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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.

5 Agents of Change Investors Need to Know About Now
November 6, 2017

the world is running out of gold mines, here's how investors can play it

The world is changing fast right now in ways that many investors might not easily recognize or want to admit. This could end up being a costly mistake. If you’re not paying attention, you could be letting opportunities pass you by without even realizing it.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of five agents of change that I think investors need to be aware of and possibly factor into their decision-making process. 

1. Xi Jinping

October cover of The Economist

At China’s 19th National Party Congress two weeks ago, Xi Jinping’s political thought was enshrined into the country’s constitution, an honor that, before now, had been reserved only for Mao Zedong, founder of the People’s Republic of China, and Deng Xiaoping. It was Deng, if you recall, who in 1980 established special economic zones (SEZs) that helped turn China into the economic powerhouse it is today.

But back to Xi. His elevation to Chairman Mao-status not only cements his place in the annals of Chinese history but also makes him peerless among other world leaders in terms of political and militaristic might, with the obvious exception of U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

But whereas Trump has been criticized by some for setting the U.S. on a more isolationist path—shrinking the size of the State Department, just to name one example—Xi sees China emerging as the de facto global leader by 2050. To get there, his country is spending billions on the “Belt and Road Initiative” and other massive infrastructure projects, opening its doors to foreign investors, reforming state-run enterprises, weeding out corruption, investing heavily in clean energy and public transportation and expanding its middle class. And let’s not forget that the Chinese yuan, also known as the renminbi, was included in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) basket of reserve currencies in 2015, placing it in the same league as the U.S. dollar, British pound, Japanese yen and euro.

During his three-hour speech before the congress, Xi made reference to the “Chinese dream,” adding that the “Chinese people will enjoy greater happiness and well-being, and the Chinese nation will stand taller and firmer in the world.”

Xi has his own detractors, of course, who see China’s rise as a threat to established world order. But if his vision is to be realized, it might be prudent to recognize and prepare for it now. China’s economy grew a healthy 6.8 percent in the third quarter year-over-year, helping it get closer to meeting economists’ target of 6.5 percent for 2017. And although manufacturing expansion slowed in October, falling from 52.4 in September to 51.6, it was still well above the 50 threshold.  

China manufacturing power expanded at slightly lower pace in October
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Citing these indicators as well as strong medium and long-term bank lending to nonfinancial corporations, research firm BCA recommended that investors overweight Chinese stocks relative to the emerging market aggregate.

 

 

2. Poland

Besides China, another region I’m keeping my eye on is Poland. Already one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, the country was just upgraded from the “advanced emerging” category to “developed” by FTSE Russell, effective September 2018. This will place Poland in the same company as, among others, the U.S., U.K., Japan, Germany, Singapore and South Korea, the last country to have joined the club of top-ranking economies. Poland is the first Central and Eastern European (CEE) country to receive “developed” status.

Among the decisive factors behind the upgrade were the country’s advanced infrastructure, secure trading and a high gross national income (GNI) per capita. The World Bank expects Poland’s economic growth in 2017 to reach 4 percent, up significantly from 2.7 percent in 2016, on the back of a strong labor market, improved consumption and the child benefit program Family 500+.

Poland one of the fastest growing economies in th eEuro area
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Economists aren’t the only ones noticing the improvement. Young Polish expats who had formerly sought work in the U.K. and elsewhere are now returning home in large numbers to participate in the booming economy, according to the Financial Times. Banks and other companies, including JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, are similarly considering opening branches in Poland and hiring local talent.

This represents quite an about-face for a country that, as recently as 1990, was languishing under communist rule.

One of U.S. Global’s analysts, Joanna Sawicka, has seen the dramatic transformation firsthand. A native of Bialystok, Poland, Joanna has vivid memories of waiting in line for hours just to buy food and school supplies. After returning to the U.S. from a visit to her hometown in 2015, though, she was singing its praises:

“I saw big changes. There’s now a small business on every street corner. A lot of my old friends own businesses now. Poland is the largest beneficiary of European Union funds, and people are clearly taking advantage of having more money and better opportunities.”

