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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.

A New Wrinkle in the U.S.-China Trade Dispute
December 10, 2018

Frank in Washington at the Senate Press room

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) parliamentary intelligence forum in Washington, D.C. More than 200 members of parliaments from as many as 60 European countries joined us to hear from such dignitaries as Congressmen Robert Pittenger (R-NC) and Mike McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

While in D.C., I was very honored to be invited into the epicenter of power and decision-making. That includes the Senate Press Office, pictured above, and the west front of the U.S. Capital facing the National Mall, where every president since Ronald Reagan in 1981 has been inaugurated.

It was there that George H.W. Bush took the oath of office, exactly 200 years after George Washington did. Newly arrived to Texas from Canada, I remember watching Bush’s inauguration on TV and being moved by his testament to freedom: “We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth,” he said, “through free markets, free speech, free elections and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state.”

The memory was made all the most poignant by the flags flying at half-staff, and the fact that I was standing in the same building where, just 24 hours earlier, the former president’s remains lied in state.

Remembering the 41st President

President George HW Bush 1924-2018

The life of George Bush, son of a U.S. senator and father of two governors and a president, stands as a case study in sacrifice and service. On the same day that he graduated from high school in 1942, he enlisted in the United States Navy. The country’s youngest Navy pilot at the time, Bush went on to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross after completing a bombing mission despite his plane being engulfed in flames from Japanese fire.

And from there it only gets more interesting.

Founder of a successful oil and gas company, congressman in the House of Representatives, ambassador to the United Nations, special envoy to the People’s Republic of China (before the U.S. had diplomatic relations with the Asian country), director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), two-term vice president—Bush was and remains to this day perhaps the most qualified and well-equipped chief executive ever to set foot in the Oval Office.

As the 41st president, he oversaw the collapse of the Soviet Union and reunification of Germany, putting him at odds with U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterrand, who favored a divided Germany. His decision to push back Iraqi forces from Kuwait, arguably the greatest defining moment of his one-term presidency, was both a military and political success.  

American voters ultimately denied him a second term, however, once they felt his pledge to create “no new taxes” went unfulfilled. As part of a compromise with the Democratic-controlled Congress, Bush agreed to raise taxes to help reduce the national deficit. The episode is a reminder of a time when politicians’ duty to country trumped duty to party, even if it jeopardized reelection.

That deep sense of duty sustained him for the rest of his 94 years. Bush was involved in a number of charities and humanitarian efforts, most notably the Bush Clinton Coastal Recovery Fund. The fund— spearheaded in cooperation with his former political rival and, some might say, unlikely friend Bill Clinton—raised tens of millions of dollars for families impacted by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

On behalf of everyone at U.S. Global Investors, I extend my gratitude and sympathy to the Bush family. May George Herbert Walker rest in peace and remain firmly in our memory.

Stocks Hit on Renewed U.S.-China Trade Concerns

On a very different note, global stocks last week plunged on concerns that trade negotiations between the U.S. and China are not running as smoothly as initially thought. The S&P 500 Index is not only having one of its worst quarters in years, but it could also end up in the red for the year for the first time since 2008.

Adding to the uncertainty was news of the arrest in Canada of the chief financial officer (CFO) of Chinese tech giant Huawei. Although no charges have been filed yet, the company has long been investigated by U.S. authorities, and more recently it’s been suspected of violating economic sanctions against Iran. The CFO, Meng Wanzhou, faces extradition to the U.S.

A Huawei smartphone

The name might not be known to most Americans, but Huawei is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of smartphones following Samsung, and the largest supplier of telecommunications equipment. Meng is not only a top executive but also the daughter of the company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army who has close ties to the Communist Party of China.

Imagine a foreign power arresting the daughter of Steve Jobs, and you might get some idea of how big a deal this is.

President Donald Trump has levied much of his criticism on China for “unfair” trade practices and stealing intellectual property from the U.S. As I told you back in March, China’s J-31 stealth fighter jet is believed to be a knockoff of Lockheed Martin’s F-35. (A 2014 whitepaper on Huawei, in fact, states that the tech firm got its start in 1987 by “reverse-engineering foreign products and using that as the foundation to develop more complex technologies.”) But America’s beef with Huawei, and its Hong Kong-listed rival ZTE, go back further than the start of this administration and rest on suspicions their phones and other telecomm products might be used for espionage.

