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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.

Overbought or Oversold? Let These Mathematical Signals Be Your Guide
July 23, 2018

overbought or oversold? let these mathematical signals be your guide

just the facts, ma'am dragnet TV series sgt. joe friday

Anticipate before you participate in the market. This is a classic piece of advice I like to give investors and have written about extensively in my CEO blog, Frank Talk. Financial markets are influenced by relatively predictable cycles and trading patterns, and by better understanding these we are able to react thoughtfully to headline noise or unexpected market developments.

How many of you remember the old police procedural Dragnet? In it, Sgt. Joe Friday famously uses the line “Just the facts, ma’am.” I’ve always felt this nuts-and-bolts attitude relates perfectly to how our investments team makes its decisions on where to allocate capital. Follow the models, look at the math—and leave emotions at the door.

A Sentiment Indicator for Contrarian Investing

At U.S. Global Investors, one tool that we find particularly useful to track the different market cycles is our U.S. Global Sentiment Indicator. This indicator tracks 126 commodities, indices, sectors, currencies and international markets to help monitor volatility and cash flow levels.

Using this indicator, we note the percentage of positions that have five-day moving averages above or below the 20-day moving averages. Then we compare it to the S&P 500 Index. As you can see in the chart below, as of Wednesday, the sentiment indicator rebounded to 54 percent, rallying from a low of around 20 percent at the end of June.

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

While a drop below 20 percent means the market is extremely oversold, we do not view the market as overbought until around the 80 percent mark. Having a keen awareness of these movements allows our investments team to be more proactive rather than reactive. It helps us manage our emotions and not be swept away by negative media or overly optimistic headlines.

Explore this topic further in the Managing Expectations whitepaper!

Is the Gold Market Being Suppressed?

Gold continued its trek lower last week, the price steadying around $1,220 an ounce on Tuesday following Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s congressional testimony.  Powell commented that he thought the U.S. was on course for continued steady growth, supporting his expectation of a rate hike every three months. These comments sent the dollar up and gold down.

Despite this movement, I’m amazed that gold is holding up so well, particularly when you compare real interest rates in the U.S., Japan and the European Union.

Japan leads the world in government debt that trades negative yield
click to enlarge

In addition to these price moves, we’ve seen suppression and manipulation in the gold market in recent years. This is a topic I discussed last week in our webcast, cohosted by Randy Smallwood, CEO of Wheaton Precious Metals.

What do I mean by “gold suppression”? Historically, the price of gold has tracked U.S. debt, but as you can see in the chart below, that seems no longer to be the case.

suppression of gold? gold price has traditionally tracked U.S. debt
click to enlarge

The question, then, is not whether gold is actively being suppressed, but to what extent and by whom. Traders working at some big banks—including UBS, Deutsche Bank and HSBC—have already been charged for manipulating the price of precious metals futures contracts and fined as much as $30 million by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

However, I’m skeptical that this has resolved the issue. In the past several years, gold has traded down in the week prior to China’s Golden Week, when markets are closed. As much as $2.25 billion of the yellow metal was dumped in the futures market in October 2016, as someone clearly sought to take advantage of the fact that markets were closed for the week in the world’s largest buyer of gold.

gold and silver price manipulation headlines

During the webcast, Randy Smallwood thoughtfully pointed out that the deliberate suppression of prices can't go on forever. I agree, and believe that precious metals such as gold and silver are significantly undervalued right now.

So what should investors be paying attention to?

The Magic Behind the Math

Using an oscillator chart, let's compare the U.S. dollar to gold. I believe oscillators are vital to identifying the optimal time to buy or sell, and right now it appears that the greenback is overbought while gold is oversold.

Looking back over five years of data, we've discovered that, historically, when gold exceeded two standard deviations above the mean, the commodity fell 51 percent of the time in the following three months.

In contrast, when gold prices exceeded two standard deviations below the mean, it rose 77 percent of the time in the following three months. This is because gold is undervalued at this level.

Is gold due for a reversal?
click to enlarge

Buying the laggards when the time is right could enable you to participate in a potential rally—and right now, that rally could be in gold, currently down 2.24 standard deviations.