 

 

3. Bitcoin

One of the most influential agents of change right now is bitcoin, and indeed the entire digital currency market. Cryptocurrencies are challenging underlying notions of the global monetary framework, upending the way many companies raise funds and disrupting the investment world.

All this from an asset class nobody even knew about 10 years ago.

For the first time last week, bitcoin traded above $7,000 a coin, bringing its 2017 gains to around 650 percent. Some are calling this a bubble, but I recently shared with you a chart that shows that, when placed on a logarithmic scale, bitcoin doesn’t appear to have found its peak yet.

Bitcoin broke above 7000
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Bitcoin can no longer be called a curiosity or niche investment. Large brokerage firms and financial institutions, including Fidelity and USAA, now allow clients to use their websites to check their holdings of bitcoin and other digital currencies alongside their more traditional assets. And just last week, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) announced it will be offering a bitcoin futures contract by the end of the year, giving investors an easier way to trade cryptos.

Following the announcement, Coinbase, a leading digital currency broker, saw a record number of people opening new accounts on its platform. Within a single 24-hour period, as many as 100,000 new users opened accounts, helping to double the number of Coinbase clients since the beginning of the year.

This explosion in interest hasn’t come without consequences in other markets, however. The U.S. Mint reported that this year’s sales of American Eagles, the popular gold coins, have fallen to their lowest level since 2007, presumably as investors who otherwise would have bought bullion have instead put money in bitcoin as a store of value.

4. U.S. Tax Reform

It’s been at least a generation at least since the U.S. has had meaningful tax reform. That might be about to change, though, as Congress and the president last week unveiled their plans to overhaul the tax code and deliver the “biggest tax cut in U.S. history,” according to Trump.

If passed and signed, the plan would consolidate the number of income brackets, currently at seven, down to only four, while also eliminating a number of tax credits and exemptions, including the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The fourth bracket, with a rate of 39.6 percent for the nation’s top earners, was added at the last minute to address concerns the new code would blow up the deficit. Many savers are no doubt relieved to learn that 401(k)s will be left alone, ending rumors that annual contribution caps would be lowered.

As for corporate taxes, the plan is to slash them from 35 percent—the highest among any country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)—to a much more competitive 20 percent. This change would be both immediate and permanent.

Right now, as much as $2.5 trillion or more in cash is estimated to be held overseas by multinational corporations to avoid having to pay the steep rate. Lowering it would allow these firms to bring profits home and reinvest them in workers, new equipment and more. It would also encourage American companies to relocate operations back to the U.S., as we saw last week with semiconductor manufacturer Broadcom.

After failing to repeal and replace Obamacare, both Congress and the president need this win if they expect voters to give them another term.

5. Jerome Powell

For the final agent of change, I’m picking someone whom some readers might not agree reflects real change. Jerome “Jay” Powell, the person Trump has tapped to replace Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen—assuming he gets Senate confirmation—is being described as someone who’ll mostly hold to the status quo established by his two immediate predecessors, Yellen and Ben Bernanke. Powell appears to be dovish and supportive of the cautious interest rate hikes we’ve seen during Yellen’s tenure, which will come to an end in February 2018. 

Federal reserve chair Janet Yellens tenure
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There’s one huge difference, however—one that likely convinced Trump a change was needed, despite his previous acclaim for Yellen’s handling of the job. Whereas Yellen has expressed support for the raft of financial regulations that were introduced in the wake of the financial crisis, Powell generally seems to be in favor of deregulation, in line with Trump’s own agenda. On numerous occasions I’ve written that our industry needs more streamlined rules and laws, so I see this as very constructive. Although Powell, as head of the Fed, won’t have any policymaking authority to alter or reverse such rules, at least he’ll serve as an ideological ally of Trump’s.

On top of all this, Powell’s appointment will set new precedent. He’ll be the first Fed chair in decades not to hold an advanced degree in economics—he’s a former investment banker with the Carlyle Group—and he’ll also be the first in nearly as many years to replace someone before the end of their full 14 years.

In any case, I speak for everyone at U.S. Global by wishing Powell the best, once confirmed, and hope his policies can help the U.S. economy continue moving in the right direction.

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

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

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 9/30/2017.