In 2012, after investigating Huawei and ZTE, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that the two firms could be seeking to “undermine core U.S. national-security interest.” Committee members recommended that the U.S. block any mergers and acquisitions involving the companies and that all U.S. governmental agencies not use their equipment. Earlier this year, officials with the CIA, National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Huawei and ZTE’s phones posed a security risk to American consumers.       

In any case, Meng’s arrest last week rattled investors, convincing many of them that U.S.-China trade talks are deteriorating rather than improving. We saw a knock-on effect among a number of Huawei’s suppliers, including lens-maker Sunny Optical (down almost 5.5 percent last Thursday), data networking firm Inphi (off 9.25 percent) and California-based NeoPhotonics (down more than 16 percent).

U.S. Trade Deficit Just Widened Even More

Speaking of trade, the U.S. deficit with the rest of the world tumbled to a 10-year low in October. According to Zero Hedge, the “trade deficit was $55.5 billion in October (worse than the $55.0 billion expected and well down from the $54.6 billion revised print for September)… underscoring continued fallout from the trade dispute with China.”

As for the U.S.-China trade deficit—the difference between exports and imports—that measure widened to a new all-time low of $43.1 billion in October, down from $40.2 billion a month earlier. The fall in net exports is expected to weigh heavily on fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

US trade deficit with China fell to a record low in October
click to enlarge

The trade report comes at a time when additional tariffs on goods coming into the U.S. are increasingly to blame for stock volatility this year. A new analysis by Bank of America Merrill Lynch suggests that worries about tariffs have trimmed some 6 percent off domestic stocks in 2018 alone.

What’s more, tariffs could be costing American households more than most realize. Last month a study conducted by consulting firm ImpactECON and commissioned by Koch Industries—an opponent of Trump’s trade policies despite its billionaire chief executive brothers, Charles and David, being top Republican donors—estimated that tariffs would cost each U.S. household nearly $2,400 in 2019, or $915 per person. GDP growth could be reduced 1.78 percent next year, with losses close to $2.8 trillion between now and 2030, if current trade actions were allowed to stay in place, the study says. As many as 2.75 million American workers “are likely to become unemployed” in 2019 “if all trade actions are implemented concurrently.”

Gold Price Rises on Weaker-Than-Expected Jobs Report

Speaking of employment, the U.S. added 155,000 jobs in November, falling far short of expectations. The U.S. dollar pulled back slightly as a result, prompting gold to trade at a five-month high of more than $1,255 per ounce. Earlier in the week, the price of palladium briefly overtook gold’s on tightening supply and increased automobile demand. (The silvery white metal is used to manufacture catalytic converters). But if economic uncertainty continues to weigh on the dollar, we could see gold lift even higher and safely retain its spot as the most valuable precious metal.

Palladium briefly became most precious metal for first time in 16 years
click to enlarge

As I reminder, I recommend that investors maintain a 10 percent exposure to gold in their portfolio—half of that in gold coins, bars and jewelry; the other half in high-quality gold mining stocks, mutual funds and ETFs. Remember to rebalance at least once a year.

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

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 09/30/2018: Sunny Optical Technology Group Co.

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Talking Tech With Pulitzer Prize Nominee Michael Robinson
November 28, 2018

Michael Robinson, chief technology strategist of Money Map Press, is a lot of things: devoted son and father, technologist, avid skier and gun enthusiast, accomplished blues guitarist, Pulitzer Prize nominee.

Readers of his popular newsletters know him for his mantra, "The road to wealth is paved with tech.” As editor of Strategic Tech Investor, Nova-X Report and Radical Technology Profits, Michael has helped curious investors get in early on small-cap and micro-cap names involved in biotech, defense, cannabis research and more.

I got to see Michael’s presentation at the Black Diamond Investment Conference in October and was impressed by his energy, interesting life story and deep knowledge of niche markets.

Below are snippets from our recent discussion, which touches on topics ranging from trap shooting to cannabis legalization to blockchain technology.

