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Why We Invest in Royalty Companies
February 26, 2015

600 Million Reasons to Keep Our Eyes on India“Much of the gold mining industry is underwater and can’t make money with these prices. We’ve seen capital programs being significantly cut back, in terms of companies looking to expand and build new mines.”

That’s according to Ralph Aldis, portfolio manager of our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) and World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX), who was interviewed recently for the latest edition of our Shareholder Report.

He continues:

“Those companies have been sufficiently scared enough that, even when gold prices do recover, they’re going to hold off on expansions because they might have lost the appetite to risk capital on new projects.”

This is where royalty companies come in.

As a refresher, royalty companies basically serve as specialized financiers that help fund cash-strapped miners’ exploration and production projects. In return, they receive either royalties on whatever the mine produces or what’s known as a “stream,” which is a commitment to an agreed-upon number of ounces of gold or other precious metal per year.

From an investors’ point of view, royalty companies just have a superior business model. I’ve discussed this on numerous occasions, most recently during this week’s Gold Game Film, which we shot in Fort Lauderdale following the 2015 Gold Stock Analyst Investor Day.

Attractive Risk/Reward Profile

Royalty compannies enjoy many of the upsides of being in the precious metals industry but face very few of the risks There are several reasons why Ralph and I find these companies so attractive.

For one, they’ve typically remained well-diversified. Whereas any given mining company might own only one or two mines—which may or may not be operational—royalty companies can stay profitable by receiving regular streams of revenue from multiple sources. Toronto-based Silver Wheaton, the world’s largest precious metals streaming company, has secured the right to purchase silver at a very low fixed cost from 18 operating mines in North and South America and Europe.

Another reason why these companies have outperformed is because, simply put, they’re not the ones getting their hands dirty. Their only obligation is to lend capital. They don’t build the mine’s infrastructure; they’re not responsible for cost overruns or maintenance; they don’t experience capital cost inflation; and they don’t have dozens of miners and other personnel on their payrolls. Royalty companies, therefore, enjoy many of the upsides of being in the precious metals industry but face very few, if any, of the risks.

To elaborate on one of the points already made, these companies have extremely low overhead compared to miners. Silver Wheaton is run by 30 people at most, and yet it generates around $500 million in revenue. On average, that’s $16 million per employee! It’s very possibly the world’s most profitable company on a revenue-per-employee basis.

Other royalty companies that have been good to our precious metals funds are Royal Gold and Franco-Nevada. Both have huge cash flow, wide profit margins and pay dividends. Since Franco-Nevada went public in December 2007, it’s torn past both spot gold and most gold equity benchmarks.

Franco-Nevada Ahead of the Curve
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As of now, royalty companies make up about 13 percent of USERX and 12 percent of UNWPX.

Diversify and Rebalance

As always, I recommend a 10-percent weighting in gold: 5 percent in gold jewelry or bullion, the other 5 percent in gold mining stocks. Remember to rebalance once a year.

“You might also get some additional benefits by rebalancing quarterly,” Ralph says. “That’s like playing chess with the market as opposed to rolling craps.”

In the meantime, look for the Shareholder Report, arriving soon in mailboxes all across the nation! Inside you’ll find articles not just on gold but also topics ranging from growth in India and Turkey to our Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX), which has delivered 20 straight years of positive returns.

NEARX, in fact, is the focus of our next webcast, to take place next Wednesday, March 4. We hope you’ll join us!

 

Sign me up for the webcast!

 

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. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

Gold, precious metals, and precious minerals funds may be susceptible to adverse economic, political or regulatory developments due to concentrating in a single theme. The prices of gold, precious metals, and precious minerals are subject to substantial price fluctuations over short periods of time and may be affected by unpredicted international monetary and political policies. We suggest investing no more than 5% to 10% of your portfolio in these sectors.

Bond funds are subject to interest-rate risk; their value declines as interest rates rise. Though the Near-Term Tax Free Fund seeks minimal fluctuations in share price, it is subject to the risk that the credit quality of a portfolio holding could decline, as well as risk related to changes in the economic conditions of a state, region or issuer. These risks could cause the fund’s share price to decline. Tax-exempt income is federal income tax free. A portion of this income may be subject to state and local taxes and at times the alternative minimum tax. The Near-Term Tax Free Fund may invest up to 20% of its assets in securities that pay taxable interest. Income or fund distributions attributable to capital gains are usually subject to both state and federal income taxes.

