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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.

Is this the Airlines Liftoff Investors Have Been Waiting For?
July 18, 2016

Silver Takes the Gold: Commodities Halftime Report 2016

A flurry of good news lifted airline stocks higher last week, reversing a drop in altitude that’s weighed on the industry so far in 2016. Fueled primarily by a bullish report from Deutsche Bank, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Continental collectively advanced 6.5 percent last Tuesday alone. The German bank’s all-clear signal halted a six-month slide on overcapacity, Brexit uncertainty and heightened fears of global terrorism.

US Airlines Jump Most Since 2014 Following Deutsche Bank Report
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Leading the group was American Airlines, which announced last Tuesday that it would renew its credit card deals with both Citigroup and Barclays, a move that’s estimated to add $1.55 billion to the carrier’s pretax income over the next three years—$200 million this year, $550 million in 2017 and $800 million in 2018.

The agreement will allow Citi to offer its credit cards to new customers on American Airlines’ website and mobile apps, through direct mail and in Admirals Club lounges, while Barclaycard will be permitted to reach customers in airports and during American flights.

Investors also rewarded Delta for better-than-expected profits, which rose 4.1 percent to $1.55 billion in the second quarter. In an effort to push up fares, the number two carrier announced plans that it would cut capacity on U.S.-U.K. flights due to British pound weakness following Brexit.

Playing the Long Game with Near-Term Results

Looking ahead, aircraft-makers Boeing and Airbus both see huge growth in deliveries as the global middle class continues to swell in rank. In its Current Market Outlook, Boeing projects total demand for nearly 40,000 new jets over the next 20 years—a 4 percent increase over last year’s forecast—with a large percentage of the growth occurring in Asia. Altogether, these deals are valued at a monumental $5.9 trillion.

Total new jet deliveries estimated at 5 9 trillion
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Airbus’ forecast, while somewhat more conservative, is no less impressive. The French airline manufacturer sees demand for more than 33,000 new aircrafts between now and 2035, all with a market value of $5.2 trillion.

The lion’s share of this expansion is expected to take place in emerging and developing countries such as India and China, where middle class growth is booming. Higher incomes should heat up flight demand and help air traffic double over the next 15 years, according to Airbus. In India alone, air traffic is expected to accelerate fivefold between now and 2035. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sees the number of global revenue passenger miles rising from 877 billion in 2015 to 1.02 trillion in 2024.

Global middle class to move from 2 8 billion to 4 8 billion in 20 years
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In the near term, domestic airlines continue to trade at extremely low multiples compared to other stocks in the industrials sector. Compare airlines’ price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios to transportation stocks and the broader stock market. Whereas American is trading at a little over 4 times earnings, transportation stocks—which include trucks, railroads and other industrials—trade at more than 14 times earnings. The S&P 500 Index, meanwhile, currently trades at more than 20 times earnings.

Domestic Airlines Price-to-Earnings (P/E) Ratios As of July 15
American Airlines 4.15
United Continental 4.11
Delta Airlines 7.1
Southwest Airlines 11.53
  S&P Transportation Select Industry Index 14.06
  S&P 500 Index 20.06

Domestic carriers also continue to return money to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buyback programs. American, for example, repurchased more than 50 million shares, worth $1.7 billion, in the second quarter. As of March, Southwest Airlines had a phenomenal three-year dividend growth rate of 101.2 percent, according to GuruFocus data. This helps support the thesis that the industry offers many attractive buying opportunities right now.

How Regulations Have Hurt Retail Investors

In past weeks and months, I’ve written about how excessive regulations are atrophying global economic growth. Granted, regulations are often well intentioned and necessary to create a level playing field. But when they grow too large in number and scope, it’s a little like having more referees than players on the basketball court.

Here in the U.S., federal regulations cost U.S. businesses more than $1.88 trillion a year. If they were their own economy, American regulations would be the ninth largest in the world, just ahead of Russia. Small businesses, which are responsible for more than half of all U.S. sales and employ 55 percent of all American workers, increasingly rank regulations as one of the top challenges facing their growth and survival.