Understanding this kind of math is almost like being adept at counting cards. In the 2008 film 21, an MIT professor helps six students become experts at card counting. The story, based on true events, shows how these students end up taking Vegas casinos for millions in winnings by following their professor’s teachings. Of course, there’s no way I can promise such an extraordinary outcome in your investments, but I do think there’s something to be said for the magic behind the math.

King Copper Could Also Be Due for a Reversal

Gold isn’t the only commodity that might be due for a reversal. Take a look at this chart showing copper versus the U.S. dollar. The red metal looks even more oversold than gold, down close to four standard deviations as of July 18. As I mentioned in the 2018 Commodities Halftime Report, copper looks attractive on surging demand for electric vehicles (EVs), which require between three and four times as much copper as traditional gas-powered automobiles.

copper looks oversold relative to the U.S. dollar
click to enlarge

What’s more, based on these mathematical models, emerging markets have the potential to move higher as well. I encourage you to take a look at the chart featured in the Europe section of Friday’s Investor Alert to see what I mean.

Always Remember the Golden Rule

10 percent portfolio weighting in gold recommended by frank holmes

Gold continues to be a classic example that helps illustrate seasonal rotations and price fluctuations based on a number of different factors geopolitical noise, inflation, wedding season in China and India, and much more.

The DNA of volatility, as I like to call it, shows that it is a non-event for gold to move up or down 17 percent over a rolling 12-month period. Knowing this has helped me to develop the 10 percent Golden Rule.

I have always advocated investors have around 10 percent of their portfolios in gold—5 percent in gold bullion or beautiful gold jewelry, and 5 percent in well managed gold mutual funds or ETFs. And then rebalance.

While no investment rules or statistical tools are accurate 100 percent of the time, investors can take ownership in how they use certain tools to manage emotions of the market and position themselves for greater success.

Capturing opportunities and understanding the ins and outs of the markets are what make investing so exciting.

Know a fellow investor who could benefit from this type of weekly investment analysis? Share our Investor Alert sign up page  with them—subscribing is always FREE!

 

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.

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.

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

The U.S. Dollar Index is a measure of the value of the U.S. dollar relative to the value of a basket of currencies of the majority of the U.S.'s most significant trading partners. This index is similar to other trade-weighted indexes, which also use the exchange rates from the same major currencies.

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 (06/30/2018): Wheaton Precious Metals Corp.

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Top 10 Countries with Largest Gold Reserves
July 5, 2018

Beginning in 2010, central banks around the world turned from being net sellers of gold to net buyers of gold. Last year official sector activity rose 36 percent to 366 tonnes – a substantial increase from 2016.

top 10 central banks ranked by largest gold holdings as of june 2018

The top 10 central banks with the largest gold reserves have remained mostly unchanged for the last few years. The United States holds the number one spot with over 8,000 tonnes of gold in its vaults – nearly as much as the next three countries combined. For six consecutive years the Russian Central Bank has been the largest purchaser of gold, increasing its holdings by 224 tonnes in 2017 and overtaking China to hold the fifth spot, according to the GFMS Gold Survey.

Not every central bank is a net buyer. For the second year in a row, Venezuela has been the largest seller of gold, with 25 tonnes sold last year to help pay off debt. However, gross official sector sales declined by 55 percent last year, to the lowest since 2014, indicating that central banks are happy to keep their reserves in gold, historically viewed as a safe-haven asset.

Central Banks Continue Gobbling Up Gold central bank purchases from 1997 to 2017
click to enlarge

2018 could be another strong year for central bank gold demand. According to the World Gold Council (WGC), demand in the first quarter was up 42 percent year-over-year, with purchases totaling 116.5 tonnes for the highest first quarter total since 2014. As global debt continues to skyrocket, central banks and individual investors alike might want to keep gold in their pockets, as it historically has performed well during times of economic downturn and geopolitical uncertainty.

Below are the top 10 countries with the largest gold holdings, beginning with India.

 

10. India

Tonnes: 560.3

Percent of foreign reserves: 5.5 percent

It’s no surprise that the Bank of India has one of the largest stores of gold in the world. The South Asian country, home to 1.25 billion people, is the second largest consumer of the precious metal, and is one of the most reliable drivers of global demand. India’s festival and wedding season, which runs from October to December, has historically been a huge boon to gold’s Love Trade.