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One Easy Way to Invest in the “Asian Century”
June 15, 2017

One Easy Way to Invest in the “Asian Century”

The 19th century belonged to the United Kingdom, the 20th century to the United States. Many market experts and analysts now speculate that the 21st century will be remembered as the “Asian Century,” dominated by rising superpowers such as Indonesia, India and China.

It’s those last two countries, India and China—home to nearly 40 percent of the world’s population—that I want to focus on. Both emerging markets offer attractive investment opportunities, especially for growth investors who seek to derisk from American equities.

Look at how dramatically the two have expanded in the last half century. As recently as 1970, neither country controlled a significant share of world gross domestic product (GDP). As of June of this year, however, China represents more than 15 percent of world GDP, India more than 3 percent. This has displaced Russia and Spain, itself the world’s wealthiest economy in the 16th century.

China and India Cracked the Top 10 List of World Economies
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And the expansion is expected to continue. Back in February, I shared with you research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which predicts that by 2050, China and India will become the world’s number one and number two largest economies based on purchasing power parity (PPP). (PPP, if you’re unfamiliar, is a theory that states that exchange rates between two nations are equal when price levels of a fixed basket of goods and services are the same.)

top 10 economies expected to be dominated by 7 largest markets in 2050
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Also note Indonesia, which is expected to replace Japan as the fourth-largest economy by midcentury.

A Surge in Middle Class Spenders

What should excite investors the most is the growing size of the middle class in China and India. More middle class consumers means more spending on goods and services and more investing.

Remember, China’s middle class is already larger than that found here in the U.S., according to Credit Suisse. In October 2015, the investment bank reported that, for the first time, the size of China’s middle class had exceeded that of America’s middle class, 109 million to 92 million. As incomes rise, so too does demand for durables, luxury goods, vehicles, air travel, energy and more.

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

Living standards have risen dramatically in China. According to Dr. Ira Kalish, a specialist in global economic issues for Deloitte, hourly wages for manufacturing jobs in China are now higher than those found in Latin American countries except for Chile. They’re even nearing wages found in lower-income European countries such as Greece and Portugal.  

Looking ahead to 2030, China is expected to have a mind-boggling 1 billion people—more than three times the current U.S. population—enjoying a middle class lifestyle filled with middle class things, from cars to designer clothes to electronics and appliances.

Asia's Growing Middle Class
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India, meanwhile, will have an estimated 475 million people among its middle class ranks. The South Asian country is currently the fastest-growing G20 economy, with Morgan Stanley analysts estimating year-over-year growth to hit 7.9 percent in December. Driving this growth is a steady increase in wages and pensions, which will support consumption of goods and services.

Demographic trends in India make the country look especially favorable. As I’ve shared with you before, India has a young population, with an average age of 29. (The average age in China, by comparison, is around 37, while Japan’s is 48.) By 2020, more than 64 percent of Indians will be under the age of 35. For many years to come, therefore, India will have a much larger group of working-age individuals than any other country on earth.

In fact, India’s total population could now be larger than China’s, according to new estimates. Yi Fuxian, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, believes China’s population is much smaller than official statistics, owing to years of slower population growth under the one-child policy. Yi insists that about 90 million fewer people reside in China than previously thought, meaning its 2017 population could be closer to 1.29 billion people. That would narrowly make India, home to 1.31 billion people, the world’s most populous country.

Investing in 40 Percent of Humanity

So how can investors take advantage of this rapid growth in spending power?

One of the best ways, I believe, is with our China Region Fund (USCOX), which invests in securities in the authorized China securities markets (Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Shanghai) as well as the surrounding countries, including India.

The fund, which seeks to achieve long-term capital appreciation, focuses on companies that we believe are poised to benefit the most from an increase in middle class consumption. That includes automotive firms (Geely Automotive, Great Wall Motor), pharmaceuticals (CSPC Pharmaceutical, Sinopharm), information technology (Tencent, NetEase), consumer discretionary (Anta Sports) and much more.

For the one-year period as of June 12, USCOX was up more than 35 percent, well ahead of its 50-day and 200-day moving averages.

