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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.

Freezing Temperatures Could Heat Up Natural Gas Prices
November 19, 2018

Midterm Elections Gridlock Was the Best Possible Outcome

Here in San Antonio, the temperature hit a bone-chilling low of 27 degrees last Wednesday, breaking a 102-year-old record for mid-November. An out-of-state visitor, Cornerstone Macro’s Head of Portfolio Insights Stephen Gregory, speculated that the Central Texas temperature, ordinarily mild this time of year, was down more than three standard deviations. I didn’t make the calculation, but my guess would be about the same.

With temperatures so low, it’s perhaps no surprise that natural gas had one of its best days in years. Its price popped almost 18 percent last Wednesday—before falling nearly as much on Thursday. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that natural gas storage in the lower 48 states was below the five-year average as of October 31. This, combined with a stronger-than-expected start to winter, prompted traders to push prices to a four-year high of $4.84 per million British thermal units (MBtu). Meanwhile, natural gas futures trading hit an all-time daily volume record of 1.2 million contracts, according to CME Group.

Natural gas prices exploded
click to enlarge

Freezing temperatures increase demand for heating, much of which is provided by natural gas. In January of this year, when temperatures fell below the average in many parts of the U.S., demand reached a single-day record of 150.7 billion cubic feet, according to the EIA. I can’t say we’ll beat this record again in the coming months, but forecasts for more freezing weather this Thanksgiving week and beyond should support additional moves to the upside.

What kind of moves? Says Jacob Meisel, chief weather analyst at Bespoke Weather Services, the price could get to $7 or $8 per MBtus, levels we haven’t seen since 2008. “This looks like a capitulation move today, but if cold weather really takes off, the sky is the limit,” Meisel told CNBC.

Oil Selloff Steepest in Three Years, “Overdone”

Natural gas wasn’t the only commodity that broke records last week. On Tuesday, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil ended an extraordinary 12 straight days of losses, settling at a 2018 low of $55.69 per barrel, down more than 27 percent from its 2018 high in early October. Triggered by concerns of a global demand slowdown, the plunge is oil’s steepest in three years, and a stunning reversal from last month’s calls for $100-per-barrel crude.

The bears appear to have overreacted, though. “Crude-oil-position liquidations have never been this extreme, indicating the purge in WTI futures is overdone,” writes Business Intelligence strategist Mike McGlone, adding that petroleum markets have “never experienced a comparable decline over a similar period.” 

World Needs the Equivalent of Another Russia’s Worth of Crude

Again, the oil selloff halted last Tuesday, the same day the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced its estimate that U.S. shale will need to add the equivalent of Russia’s entire oil production by 2025 to prevent a global shortage. In its flagship “World Energy Outlook 2018,” the Paris-based group says that world oil consumption will increase significantly in the coming decades due to “rising petrochemicals, trucking and aviation demand.”

“U.S. shale production, which has already been expanding at record pace, would have to add more than 10 million barrels a day from today to 2025, the equivalent of adding another Russia to global supply in seven years—which would be an historically unprecedented feat,” according to the IEA.

Jets fyling high

The U.S. produced 11.7 million barrels of crude per day in the week ended November 9. That means shale producers would need to ramp up output to at least 21 million barrels in seven years, if the IEA’s estimates are accurate.

I think this would be a challenge, but a real possibility. The reason I think this is because the U.S. fracking industry continues to prove it can produce more with less. According to a recent report by the EIA, U.S. crude oil and natural gas production increased in 2017, despite there being fewer wells. This is thanks in large part to horizontal wells, which “contact more reservoir rock and therefore produce greater volumes” of oil and gas. Although more expensive to drill, horizontal wells are growing faster than traditional vertical wells. In 2017 they accounted for 13 percent of total well drills, up from only 10 percent three years earlier.

Also in the IEA’s outlook: By 2040, emerging markets, led by China and India, will account for 40 percent of global energy demand, up from 20 percent in 2000. Below, note how the European Union is expected to be displaced by India and Africa in terms of energy demand within the next couple of decades.

Emerging markets will account for 40 percent of global energy demand by 2040
click to enlarge

I believe only the U.S. fracking industry would be able to meet this demand. Russia and Saudi Arabia are pumping at record levels right now, but production cuts of as much as 1.4 million barrels per day are being discussed among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to firm up prices. If cuts do go into effect, U.S. producers can be expected to fill in the supply gap.