This isn’t just an American phenomenon, of course. Last month, Brits voted to leave the European Union largely because they recognize overzealous regulation and envy policies as impediments to innovation. They’re tired of falling behind. Why else did the European Commission recently require American tech giants Netflix and Amazon to guarantee that at least 20 percent of their streaming video content is shot in Europe? Were EU rules not so corrosive to innovation, the continent might have its own Silicon Valley and its own Netflix (and, I might add, more attractive tax incentives to produce movies and TV shows in their countries).

Now, thanks to a slide deck from InvestX Financial CEO Marcus New, it’s clear just how detrimental U.S. regulations have been in the formation of capital. In the years preceding 2001, we could have expected to see 100 new companies on average go public every quarter. Since then, that number has fallen to around 30. Because of the mounting risks involved, the gestation period leading up to an IPO has ballooned from three years to more than 13 years, with an average $261 million raised per issuer, compared to $88 million between 1990 and 2001.

Most Profit Now Generated Private Stage Typically Fewer than 50 Investors
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Also because of regulations, smaller retail investors have effectively been blocked from participating in higher-yielding investments—namely, private equity and venture capital, whose 10-year compound annual growth rates have averaged 11.8 and 11 percent, quite a bit more than Treasuries, equities and other common asset classes.

Investors Are Locked out of 1 Asset Class
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For the most part, only accredited investors—those who have earned income that exceeds $200,000 or a net worth of over $1 million—are permitted to participate. As a result, it’s only the rich who get, well, richer.

Again, these rules are well intentioned. The justification is that everyday investors should be protected from the heightened risks involved in more sophisticated assets. At the same time, many people are being restricted from opportunities that might help them move up the socioeconomic ladder—opportunities that are open only to those who’ve already “made it.”

It seems, then, that the Occupy Movement and other class warriors who criticize and bash the 1 percent for “stealing all the wealth” would do well to direct some of their ire at the socialist rules responsible for restricting their social mobility.

Personal finance and investing were among the many topics discussed last week at FreedomFest, “the largest gathering of free minds,” which I regrettably couldn’t attend this year. FreedomFest was founded in 2002 by my friend Mark Skousen, then-president of the Foundation for Economic Education and author of several books, including one of my favorites, The Big Three in Economics: Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. I highly recommend you check it out.

Keep Munis Tax-Free

You might be aware of the debate happening right now on whether to lift the tax exemption on municipal bonds. Last Friday, Municipal Bonds for America (MBFA) sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to affirm its opposition “to any legislative proposal that taxes, in whole or in part, municipal bonds.”

Tax-free munis, as the coalition points out, have long been responsible for funding public infrastructure projects, from schools to highways to airports to seaports.

Part of munis’ appeal as an investment is that they are tax-free at the federal level and often the state and local levels. Removing the exemption could dramatically limit their attractiveness, which would ultimately affect America’s ability to maintain livable communities.

But here’s why I believe it won’t happen. Both major candidates for president, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, strongly support increasing infrastructure spending. In fact, it’s the one thing they have in common with each other. I don’t believe either President Trump or President Clinton would be in favor of allowing munis to be taxed, thereby risking financing for new projects.

A Brokered Democratic Convention?

In closing, it might seem like a done deal that Hillary and Trump will be our nominees. After all, Senator Bernie Sanders finally threw in the towel, endorsing his Democratic rival.

But don’t count Sanders out just yet, especially now that the investigation into Hillary’s private email server has bruised her poll numbers. There’s historical precedence for a contested convention. In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt—who, like Sanders, was considered by many to be too far left to win the general election—failed to garner the necessary two-thirds majority of delegates. He was even rumored to have endorsed his rival, Governor Al Smith. And yet, Roosevelt brokered a deal at the convention that won him his party’s nomination and, eventually, the presidency.

Will history repeat itself? Could Sanders attempt to do the same? We’ll find out soon enough.

