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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.

What You Need to Know About Indonesia Ahead of Next Week's Election
April 9, 2019

On Wednesday of next week, the world’s largest presidential election will be held. Voters in Indonesia will go to the polls to decide whether to give incumbent president Joko Widodo another five years, or elect former general Prabowo Subianto.

I think of Indonesia’s presidential election as the “world’s largest” for a couple of different reasons. One, voters are given the day off, which encourages higher turnout. In 2016, some 138 million Americans voted in the general election, compared to 193 million Indonesians who are expected to vote next week. That’s despite the Southeast Asian country having a smaller overall population than the U.S.

And two, Indonesians get a direct vote. Whereas the U.S. elects its presidents indirectly through the Electoral College, voters in Indonesia get to choose their presidents directly—one voter, one vote.

This effectively makes Indonesia one of the largest democratic countries in the world.

In the meantime, the Indonesian market has been in a holding pattern so far this year as investors await the election outcome.

Indonesian markets stuck in a holding pattern awaiting April 17 election
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I’ll share something else investors will really want to know about Indonesia—but first, a brief American history lesson. Don’t worry, it will all make sense.

The Economic Windfall of the U.S. Homestead Act

The Homestead Act is one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in U.S. history. Passed in 1862, the statute gave scores of families the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become proud owners of as many as 160 acres of federal land in Western territories.

Certain conditions had to be met first to receive a land title, but the beauty of the statute is that nearly anyone was eligible so long as they were willing to put in the work. U.S. citizens, immigrants and freed slaves all stood to benefit. Families who before had little or no assets suddenly found themselves with the financial independence so many had never known. For the first time, homesteaders gained access to banking and loans, as they could now put up their land as collateral.

Not only did the Homestead Act hasten the development of the American West, but it also ushered in the most productive agricultural economy the world had ever seen. The U.S. became a more attractive place for investors.

Today, an estimated 93 million Americans can trace their ancestries back to those original homesteaders.

So why am I telling you this?

Can Lightning Strike Twice in Indonesia?

I’m sharing this with you to draw a direct link to what’s currently happening in Indonesia. Under the leadership of President Widodo, the Southeast Asian country’s government is similarly in the process of distributing wealth to its people by certifying as many as 9 million hectares (ha) of public land. Indonesia is the fifth largest country by area in Asia, with massive natural resources—it has the world’s largest known gold reserve—but land ownership per capita has historically been very low.

Elected in 2014, President Widodo, popularly known as “Jokowi,” has pledged to change that with land reform. As of November, the government has certified 3.86 million ha, or 43 percent of target, according to CLSA. The full 9 million ha is scheduled to be issued by 2025.

Central Banks Haven't Bought This Much Gold Since Nixon Was President Indonesian president Joko Widodo (left) enjoys personally handing out land certificates to the people.
Photo by: State Dept./Erik A. Kurniawan, U.S. Embassy, Jakarta | Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Although there’s no guarantee that Jokowi’s policy will lead to the explosive economic growth seen here in the U.S., it’s almost certain to raise incomes, improve prosperity and help turn Indonesia into a more attractive place for foreign investors.

Like the original American homesteaders, Indonesian land certificate recipients can now enter the official economy, with newfound access to borrowing. As you can see below, banking penetration in Indonesia has been low relative to other Asian countries, so I see this as having a huge multiplier effect on the local economy.

Indonesias land reform program should help expand banking penetration
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Indonesia Projected to Become the World’s Fourth Largest Economy

The Indonesian economy is already expected to expand dramatically over the next 10 years and more, thanks in large part to its young, vibrant population. More than half of its roughly 270 million citizens are under the age of 40, while the 0-to-14 age group accounts for around a quarter of the population, according to World Population Review.

Indonesians aged 40 and below account for more than half the voters
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Not only is Indonesia the fourth largest country by population, following China, India and the U.S., but its economy is on track to become the world’s fourth largest using purchasing power parity (PPP) in as few as 11 years. Between 2017 and 2030, the economy is projected to grow an incredible 216 percent, from $3.2 trillion to $10.1 trillion.

Top 10 countries by nominal GDP using PPP exchange rates by the year 2030
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I’m eager to see the results of next week’s election. However it unfolds, I hope that the land certifications proceed as planned, as I see it opening up huge investment opportunities.

Curious to learn more about Indonesia? View this slideshow on the country’s important palm oil industry by clicking here!