“It can happen but would be a small miracle,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

U.S. Shale “More Profitable Than Ever”

Normally, ever greater supply would weigh on prices and weaken profitability. Based on new data, it looks as if the U.S. fracking industry has changed the game.

According to Reuters, “U.S. shale firms are more profitable than ever after a strong third quarter,” according to the agency’s analysis of 32 independent producers. “These companies are producing more efficiently, generating more cash flow and consolidating in a wave of mergers.”

Nearly a third of these 32 companies “generates more cash from operations than they spent on drilling and shareholder payouts, a group including Devon Energy, EOG Resources and Continental Resources. A year ago, there were just three companies on that list,” Reuters writes.

Thanksgiving Travel to Hit 13-Year High

On a final but related note, this week is Thanksgiving, the busiest travel season of the year in the U.S. The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts that the number of travelers on Thanksgiving Day, by auto and air, will top 54.3 million people, an increase of almost 5 percent from last year, and the highest volume since 2005.

Similarly, Airlines for America (A4A) believes U.S. Thanksgiving air travel demand between last Friday and November 27 will climb to an all-time high of 30.6 million passengers. “It is thanks to incredibly accessible and affordable flight options that more travelers than ever before are visiting loved ones, wrapping up year-end business or enjoying a vacation this Thanksgiving,” commented A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich.

Thanksgiving 2018 US air travel demand estimated to rise 5 percent from last year
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While I’m on the topic of aviation, A4A also reported that U.S. airport revenues have grown faster than the consumer price index (CPI) as well as the number of air passengers and aircraft departures. From 2000 to 2017, airport revenues rose 87 percent, double the pace of U.S. inflation. Increased growth came thanks to a number of resources, from taxes and fees to the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) and Airport & Airway Trust Fund (AATF).

US airport revenues have grown faster than flights passengers and inflation
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According to Fitch Ratings, “strong overall performance for U.S. airports should continue undeterred for the foreseeable future.” Over 90 percent of the airports Fitch currently rates have a “Stable Rating Outlook,” signifying continued stability deep into 2019.

Curious to learn more? Explore our latest slideshow, “How Do Airports Make Money?”

 

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 Consumer Price Index (CPI) is one of the most widely recognized price measures for tracking the price of a market basket of goods and services purchased by individuals.  The weights of components are based on consumer spending patterns.

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 9/30/2018.

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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The Best Time to Prepare Is While the Bull Runs
September 24, 2018

how to manage your risk

In case you couldn’t tell from the ubiquitous political ads and yard signs, midterm elections are right around the corner. Historically, volatility has increased and markets have dipped leading up to midterms on uncertainty, but afterward they’ve outperformed.

Of especially good news is that we’re entering the three most bullish quarters in the four-year presidential cycle, according to LPL Financial Research. The fourth quarter of the president’s second year in office, which begins next month, and the first and second quarters of the third year have collectively been the best nine months for returns, based on 120 years of data.

the next three quarters have historically been bullish for stocks
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It makes sense why this has been the case. Following midterms, the president has been motivated to “boost the economy with pro-growth policies ahead of the election in year four,” writes LPL Financial.

Government Policy Is a Precursor to Change

Should Republicans manage to hold on to both the House and Senate—which Wells Fargo analysts Craig Holke and Paul Christopher estimate has a 30 percent probability—it’s likely they’ll try to pass “Tax Reform 2.0,” with an emphasis on the individual tax side. We can also probably expect to see additional financial deregulation.

Cornerstone Macro is in agreement, writing that “the better Republicans do in the election, the more confidence investors will have that [President Donald] Trump could be reelected and the business-friendly regulatory practices will remain in place.” A GOP Congress, the research firm adds, would be supportive of banks and energy, specifically oil, gas and coal. Since Trump’s inauguration, the Dow Jones U.S. Coal Index has climbed nearly 60 percent, double the S&P 500’s performance.

Back from the dead: coal stocks have risen since inauguration day
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The more likely outcome, according to Holke and Christopher, is a divided Congress, with Democrats taking control of the House. In such a scenario, financial deregulation would slow, but Trump, who’s pushed hard for aggressive infrastructure spending, might find the support he needs for a bill from Democrats. This would help increase demand for commodities and raw materials, but “additional stimulus in an economy already near capacity may result in higher inflation, negatively affecting fixed income,” Holke and Christopher write.