With political uncertainty high, and with fiscal and monetary policies imbalanced, gold remains an attractive asset class. As always, I suggest a 10 percent weighting in gold bullion and gold stocks, with a rebalance either quarterly or annually.

 

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 price to earnings ratio (P/E ratio) is the measure of the share price relative to the annual net income earned by the firm per share. The P/E ratio shows current investor demand for a company share. A high P/E ratio generally indicates increased demand because investors anticipate earnings growth in the future.

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.

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 Transportation Select Industry Index represents the transportation sub-industry portion of the S&P Total Stock Market Index.

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: American Airlines Group, Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., The Boeing Co., Airbus Group SE, Barclays Bank PLC,

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Mile-High Merger: Alaska Airlines Buys Virgin America, Expanding Market Reach
April 11, 2016

Mile-High Merger: Alaska Airlines Buys Virgin America, Expanding Market Reach

A little over 10 years ago, there were a dozen major domestic airlines. Following a wave of bankruptcies, the industry consolidated, and today four remain—American, Delta, United and Southwest.

For the past couple of years, these newly-strengthened carriers, along with a full roster of regional and low-cost carriers, have been beating expectations, generating record profits and free cash flow and rewarding shareholders with dividend growth and stock buybacks. Low fuel costs have served as an additional windfall.

Consolidation Strengthened the U.S. Airline Industry
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That doesn’t mean the industry now lacks the room to change (and improve), however. In February, the short-haul regional carrier Republic Airlines filed for bankruptcy—the first such filing in the industry since American’s in 2011—after losing a number of unionized pilots in a drawn-out salary dispute. (More on that later.)

And just this past weekend, 84-year-old Alaska Airlines announced it would be buying Virgin America, billionaire Richard Branson’s young, hip carrier.

Alaska to Become the Premiere West Coast Carrier?

The $2.6 billion deal, awaiting shareholder approval in June, would create the fifth-largest U.S. airline by traffic and result in a much more competitive player, especially on the West Coast. (Alaska is based in Seattle, Virgin in San Francisco.) According to the Wall Street Journal, Alaska’s annual revenue could grow 27 percent because of the deal.

Alaska airlines + Virgin America = One Huge West Coast Carrier
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As I’ve pointed out in the past, the acquiree in deals such as this normally sees a short-term bump in share price, while the buyer’s stock might fall because, among other reasons, it must pay a premium for the acquisition. For the three-month period as of April 6, Virgin was up nearly 66 percent.

Virgin America Rallies on Alaska Airlines Takeover
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Integration can sometimes be tricky for airlines—more so than for other industries—because they involve not just employees and aircrafts but also information technology systems, booking procedures, rewards programs and flight schedules. All of this must be accomplished while the carriers remain fully operational.

Airlines that have gone through this often-messy process have seen their quality ratings drop off. This was certainly the case with American as it slowly integrated and digested US Airways, a two-year endeavor that concluded in October 2015.

The Alaska-Virgin deal could end up being very different, though. Both carriers have an exceptionally firm handle on their operations and provide sterling customer service. Alaska has received the highest rating in J.D. Powers’ North America Satisfaction Survey for eight consecutive years. For the fourth straight year, Virgin has held the top spot in the annual Airline Quality Rating (AQR) system, developed to rank airlines based on 15 “elements” such as on-time arrivals, mishandled baggage and the like.

Aircraft integration between the two companies poses arguably the most significant challenge—not just for Alaska and Virgin but also for jet manufacturer Boeing. Alaska exclusively flies the Boeing 737 while Virgin operates the Airbus A320, almost all of them leased. Once the Airbus leases are up in 2020, Alaska could choose to let them go, or it might decide to keep or even expand the fleet. At some point, this could be a concern for Boeing.

Pilot Shortage Intensifies While Demand Soars

Nevertheless, Boeing has an unprecedented seven-year order backlog of 5,800 commercial jets. To put that number in perspective, the U.S. airline industry collectively has 6,871 jets in its commercial fleet right now, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Because of increased passenger and cargo demand, this number is expected to reach at least 8,400 by 2036.

