including gold (the Love Trade); and 2) If the money-printing isn’t accompanied by economic growth, inflationary pressures might prompt investors to increase their exposure to real assets, such as gold (the Fear Trade).

These were among the findings in a 2010 World Gold Council (WGC) study. Even after seven years, the findings still apply. As you can see below, the price of gold expanded over the years as more and more money was printed.

 

Gold price correlates with M2 money
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If we want to get really technical, the WGC estimates that for every  1 percent increase in U.S. money supply, the price of gold tends to rise 0.9 percent—nearly as much—within six months.  

According to the most recent Federal Reserve report (September 7), more than $13.67 trillion in M2, or broad money, are now in circulation. That’s up about 1 percent since the end of June, when M2 stood at $13.54 trillion.

So will the gold price climb 1 percent in response? That would amount to only $13 an ounce, but remember, there are other factors driving gold, including negative real interest rates and geopolitical uncertainty.

 

 

One final note: A former UBS metals trader was arrested and charged last week with fraud and conspiracy over his alleged role in placing “spoof” orders for precious metals futures contracts. Andre Flotron, a Swiss citizen, was arrested while visiting his girlfriend in New Jersey. Flotron began working for UBS in 1999 but was put on leave in 2014.

See Zero Hedge for more on conspiracies and convictions in court over price manipulation of precious metals. Many cryptocurrency advocates allege this is why Jamie Dimon is so aggressive in knocking down bitcoin. The enthusiasm for bitcoin has accelerated this year with South Korean and Japanese banks accepting them as a form of money.

 

 

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

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

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.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. None of the securities mentioned in the article was held by any accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 6/30/2017.

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Natural Disasters Have Not Caused a Single Muni Default: Moody’s
September 13, 2017

For the first time since we’ve been keeping track, two separate Category 4 hurricanes struck the mainland U.S. in the same year. It should come as no surprise, then, that the combined recovery cost of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is expected to set a new all-time high for natural disasters. AccuWeather estimates the total economic impact to top out at a whopping $290 billion, or 1.5 percent of national GDP.

With parts of Southeast Texas, Louisiana and Florida seeing significant damage, many fixed-income investors might be wondering about credit risk and local municipal bond issuers’ ability to pay interest on time. If school districts, hospitals, highway authorities and other issuers must pay for repairs, how can they afford to service their bondholders?

It’s a reasonable concern, one that nearly always arises in the days following a major catastrophe. But the concern might be unwarranted, if the past is any indication.

Lessons from Hurricane Katrina

According to credit ratings firm Moody’s Investors Service, natural disasters have not been the cause of a single default in U.S. muni bond history. Even Hurricane Katrina, responsible for a then-unprecedented $120 billion in damages, wasn’t enough to cause New Orleans to renege on its debt obligations.

The reason for this is that the affected areas normally receive substantial disaster relief from both the federal and state governments. Congress appropriated tens of billions of dollars in aid following Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and this year it’s already approved an initial payment of $7.85 billion. Combined with flood insurance proceeds, this has often been enough to keep municipalities solvent and day-to-day operations running.

“FEMA aid (often 75 percent or more of disaster-related costs) and flood insurance can go a long way in mitigating financial strain in the medium term,” wrote Lindsay Wilhelm, senior vice president of municipal credit research at Raymond James, in a note last week.

Texas and Florida Have Investment-Grade Credit Ratings

It’s also important to keep in mind the sheer size of Houston’s economy and its impeccable credit-worthiness. As I shared with you in a previous Frank Talk, the Texas city had a gross domestic product (GDP) of roughly $503 billion as of 2015, which is equivalent to the size of Sweden’s economy. This puts Houston, the fourth-largest city in the U.S., in a better position to handle a hurricane’s devastating aftermath than New Orleans, which had a GDP of between $69 billion and $72 billion at the time of Hurricane Katrina, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

The 18 Texas counties that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared a disaster all have strong, investment-grade credit ratings from Moody’s and/or Standard & Poor’s. Highest among them is Harris County, where Houston is located, which currently has the highest-possible ratings of Aaa from Moody’s and AAA from S&P. This allows it to issue debt relatively easily, which it will likely need to do more of in the years and possibly decades to come.

In addition, the State of Texas has the highest ratings possible from both firms, while Florida has a rating of Aa1 from Moody’s and AAA from S&P.

It’s too early to tell if we’ll see any credit downgrades in the wake of Harvey and Irma, but for now, I don’t expect any major changes.

Munis an Important Part of Your Portfolio

The $3.8 trillion muni market remains one of the most dependable ways U.S. cities, counties and states finance infrastructure development, and since 1913, muni investors have enjoyed tax-free income at the federal and often state level.

This becomes increasingly more desirable as you reach retirement-age and beyond. Munis might not be as sexy as tech stocks, but they have a long-standing history of performing well in volatile times, especially when those munis are investment-grade and shorter-duration. 

 

 

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.

A bond’s credit quality is determined by private independent rating agencies such as Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch. Credit quality designations range from high (AAA to AA) to medium (A to BBB) to low (BB, B, CCC, CC to C).