Tell us about your start in military tech and biotech.

I grew up in a military household. My dad was a Marine Corps officer, and later he became the senior military editor at Aviation Week & Space Technology. He was among the earliest to write about the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), popularly known as Star Wars. So as a high schooler, I was exposed to all of these exotic defense technologies—materials, sensors, warheads and the like—which really gave me a leg up.

My dad and I ran a high-tech military newsletter in the 1980s. This put me in a position to visit Silicon Valley pretty regularly and talk with scientists and CEOs about cutting edge tech—materials that made battleships and submarines quieter, for example.

As a young auto analyst and reporter, I managed to break some big tech stories because I was willing to look away from the mainstream. The biggest story I did actually led to the firing of two executive vice presidents, which cost the bank close to $80 million. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal ended up having to cover the story, so that helped put me on the map.

I got involved in biotechnology later through my work at what was then the Oakland Tribune. The biotech sector was brand new in the mid-80s, and I was in California where it was all happening. While there, I did a five-part series on Betaseron, the first FDA-approved biotech drug to treat multiple sclerosis (MS).

How did you make the leap to the financial world?

That just felt like the natural next step. Every time I left a Silicon Valley presentation on some new tech, I would think: "That's really cool, but how can you make money off of it?" So even though I consider myself a technologist, I'm always looking at the financial angle.

What’s more, I served on the advisory board of a venture capital company. The experience gave me a different way of evaluating startups than a standard financial analyst, who might be trained only to do ratio analysis and things like that. There's nothing wrong with ratio analysis, but it's not going to give you the kinds of insights and instinct you need to figure out which companies really have it together and which don’t.

You’re known to have a strong interest in guns and shooting. Did that come out of your dad’s military background?

I never really thought of it that way. I just love shooting guns. Mostly these days I shoot trap and skeet. I joined the National Rifle Association (NRA) because I wanted to qualify as a Triple Distinguished Expert in pistols, rifles and shotguns. Shotgun was the most difficult, I thought.

The amount of concentration that's required to shoot at a high level really appeals to me. You have to block out all distractions. In that respect, shooting is a lot like investing. One of the things I remind readers and clients is to separate the signal from the noise. You can't become a good shot if you can't block out all the external distractions and things. Similarly, investors must learn to block out short-term market noise before they pull the trigger, so to speak.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

Besides my dad, I would have to say the renowned economist Milton Friedman. I had the great pleasure to interview him once for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). I remember he had a portrait of himself done, but his wife wouldn’t let him hang it up on the wall in their Nob Hill condo. It’s funny—here’s one of the world’s greatest economic thinkers, a Nobel Prize winner, and he had his portrait just sort of propped up in a corner somewhere.

In any case, Friedman was a huge influence on the way that I think about economics. In my freshman year when I was signing on to be an economics major, I remember reading about how iconoclastic he was, how out of step he was with the rest of the economics community, which was very Keynesian at the time. I learned the true value of contrarianism from studying him and looking at things like freedom to choose. Ayn Rand was another huge influence in that respect.

Michigan just voted to legalize recreational cannabis, making it the first Midwest state to do so. Is this a tipping point?

I think the tipping point probably occurred in 2016, when as many as nine states had cannabis legalization on their ballots. That year is also when we launched our investment report, the Roadmap to Marijuana Millions. All 30 of the stocks we recommended made money. The reason I say that is not to brag about our track record, but to point out that we saw large numbers of new investors coming in, willing to take the risk, wanting to be early and understand the industry.

Michigan, for me, was an affirmation of this critical mass. It’s also a reminder of what we need more of to attract institutional investors: initial public offerings (IPOs), mergers and acquisitions (M&As), up-listings to major exchanges.

Obviously the biggest catalyst would be something out of Washington—an effort to reclassify marijuana off of Schedule I, for instance. I would love to see that happen, as would my dad, the Marine Corps officer, but I don’t believe the support is there right now.

You recently argued that blockchain technology should not be used for voting, for reasons involving secrecy and anonymity. In what industries do you see its application making the most sense?