There is no guarantee that the issuers of any securities will declare dividends in the future or that, if declared, will remain at current levels or increase over time.

The S&P/TSX Global Gold Index is an international benchmark tracking the world's leading gold companies with the intent to provide an investable representative index of publicly-traded international gold companies.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the Gold and Precious Metals Fund, World Precious Minerals Fund and Near-Term Tax Free Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 12/31/2014: Silver Wheaton Corp. 1.36% Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 0.45% World Precious Minerals Fund; Royal Gold, Inc. 5.99% Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 1.51% World Precious Minerals Fund; Franco-Nevada Corp. 6.97% Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 1.32% World Precious Minerals Fund.

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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Mind-Blowing: China Consumes More Gold Than the World Produces
February 19, 2015

From All of Us at U.S. Global Investors - We wish you good health and lasting prosperity

Welcome to the year 4713. Or, if you prefer, the Year of the Ram.

The Chinese New Year, which kicks off today, is the largest and most widespread cultural event in mainland China, bringing with it massive consumer spending and gift-giving. During this week alone, an estimated 3.6 billion people in the China region travel by road, rail and air in the largest annual human migration.

Chinese New Year Spending Double That of U.S. Thanksgiving Spending in 2014Imagine half a dozen Thanksgivings and Christmases all rolled into one mega-holiday, and you might begin to get a sense of just how significant the Chinese New Year festivities and traditions are.

According to the National Retail Federation, China spent approximately $100 billion on retail and restaurants during the Chinese New Year in 2014. That’s double what Americans shelled out during the four-day Thanksgiving and Black Friday spending period.

As I’ve discussed on numerous occasions, one of the most popular gifts to give and receive during this time is gold—a prime example of the Love Trade.

Can’t Keep Gold Down

Most loyal readers of my Frank Talk blog know that China, along with India, leads the world in gold demand. This Chinese New Year is no exception. Official “Year of the Ram” gold coins sold out days ago, and since the beginning of January, withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold Exchange have grown to over 315 tonnes, exceeding the 300 tonnes of newly-mined gold around the globe during the same period.

China, in other words, is consuming more gold than the world is producing.

What’s not so well-known—but just as amazing—is that China’s supply of the precious metal per capita is actually low compared to neighboring Asian countries such as Taiwan and Singapore.

The World Gold Council (WGC), in fact, calls China “a huge, relatively untapped reservoir of gold demand.”

This might all change as more and more Chinese citizens move up the socioeconomic ladder. Over the next five years, the country’s middle class is projected to swell from 300 million to 500 million—nearly 200 million more people than the entire population of the United States. This should help boost gold bullion and jewelry sales in China, which fell 33 percent from the previous year.

Chinese and Indian Growth Has Spurred Gold Market
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“I don’t see demand staying down because you have had structural changes,” commented WGC Head of Investment Research Juan Carlos Artigas in an interview with Hard Assets Investor. “One of them, emerging market demand from the likes of India and China, continues to grow, and we expect it to continue to grow as those economies develop further.”

New Visa Policy Promises Increased Chinese Tourism

The Year of the Ram has also ushered in a new visa policy, one that has the potential to draw many more Chinese tourists to American shores.

For years, Chinese citizens could receive only a one-year, multi-entry visa. Now, leisure and business travelers can obtain a visa that allows them to enter multiple times over a 10-year period. The visa application process has also been relaxed.

American companies to benefit from greater influx of Chinese touristsIn terms of overseas spending, Chinese tourists already sit in first place, just above their American counterparts. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, a record $129 billion was spent by Chinese travelers in 2013 alone. The average Chinese visitor spends between $6,000 and $7,200 per trip in the U.S.

This visa policy reform is an obvious boon to travel and leisure companies such as those held in our All American Equity Fund (GBTFX)—Walt Disney and Carnival Corp., for examples, not to mention retailers such as Kohl’s, Coach and The Gap.

Other beneficiaries include Chinese airlines such as Air China, which we own in our China Region Fund (USCOX). Global airline stocks are currently soaring as a result of low oil prices, increased seat capacity and more fuel-efficient aircraft. The new visa policy has the potential to give these stocks an even stronger boost.

On a lighter note, at least a couple of airports in North America are making the most of the Chinese New Year, hosting performances by Chinese musical artists and providing entertainment such as a lion dance through the terminal and calligraphy.