 

The Shanghai Composite Index is a market composite made up of all the A-shares and B-shares that trade on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The MSCI Emerging Markets Asia Index captures large and mid-cap representation across nine emerging markets countries. With 883 constituents, the index covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country. The IDX Composite is an index of all stocks listed on the Indonesia Stock Exchange.

Purchasing power parity (PPP) is an economic theory that compares different countries' currencies through a "basket of goods" approach. According to this concept, two currencies are in equilibrium or at par when a basket of goods (taking into account the exchange rate) is priced the same in both countries.

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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What Ballooning Corporate Debt Means for Investors
April 8, 2019

Frank Homles speaking at the Money Map Press Black Diamond Conference in Delray Beach Florida

Last week I was in Delray Beach, Florida, where I presented at Money Map Press’ Black Diamond Conference.

What I love about this event, and others like it, is that it gives investors a chance not only to hear from their favorite newsletter writers but also speak with them face-to-face on a wide range of topics, from metals and mining to bitcoin and cannabis, and so much more. Among the most sought-after presenters this year were early-stage tech investor Michael Robinson, who I interviewed last year; Money Map Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald; and Sprott CEO Rick Rule.

In case you didn’t get the chance to attend, I’ll be sure to cover the highlights in the coming days.

Right now I want to share with you the latest from Metals Focus. The London-based commodities research group just released the 2019 edition of its widely-read Gold Focus report, and the big news is that global gold demand will climb to its highest level in four years. The uptick is expected to be driven by an increase in jewelry fabrication, with India, China and Italy leading consumption higher.

Global gold demand forecast to edge marginally higher in 2019
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Interest in gold jewelry has indeed improved in recent years, a phenomenon we’ve noticed with the success of such companies as Menē. Late last year, Google inquiries for “gold jewelry” hit an 11-year high.

But there’s more to the story than the Love Trade. Metals Focus analysts see gold also benefiting from a more dovish Federal Reserve and fears of a global economic slowdown.

“We expect U.S. real gross domestic product (GDP) to slow in 2019 and 2020,” comments Metals Focus Director Nikos Kavalis. “This reflects a natural tapering, following two very strong years, the fading of windfall gains from the late-2017 tax reforms and, eventually, also the impact of trade wars on U.S. consumer spending.”

Are We Headed for Another Recession?

Few people know the risks in today’s economy and marketplace as much as David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Canadian wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff & Associates. For years he’s educated investors with his popular “Breakfast with Dave” newsletter, which you can subscribe to here. He’s also a regular contributor to the Globe and Mail and the Financial Post.

Considered by many to be a Wall Street permabear, Rosenberg successfully predicted the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

Now he’s predicting another recession to make landfall as soon as the second half of this year. Why? In short, the Fed has been too aggressive tightening liquidity at a time when corporate debt is at an all-time high. What’s more, the Trump administration has already enacted fiscal stimulus in the form of tax reform, which has historically been reserved for times of economic turmoil, not expansion.

“How are we going to stimulate fiscal policy [in the event of a recession]?” he asked recently on CNBC’s Trading Nation. “We already did that at the peak of the cycle. We don’t have the fiscal ammunition.”

Corporate Debt Nearing Half of U.S. GDP

Rosenberg recently spoke at the CFA Societies Texas Investor Summit in San Antonio, U.S. Global Investors’ hometown, where he laid out his thought process.

Since the last recession, nonfinancial corporate debt has ballooned to more than $9 trillion as of November 2018, which is nearly half of U.S. GDP. As you can see below, each recession going back to the mid-1980s coincided with elevated debt-to-GDP levels—most notably the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the 2000 dotcom bubble and the early 90s slowdown.

Non-financial corporate debt to GDP has exceeded record levels
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Through 2023, as much as $4.88 trillion of this debt is scheduled to mature. And because of higher rates, many companies are increasingly having difficulty making interest payments on their debt, which is growing faster than the U.S. economy, according to the Institute of International Finance (IIF).

On top of that, the very fastest-growing type of debt is riskier BBB-rated bonds—just one step up from “junk.” This is literally the junkiest corporate bond environment we’ve ever seen.

Combine this with tighter monetary policy, and it could be a recipe for trouble in the coming months.

During his presentation, Rosenberg reiterated the saying that business cycles don’t die of old age, but rather they’re killed by the Fed. Take a look at the chart below. It shows commercial and industrial loan delinquency rates, overlaid by fed fund rates shifted 10 quarters ahead. What it suggests is that roughly 10 quarters after the Fed began to tighten, loan delinquencies surged.