U.S. Global Investors China Region Fund (USCOX)
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Click here to see the fund’s performance.

To learn more about investment opportunities in the “Asian Century,” visit the USCOX fund page!

 

Please consider carefully a fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For this and other important information, obtain a fund prospectus by visiting www.usfunds.com or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS (1-800-873-8637). Read it carefully before investing. Foreside Fund Services, LLC, Distributor. U.S. Global Investors is the investment adviser.

Foreign and emerging market investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and less public disclosure, as well as economic and political risk. By investing in a specific geographic region, a regional fund’s returns and share price may be more volatile than those of a less conc entrated portfolio.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the China Region Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 3/31/2017: Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. 7.00%, Great Wall Motor Co. Ltd. 0.54%, CSPC Pharmaceutical Group Ltd. 3.48%, Sinopharm Group Co. Ltd. 1.84%, Tencent Holdings Ltd. 5.47%, NetEase Inc. 0.75%, ANTA Sports Products Ltd. 2.36%.

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 These Four Global Leaders Have in Common with Trump
February 2, 2017

President Donald J. Trump was elected on promises to “Make America Great Again,” and since January 20 he’s already signed a number of executive orders to tighten border security and ease regulations. Whether you approve of his actions or not, no one can deny that many of Trump’s policies are a sharp departure from American politics of the last 70 years, which has emphasized globalism and interventionism.

It isn’t until we look at the bigger picture, though, that we realize Trump’s ascent is in line with a nationalistic wave that’s spreading across the globe, from Asia to Europe and beyond. As investors, it’s important that we familiarize ourselves with these global policymakers, thought leaders, mavericks and disruptors. Government policy, after all, is a precursor to change.

Below are four such leaders who have more in common with Trump than you might realize.  

1. Narendra Modi – India

Narendra Modi’s 2014 campaign slogan, “Good times ahead,” is in many ways cut from the same idealistic cloth as “Make America Great Again.” Indeed, the similarities between Modi and Trump are numerous. Both men have made it their top goals to strengthen economic growth by deregulating key industries and taking a protectionist approach to manufacturing, reflected in their respective “Make in India” and “America First” policies. A former tea merchant, Modi has often been described as a Hindu nationalist, with alleged goals to replace secularism with Hinduism as the guiding principle of Indian government and society. Like Trump, he’s interested in “draining the swamp” of public corruption. To that end, Modi took an extreme measure in November, eliminating all 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes—90 percent of the nation’s currency—one of the effects of which was a sharp decline in December’s gold demand.   

Modi's Demonetization Scheme Impacted India's Gold Imports in December 2016
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2. Xi Jinping – China

Upon taking leadership of the People’s Republic of China in 2013, Xi Jinping made it his mission to crack down on corrupt “flies” (rank-and-file party officials) and “tigers” (senior officials) who were suspected of lining their pockets with black money. Since Xi began to “drain the swamp,” courts have prosecuted more than 200,000 officials on corruption-related charges and disciplined hundreds of thousands more. His campaign, which has been wildly popular with the masses, hit Asian gaming capital Macau particularly hard. Before the crackdown, Macau, a special administrative region of China, was adding the equivalent of a Las Vegas Strip every year in revenue, according to the Wall Street Journal. More recently, Xi instructed senior officials to lead by example, warning them there were “no forbidden areas in intra-party supervision, and no exceptions.”

Macau's Gaming Revenue Took a Hit from Chinese Anti-Corruption Measures
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3. Mauricio Macri – Argentina

It might be hard to believe now, but Argentina once ranked among the top 10 wealthiest nations in the world, following the U.K., U.S. and Australia. Following years of rule by the far-left Justicialist Party, however, the South American country languished in corruption and stagnation. In November 2015, voters said “no, gracias” to further leftist rule by electing businessman and two-term Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Marci as president. It was an upset victory for the people of Argentina, who have seen their once-prosperous nation deteriorate under decades of Marxist policies. Since being sworn in, Macri has made business growth and the economy a number one priority, loosening regulations in the telecommunications sector, easing currency controls, cutting energy subsidies and eliminating tariffs.