To our friends and shareholders here in the U.S. and abroad, I wish you all a Happy Chinese New Year!

 

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. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

Stock markets can be volatile and share prices can fluctuate in response to sector-related and other risks as described in the fund prospectus.

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 concentrated portfolio.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the All American Equity Fund and China Region Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 12/31/2014: The Walt Disney Co. 1.16% All American Equity Fund; Carnival Corp. 1.18% All American Equity Fund; Kohl’s Corp. 1.17% All American Equity Fund; Coach, Inc. 1.18% All American Equity Fund; The Gap, Inc. 1.19% All American Equity Fund; Air China Ltd. 1.11% China Region Fund.

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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Africa Could Mine Its Way to Prosperity if It Addressed Instability
February 17, 2015

Last week I attended the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa, as both a presenter and a student seeking opportunities. One of the highlights of the conference was former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s keynote address, during which he offered some crucial advice to African governments: To attract and foster a robust mining sector, a commitment to fiscal stability must be made.

Goods Trade with Africa in 2013

Since 2009, Blair has run the Africa Governance Initiative, which counsels leaders in countries such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and others.

Simply put, without fiscal stability and predictability in taxation, capital will be unwilling to flow into any country—African or otherwise—for exploration and production. If a government changes its tax policy every three years or so, that instability discourages the inflow of financing. This is bad for Africa.

“The mining sector remains absolutely vital for Africa’s future,” Blair said, “and even with the sharp declines in [commodity] prices, there are tremendous opportunities and there will be, no doubt, an adjustment and reshaping of the face of mining within Africa over these next few years.”

I shared the following map last week, but it’s worth showing again, as it supports Blair’s point. Central and Southern Africa, especially, are extremely commodity-rich and maintain a large global share of important metals and minerals such as platinum, diamonds and gold.

In 2014, China Channeled Over $100 Billion into 156 Countries and Regions Around the Globe
click to enlarge

Fiscal instability is also bad for investors in Africa. If foreign investment is not respected by a government, if it is punitively taxed or arbitrarily confiscated, further investment will not flow into that country. Politically, African nations need to recognize that seemingly faceless investment institutions represent real people’s hard earned dollars.

In Zambia, for example, a huge 12 percent of the country’s GDP comes from mining, an industry that employs 10 percent of all Zambians. Yet its government has increased, rather than cut or at least eased, restrictive royalty taxes on mines. In the case of open pit mines, royalties were raised from 6 percent to a crippling 20 percent.

Speaking to Reuters, a mining industry spokesperson speculated: “Mining companies are not going to put another dollar in [Zambia]” if the government continues to be unreliable.

Less Friction, Fewer Disruptions

This is proof positive of what I frequently say: Government policy is a precursor to change. In the example above, the tax policy is leading to change that could very well hurt Zambia’s economy. With mining being such a strong contributor to its GDP, it seems the government would want to make it easier, not more challenging and costly, for international producers to conduct business there.

The less friction and fewer disruptions there are, the easier it is for money to flow.

But Zambia’s isn’t the only African government that’s placing roadblocks in front of miners. The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the early stages of hiking royalties on mines and revising its mining code. And in his recent State of the Nation Address, South African President Jacob Zuma announced that foreigners could no longer own land in the country, which raises the question of what implications, if any, this might have on U.S. and Canadian companies that own and operate South African mines. Zuma’s announcement comes at a time when persistent electricity shortages have stymied mining activity and rumblings of a miners’ strike similar to the one last year that brought platinum and palladium production to a five-month halt are intensifying.    

At the same time, many governments in Africa are waking up to see that they’re going to have to provide the sort of stability and consistency Prime Minister Blair outlined if they hope to attract the capital necessary to fund and develop their mining opportunities.

Miners Giving Back

A strong mining sector doesn’t just benefit the native country, either. It’s a global good that benefits all. In another presentation at the African Mining Indaba, Terry Heymann of the World Gold Council convincingly showed that the economic output of the global gold mining sector far exceeds the collective aid budget of world governments. Gold mining, he said, created and moved as much as $47.3 billion to suppliers, businesses and communities in 2013, compared to governments’ $37.4 billion.