Corporate loan delinquencies have surged following rate hike cycles
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The good news is that it’s been more than 10 quarters since the Fed started lifting rates in December 2015, and so far we haven’t seen a noticeable increase in delinquencies.

Could this be because the rate hikes this cycle have been small relative to those in past cycles? Not likely, says Rosenberg. According to him, it’s not the amount that matters so much as the change. Whether rates go up 2.50 percent or only 0.25 percent, it can still be a shock on the financial system.

To be clear, I’m not predicting a recession any time soon, only passing along Rosenberg’s expert opinion.

But if his position makes sense to you, it might be time to consider your options on how to prepare. Rosenberg recommends overweighting fixed-income and REITs (real estate investment trusts).

I would add gold to that mix, as it’s performed well as a store of value during economic pullbacks. As always, I recommend a 10 percent weight in gold, with 5 percent in gold bars, coins and jewelry, and 5 percent in gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

Concerned about Brexit? Read my thoughts on how it could impact gold prices 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.

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

Investing in real estate securities involves risks including the potential loss of principal resulting from changes in property value, interest rates, taxes and changes in regulatory requirements.

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 12/31/2018: Menē Inc.

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AI Will Add $15 Trillion to the World Economy by 2030
February 25, 2019

AI Will Add $15 Trillion to the Global Economy by 2030
Photo: bagogames/flickr | Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to an exciting new company called GoldSpot Discoveries, conceived and headed by mining visionary Denis Laviolette. GoldSpot is the world’s first exploration company to use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in the discovery process for precious metals and other natural resources. Not yet three years old, it’s already had a number of successes locating optimal target zones.

I’m pleased to inform you now that GoldSpot began trading last week on the TSX Venture Exchange under the ticker SPOT. This is a giant leap forward not just for the company and its team but also AI in general.

I’m also thrilled to have been named chairman of GoldSpot’s board of directors, effective today.

It’s important for readers to realize that AI is no longer the stuff of science fiction. The technology is already disrupting multiple industries, many of which impact you on a daily basis. Own an iPhone X? Its facial recognition system is powered by AI. Ever been redirected by Google Maps because of an accident or construction ahead? You guessed it: AI.

And those are just a couple of small examples. By one estimate, AI contributed a whopping $2 trillion to global GDP last year. By 2030, it could be as much as $15.7 trillion, “making it the biggest commercial opportunity in today’s fast changing economy,” according to a recent report by PwC.

Artificial Intelligence Projected Impact on Global GDP
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AI: The “New Electricity”

Not every industry and sector will be affected equally, but none will go untouched.

“AI is the new electricity,” says Chinese-English computer scientist and entrepreneur Andrew Ng. “I can hardly imagine an industry which is not going to be transformed by AI.”

Among the industries that have been fastest to adopt AI, according to PwC, are health care, automotive and financial services. Earlier and more accurate diagnostics, powered by AI, means earlier treatment of life-threatening diseases. Once on the market, self-driving cars will free up an estimated 300 hours the typical American spends driving every year. And more and more people are putting their trust in robo-advisors to manage their wealth.

Robo-Advisor Platforms Forecast to Continue Growing Around the World
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AI patents have surged in the past five years alone, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). From 2013 to the end of 2017, the number of patents grew nearly three times, from 19,000 to more than 55,600.

The massive increase in patenting “means we can expect a very significant number of new AI-based products, applications and techniques that will alter our daily lives—and also shape future human interaction with the machines we created,” comments WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry.

A majority of the top 500 applicants are from China, the U.S. and South Korea. Only four are from Europe. At the top of the list sits IBM, with an incredible 8,290 inventions (so far), followed by Microsoft, which has 5,930 patents to its name.

Top 10 Patent Applications in the AI Field
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As you might imagine, the U.S. government wants to ensure that the country remain competitive against Asia. This very month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order urging federal agencies to prioritize AI investments in research and development. The American AI Initiative, as it’s called, says that these measures  are “critical to creating the industries of the future, like autonomous cars, industrial robots, algorithms for disease diagnosis and more.”

“I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible,” Trump tweeted last week, presumably in response to news that Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE could be first to bring fifth-generation cellular technology to market. “American companies must step up their efforts or get left behind. There is no reason that we should be lagging behind on… something that is so obviously the future.” 

Bringing AI to the Miners

Interestingly enough, the industry that’s been slowest to adopt AI is manufacturing, including industrial products and raw materials, according to PwC.

The metals and mining industry has been especially resistant to adoption, with spending on innovation far below that of other industries.