 

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Gold and Bitcoin Surge on North Korea Fears
September 11, 2017

bicion

If you’re familiar with ABC’s popular reality show Shark Tank, you should already be familiar with the concept behind the San Antonio Angel Network (SAAN). Select entrepreneurs and innovators pitch their startup ideas to accredited investors, who can choose to make early-stage investments in a potentially successful company.

I attended an SAAN meeting last week at Ferrari of San Antonio, and what struck me the most was how fluid and seamless the whole thing is. Other professionals in attendance, including lawyers and CPAs, had a similar opinion, with some of them saying it was because there wasn’t any bureaucracy or red tape to hamstring the presenters.

This is unlike the world of mutual funds, which I believe has become excessively regulated.

As I’ve said numerous times before, regulation is essential, just as referees are essential to a basketball game. No one disputes that, because otherwise there would be chaos.

Similarly, the new and very unregulated world of cryptocurrencies has grown dramatically, beyond bitcoin and ethereum. Did you know there are over 800 cryptocurrencies? These new initial coin offerings, called ICOs, are like initial public offerings (IPOs) but with little regulation or accountability. As I’ve commented before, if the refs get too powerful or too numerous, and the rules too complex, the game becomes nearly unplayable.

Cryptocurrencies Still Draw Investor Attention Following China Crackdown

Bitcoin, ethereum and other cryptocurrencies have had a meteoric year, with more than $2 billion raised in ICOs so far in 2017, according to Bloomberg. Approximately $155 billion in cryptocurrencies are in circulation around the world right now. Bitcoin by itself is at $78 billion, which is close to the $90 billion invested in all gold ETFs.

Cryptocurrencies have made red hot moves this past year
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Like gold, cryptos are favored by those who have a deep distrust of fiat currency, or paper money. Money, after all, is built on trust, and the blockchain technology that bitcoin is built on top of automates trust through an electronic ledger that cannot be altered. Every transaction is anonymous and peer-to-peer. The system is entirely decentralized and democratic. No monetary authority can see who owns what and where money is flowing.

This, of course, is a huge reason why some world governments want to crack down on the Wild West of virtual currencies, especially with bitcoin surging close to $5,000 this month.

China did just that last week, putting a halt to new ICOs and crypto transactions. In response, ethereum tumbled as much as 15.8 percent last Monday, or $55 a unit. Bitcoin lost $394 a unit.

China’s decision comes a little more than a month after the SEC said cryptocurrencies are securities and therefore should probably be regulated as such. At this point, though, the implications are unclear.

What’s clear to me—after seeing firsthand how easily and quickly transactions are made—is that there’s no going back. It’s possible cryptocurrencies will one day be regulated. But I’m confident bitcoin, ethereum and some other virtual currencies offer enough value to weather such a potential roadblock.

I also believe there has to be a happy medium between the excessively regulated fund industry and the potential chaos of the cryptocurrency. This is what I witnessed at the SAAN event I mentioned, which allowed the professionals in attendance to gain information, ask questions and make informed decisions.

Gold Trading Above $1,350 an Ounce

Speaking on cryptocurrencies last week, Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, said gold could be a beneficiary of China’s decision to clamp down on ICOs. As more governments and central banks turn their attention to virtual currencies, investors could move back into the yellow metal as a store of value.

That’s a possibility, but I think gold’s price action right now is being driven by negative real Treasury yields and fears over a potential conflict with North Korea. Adjusted for inflation, the two-year and five-year Treasuries are both currently yielding negative amounts, and the 10-year continues to fall closer to 0 percent.

Real treasury yeilds fall further
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As I’ve explained numerous times before, gold and real interest rates share an inverse relationship. It makes little sense to invest in an asset that’s guaranteed to cost you money—which is the case with the two-year and five-year government bond right now. Investors seeking a “safe haven” might therefore add to their weighting in gold, especially with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un raising tensions.

The yellow metal closed above $1,350 an ounce, more than a one-year high.   

Gold price up more than 15 percent year to date
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Despite Efforts to Control Spending, National Debt Expected to Continue Growing: CBO

Similarly driving the gold Fear Trade are concerns over the national debt. Last week President Donald Trump sided with Congressional Democrats in raising the federal borrowing limit to allow Hurricane Harvey recovery aid to pass. An initial package of $7.85 billion for Harvey victims was agreed upon, but with total costs expected to be as high as $190 billion—more than the combined costs of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy—and with Hurricane Irma yet to make landfall in Florida, the federal aid amount could eventually run even higher.

Trump partially ran on reigning in government spending, which I and many others would like to see. Even so, this might not be enough to control our runaway debt. According to an August report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), debt will likely continue to grow as spending for large federal benefit programs—Social Security, Medicare and the like—outpaces revenue. Interest payments on the debt will only continue to accelerate as well.

Below is a chart showing national debt as a percentage of GDP going back to the founding of the U.S. Although we’ve seen periodic spikes in response to national crises, the debt could soar to unprecedented levels within the next 10 years.

Federal debt expected to continue rising
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Financial writer Alex Green, the Oxford Club’s chief strategist, told me during my recent interview with him that he thought out-of-control spending posed a greater threat to our country than even North Korea.

I tend to agree with him, and that’s why I believe that investors should have a 10 percent allocation in gold, with 5 percent in bullion and 5 percent in gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

I urge you to watch this brief video on investing opportunities in gold miners!

 

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as of 10/20/2017

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