Construction on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, concluded in 1604

9. Netherlands

Tonnes: 612.5

Percent of foreign reserves: 68.2 percent

The Dutch Central Bank announced that it will be moving its gold vaults from Amsterdam to Camp New Amsterdam, about an hour outside the city, citing burdensome security measures of its current location. As many others have pointed out, this seems odd, given that the bank fairly recently repatriated a large amount of its gold from the U.S.

The Gold Souk building in Beverwijk, The Netherlands, houses a marketplace for gold dealers and goldsmiths

8. Japan

Tonnes: 765.2

Percent of foreign reserves: 2.5 percent

Japan, the world’s third largest economy, is also the eighth largest hoarder of the yellow metal. Its central bank has been one of the most aggressive practitioners of quantitative easing—in January 2016, it lowered interest rates below zero—which has helped fuel demand for gold around the world.

The Gold Pavilion in Kyoto, japan, features beautiful gold-leaf coating

7. Switzerland

Tonnes: 1,040.0

Percent of foreign reserves: 5.3 percent

In seventh place is Switzerland, which actually has the world’s largest reserves of gold per capita. During World War II, the neutral country became the center of the gold trade in Europe, making transactions with both the Allies and Axis powers. Today, much of its gold trading is done with Hong Kong and China.

Credit Suisse gold bars and coins

6. China

Tonnes: 1,842.6

Percent of foreign reserves: 2.4 percent

In the summer of 2015, the People’s Bank of China began sharing its gold purchasing activity on a monthly basis for the first time since 2009. Although China comes in sixth for most gold held, the  yellow metal accounts for only a small percentage of its overall reserves – a mere 2.4 percent – the lowest of the top 10 central banks with the most gold. However, this figure is up slightly from 2.2 percent of holdings in 2016.

China is also the number one gold producing nation. What other countries are top gold producers? Find out here!

Over 2,000 ancient Buddha statues have been excavated in China

5. Russia

Tonnes: 1,909.8

Percent of foreign reserves: 17.6 percent

The Russian Central Bank has been the largest buyer of gold for the past six years and earlier this year overtook China to have the fifth largest reserves. In 2017 Russia bought 224 tonnes of bullion in an effort to diversify away from the U.S. dollar, as its relationship with the West has grown chilly since the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in mid-2014. To raise the cash for these purchases, Russia sold a huge percentage of its U.S. Treasuries.

Gilded domes of the Annunciation Cathedral in Moscow, Russia

4. France

Tonnes: 2,436.0

Percent of foreign reserves: 63.9 percent

France’s central bank has sold little of its gold over the past several years, and there are calls to halt it altogether. Marine Le Pen, president of the country’s far-right National Front party, has led the charge not only to put a freeze on selling the nation’s gold but also to repatriate the entire amount from foreign vaults.

Anne of Brittany's wedding crown

3. Italy

Tonnes: 2,451.8

Percent of foreign reserves: 67.9 percent

Italy has likewise maintained the size of its reserves over the years, and it has support from European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi. The former Bank of Italy governor, when asked by a reporter in 2013 what role gold plays in a central bank’s portfolio, answered that the metal was “a reserve of safety,” adding, “it gives you a fairly good protection against fluctuations against the dollar.”

Detail of a gold lion in St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy

2. Germany

Tonnes: 3,371.0

Percent of foreign reserves: 70.6 percent

Last year Germany completed a four-year repatriation operation to move a total of 674 tonnes of gold from the Banque de France and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York back to its own vaults. First announced in 2013, the move was expected to take until 2020 to complete. Although gold demand fell last year after hitting an all-time high in 2016, this European country has seen gold investing steadily rise since the global financial crisis.

A variety of Germman coins

1. United States

Tonnes: 8,133.5

Percent of foreign reserves: 75.2 percent

With the largest official holdings in the world, the U.S. lays claim to nearly as much gold as the next three countries combined. It also has the highest gold allocation as a percentage of its foreign reserves at over 75 percent. From what we know, the majority of U.S. gold is held at Fort Knox in Kentucky, with the remainder held at the Philadelphia Mint, Denver Mint, San Francisco Assay Office and West Point Bullion Depository. Which state loves gold the most? Well, the state of Texas went so far as to create its very own Texas Bullion Depository to safeguard investors’ gold.