On the other hand, higher inflation has historically meant higher gold prices. After climbing for 12 months, year-over-year change in consumer prices cooled in August to 2.7 percent, from July’s 2.9 percent.

Government policy is a precursor to change, as I often say. It’s not the party that matters but the policies, and there are ways for investors to make money however the midterms unfold.

Money Managers and Banks Are Adding Safe Havens at a Faster Pace

With the bull run now the longest in U.S. stock market history, there’s a lot of talk and speculation about when the next major pullback will happen. I’ve discussed a number of possible catalysts with you already, from record levels of global debt to the flattening yield curve. Recently I shared with you that Goldman’s bull/bear indicator hit its highest level in nearly 50 years.

Even as markets closed at fresh all-time highs, essentially ignoring the intensifying U.S.-China trade war, Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) called the bull run “dead” last week, due to slowing global economic growth and the end of monetary stimulus. “The Fed is now in the midst of a tightening cycle, ignoring structural deflation, focusing on cyclical inflation,” writes BofAML chief strategist Michal Hartnett.

Against this backdrop, a growing number of money managers hold a dim view of continued economic growth. September’s Bank of America Merrill Lynch Fund Manager Survey found that a net 24 percent of fund managers believe global growth will slow over the next 12 months. That’s the highest percentage of managers with such a view since December 2011, the height of the European debt crisis. Reasons given for this bearishness are the U.S.-China trade tensions and, again, the end of central bank accommodation.

Fund managers are raising their cash levels, Hartnett says, as well as their exposure to fixed income, which has traditionally been used as a safe haven in times of uncertainty. In July, the most recent month of Morningstar data, bond funds attracted the greatest amount of any asset class in the U.S., with taxable and municipal bonds seeing a collective $28.5 billion in inflows. U.S. equity funds, meanwhile, collected a little under $3 billion, and in fact have seen $11 billion in outflows in the 12 months through July 31.

Getting even more specific, U.S. actively-managed ultrashort bond funds were the biggest winner, attracting over $6 billion in July, according to Morningstar.

You can read more about short-term bond funds by clicking here.

Central banks added gold in first half at fastest pace since 2015
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Gold demand among central banks has also accelerated this year. According to the World Gold Council (WGC), banks added a net 193.3 metric tons of gold to their reserves in the first half of the year, an 8 percent increase from 2017. This was the most purchased in the first six months since 2015.

Watch my interview with Kitco News to learn why now might be a good time to follow the “Golden Rule.”

The Next Crisis Could Be Triggered by Passive Indexing

One of the biggest risks right now, I believe, is the explosion in passive, “dumb beta” indexing. Trillions of dollars have poured into products that track indices built not on fundamental factors like revenue, cash flow and return on invested capital (ROIC), but on simple market capitalization. A piling on effect has occurred, whereby multibillion-dollar funds are buying more and more of the most expensive stocks. This has resulted in overinflated valuations.

The big risk is when these funds rebalance, which could happen as early as the beginning of next year. Last year, junior mining stocks got crushed after the VanEck Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (GDXJ) restructured its portfolio. Imagine what could happen if all passive index funds did the same simultaneously.

Last week I wrote more in depth about the risks passive indexing poses. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, I invite you to do so 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 Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), or simply the Dow, is a stock market index that shows how 30 large, publicly owned companies based in the United States have traded during a standard trading session in the stock market. The S&P 500 index is a basket of 500 of the largest U.S. stocks, weighted by market capitalization. The Dow Jones U.S. Coal index is a subindex of the Dow Jones U.S. Indices and seeks to track all stocks classified in the coal subsector (1771) of the Dow Jones Sector Classification Standard traded on major U.S. stock exchanges.

Cash flow is the total amount of money being transferred into and out of a business, especially as affecting liquidity. Return on invested capital (ROIC) is a calculation used to assess a company's efficiency at allocating the capital under its control to profitable investments. Beta is a measure of the volatility, or systematic risk, of a security or a portfolio in comparison to the market as a whole.

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 6/30/2018.

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5 World Currencies That Are Closely Tied to Commodities
September 5, 2018

This year, commodity prices have been under pressure from a strong U.S. dollar and trade war fears. This has made a huge dent in the balance sheet of many net exporters of resources, in turn weakening their currencies. However, commodities could be on the rebound and are flashing a massive buy signal.