To be fair, not every miner has been behind the curve. For more than 10 years now, Rio Tinto has been using AI-powered autonomous trucks to haul materials, reducing fuel consumption and increasing safety in the process. The London-based producer also uses autonomous loaders and drills, and its highly anticipated “intelligent mine” in Western Australia is slated to begin operations in 2021.

But much more could be done, Denis says, especially when it comes to utilizing the mountains of data already at our fingertips. Miners were “paying for all this data, but no one was really doing anything with it,” he told me earlier this month.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal in December, Denis commented that he had seen “an awful lot of posturing” when it came to miners claiming to be interested in modernizing operations and integrating AI. “They say they are working on this internally, then you find out they haven’t got anywhere.”

This is precisely why he conceived of GoldSpot Discoveries. I’m fully convinced that mining’s future belongs to AI, with Denis and GoldSpot leading the way. I invite you to learn more by visiting the company’s website 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.

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 12/31/2018.

Frank Holmes has been appointed chairman of the Board of Directors of GoldSpot Discoveries. U.S. Global Investors owns shares of GoldSpot.

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The Newmont-Goldcorp Deal Is Positive News for Gold Mining
January 15, 2019

The Newmont-Goldcorp Deal Is Positive News for Gold Mining

Consolidation season has finally arrived in the goldfields, just as many experts and analysts have been predicting for some time now. With exploration budgets having been slashed since their 2012 peak, and because there are today fewer and fewer ounces of gold available to be mined, one way forward for producers of all sizes will be to ramp up mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity.

You might have heard that Newmont Mining will be buying Goldcorp in a massive $10 billion deal. The resultant company, to be headquartered in Denver, will be the world’s largest gold producer by number of ounces mined—larger even than what’s being called “New Barrick,” after the $6.5 billion merger of industry giants Barrick Gold and Randgold Resources, announced back in September. Whereas Barrick-Randgold produced a combined 6.6 million ounces of gold in 2017, Newmont-Goldcorp was responsible for as much as nearly 8 million ounces.

The Newmont Gold Corp deal will create the worlds largest gold producer
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I see this news as positive overall for the metals and mining industry, which has long signaled the need for consolidation. As I explained in a Frank Talk Live segment back in October, it’s when an industry has found a bottom that you start to see big M&A deals. A couple of years ago, the very talented people at Visual Capitalist showed in an infographic that mining M&As peaked in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

A Positive Case Study in M&As: Domestic Airlines

This tacit rule applies not just to metals and mining but also to most other industries. Look at domestic airlines. It’s easy to forget now that between 2005 and 2008, more than two-thirds of U.S. airlines were operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A huge wave of consolidation followed, giving us the “big four” carriers—Delta, American, United and Southwest. Profits surged to new highs. This year, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), global airlines should see their 10th straight year of profitability, and fifth straight year where “airlines deliver a return on capital that exceeds the industry’s cost of capital, creating value for its investors.”

Consolidation Could Speed Up the Closer We Get to “Peak Gold”

So will gold miners follow suit and consolidate (more so than they already are)? And will this lead to a similarly sustained period of outstanding profitability?

No one can say for sure, of course, but my guess is that we’ll continue to see more and more deals the closer we get to the idea of “peak gold.” As I’ve shared with you before, the yellow metal is getting exponentially more difficult and costly to mine. The “low-hanging fruit” has likely already been plucked, so to speak. Exploration budgets have been slashed, and the days of 20- and 30-million-ounce gold deposits could be behind us, to say nothing of 50-million-ounce discoveries.

The amount of gold in major discoveries has been trending down for years
click to enlarge

To replenish their own reserves, big-name miners such as New Barrick and Newmont might decide to absorb smaller-cap junior producers with provable mines instead of spend higher and higher costs to scour the world for progressively harder-to-find deposits.

Says Michael Siperco of Macquarie Research, the Barrick-Randgold and Newmont-Goldcorp deals could “spark a wider consolidation in the industry, where too many gold companies are chasing too few assets.”

Only time will tell if this happens. I’ll be curious to see what companies could be next to strike a deal!

Stay up-to-date on this potential trend by subscribing to our FREE, award-winning Investor Alert!

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 12/31/2018: Newmont Mining Corp., Barrick Gold Corp., Newcrest Mining Ltd., American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., Southwest Airlines Co.

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Gold Miners Are Crushing the Market in the Face of Higher Rates
December 24, 2018

Summary:

  • Anticipating trouble ahead, fund managers make a historic rotation out of equities into bonds.
  • Gold and gold mining stocks have been the one bright spot this quarter.
  • Tax reform turns one year old. Has it achieved what was expected?