Can Mauricio Macri Make
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4. Nigel Farage – United Kingdom

Not all disruptors need to be presidents or prime ministers. As founder and once-leader of the populist, right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage has already made a lasting impact on the United Kingdom. The former commodities trader was instrumental in the campaign to leave the European Union (EU), and following the referendum’s passage, Farage invoked the 1996 sci-fi action film “Independence Day” by declaring June 23 “our independence day” from failed socialist rules, regulations and immigration policies. Reportedly close to Trump, Farage was the first British politician to meet with the then-president-elect after the November election and has since come out in full support of his more controversial policies, including the “extreme vetting” of refugees.   

Brexit Pounded the POund
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Honorable Mention, Looking Ahead

These five global mavericks, Trump included, are certainly not the only ones in power right now, and we can expect to see more in the months and years ahead. Emboldened by Brexit and Trump, other nationalistic candidates are rising in European polls, with several major elections coming up this year in France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Among the candidates with a reasonable chance to gain control is Marine Le Pen, president of France’s Front National Party, which takes a hard Euroskeptic stance. (She is, in fact, daughter of its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen.) If elected president of France in May, Le Pen pledges many dramatic changes, including withdrawing from  the Schengen Area, which eliminates border controls and passports among 26 European countries; giving priority to French citizens with regard to jobs and housing; reintroducing the death penalty and boosting spending on prisons; and issuing a “Frexit” referendum to quit the EU.

 

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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Did Oil Prices Just Find a Bottom?
March 14, 2016

At 2,717 feet, Burj Khalifa looms over downtown Dubai.

At 2,717 feet, Burj Khalifa looms over downtown Dubai.

As the Middle East’s main business hub, Dubai is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and home to the world’s tallest manmade structure, the 163-story Burj Khalifa, which climbs to a neck-craning 2,717 feet. Designed by Adrian Smith, who attended Texas A&M University, the Khalifa Tower is an engineering marvel and stands as a symbol not only of the futuristic and forward-thinking look of this oil-rich country but also its emphasis on seeking intellectual capital from all over the world.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the annual Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) event, held this year in Dubai, where I learned best practices on leadership as well as how to strike the right balance between business and family life. The YPO has 24,000 peer-to-peer members who together employ 15 million people across 130 countries and generate $6 trillion in revenue every year.

It was an enriching experience, equaled only by my admiration for what the UAE has managed to accomplish with its oil revenues. Tall construction cranes can be seen in every corner of Dubai, signaling urban growth. There are plans to expand its efficient light rail system, which shuttled me from the airport to downtown for only $1. I was happy to see many of the train stations colored gold.

A sleekly designed monorail station in Dubai

Five Guys in Dubai

As is the case in China and elsewhere, spending on infrastructure is key for long-term sustainable growth. Countries and city-states such as Singapore, Hong Kong and now Dubai have spent wisely on new airports, sea ports, subways, light rail and hospitals—all wise fiscal spending that has always given the U.S. a huge advantage. With oil revenues, UAE leadership has paid for citizens to earn degrees in America and military training in the U.S., including San Antonio, Texas. The city of Dubai has a massive U.S. naval base for regional security.

The Dubai Mall, the second-largest in the world, is a wonder to explore. It contains 1,600 stores and restaurants from the U.S. and Europe and also features the Dubai Aquarium, one of the world’s largest. You truly feel as if you are in America, with the most popular restaurants being Five Guys Burgers and Fries, the Cheesecake Factory and U.S. pizza chains. I was surprised to see Tex-Mex food being delivered on motorcycles.

The Palazzo Versace is one of Dubai's leading 5-star fashion hotels.

This is the sort of extravagance and attention to detail travelers have come to expect from the country’s most popular attractions. At the Palazzo Versace hotel in Dubai, for instance, visitors can beat the desert heat by relaxing in air-conditioned sand. In Abu Dhabi, the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque is believed to have the world’s largest carpet, capable of accommodating more than 44,000 worshippers. The intricate craftsmanship of the marble and gold along the walls and columns is breathtaking to behold.