This should come as a shock to no one, but what most people don’t realize is just how closely some currencies track certain commodities. I have shared several charts that show this correlation over the years at numerous industry conferences. Attendees were always astounded when I got to these slides – and we’re talking professional economists, money managers and CEOs here.

With that said, I think it’s important that you see this correlation as well. Below are five world currencies that have been impacted by lower commodity prices.

1. Australian Dollar

Australia is the world’s top iron ore producer and exporter, with usable iron ore output of 880 metric tons in 2017. This means that its income is very sensitive to price changes. As demand from China, the world’s largest consumer of iron ore and top steel producer, has softened, so too has the Australian dollar.

Australian Dollar Tracks Iron Ore Prices
click to enlarge

2. Canadian Dollar

The fifth-largest oil producer in the world is Canada, with an average production of 4.59 million barrels per day in 2016. Oil accounts for almost 11 percent of the nation’s exports – almost all of which is sent straight to the U.S. The strong correlation between the Canadian dollar and oil prices is largely due to crude oil being the largest single contributor of foreign exchange to the nation. Should oil prices continue to rise, so too should the Canadian dollar.

Canadian Dollar Tracks Oil Prices
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3. Russian Ruble

Compared to Canada and Australia, Russia’s export mix isn’t nearly as diversified: about half of its exports in terms of value are a combination of oil and natural gas. (Russia sits atop the third-largest oil reserves in the world and the number one natural gas reserves.) It should come as no surprise, then, that its currency is highly influenced by the price of crude. When oil fell in July 2014, so did the ruble. However, the ruble and crude decoupled in early 2018 when the U.S. imposed sanctions against the Eastern European country for its alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Russian Ruble Tracks Oil Prices
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4. Colombian Peso

The same story can be found in Colombia, where oil exports are responsible for about 20 percent of government revenue and 25 percent of total exports. Although oil exports fell from $12.7 billion in 2015 to $8.26 billion in 2016, production exceeded targets in 2017 with an average 854,121 barrels per day. As Venezuela’s economy falls further into disarray, Colombia has taken its place as the number five exporter of oil to the U.S. – one of the world’s biggest markets.

Colombian peso tracks oil prices
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5. Peruvian Sol

Copper is Peru’s most important mineral export by value, amounting to 24 percent of exports in 2016 worth $8.77 billion. With around 81 million metric tons of copper reserves, it’s the second-largest producer after Chile. As such, the Peruvian sol has declined in tandem with the red metal.

Peruvian Sol Tracks Copper Prices
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How familiar are you with the world’s currencies? Test your knowledge in this interactive quiz!

 

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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Oil Takes Center Stage: Commodities Halftime Report 2018
July 16, 2018

meet the top ranking commodities for the first half of 2018

Near the beginning of the year, Goldman Sachs analyst Jeffrey Currie made the case that the macro backdrop right now favored commodities in 2018. With inflation pushing prices up and world economies borrowing record amounts of capital, it was the best time “in decades,” he said, for investors to have exposure to base metals, energy and other materials.

“Commodities had a miserable year” in 2017, Currie told CNBC. “History says commodities will outperform equities this year.”

Currie’s forecast has been mostly accurate so far. Except for a rocky June, commodities have been one of the best performing asset classes in the first half of the year. From January to the end of May, the group, as measured by the Bloomberg Commodities Index, rallied close to 3 percent—170 basis points ahead of the S&P 500 Index. Advances were largely driven by crude oil, which currently seeks to close above $80 a barrel for the first time since November 2014.

Of the 14 major commodities we track at U.S. Global Investors, oil was the standout performer, gaining roughly 23 percent, followed by nickel (up 16.76 percent) and wheat (16.51 percent). You can view our always-popular, interactive Periodic Table of Commodity Returns by clicking here.

commodity returns in the first half of 2018
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There are a number of factors supporting oil right now, not least of which is President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal. The move has the potential to significantly curb exports out of the Middle Eastern country, responsible for about 4 percent of the world’s supply. Markets were further disrupted two weeks ago when the U.S. government warned importers to stop buying Iranian oil or face sanctions.