Gold Miners Are Crushing the Market in the Face of Higher Rates

Disregarding strong opposition from the likes of DoubleLine Capital founder Jeffrey Gundlach, legendary hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer, President Donald Trump and others, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell hiked rates last Wednesday for the fourth time in 2018.

Markets responded negatively, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumping around in a nearly 890-point range before closing at its lowest level in more than a year. By the end of the week, both the small-cap Russell 2000 Index and tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index had entered a bear market, while the S&P 500 Index was on track for not only its worst year since 2008, but also its worst month since 1931.

Among the sectors now in a bear market is financials, down around 20 percent since its peak in January. Regional banks, as measured by the KBW Regional Bank Index, have been banged up even worse, having fallen close to 30 percent since their all-time high in early June.

Canary in the Coal Mine? U.S. Financials Are Now in a Bear Market
click to enlarge

I bring up financials here because the sector is sometimes considered to be the “canary in the coal mine,” for the very good reason that financial institutions are highly exposed to the performance of the broader market.

What’s more, we learned last week that lenders are starting to pull back from riskier loans, a sign that they’re getting more cautious as recession fears loom. According to the New York Fed, the credit card rejection rate in October climbed to 21.2 percent, well above the year-ago rate of 15.7 percent. Banks also cut off credit from 7 percent of customers, the highest rate since 2013.

Fund Managers De-Risk in Favor of Bonds and Cash

Against this backdrop, fund managers have turned incredibly bearish on risk assets and bullish on defensive positions such as bonds, staples and cash. According to Zero Hedge’s analysis of a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report, this December represents “the biggest ever one-month rotation into bonds class as investors dumped equities around the globe while bond allocations rose 23 percentage points to net 35 percent underweight.” Fund managers’ average cash levels stood at 4.7 percent in November, above the 10-year average, according to Morningstar data.

Investors Just Poured a Record Amount of Money Into Bonds
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Equity outflows have been particularly pronounced. Lipper data shows that, in the week ended December 13, as much as $46 billion fled U.S. stock mutual funds and ETFs. That’s the most ever for a one-week period. It’s very possible that the selling is related to end-of-year tax-loss harvesting, but again, we’ve never seen outflows of this magnitude.

As such, I highly encourage investors to heed the recent advice from Goldman Sachs: Get defensive by positioning yourself in “high-quality” stocks. This probably isn’t the time to speculate.

Gold Has Been the One Bright Spot

I would also recommend gold and gold stocks. The yellow metal, as expected, is performing well at the moment, and commodity traders have taken a net bullish position for the first time since July. So far this quarter, gold has crushed the market, returning around 6 percent as of December 21, compared to negative 15 percent for the S&P 500 Index. Gold miners, though, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, have been the top performer, climbing a phenomenal 12.3 percent.

Gold Miners Have Been the Standout Performer This Quarter
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On a recent episode of “Mad Money,” Jim Cramer aired his frustration with the Fed’s decision to move ahead with another rate hike, predicting that the central bank will “have to reverse course, maybe in the next four months.” When and if that happens, “you’ll regret selling because the market will rebound so fast.”

But in the meantime, Cramer says, investors should consider buying into the “bull market” in gold. He added that he likes Randgold Resources.

You can read more of my thoughts on gold and gold mining stocks by clicking here.

Is It Time for the Fed to Take a Breather?

Although there’s more to the selloff than higher interest rates, industry leaders have been quick to point fingers at the Fed’s long-term accommodative policy. Speaking to CNBC last week, Jeffrey Gundlach commented that the problem isn’t so much that the Fed is currently hiking rates. The problem, he says, “is that the Fed shouldn’t have kept them so low for so long.”

Stanley Druckenmiller made a similar argument, writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that, in a best-case scenario, “the Fed would have stopped [quantitative easing] in 2010” when the recession ended. Doing so, he says, would have helped mitigate a number of problems, including “asset-price inflation, a government-debt explosion, a boom in covenant-free corporate debt and unearned-wealth inequality.” Too late now.

Other analysts have highlighted the untimeliness of this month’s rate hike. According to Bloomberg’s Lu Wang, rate hikes are “exceedingly rare” when “stocks are behaving this badly.” Not since 1994, Lu says, has the Fed decided to tighten in such a volatile market. Nor has it ever tightened like this when the budget deficit was expanding, as it is right now. (I’ll have more to say on the deficit later.)