Boeing Has a 7 Year Production Backlog

This raises the question of who will be flying these additional aircrafts.

I’ve previously written about the imminent pilot shortage, which was spurred on by new FAA rules that tightened pilot training and service. Pilots must now retire when they reach 65, and they must have at least 1,500 hours of flight time before they can be considered for a position—usually with a regional carrier such as Republic for a starting salary close to $20,000. While Republic was trying to negotiate a new labor contract, it was losing about 40 pilots a month, according to Bloomberg.  

This has contributed to an industrywide pilot shortage that could intensify as more and more pilots retire, with fewer and fewer new pilots to replace them. It also has the effect of encouraging capacity growth discipline.

Meanwhile, commercial flight demand, both here and abroad, continues to climb. According to the Transportation Department, the number of passengers carried by U.S. airlines and foreign airlines serving the U.S. reached an all-time high of 895.5 million in 2015, a 5 percent increase from the previous year.

Record Number of Passengers Served in 2015
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Passenger traffic in the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, also grew 5.5 percent year-over-year in 2015 to reach a record-breaking 100 million passengers, according to Airports Council International (ACI).

By the way, I want to congratulate Brussels Airport for (partially) reopening following the devastating attacks last month. The repairs will no doubt take a long time and cost millions of dollars, but this is the first step among many toward normalcy.

The role airports play in the U.S. economy is hard to exaggerate. They contribute a jaw-dropping $768.4 billion per year to the national economy, or nearly 5 percent of GDP, according to the Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP). What’s more, they generate $1.6 trillion in goods and services and provide 7.6 million jobs—4.3 percent of all U.S. jobs—that pay workers a combined total of $453 billion.

Clearly we depend on airports, but how are they funded? In a word: munis.

American airports as a whole have capital needs that average $14.3 billion per year, according to ACI estimates. The FAA annually provides $3.35 billion, leaving a difference of $10.95 billion. About 54 percent of that amount is typically funded with general obligation (GO) bonds and other municipal bonds that are tax-free at the federal level and often at the state and local levels.

Short-Term Municipal Bonds: The Solution to Rising Interest Rates and Skyrocketing Income Taxes

worried about interest rates and high taxes? the solution: short-term, tax-free munis.

Besides the fact that they help make America strong and provide tax-free income, munis are attractive because they’re known to preserve capital, even in times of economic crisis.

This is key. Many investors have two huge fears right now: rising interest rates and skyrocketing federal income taxes. The Federal Reserve began rate normalization in December, and Chair Janet Yellen has stated that two hikes are likely this year alone. Bond prices fall when rates rise, and vice versa, but short-term munis are less sensitive to these fluctuations than longer-term bonds.

Also keep in mind that this is an election year, and it’s possible that we might vote to put a self-described socialist in the White House. By his own admission, income taxes will rise. Dramatically. It’s important, then, to have your wealth in something that provides tax-free income, like municipal bonds.

Speaking of socialism, I find it interesting that a great majority of the global public figures who have been identified in the leaked Panama Papers hail from far-left, socialist and communist regimes. This is what’s known as a “champagne socialist”: someone who is perfectly fine with the idea of high taxes—until he himself must pay them. This also goes to show that corruption is much more prevalent, and its magnitude much more significant, in countries with far-left governments. Corruption occurs everywhere—at all levels, in all countries, by people of all political stripes—but its frequency and depth seem to be much more extreme in such countries.

What Happens in Vegas Could Be Your Key to Successful Investing

On a final note, I want to invite you to plan a trip to Las Vegas next month to attend the 35th anniversary MoneyShow, where I’ll be speaking on gold and the airline industry. The MoneyShow is one of the most widely-attended investing conferences today, and best of all, registration is free! I’ll be joined by a number of highly-respected thought leaders in the industry, including Gary Shilling, Jeffrey Hirsch, Peter Schiff and many more. The conference will be held between May 9 and 12 at the beautiful Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino. 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.