In addition, supply is being squeezed by worsening economic conditions in Venezuela, which sits atop the world’s largest known oilfield, and conflict in Libya, home to Africa’s largest oil reserves. On Wednesday of last week, though, Libya indicated it would resume exports from its eastern ports, which sent Brent crude down more than 2 percent.

Global Oil Consumption Blasted to New Heights

Many investors might be inclined to believe the oil rally is over, but I think we could continue to see movement to the upside on further supply restrictions and rising demand. In its June Statistical Review of World Energy, British oil and gas giant BP reports that consumption grew for the eighth straight year in 2017, climbing to 98.2 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first time ever. We would need to see growth of only 2 percent by the end of this year for demand to reach and surpass 100 million bpd—a phenomenally large sum.

This could be achieved if Chinese demand growth remains as robust as it’s been for the past decade. Consumption stood at 12.8 million bpd in 2017, a new record for the country. This figure is up 64 percent from only 7.8 million bpd in 2007.

Although China is now the world’s number one auto market in terms of sheer size, vehicle and vehicle finance penetration are still relatively low compared to the U.S., Japan, Germany and other major economies. There were about 115 vehicles per 1,000 people in 2015, according to J.D. Power, compared to the U.S. with 800 vehicles per 1,000 people. That means there’s plenty of upside potential for energy as more Chinese households are able to afford automobiles.

Speaking of autos, the excitement over electric vehicles (EVs) is helping to drive up the cost of nickel, vital in the production of lithium-ion batteries. In the first six months of the year, the price of nickel rose close to 17 percent, to $14,823 per metric ton. As impressive as that is, it’s still three and a half times below its all-time high of $54,050, set in May 2007.

Commodities Now a Buy: Goldman Sachs

As I said earlier, commodities had a rough June, falling some 3.64 percent as trade tensions between the U.S. and China escalated. This was the group’s biggest monthly slump in nearly two years, led by copper and soybeans.

goldman sachs says commodities now a buy after biggest monthly decline since 2016
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Goldman analysts say this has created a well-timed buying opportunity, as the selloff was overdone. According to the bank, the U.S.-China trade war impact on commodities “will be very small, with the exception of soybeans where complete rerouting of supplies is not possible.”

Goldman now forecasts a 10 percent return on commodities over the next 12 months as the U.S. dollar corrects and trade fears subside.

If you recall, I made a similar bullish call on commodities back in April after showing that, relative to equities, commodities are as cheap now as they’ve possibly ever been. They’re even cheaper than they were in 2000, before the start of the last commodities super cycle. Had you invested in a fund tracking a commodities index in 2000, you would have seen your money grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 10 percent for the next 10 years, according to Bloomberg data.

history says now might be the time to rotate into commodities
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Copper Demand Should Accelerate With Electric Vehicle Sales

Among the most attractive opportunities I see is copper, which rose to an 11-month high of $3.29 per pound in early June before sinking 15 percent. Like nickel, copper has benefited from the forecast that EV adoption will accelerate. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, EV sales are expected to grow from a record 1.1 million units worldwide in 2017, to 11 million in 2025, then to 30 million in 2030.

This is good news for copper. As I’ve pointed out before, EVs require three to four times as much copper as traditional gas-powered vehicles.

copper price tumbled 15 percent on trade war fears
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“You’re going to need a telescope to see copper prices in 2021,” Robert Friedland, billionaire founder and executive chairman of Ivanhoe Mines, told us back in January when he visited our office.

Robert’s comment might be hyperbolic, but the thing to keep in mind is that demand for the red metal is about to turn red hot.

 

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 links above, you will 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.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 03/31/2018: BP, Ivanhoe Mines Ltd.

The Bloomberg Commodity Index is made up of 22 exchange-traded futures on physical commodities. The index represents 20 commodities, which are weighted to account for economic significance and market liquidity.

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

A basis point, or bp, is a common unit of measure for interest rates and other percentages in finance. One basis point is equal to 1/100th of 1%, or 0.01% (0.0001).

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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
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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
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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.

 

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Share “A Massive Windfall for China's Fast-Growing Tech Giants”

Net Asset Value
as of 05/20/2019

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $4.32 -0.01 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $6.59 -0.02 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $2.51 No Change China Region Fund USCOX $7.95 -0.12 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.45 No Change All American Equity Fund GBTFX $24.23 -0.12 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $16.51 -0.11 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.21 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change