Then again, there’s a case to be made that, should another recession strike, the Fed needs the ammunition to stanch further losses. If it doesn’t hike now, it won’t have the option to lower rates later. That’s the argument made by Axios’ Felix Salmon, who believes “the only way to prevent another catastrophic asset bubble is to allow interest rates to revert to something much more normal.”

Federal Funds Rate Turns Positive for the First Time in 10 Years
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Salmon points out that, when adjusted for personal consumption expenditures (PCE)—the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation—the federal funds rate is now positive for the first time in over a decade. That’s “something to be welcomed,” he says.

Deficit Is “Unprecedented” in Such a Strong Economy

There are other worrisome economic signs, including the ballooning deficit. I was surprised to learn last week that, outside of a war or recession, the U.S. deficit has never been as high as it is now. That’s according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), which reports that the budget deficit in 2018 is projected to total around $970 billion, up more than 45 percent from $666 billion last year.

“This borrowing,” says the CRFB, “is virtually unprecedented in current economic conditions.”

Normally, deficits expand during recessions and shrink during times of economic growth. But because of increased entitlement spending and other obligations, not to mention higher debt service on interest payments, the government’s outlays are far outpacing revenues.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Turns One Year Old

That brings me to the issue of corporate taxes. One year ago past weekend, President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which, among other things, cut the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. It was initially estimated that as much as $4 trillion would be repatriated back to the U.S. by multinational corporations that have long held hordes of cash overseas in more tax-friendly jurisdictions. So, has this happened?

December 21, 2017 Signing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)

I’m pleased to see the tax law working. Companies are indeed bringing funds back, though admittedly at much lower rates than was anticipated. According to data released last week by the Commerce Department, only $92.7 billion in offshore cash was repatriated during the September quarter. That’s the lowest quarterly amount this year and 50 percent down from the second quarter. All combined, a little more than half a trillion dollars have returned to the U.S. It’s a good start, even if it falls short of expectations.

Another projection was that companies would plow their tax savings back into employees, new equipment and overall expansion. Here the outcome is more mixed. Wages jumped 3.1 percent in the third quarter, the fastest rate in over a decade, which I believe can be directly attributed to the tax law.

But the biggest consequence of the tax law by far has been corporations’ historic buybacks of their own stock. For the first time ever, $1 trillion was spent this year on stock repurchases. That beats the prior record of $781 billion set in 2015.

Stock Buybacks Hit a Record $1 Trillion in 2018 After Tax Reform
click to enlarge

These buybacks helped stocks head higher this year—until they didn’t—but they’ve been strongly criticized for a number of reasons. One criticism is that aggressive buyback programs are often launched when stock prices are elevated, rather than when they’re on sale.

With most of the S&P 500 now in a bear market, many stocks certainly look like a bargain. I would proceed with caution, however, and make sure that I’m following the 10 percent Golden Rule: 5 percent in physical gold and the other 5 percent in well-managed gold mutual fund and ETFs. Now would be a great time to rebalance.

On a final note, I want to wish all readers and shareholders a very Merry Christmas! May this time bring you comfort and happiness as we head into a new year.

The Nasdaq Composite Index is the market capitalization-weighted index of over 3,300 common equities listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange. The Russell 2000 index is an index measuring the performance of approximately 2,000small-cap companies in the Russell 3000 Index, which is made up of 3,000 of the biggest U.S. stocks. The Russell 2000 serves as a benchmark for small-cap stocks in the United States. The KBW Regional Banking index is a modified-capitalization-weighted index, created by Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, designed to effectively represent the performance of the broad and diverse U.S. regional banking industry. The S&P 500 Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The S&P 500 Financials Index comprises those companies included in the S&P 500 that are classified as members of the GICS financials sector. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 blue chip stocks that are generally leaders in their industry. The NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index is a modified market capitalization weighted index comprised of publicly traded companies involved primarily in the mining for gold and silver. The index benchmark value was 500.0 at the close of trading on December 20, 2002.

Personal consumption expenditures (PCE), or the PCE Index, measures price changes in consumer goods and services. Expenditures included in the index are actual U.S. household expenditures. Data that pertains to services, durables and non-durables are measured by the index.

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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 09/30/2018.

Share “Gold Miners Are Crushing the Market in the Face of Higher Rates”

Net Asset Value
as of 04/18/2019

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $4.63 -0.01 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $6.79 -0.10 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $2.60 -0.05 China Region Fund USCOX $9.22 0.02 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.78 -0.02 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $24.85 -0.04 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $17.59 0.02 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.21 0.01 U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change