Literally everything. Supply chain management is a huge area that could benefit from blockchain. Look at the oil industry, which still uses this old paper-based system. Companies that have already shown interest in blockchain are British Petroleum (BP) and Royal Dutch Shell, among others.

Counterfeit goods is a problem that runs in the hundreds of billions of dollar every year. Blockchain can help with that. You can use it to tag and identify goods early on, and then they can be tracked with some kind of a distributed ledger.

Or look at financial services. Frank, you’ve pointed out a number of times before that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has criticized cryptocurrencies, and yet the bank was quietly investing millions upon millions.

Speaking of cryptocurrencies, they’re down significantly this year. Do you think now is a good time to buy, or is more pain ahead?

I fear about jumping in right now. Are we at the bottom of bitcoin? I don't know. One thing I do know is that this crypto selloff may be healthy in the long-term. There’s been an insane number of initial coin offerings (ICOs), which have really hurt bitcoin and Ethereum. We need to sweep out some of the smaller coins because 2,000 cryptos is more than the world can possibly absorb. There has to be a shakeout.

Total currency market capitalization
click to enlarge

You work on several newsletters. Can you describe them for our readers and explain what value they bring?

The main value they bring is making our readers a lot of money. For starters, we have Strategic Tech Investor, which is our free service. The idea is to give investors the rules they need to succeed and not be so emotionally-driven. Because it's free and it's open format, we want to educate investors, and hopefully they'll develop an interest in my investing style and decide to subscribe to one of our paid services.

That brings us to the Nova-X Report and Radical Technology Profits.

Nova-X focuses on mid-cap stocks and the lower end of large-caps. We feel that's a good comfort zone for entry-level investors who are looking for big trends and ways to make money that aren't necessarily household names. We try to get to market early.

Radical Tech is our premium service. It’s designed for much more savvy, much more aggressive people. We swing for the fences more than we do with Nova-X. The focus is on any kind of cutting-edge technology—small-caps and even some micro-caps.

As long as my readers make money, I know I'll do well. I take breaks from time to time, but for the most part I'm up well before dawn screening charts and looking at articles—anything to make our readers as much money as I can.

I want to thank Michael for his time and enthusiasm. Be sure to check out his newsletters!

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.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 9/30/2018: BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

 

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What Thanksgiving Cranberries and Bitcoin Have in Common
November 26, 2018

What Thanksgiving Cranberries and Bitcoin Have in Common

Football is as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and family are, and nearly as old as the holiday itself. It was President Abraham Lincoln who proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, saying that he hoped all Americans would carve out some time to bless the “widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.”

In 1876, a little more than a decade after the end of that “civil strife,” students from Yale and Princeton met in Hoboken, New Jersey, to play what is believed to be the first football game held on Thanksgiving Day. Yale ended up besting its fellow Ivy League competitor, two “goals” to zero.

At the time, “football” still more closely resembled rugby than the sport we enjoy today. But a tradition was born. On subsequent Thanksgivings, the Yale-Princeton matchups generated so much cash in ticket sales that they funded the two universities’ athletic programs for the rest of the year.

The model was such a success that the National Football League (NFL) made sure to carry on the tradition upon its founding in 1920. Professional football has been played on Turkey Day ever since, except for those in the years from 1941 to 1945.

Touchdown, Yale vs. Princeton, Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 1890, Yale 32

The Cost of Thanksgiving Just Came Down for the Third Straight Year…

For most families, football comes second to the real Thanksgiving pastime—eating. But unlike ticket prices for an NFL game, which have gone up about 50 percent in the past 10 years, the cost of enjoying a Thanksgiving meal got slightly cheaper in 2018.

to support prices, U.S. cranberry growers withheld as much as 25 percent of their harvest this season

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the cost of a typical Turkey Day feast for 10 people deflated about $0.22 from last year to $48.90. That’s the third straight year of declines, and the lowest level since 2010.

More affordable energy and an oversupply in the turkey market contributed to lower food prices, as did the trade dispute between the U.S. and China. You would think that tariffs on Chinese products would raise prices, but as the Wall Street Journal explains, “China’s retaliatory moves are having the opposite effect.”