The US holds most of its gold at the US Bullion Reservatory at Fort Knox

Can't get enough of gold? Learn all about the yellow metal's seasonal trading patterns by downloading our free whitepaper, Gold's Love Trade, today!

gold love trade whitepaper 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.

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A Massive Windfall for China's Fast-Growing Tech Giants
July 2, 2018

massive windfall china's fast growing tech giants

Stop buying Iranian oil or face the music.

That’s the message the U.S. government shared with the world last week, giving importers until November 4 to cut their consumption of Iran’s crude to zero—or expect sanctions. The threat comes a month after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Obama-era nuclear deal.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) responded by adding more than $6 to the price of a barrel last week alone, to end above $74.

U.S. toughness on iran pushes crude above $70 a barrel
click to enlarge

Other drivers included supply disruptions in Canada and Libya, as well as a sharp, more-than-expected decline in U.S. crude inventories. Nearly 10 million barrels were drawn in the week ended June 27, the most since September 2016. Crude is now up an eye-popping 70 percent from the same time last year, contributing to the inflationary pressure that’s pushed consumer price growth to a six-year high.

And there could be more upside, should supply crunches continue along with Trump’s ongoing geopolitical efforts to isolate Tehran. Ready to see $90-a-barrel oil? That’s the forecast from Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Hootan Yazhari.

“We are in a very attractive oil price environment,” Yazhari told CNBC this week, “and our house view is that oil will hit $90 by the end of the second quarter of next year,” or 12 months from now.

Even if this prediction ends up overshooting the mark, I believe there could still be money to be made in the energy space on tightening supply and strong global demand. For more, I urge you to watch this brief video outlining the six factors that matter when picking energy stocks.

Bull Market May Have Just Hit a Trade War Wall

The U.S. market is mere days from hitting a milestone that some investors might not have anticipated in the business-friendly era of Trump. Both the S&P 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average have been stuck in correction mode since early February of this year, when inflation fears and concerns of a global trade war triggered a monster selloff.

Today marks the 100th day both indices have been in correction, and according to MarketWatch, if they stay sideways another nine trading days, it will become the longest such stretch since 1984.

Stocks managed to recover then, but as I see it, unless Trump softens his stance on trade, they will have a difficult time doing the same today. Stiff retaliatory barriers are scheduled to be raised by China, Canada and other key markets, and Canadian consumers have already started boycotting American-made goods. U.S. exports of steel, soybeans and other products are down from a year ago because of friction over the tariffs, which are essentially regulations that could jeopardize the positive work Trump has done in cutting red tape in other areas.

Below is the Dow’s performance so far this year, not including today, annotated with some key moments in the Trump trade war. I chose the Dow specifically because it includes the very largest U.S. exporters, some of which do tens of billions of dollars in sales in China alone. As the biggest U.S. exporter, Boeing delivered more than 200 aircraft to the Asian country last year, accounting for a quarter of the plane maker’s global sales. Apple generated around 20 percent of its revenue in China, or the equivalent of $44.7 billion.

key moments in trump trade war
click to enlarge

The question now is whether we’re headed for a recession, and how investors can prepare—though I believe the market is oversold, as I explain in the most recent edition of Frank Talk Live. The last nine years have been extraordinarily profitable, but every bull market must come to an end—not from age, remember, but from changes in monetary or fiscal policy.

Last week I offered one of my favorite strategies to face the next bear market with confidence. Discover what it is by clicking here.

Trade war friction has strained international relations in other ways than just trade, of course. Among those is foreign direct investment (FDI), essential for global economic growth.

Chinese FDI in the U.S. Just Fell 92 Percent

China’s tech industry is exploding. Last year, gross output value of Chinese tech firms hit 20 trillion yuan, or about $3 trillion, for the first time ever. Nine of the world’s 20 biggest tech firms now call China home, beginning with Alibaba, valued at half a trillion dollars. And for the past several years, China has filed far more patent applications than the U.S. on an annual basis. (I should point out, though, that the U.S. still has more patents overall, having just issued patent number 10 million.)