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.

The 2015 North America Airline Satisfaction Study measures passenger satisfaction among both business and leisure passengers of major carriers in North America. The study is based on responses from 11,354 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2014 and March 2015. The Airline Quality Rating (AQR) is a weighted average of multiple elements important to consumers when judging the quality of airline services.

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: American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., Alaska Air Group Inc., Virgin America Inc., The Boeing Co.

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You’ll Fall in Love with these Dividend Growth Stocks
April 6, 2016

Last week I shared with you the Commerce Departments’ news that fourth-quarter corporate profits, while still at record highs, sank at their fastest pace since the same period in 2008.

As I said then, that’s no reason to panic. You might have read elsewhere that close to 190 companies announced they would reduce dividends, but it’s worth pointing out that 51 percent of those cuts are concentrated in the distressed oil industry. There’s still plenty of value to be found, and I’m pleased to see that many high-quality companies continue to reward shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks, even if they’re growing at slightly lower rates.

Activist investors are also pushing for more distributions, with 2015 marking an all-time high for the number of activist campaigns. FactSet estimates that there were 70 last year, a 37 percent increase from the previous year.

Real dividends per share (DPS) for S&P 500 Index companies stood at $43.40 in the trailing 12 months that ended in the fourth quarter. This was the largest aggregate DPS “in at least 10 years,” according to FactSet—a safe assessment, as you can see for yourself.

Dividend Growth Closely Tracks the Market
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In the fourth quarter, blue chips collectively raised their dividend payouts to $104 billion, a 3.6 percent increase for the 12-month period and 0.6 percent hike from the third quarter. For the entire year, dividends amounted to $415.4 billion, the second-highest total in 10 years.

One of the factors we look at is DPS growth over the past three years, as this suggests long-term sustainability. Many companies have increased their dividends significantly in this period, from Tyson Foods (200 percent) to Vulcan Materials (900 percent).

Huge Rewards for Shareholders
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Having consistently paid a quarterly dividend since 1976, Southwest Airlines has an impressive 650 percent DPS growth over the last three years.

Information Technology Firms Lead in Stock Buybacks

Huge Rewards for Shareholders As for stock buybacks, more than $136 billion was repurchased by S&P 500 companies in the fourth quarter, an increase of 5.2 percent year-over-year.

Of that amount, information technology companies were responsible for buying nearly a quarter, or $33.2 billion, the most of any other sector.

This is in-line with the five-year trend. Over this period, information tech firms have outpaced all others, buying back 24 percent of the $2.3 trillion used in total share repurchase programs.

As you might have guessed, Apple is mostly to thank for this.

Not only did the iPhone-maker top the list of big spenders once again for the fourth quarter, it also paid an attractive 13 percent premium relative to its average daily price, according to FactSet.

For the trailing 12 months as of the end of the fourth quarter, Apple outspent the next three companies’ contributions combined, repurchasing over $39 billion of its stock, compared to Microsoft ($16 billion), San Diego-based semiconductor company Qualcomm ($11 billion) and insurance firm AIG ($10 billion).

Information Technology Tops Buyback Spending and Dividends

In terms of year-over-year buyback growth, the industrials sector was the fourth-quarter leader, raising spending 43.8 percent. Companies such as FedEx, General Electric and American Airlines were the top contributors to growth, with American increasing its spending $500 million from the fourth quarter in 2014.

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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.

The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. 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: American Airlines Group Inc., Apple Inc., Ford Motor Co., MasterCard Inc., Microsoft Corp, Regions Financial Corp., Southwest Airlines Co., Tyson Foods Inc., Visa Inc., Vulcan Materials Co., Zions Bancorporation.