The Sheikh Zayed Mosque

The Impact of Electronic Payments

I also want to point out that the digital banking system has made a huge impact on the UAE’s economy. I just read an article in the Khaleej Times newspaper, reporting that electronic payments have boosted the UAE’s GDP by $3.7 billion in five years. This increase is indicative of a trend of rising card usage across many countries, as you can see in the chart below.

In the same edition of the newspaper, I was interested to read that for the third year in a row, Singapore has been listed as the most expensive city in the world, followed by Zurich and Hong Kong.  According to the article, “Falling commodity prices have created deflationary pressures in some countries, but in others, currency weakness caused by these falls has led to spiraling inflation.”

Light at the End of the Tunnel? The IEA Calls a Bottom in Oil Prices

Despite its relatively small size in population and land mass, the UAE is the world’s sixth-largest oil producer, following the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and Canada. Among Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members, it’s the second-largest, after Saudi Arabia.

These rankings might very well rise in the coming years, however, as the Middle Eastern country plans to expand production between 30 and 40 percent by 2020, even as Brent crude prices have struggled to crack $40 per barrel.

But on a global scale, oil production is finally dropping—and that’s constructive for prices. In a report released on Friday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) writes that “prices might have bottomed out,” citing a February decline in both OPEC and non-OPEC output and hopes of U.S. dollar weakness.

Although I’m cautious, the current recovery is in line with oil’s seasonality trends for the five- and 15-year periods, which show that prices have risen between March and the beginning of the busy summer travel season.

West Texas Crude Oil Historical Patterns
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The PHLX Oil Service Sector Index has gained 4.4 percent since the beginning of the year, while prices have rallied above their 50-day moving average, touching three-month highs.

Oil Responds to Easonality Trend
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As the IEA points out, this rally is being spurred by optimism that OPEC and Russia can agree on a production freeze—not a cut, as some people think. A meeting date has yet to be decided upon, however, presumably because Iran announced it will not agree to an output freeze until it reaches its pre-sanction market share.

Like Iran, Saudi Arabia has resisted capping production. To plug up the deficit, it’s reportedly seeking up to $8 billion from international banks, the first time it has done so in more than a decade. The kingdom is also considering issuing foreign bonds and listing a part of its state oil company, Saudi Arabian Oil, or Aramco.

With WTI up 25 percent in 2016 and 3 percent in March, investor sentiment has improved since October, when it crossed into “panic” territory for the first time since 2011.

Investor Sentiment Improving after October Dip
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U.S. Companies Looking for $50 Per Barrel

To remain profitable, most U.S. producers need oil prices to be above $50 per barrel—a level we haven’t seen in eight months. In such an environment, U.S. oil companies are finally beginning to make meaningful production cuts, with the IEA expecting producers to remove more than half a million barrels per day from the market this year. In December, the monthly year-over-year change in production turned negative for the first time since September 2011.

U.S. Oil Production Dropping Off
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The number of North American rigs in operation fell below 400 for the first time since December 2009, according to Baker Hughes, helping to support prices.

Oil Prices Jump on Further Rig Count Declines
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Until now, per-well productivity has been slow to budge. Years of $100-per-barrel oil incentivized companies to develop new ways to extract crude, including fracking, and these technological advancements have greatly increased efficiency. Today, not only can a new well be drilled in record time, it can also produce four to five times what it could have only five years ago.

What Oil Companies Can Learn from Airlines

Highly-leveraged companies across the globe have had little choice but to trim their workforces, curb expenditures and let go of undeveloped projects. According to consulting firm AlixPartners, overall capital spending fell 20 percent in 2015, with a further decline of at least 30 percent expected this year.

Global Oil Companies Slash Exploration and Production Spending
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These adjustments, the most severe since the oil rout in the 1980s, have saved or raised global exploration and production (E&P) companies $130 billion, says Deloitte Consulting. But this won’t be enough for many companies: Nearly a third of all pure-play E&P companies worldwide are at high-risk of bankruptcy this year.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A little over a decade ago, the airline industry also found itself in extreme duress. A large percentage of carriers landed in bankruptcy court, and a wave of consolidation swept through the industry. Today, airlines are positing record quarterly profits.