The Asian country, in fact, has more unicorns—or startups worth $1 billion or more—than any other nation on earth. Chinese unicorns account for more than half of the global total, and 66 percent in terms of valuation, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Just look at the top 10 Chinese unicorns. Ant Financial, formerly known as Alipay, ranks first with a valuation of $145 billion. That’s about twice the value of the number one U.S. unicorn, Uber.

top 10 china unicorns
click to enlarge

It’s very likely even more capital will flow into these firms this year and next. That’s because Chinese FDI in the U.S. fell an incredible 92 percent in the first half of 2018, as the government cracks down on capital flight. The decline is also likely in response to the U.S. government’s increased scrutiny of Chinese acquisitions.

chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in the U.S. fell 90 percent in the first half of 2018
click to enlarge

According to economic research firm Rhodium, Chinese investors have sold $9.6 billion worth of U.S. assets, including office buildings in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles. That’s after making only $1.8 billion in investments. What this means is that the country’s net U.S. FDI is negative $7.8 billion so far this year.
And regarding a possible rebound in Chinese investment activity, “looming U.S. policies present substantial headwinds,” writes Rhodium’s director of research, Thilo Hanemann.

So where will all this capital go?

I don’t think anyone can say for sure, but my guess is that this will be a huge windfall for the already fast expanding Chinese tech industry.

Only Half of China Is Online

There are even more reasons to be optimistic about the Chinese tech industry, including the fact that only a little over half of the country’s population is online. At 772 million people, the user base is massive—more than twice the size of the entire U.S. population—but penetration is only 54.6 percent, according to UBS. That’s well behind the U.K. (94.8 percent), Japan (93.3 percent) and the U.S. (87.9 percent).

china's online universe still has room for growth
click to enlarge

This means, of course, that the country’s tech and internet industries still have much room to grow.

China is already number one in mobile payments, having surged to a whopping $9 trillion in 2016, compared to only $112 billion for the U.S. The Asian giant is rapidly becoming cashless—so much so that a friend of mine recently had a hard time using paper money to make a purchase in a Chinese convenience store. In fact, a number of unmanned, fully-automated stores—most notably BingoBox and Alibaba’s Tao Cafe—have sprung up all over the country. Transactions are made simply by scanning your smartphone on a designated counter or plate before leaving the store.

Learn more about one of the world’s fastest-growing regions by clicking here!

 

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 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 3/31/2018: The Boeing Co.

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Gold Love Trade Looks Promising in India and China
May 8, 2018

Gold was up half a percent year-to-date through last Friday. This doesn’t sound very exciting, but over the same period, the S&P 500 Index was in the red—the first time in nearly a decade that stocks have been negative for the year through the beginning of May. The yellow metal is doing the one thing for which many investors have it in their portfolio—namely, it’s trading inversely to the market. This highlights its longstanding role as an attractive diversifier and store of value.

Gold bullion has outperformed the market so far in 2018
click to enlarge

Gold has been under pressure from a strengthening U.S. dollar, and May has historically delivered lower prices. As I’ve pointed out before, this makes it an ideal entry point in anticipation of a late summer rally before Diwali and the Indian wedding season, during which gifts of gold jewelry are considered auspicious. Demand in China for the remainder of the year also looks promising.

India Gold Demand Weakened, but a Healthy Monsoon Could Help Reverse That

India’s demand for gold jewelry in the first quarter was down 12 percent from the same period last year, according to the latest report from the World Gold Council (WGC). Consumption fell to 87.7 metric tons, compared to 99.2 tons in the first three months of 2017. Contributing to this weakness was the fact that there were fewer auspicious days in the first quarter than in the same period of the past three years, according to the WGC.

However, this followed a monumental fourth quarter 2017, when gold demand in the world’s second-largest consumer was 189.6 metric tons—an all-time record—so a decline was expected.

Looking ahead, it’s estimated that India will have a “normal” monsoon season this summer. This is good news for gold’s Love Trade. A third of India’s gold demand comes from rural farmers, whose crop revenues depend on the rains from a healthy monsoon. When the subcontinent experiences a drought, as it did in 2014 and 2015, gold consumption suffers.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) reports that its forecasts suggest “maximum probability for normal monsoon rainfall” and “low probability for deficient rainfall during the season.”  

Chinese Bullion Demand Off to a Good Start in 2018

In China, the world’s largest importer of gold, jewelry demand rose 7 percent in the first quarter to 187.7 metric tons, a three-year high. According to the WGC, Chinese retailers are working on improving the customer experience, providing consumers with “a more holistic retail solution.” The industry is expecting a strong 2018 after a relatively subdued 2017.