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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Airlines Start Their Engines as Scheduled Service Returns to Cuba
February 17, 2016

For millions of tourists every year, Las Vegas is the premiere travel destination for luxury hotels, glitzy nightclubs and extravagant casinos. But for a time, hordes of high-rolling American celebrities and affluent vacationers were beckoned also by the sultry nightlife of Havana, Cuba. Dozens of regularly scheduled flights by the day carried pleasure-seekers from Miami to the glittering shores of the Cuban capital.

This all came to an end, of course, once the U.S. imposed a strict embargo on the Caribbean nation, following the coup led by Fidel Castro, whose rise to power devastated Cuba’s once-thriving economy.

Now, more than 50 years later, this market is set to open up once again, and airlines couldn’t be more delighted. The U.S. and Cuba both agreed this week to reestablish scheduled air service, authorizing up to 120 commercial flights a day—20 between the U.S. and Havana, another 10 between the U.S. and nine other Cuban cities.

Competition to secure route access is likely to become red hot. American Airlines, United and JetBlue have already expressed interest, with American saying it “looks forward to submitting a Cuba service proposal.” But expect many more carriers to submit counter proposals in an attempt to gain the first-mover advantage.

Once regular service begins, possibly as early as this summer, an estimated 1.5 million American tourists will make their way to Cuba within the first year alone. This raises the question of whether the island’s tourism infrastructure is ready for such an influx of visitors, representing a huge opportunity for not just airlines but also car rental companies, food and beverage companies and hotel chains. To prepare for this explosion of visitors, the Cuban government is already seeking foreign investors.

It’s important to point out here that the embargo has been lifted for all forms of travel to Cuba except pure tourism. Americans can currently visit for up to 12 different approved reasons—including business, family, education and religious activities—but if policy continues to evolve at its current rate, pleasure should also be included one day.  

American Business Returns to Cuba

Just as American tourists once flocked to Havana, so too were American businesses deeply entrenched in Cuba. Before the embargo, U.S. financial interests were involved in Cuban mines, utilities, railways, sugar production and more.

That’s set to change too, as the U.S. government just granted an Alabama company permission to build a small factory in Cuba—the first to do so in over half a century, it’s believed. The company, Cleber, will produce affordable tractors designed for the Cuban market.

With normalization between the U.S. and Cuba being restored, and populations trending younger, many Americans are starting to abandon their Cold War-era attitudes. Since 1996, Gallop has polled Americans on their overall opinion toward Cuba, and for the first time this year, a majority of respondents—54 percent—held a favorable view of the island-nation.

Majority of Americans View Cuba Favorably for First Time
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Favorability has been rising steadily since 2006, in fact, which suggests that Americans increasingly see Cuba as a potential place to visit and do business in. This is what U.S. airlines, not to mention companies in other industries, are hoping to capitalize on.

 

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

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: American Airlines Group Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp.

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10 Numbers to Know for the Chinese New Year
February 8, 2016

Happy Chinese New Year! 2016: Year of the Fire Monkey

For decades now, China has been the leading driver of global growth, consuming unfathomable amounts of raw materials and commodities.

Today, the Asian giant is undergoing dramatic changes, as its government deepens reforms and opens the country’s economy up to foreign investment. The size of its middle class is rapidly expanding in size, giving a huge boost to domestic consumption. And with the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the renminbi’s inclusion in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) reserve currency, China’s role in global financial markets is growing in importance.

No one can deny that challenges lie ahead, but opportunities are still abundant.

With this in mind, I’ve put together 10 figures to know as China enters a new year.

9th

As the ninth animal in China’s 12-zodiac cycle, the monkey is considered confident, curious and a great problem-solver. But 2016 is also the year of the Fire Monkey, which adds a layer of strength and resilience.

2.9 Billion

It’s been called the world’s largest annual human migration. “Chunyun,” or the Spring Festival, refers to the period around the Chinese New Year when people travel by plane, train and automobile to visit friends and family. Between January 21 and March 3, nearly 3 billion trips will be made, exceeding the number of Chinese citizens. Close to 55 million of these trips are expected to be made by air.