In the past year, we’ve already seen some huge mergers and acquisitions in the oil industry—think Dutch Royal Shell and BP, as well as the proposed Halliburton and Baker Hughes deal. It’s likely we’ll see many more in the coming months. In the meantime, short of geopolitical turmoil, a coordinated production cap agreement among OPEC and non-OPEC countries might be the only option to firm up prices.

 

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 PHLX Oil Service Sector Index (OSX) is a price weighted index composed of companies involved in the oil services sector.

The Credit Suisse Risk Appetite Index is a sentiment indicator designed by Credit Suisse comparing risk-adjusted returns across a wide spectrum of global assets.

Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 12/31/2015: Baker Hughes Inc.

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To Jumpstart Its Economy, China Embraces… Reaganomics?
March 7, 2016

Chinese President Xi JinpingChinese President Xi Jinping is about to tell millions of government workers: “You’re fired.”

Reuters reported last week that China plans to lay off between five and six million state workers over the next two to three years, in an effort to curb overcapacity in what’s being described as “zombie companies”: those that are being kept alive on bank loans despite bleeding revenue. Close to two million of these layoffs will come from the coal industry alone.

The layoffs are part of a series of sweeping reforms that were announced ahead of the National People’s Congress (NPC) meeting. Every year, close to 3,000 Chinese officials and executives from all over the country convene in Beijing to develop and assess the status of the country’s Five-Year Plan. In response to worldwide demands that China manage its slowing economy better, President Xi Jinping this year has proposed what he calls “supply-side structural reform.”

And if that sounds a little like Reaganomics, that’s kind of the point.

Besides layoffs, Xi’s plan includes tax cuts, deregulation and reductions in state spending—economic policies you might expect to come from the desk of Reagan or Thatcher. We might also expect the results of these policies to be the same in China as in the U.S. and United Kingdom in the 1980s: a boom in entrepreneurship and innovation.

These reforms come at a crucial time for China, whose manufacturing sector has been in contraction mode for a year now as the country’s economy shifts toward domestic consumption. In February, China’s purchasing manager’s index (PMI) fell to 48.0 from 48.4 in January.

Chinese Manufacturing in Contraction Mode for 12 Straight Months
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We closely follow government policy changes in China for a number of reasons. For one, its economy is the second largest in the world, and when based on purchasing power parity (PPP), its GDP is actually the largest, followed by the U.S., India and Japan. China’s economy, then, has a huge effect on the rest of the world, touching everything from commodities demand to consumption.

In 2015, total retail sales in China touched a record, surpassing 30 trillion renminbi, or about $4.2 trillion. By 2020, sales are expected to climb to $6.4 trillion, representing 50 percent growth in as little as five years. This growth will “roughly equal a market 1.3 times the size of Germany or the United Kingdom,” according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

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

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

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

Gold’s Back in a Bull Market at the BMO 25th Metals and Mining Conference

Last week I returned from sunny Florida, where I had been attending the BMO Metals and Mining Conference, widely regarded as the best in the business. Sentiment toward gold was very optimistic, as I told Kitco News’ Daniela Cambone in last week’s edition of Gold Game Film. As always, Daniela did a fabulous job covering the event, interviewing all of the CEOs and other mining executives.

Frank Holmes: This Rally Has Room to Grow - Kitco News - 25th Global Metals & Mining Conference

The yellow metal is 2016’s best-performing asset class so far, having climbed more than 19 percent. It just had its strongest February since 1975.

What’s more, gold appears as though it’s back in a bull market, often defined as a 20 percent gain from a recent trough. Short-term, though, it’s way overbought, so a correction at this point would be healthy.

Follow the Money, Follow the Gold Flows

At the BMO Conference, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with my friend Pierre Lassonde, cofounder of Franco-Nevada, and company CEO David Harquail. Pierre told me that for every $1 billion that flows into the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), the price of gold rises approximately $30 per ounce. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen about $9.3 billion flow into the GLD. During the same period, gold has risen 20 percent from its six-year low of $1,049.60 per ounce on December 17 to end Friday trading at $1,259.25.

The first breakout signal occurred on December 31, 2015, when money started to flow into gold, and the second important signal was when gold flows surpassed the 200-day, or 10-month, average, on February 1, 2016. Since the beginning of the year, gold has surged.