Except for a weak February, demand so far this year has been particularly strong, with monthly withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) above the two-year average of 170 metric tons. April represented the third straight month of rising demand. Withdrawals were 28 percent higher than in the same month in 2017, according to veteran precious metals commentator Lawrie Williams.

China gol ddemand rose for the third straight month in April
click to enlarge

Williams writes that fears of a potential trade war with the U.S. could be driving Chinese investors into safe haven assets, including gold bars and coins. Indeed, the WGC reports that bullion demand in the first quarter finished at 78 metric tons, above the three- and five-year averages.

I believe this all bodes well for the Love Trade going forward, meaning it might be an opportune time for investors to consider increasing their exposure to gold and gold mining stocks. As always, I recommend a 10 percent weighting, with 5 percent in bars, coins and jewelry, and 5 percent in high-quality gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

 

 

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

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South Korea Courts Investors with Unbelievable Payouts
May 7, 2018

South Korea ranks first in dividened growth with a 20 percent CAGR in 2018 2019

Call it the news of the year, perhaps even of the decade. For the first time since the Korean Peninsula was divided in 1948, leaders of the two warring nations met in what had the look and feel of a jovial reconciliation between two estranged family members. Kim Jong-un of North Korea and President Moon Kae-in of South Korea made a number of important, though tentative, breakthroughs, including an agreement to denuclearize the peninsula and a pledge to revisit several infrastructure projects that would help bring some economic unity to the two Koreas.

Which the North desperately needs, as anyone reading this knows.

Below is economic development, as measured in gross national income (GNI) per capita, for the two nations since division. The chart looks not unlike the one I shared comparing Cuba and Singapore since their founding in 1959.

Miracle on the Han River 70 years later
click to enlarge

Thanks to rapid growth spurred early on by business-friendly policies, South Korea is today the fourth largest economy in Asia—following China, Japan and India—and the 11th largest in the world. Most of its citizens enjoy a comfortable, middle-income lifestyle and can afford to own many of the popular consumer goods and vehicles manufactured by Samsung, LG, Hyundai and other Korean household name brands.

North Korea, on the other hand, has not advanced in any material way and today has an economy roughly 30 times smaller than its southern neighbor. Its inhabitants routinely suffer great hardship, from famines to a lack of adequate health care.

For now, many analysts are skeptical that this new development will have a huge impact on the surrounding Asian region—in the near term, at least—since North Korea’s economy is small and lacks the infrastructure necessary for rapid expansion. It’s unlikely we’ll see the sort of boom Vietnam experienced after opening its economy up to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the late 1980s. It’s just as unlikely we’ll see unification anytime soon, as that would require the presiding Kim to end the dynasty that began with his grandfather Il-sung.

Nevertheless, all good things must begin somehow, and this is as good a beginning as I can imagine.

 

South Korea Expected to Lead in Dividend Growth

Investors also seem to be taking in the news with a side of skepticism. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) advanced a little under 3 percent in the three trading sessions following the summit, but since then it’s pared all of those gains.

South Korea is very attractive right now, with stocks trading at cheap valuation multiples relative to those in neighboring countries. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth remains robust, rising 2.8 percent in the first quarter.

The Korean market has a reputation for having a low payout ratio, despite many of its multinationals being flush with cash, but that looks set to change. Pressured by the government to do more to attract and keep foreign investors, the countries’ top 10 firms paid out a record 7 trillion won, or $6.46 billion, to offshore investors last year. Samsung Group ranked first, its payouts rising a massive 45.6 from the previous year to total 3.91 trillion won.

According to CLSA estimates, based on FactSet data, Korea tops the list for dividend growth this year and next. The investment bank is looking for a 20 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), which would be a huge improvement over other markets around the globe.

South Korea ranks first in dividened growth
click to enlarge

Will Korea Become the First Cashless Society?

Recently I asked the question: “How long till bitcoin replaces cold hard cash?” The answer is: Sooner than you might think, though I’m using “bitcoin” here as a proxy for all digital currencies.

Cointelegraph reports that the Bank of Korea (BOK) announced that it’s looking into using blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies for all transactions. Such a move, according to the bank, would improve customer convenience and eliminate the cost of producing physical bills and coins.