Chinese Tourists will take 2.9 billion domestic trips during this year's spring festival - U.S. Global Investors

For the third straight year in 2015, China topped the list of international outbound travelers, with 120 million people heading abroad. Collectively, they spent $194 billion across the world.

6 Million

Not all destinations are within China’s borders, however. According to CTrip, a Chinese online travel service, Spring Festival tourists have booked a record 6 million outbound trips. As many as 100 different countries will be visited, with the farthest region being Antarctica.   

180 Tonnes

A shaky stock market, depreciating renminbi and low global prices have spurred many Chinese consumers to turn to gold. Imports of the yellow metal are way up. Last month I wrote that 2015 was a blowout year, with China consuming more than 90 percent of the total annual global output of gold. In December, the country imported 180 tonnes from Switzerland alone, representing an 86 percent increase over December 2014. This news supports the trend we’ve been seeing of gold moving West to East.

The Great Tectonic Shift of Physical Gold From West to East

The precious metal is currently trading at a three-month high.

49.4

For the month of January, the Chinese government purchasing managers’ index (PMI) eased down from 49.7 in December to 49.4 in January, indicating further contraction in the country’s manufacturing sector. The reading remains below its three-month moving average. More easing from China’s central bank, not to mention liberalization of capital controls, could be forthcoming this year to stimulate growth and prop up commodities demand.

Chinese Manufacturing Sector Continues to Shrink
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$6.5 Trillion

Although manufacturing has cooled, 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

109 Million

One of the main reasons for this surge in consumption is the staggering expansion of the country’s middle class. In October, Credit Suisse reported that, for the first time, the size of China’s middle class had exceeded that of America’s middle class, 109 million to 92 million. As incomes rise, so too does demand for durable and luxury goods, vehicles, air travel, energy and more.

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

But middle-income families aren’t the only ones growing in number. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2020, upper-middle-income and affluent households will account for 30 percent of China’s urban households, up from only 7 percent in 2010.  

$1.6 Trillion

China's e-commerce consumption Set to Grow Over 160% Between 2015 and 2020

Consumption has also benefited from the emergence of e-commerce. Not only are younger Chinese citizens spending more than ever before, they’re doing it more frequently, as e-commerce allows for convenient around-the-clock spending. Such sales could grow from $0.6 trillion today to a massive $1.6 trillion by 2020.

Mobile payments will continue to play a larger role as well. Purchases made on a smartphone or tablet are expected to make up three quarters of all e-commerce sales by 2020.

24.6 Million

With a population of more than 1.3 billion, China is the world’s largest automobile market. The country certainly retained the title last year, selling 24.6 million vehicles, an increase of 4.7 percent over 2014. The U.S., by comparison, sold 17.2 million. According to China’s Ministry of Public Security, the Asian country added a staggering 33.74 million new drivers last year, which is good news for auto sales going forward.  

6.5 Percent to 7 Percent

Many China bears point out that GDP growth in the Asian country has hit a snag. There’s no denying that its economy is in transition, evidenced by the government’s 2016 growth range of between 6.5 and 7 percent, a demotion from 2015’s target of 7 percent. But it’s important to acknowledge that China is still growing at an enviable rate.

Here’s one way to look at it, courtesy of Jim O’Neil, the commercial secretary to the British Treasury and the man who coined the acronym BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China). O’Neil calculates that even if China grows “only” 6.5 percent this year, the value is still equivalent to India growing 35 percent or the United Kingdom growing 22 percent.

For this reason and more, China remains a long-term growth story, and “there are many reasons to expect that in 10 or 15 years, China will be a greater, not a lesser, power than it is today,” says Stratfor Global Intelligence.

To all of my friends and readers both here and abroad, I wish you copious amounts of happiness, health and prosperity this Chinese New Year!

 

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

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.

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Net Asset Value
as of 05/24/2019

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $4.31 0.05 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $6.53 0.04 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $2.51 0.01 China Region Fund USCOX $7.91 0.05 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.53 0.05 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $23.95 -0.02 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $16.43 0.14 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.21 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change