Outstanding Shares in the SPDR Gold Trust
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Like bullion, gold miners had a particularly gainful February, its best since 1998. The NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index rose an impressive 38.7 percent, compared to the 0.4 percent the S&P 500 Index lost in February. Year-to-date, production leaders Goldcorp, Newmont Mining and Barrick—which has recently lowered its debt-to-equity ratio—are thriving with prices pushing higher.

Gold Rush for Miners
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Gold is surging right now for a number of reasons, many of which I’ve covered in the last few weeks, including stronger inflation, negative interest rates and other components of the Fear Trade.

Global growth concerns have also spooked many investors, driving them into gold’s arms. Last week we learned that the global PMI fell pretty dramatically to a neutral 50.0 reading in February, down from 50.9 in January. Anything below 50.0 indicates manufacturing deterioration, and while I hope we don’t cross into that territory, the PMI has been trending downward over the last two years. We haven’t seen sub-50 readings since 2012.

Manufacturing Activity Stumbles in February
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As I’ve discussed many times before, we use PMIs to help forecast global manufacturing conditions three to six months out. (I’ve likened the economic indicator to the high beams on your car, with GDP serving as your rearview mirror.) That the PMI remains below its three-month moving average doesn’t bode well for commodities or energy in the short-term. The weakness underscores the need for global economies to reform their tax systems and relax regulations, as China is attempting to do.

Comparing Countries’ Compliance Complexity

South America, which represents 10% of world GDP, has some of the most difficult economies for navigating red tape.The TMF Group, a professional services firm, just released its annual Global Benchmark Complexity Index, which ranks countries according to the complexity of their business compliance standards. As you might expect, dominating the top 10 most complex governments are those found in South America, including Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and, at number one, Argentina.

Colombia climbed—or fell, depending on your perspective—18 spots, from 21 to three, mainly due to the tax changes its government rolled out last year courtesy of its socialist finance minister, Mauricio Cárdenas Santa Maria. The South American country is now in the process of raising its income tax incrementally, from 40 percent this year to 43 percent in 2018, and with the agreement of other countries, it may now also tax the wealth its citizens hold in other jurisdictions (very similar to FATCA, or the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, here in the U.S.).

For the third consecutive year, Argentina ranks as the world’s most complex country in terms of business compliance. Back in November I wrote about the election of free-market advocate Mauricio Macri, expressing my hopes that the new president can bring significant reforms to the country’s business infrastructure and eliminate corruption. I’m still encouraged, but as we all know, political change is fraught with challenges and can take some time.

Champagne socialist: Colombian Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas Santa Maria

It’s a shame that Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and many other resource-rich countries in South America can’t move more quickly to eliminate the roadblocks that stand in the way of growth and prosperity. Brazil, which is on course for its worst recession in over a century, shrank 3.8 percent in 2015, the largest decline since 1990, and its central bank expects it to shrink a further 3.45 percent this year.

Reform would benefit not just their own capital markets but the world economy as a whole. South America represents about 10 percent of the global economy, meaning a 1 or 2 percent rise or fall in GDP could have a significant effect on world GDP.

As a reminder, I will be in Carlsbad, California, April 13-16, speaking at the Oxford Club’s 18th Annual Investment U Conference. I’m honored to be joined by other respected minds in the world of investing, including Alexander Green, Marin Katusa and Keith Fitz-Gerald. Reserve your seats today by clicking the link above. I hope to see you there!

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 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.

The Purchasing Manager’s Index is an indicator of the economic health of the manufacturing sector. The PMI index is based on five major indicators: new orders, inventory levels, production, supplier deliveries and the employment environment. The Global Benchmark Complexity Index ranks 95 jurisdictions in order of business compliance complexity.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 12/31/2015: Newmont Mining Corp.

Share “To Jumpstart Its Economy, China Embraces… Reaganomics?”

Net Asset Value
as of 11/17/2017

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.87 No Change Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $7.43 0.10 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $5.77 0.08 China Region Fund USCOX $11.86 -0.05 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.97 0.03 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $24.17 -0.03 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $21.08 0.04 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.22 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change