The BOK has already set up an organization to research digital currencies and the possible ramifications of transitioning to a completely cashless society—something the Korean government has had its eye on since at least 2016.

Cryptocurencies will be used extensively across South Korea by the end of the year

Adoption is happening much faster than expected. Last month, the country’s leading crypto exchange, Bithumb, and Korea Pay Services, a mobile payment service provider, said they would work together to make crypto transactions available at thousands of stores and outlets.

According to the Korea Times, virtual currency payments will be made available at as many as 6,000 store locations across the country in the first half of 2018. By the end of the year, 2,000 more locations will come online.

Chinese Equities Have Outperformed Since 2001

Morningstar reports that, from March 2001 to March 2018, China stocks had the strongest annualized growth among global markets. Over the 17-year period, the MSCI China Index delivered an amazing 12.2 percent in annualized total returns, compared to the MSCI Emerging Markets Index with 10.7 percent and the MSCI World Index with 6 percent.

China stocks beat all other markets
click to enlarge

What I find incredible is that, when the MSCI Emerging Markets Index was created in January 1988, China wasn’t even included. Today, the Asian giant has the heaviest weighting, representing nearly 30 percent of the index.

But the emerging markets index is changing yet again. Until now, the MSCI included only Chinese stocks that are traded on foreign exchanges—Hong Kong or New York, for instance. Starting June 1, domestic, Shanghai-listed Chinese stocks, known as A-shares, will be added for the first time ever. This will give foreign investors greater, and unprecedented, exposure to the world’s second-largest equities market.

The timing couldn’t have been better, as a huge number of Chinese unicorns—private firms with valuations exceeding $1 billion—are expected to raise capital this year through initial public offerings (IPOs), in Shanghai and elsewhere.

According to the Wall Street Journal, around a dozen Chinese companies, with a collective valuation of $500 billion, have been working with banks and investors to roll out an estimated $50 billion in new shares. Of those, the largest by far is smartphone-maker Xiaomi, which is expected to raise at least $10 billion in Hong Kong, the most ever for the exchange.

Manufacturing in China expanded again in April, posting either a 51.4 or 51.1, depending on which source you trust more—the Chinese government or financial media outlet Caixin.    

Chinese manufacturing continued its expansion in April
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The Month of May Has Been a Great Time to Buy Gold

On a final note, May is here, and that means we could see yet another excellent gold buying opportunity. In the chart below, you can see the yellow metal’s average monthly returns for the 30-year period and 10-year period. Although there are noticeable differences, in both cases, May was a great entry point ahead of the late summer rally in anticipation of Diwali and the Indian wedding season, when gifts of gold jewelry are considered auspicious.

Average monthly gold returns
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During this May in particular, the price of gold has been feeling the pressure of a stronger U.S. dollar, currently at a 2018 high, and rising Treasury yields.

But as I said in a recent Frank Talk, there are a number of reasons why you might want to consider adding gold stocks to your portfolio, including faster inflation and shrinking supply.

 

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

The KOSPI Index is comprised of 200 of the largest and most liquid issues traded on the Korean Stock Exchange. The index market capitalization is weighted, meaning that firms with the largest market value have the greatest influence on the KOSPI's returns. The MSCI China Index captures large and mid-cap representation across China H shares, B shares, Red chips, P chips and foreign listings (e.g. ADRs). With 153 constituents, the index covers about 85% of this China equity universe. The MSCI World Index captures large and mid-cap representation across 23 Developed Markets (DM) countries. With 1,649 constituents, the index covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index captures large and mid-cap representation across 24Emerging Markets (EM) countries. With 846 constituents, the index covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country.

The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is the mean annual growth rate of an investment over a specified period of time longer than one year.

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 Caixin China Manufacturing PMI (Purchasing Managers' Index) is based on data compiled from monthly replies to questionnaires sent to purchasing executives in over 400 private manufacturing sector companies.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. None of the securities mentioned in the article were held by any accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 3/31/2018.

Share “South Korea Courts Investors with Unbelievable Payouts”

Net Asset Value
as of 08/14/2018

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.54 0.01 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $6.97 -0.04 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $3.50 -0.04 China Region Fund USCOX $9.34 -0.36 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.29 0.14 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $26.15 0.16 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $20.00 0.17 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.20 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change