“Tariffs on U.S. agricultural products have dampened Chinese demand, boosting supplies of some staples of the Thanksgiving table,” writes the WSJ’s Justin Lahart. Because of the supply glut, cranberry growers in particular have seen prices fall below the cost of production, estimated at $35 per barrel—which is bad for the farmers, obviously, but good for American consumers. As much as 25 percent of the U.S. supply of cranberries had to be dumped this season in order to support prices.

…But Christmas Continues to See Inflation

Cranberries are one thing, a partridge in a pear tree is another.

Every year for the past 35 years, PNC Financial Services has priced out all the items listed in the holiday song “The 12 Days of Christmas.” The cost of all 364 gifts, from turtle doves to pipers piping, rose 1.2 percent this year to $39,094.93. That’s almost double what the same items cost back in 1984.

cost of all items in the 12 days of christmas rose for 16th straight year
click to enlarge

Interestingly, just as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics excludes food and energy from its “core” consumer price index (CPI) because they tend to be more volatile than the other items, PNC excludes the price of swans from its Christmas index for the very same reason.

The gift that rose the most from Christmas 2017 was the six geese a-laying. They’ll set you back $390 this year, 8.3 percent more than last year.

The gift that fell the most, meanwhile, was the five gold rings. They cost $750, down 9.1 percent from $825 in 2017. That’s good news for jewelers such as newcomer Menè, which prices its merchandise based on the gold and platinum weight value. 

Bitcoin Miners Await a Recovery in Prices

Like the cranberry growers, many bitcoin miners are choosing to limit supply as prices right now are lower than operating costs. Bitcoin fell below $5,000 last Saturday, then below $4,000 on Saturday. These are levels we haven’t seen in over a year. The average cost of mining a single bitcoin, meanwhile, is estimated to be between $6,000 and $7,000, meaning miners are operating at a loss.

The global bitcoin hash rate, therefore, is rolling over as smaller miners shut down rigs and await a recovery in prices. The hash rate, which measures how much power the bitcoin network is consuming, is now at August levels. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the rate is still up sharply this year, even as the world’s largest cryptocurrency has struggled to find the momentum that carried it to nearly $20,000 last December.

bitcoin hash rate is rolling over as smaller miners shut down operations
click to enlarge

This should be good news for the bigger players in the industry, most notably HIVE Blockchain Technologies, since they’ll control a larger share of the market.

HIVE blockchain technologies and leading cryptocurrencies are highlight correlated
click to enlarge

Vancouver-based HIVE, the first publicly listed blockchain infrastructure company, is a pure play blockchain and Ethereum investment for the capital markets. As such, many investors trade HIVE as an easy proxy for those digital coins. In the chart above, you can see that its share price shares a very strong correlation with both bitcoin and Ethereum. For 2018, HIVE had a correlation coefficient of 0.92 with those two coins. A correlation of 1.0 would mean that the two assets trade perfectly in sync. When cryptocurrencies begin to recovery, then, it seems logical to expect that HIVE would follow suit.

For more on blockchain and bitcoin, be sure to subscribe to our award-winning Investor Alert by clicking here!

 

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.

Frank Holmes has been appointed non-executive chairman of the Board of Directors of HIVE Blockchain Technologies. Effective 8/31/2018, Frank Holmes serves as interim executive chairman of HIVE. Both Mr. Holmes and U.S. Global Investors own shares of HIVE, directly and indirectly. Investing in crypto-coins or tokens is highly speculative and the market is largely unregulated.

The Christmas Price Index is a tongue-in-cheek economic indicator, maintained by the U.S. bank PNC Wealth Management, which tracks the cost of the items in the carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 9/30/2018: Mene Inc.

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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Bitcoin Miners See a Bullish Breakout on the Horizon
July 30, 2018

overbought or oversold? let these mathematical signals be your guide

The price of bitcoin surged above $8,000 last Tuesday for the first time since May after the Group of 20 (G20) meeting in Argentina concluded with little urgency to take regulatory action on cryptocurrencies. In a communiqué, G20 finance ministers and central bank governors expressed confidence that the technology underlying alt-coins “can deliver significant benefits to the financial system and the broader economy.”

Many of these benefits were discussed in my interview with Marco Streng, cofounder of Genesis Mining, the world’s largest cloud bitcoin mining company. Genesis had a huge win last week as securities regulators in South Carolina dismissed their cease-and-desist orders from March. The move, according to CoinDesk, marks the first time the state dropped such orders against a blockchain startup.

The U.S. global sentiment indicator reaches 54 percent mid-week
click to enlarge

Further support came courtesy of a July 16 report by the Switzerland-based Financial Stability Board (FSB), which concluded that, “like crypto-assets in general, crypto-asset platforms do not pose global financial stability risks.” Trading platforms include Coinbase—the most popular by far—Bitfinex, Kraken and many others.

From its low of $5,850 in late May, bitcoin was up nearly 44 percent on June 24 before pulling back on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) decision not to approve a bitcoin ETF filed by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. (It was back above $8,000 on Friday.) I believe bitcoin’s fundamentals are lining up for a significant move higher, its price having already broken sharply above the 50-day moving average.

Keep in mind, though, that we’re still very early in crypto investing. It was only 10 years ago that the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto wrote the now-famous whitepaper that led to the creation of bitcoin. Volatility is still roughly six times as high as large-cap stocks and gold in a single trading session, and 11 times as high in the 10-day period. As I told Market One Media recently, the space remains speculative, but there are opportunities for tremendous upside.

understanding cryptocurrency's "DNA of volatility"

Bitcoin’s Hash Rate Is Telling a Bullish Story 

Among the most bullish signs is bitcoin’s rapidly surging hash rate. In simple terms, a “hash” is a calculation made by a bitcoin miner in an attempt to secure a block reward, which currently sits at 12.5 bitcoin per block. (The reward automatically halves every 210,000 blocks. At the present mining rate, the next halving is estimated to occur in May 2020, after which the reward will drop to 6.25 coins.) The “hash rate,” then, is how many calculations are made per second across the globe. It generally reflects the pace at which new miners are joining the network.

Every 10 minutes on average, a new block is mined, meaning 1,800 bitcoin—or $14.8 million at today’s prices—are created every day of the week. Blockchain technology, remember, guarantees the validity of these new virgin coins. Imagine if stock trading were as quick, efficient and worry-free as crypto-mining. You can see now why JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America and other big banks are rushing to patent blockchain processing systems of their own. 

Look at the chart below. The bitcoin hash rate has continued to grow at an astonishing pace despite the selloff, suggesting miners are still very bullish on future prices.

despite decline in bitcoin price, miner enthusiasm has continued to surge
click to enlarge

In July, the number of operations passed above 45 trillion per second for the first time ever. That’s a more than sixfold increase in power from only a year ago. It also signifies a huge recovery after extensive flooding in Sichuan, China knocked out significant amounts of hashing power earlier in the month.

Mining Doesn’t Consume as Much Power as Previously Thought

Speaking of bitcoin mining power, critics often like to point out how much electricity the network consumes, in an effort to turn public opinion against the industry. To be sure, mining bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies requires a lot of energy, but the figures you might have seen are highly exaggerated. Some sources claim that industry demand stands at 65 terawatts per hour (TWh), or 65 trillion watts per hour, on an annualized basis. But a more accurate estimate is closer to 35 TWh, “less than the annual energy consumption of Luxembourg, a country of 585,000 people,” according to CoinShares Research analysts Christopher Bendiksen and Samuel Gibbons.

How did Bendiksen and Gibbons arrive at this figure, and why is it so drastically lower than other estimates? The analysts point out that hardware efficiency is nearly doubling every year (81 percent), while the cost of hardware is almost cut in half on an annual basis (-48 percent). This means miners are increasingly able to do much more for much less. Miners also prefer to operate in colder climates, which lower cooling costs, and they largely rely on cheap green energy. This is part of what attracted me to HIVE Blockchain Technology, which conducts most of its business in Iceland and Sweden.

“Our total findings suggest that the bitcoin mining industry is relatively healthy, profitable and continues to grow at breakneck speeds,” Bendiksen and Gibbons write. “The hash rate is tripling on an annual basis while the efficiency of the hardware is rapidly increasing and costs are coming down.”

You Can Now Trade Crypto Securities on Coinbase. When Will We Get an ETF?

Investors have a growing number of options to gain exposure to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, besides buying the actual assets themselves. There are several publically traded companies that have begun integrating blockchain technology into their business, such as IBM and Hitachi. Other firms have direct involvement in mining cryptos—HIVE Blockchain, for instance, and China’s Bitmain, which is seeking $1 billion in financing before a possible initial public offering (IPO). Bitcoin futures are available for trading on the CME and CBOE. And Coinbase just received SEC approval to “move forward with a trio of acquisitions that could allow it to become one of the first federally regulated venues for trading digital coins deemed to be securities,” according to Bloomberg.

most crypto investors favor ethereum and bitcoin
click to enlarge

But so far a bitcoin ETF has not yet been made available. I believe that once such a product comes on the market, the price of bitcoin will really take off.

Just look at the chart below. Gold traded mostly sideways throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Then in March 2003, the first gold ETF appeared, and the price of the yellow metal skyrocketed 420 percent as trading became more liquid and streamlined. I can’t say bitcoin would respond likewise, of course, but a crypto ETF would certainly attract more curiosity to the space.

the first gold ETF boosted metal prices. can the same happen with bitcoin?
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There’s no lack of investor interest in a bitcoin ETF. A recent survey conducted by international law firm Foley & Lardner found that nearly three quarters of participants, 72 percent, were hopeful they’ll have the opportunity to invest in an ETF that holds bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

As I mentioned earlier, the Winklevoss twins have now made two (unsuccessful) attempts to bring one to market, and the SEC has said it will postpone making a decision on five other proposed ETFs until September. Even if these get struck down as well, we move closer to getting one every day.

 

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

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.

Frank Holmes has been appointed non-executive chairman of the Board of Directors of HIVE Blockchain Technologies. Both Mr. Holmes and U.S. Global Investors own shares of HIVE, directly and indirectly.

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Blockchain Will Completely Revolutionize How We Mine Gold and Precious Metals
May 21, 2018

Global sales of semiconductors crossed above 400 billion for fisrt time in 2017

Last week I had the pleasure to attend Consensus 2018 in New York, the premiere gathering for the who’s who in blockchain, bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Attendance doubled from last year to an estimated 8,500 people, all of them packed in a Hilton built for only 3,000. Ticket sales alone pulled in a whopping $17 million, while event booths—the largest of which belonged to Microsoft and IBM—generated untold millions more.

The entire three-day conference, hosted by crypto news outlet CoinDesk, had the energy and flair of the world’s greatest carnival. Sleek lambos sat outside the hotel, attracting all sorts of gawkers. Passersby also stopped and stared at the “bankers against bitcoin” protest, conceived and funded by Genesis Mining, one of the largest bitcoin mining companies. (You can read my interview with Genesis cofounder and CEO Marco Streng here.)

Bankers agaisnt Bitcoin protest

The same money went to finance bitcoin awareness billboards outside the Omaha office of Warren Buffett, who recently bashed the cryptocurrency, calling it “rat poison squared.”

“Warren,” the billboards read, “you said you were wrong about Google and Amazon. Maybe you’re wrong about Bitcoin?”

Warren Buffet billboard Bitcoin Genesis Mining

Bringing #BitcoinAwareness to the Masses

That Buffett has a negative opinion of bitcoin shouldn’t surprise anyone. The “Oracle of Omaha” has famously been averse to emerging technology and tech stocks he doesn’t fully understand, including Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others. But he’s changed his mind in the past after he’s seen the value these companies provide.

I’m old enough to remember when Buffett was vehemently against airline stocks. The industry was a “death trap” for investors, he once said. Today, his company Berkshire Hathaway is one of the top holders of stock in the big four carriers—United Continental, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines. He even told CNBC he “wouldn’t rule out owning an entire airline.”

Obviously there’s a world of difference between airline stocks and bitcoin—although blockchain, the technology that bitcoin is built on top of, is already being used in aviation to increase transparency in aircraft manufacturing and maintenance. All I’m saying is I wouldn’t rule out bitcoin, or cryptocurrencies in general, just because Buffett isn’t a fan. He doesn’t like gold as an investment either, and that hasn’t stopped it from being one of the most liquid assets on the planet.

The Future of Gold Mining (And Investing)  

But back to Consensus. It wasn’t all fun and games, and there were some serious discussions on how governments might one day use cryptocurrencies; the future of bitcoin mining; and blockchain applications in finance, health care, insurance, energy and more. As I explain in last week’s Frank Talk Live, charitable giving is down because donors are increasingly concerned about fraud. Blockchain can help validate where your money is going.

I would include the mining industry to that list. Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize how gold and precious metals are manufactured and delivered. Consider the journey a gold nugget must take along its supply chain, from mine to end consumer—it cuts through several other industries and practices, including legal, regulatory, financial, manufacturing and retail, each of which might have its own ledger system.

These ledgers are vulnerable to hacking, fraud, errors and misinterpretations. They can be forged, for example, to conceal how the metal or mineral was sourced.

With blockchain technology, there’s no hiding anything. Decentralization guarantees complete transparency, meaning anyone along the supply chain can see how, when and where the metal was produced, and who was involved every step of the way.

This will give the industry a huge shot of trust, not to mention dramatically increase efficiency.

Many producers, tech firms and entire jurisdictions have already adopted, or plan to adopt, blockchain technology for these very reasons. IAMGOLD, a Toronto-based producer, announced last month that it partnered with Tradewind Markets, a fintech firm that uses blockchain technology to facilitate digital gold trading. IBM just helped launch a diamond and jewelry blockchain consortium, TrustChain, that will track and authenticate diamonds, metals and jewelry from all over the world. And sometime this year, the Democratic Republic of Congo will begin tracking cobalt supply from mines to ensure children were not involved.

With precious metals being used more widely in industrial applications, from smartphones to electric cars to Internet of Things (IoT) appliances, tracking metals across the supply chain has become increasingly more important to businesses and consumers. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), global sales of semiconductors—which contain various metals, including gold—crossed above $400 billion for the first time in 2017. Total sales were $412.2 billion, an increase of nearly 22 percent from the previous year.

That’s a lot of metal and other materials that blockchain tech can help authenticate.

Global sales of semiconductors crossed above 400 billion for fisrt time in 2017
click to enlarge

Before I get off this topic, I want to mention that blockchain is also bringing change to gold investment. Consider Royal Mint Gold (RMG), which aims to provide the “performance of the London Gold Market with the transparency of an exchange-traded security.” There’s also the Perth Mint’s InfiniGold, which issues digital certificates guaranteeing ownership of gold and silver in the mint’s vault. A number of other platforms exist to help facilitate gold trading.

Should even one of these become hugely popular, it “could be as big a change to the gold markets as the development of ETFs, but with the added advantage of appealing to younger generations,” according to the World Gold Council’s (WGC) chief strategist, John Reade.

Who Says Size Matters?

The small-cap Russell 2000 Index closed at its third straight record high on Friday after putting up bigger gains than the larger-cap S&P 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average.   

the russel 2000 index hit a new all-time high
click to enlarge

As I’ve explained before, President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies and low corporate tax and regulatory environment strongly favor small-cap stocks. Investors hate uncertainty, which is precisely what the market is feeling with regard to tariffs and global trade. Because small-cap companies don’t rely as heavily on overseas markets as huge multinationals do, it’s little wonder why we’re seeing money flow into the Angie’s Lists and Yelps of the world right now.

 

The Russell 2000 Index is a small-cap stock market index of the bottom 2,000 stocks in the Russell 3000 Index. The index is maintained by FTSE Russell, a subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange Group. The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 blue chip stocks that are generally leaders in their industry.

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 (03/31/2018): IAMGOLD Corp., United Continental Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., American Airlines Group Inc.

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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Net Asset Value
as of 12/12/2018

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $4.59 0.03 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $6.46 -0.01 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $3.03 -0.02 China Region Fund USCOX $7.97 0.06 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.18 -0.01 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $24.18 0.06 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $18.17 0.13 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.19 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change