Many gold mining companies take a more direct approach to helping the communities in the countries they operate in, including Randgold Resources, which works primarily in Mali. In an interview during the African Mining Indaba, CEO Mark Bristow detailed his company’s involvement in the fight against Ebola and other epidemics that have hit the West African country:

Our doctors, the Randgold doctors, run a technical committee meeting every day where we coordinate with the [Malian] health authorities, and we help manage the deployment of energy. Now that we’ve eradicated the second [Ebola] outbreak, our big focus is on prevention and education.
Goods Trade with Africa in 2013

Bristow explained that the company had sponsored the development of an educational film about Ebola, before highlighting other company achievements:

We were part of the Neglected Tropical Disease Initiative rollout… We’re very big on the AIDS programs around the country. We brought the malaria incident rate around our mines down by more than four times.

Because Randgold is the largest employer in Mali, Bristow suggested, he feels a moral obligation to partner with his host country and make it a healthier, safer place to live and work.

During the same interview, he insisted that Randgold, which we hold in our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) and World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX), has a “solid five years ahead of us,” citing the fact that the company holds no debt and managed to replace all the ounces it mined in 2014 at $1,000 long-term gold price. It also increased its dividend 20 percent.

Despite bullion’s price hovering just above the relatively low $1,230 range, Randgold has delivered 16 percent year-to-date.

This is in line with gold mining stocks in both the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index and FTSE Gold Mines Index, which are outperforming the return on bullion.

Gold-Mining-Stocks-Outperforming-Bullion-Year-to-Date
click to enlarge

As I mentioned back in July, when mining stocks do well, bullion has tended to follow suit. This also shows that producers are successfully adjusting to a $1,200-per-ounce environment by scaling back on capital spending, selling off assets, putting exploration on hold and engaging in mergers and acquisitions—which in the past has signaled that a bottom in spot prices might be reached. B2Gold Corp. closed on its deal to buy Papillon Resources in October; we learned in November that Osisko Gold Royalties is taking over Virginia Mines; and last month it was announced that Goldcorp would be purchasing Probe Mines.

Weak Currencies, Low Fuel Prices

Speaking with Kitco News’s Daniela Cambone during last Monday’s Gold Game Film, I commented on some of the macro events aiding gold mining companies such as Randgold:

Mark Bristow has just hit the ball out of the park. He benefits from a weak Mali currency and he benefits from a weak euro because everything is priced in euros. He’s also benefited from weak oil prices.

Indeed, many miners not operating in the U.S. are the beneficiaries of a weak local currency. The West African CFA franc, Mali’s currency, is off 20 percent; the South African rand, 40 percent; the Canadian dollar, 15 percent.

Low energy prices are also helping gold producers, just as they’re helping companies in other industries, airlines especially. In most cases, fuel accounts for between 20 and 30 percent of gold miners’ total operating costs. Because Brent oil is currently priced around $60 per barrel, gold producers are seeing significant savings.

The Gold Demand

This Thursday marks the Chinese New Year, a traditional occasion for gold gift-giving. Chinese demand for the yellow metal was strong in 2014, as 800 tonnes flowed into the country. Over half of the global gold demand, in fact, was driven by the world’s two largest markets, China and India.

Chinese-and-Indian-Growth-Has-Spurred-Market-Infrastructure-Development
click to enlarge

Historically low real interest rates are also driving investors into gold and gold stocks. As I told Daniela:

When you look at real interest rates out of the G7 and G10 countries, the only one with a modest increase is the U.S. dollar. Any time you get this negative real interest rate scenario, gold starts to rally in those countries’ currencies. Now what’s really dynamite is the gold mining companies like Goldcorp, which pays a dividend higher than a 5-year government bond.

Emerging Markets Webcast

Make sure to join us during our webcast tomorrow, February 18. USGI Director of Research John Derrick, portfolio manager of our China Region Fund (USCOX) Xian Liang and I will be discussing reflationary measures in China and emerging Europe. Don’t miss it!

Time-Tested History of No Drama - Near-Term Tax Free Fund - U.S. Global Investors

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. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

Gold, precious metals, and precious minerals funds may be susceptible to adverse economic, political or regulatory developments due to concentrating in a single theme. The prices of gold, precious metals, and precious minerals are subject to substantial price fluctuations over short periods of time and may be affected by unpredicted international monetary and political policies. We suggest investing no more than 5% to 10% of your portfolio in these sectors.

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 concentrated portfolio.

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 FTSE Gold Mines Index Series encompasses all gold mining companies that have a sustainable and attributable gold production of at least 300,000 ounces a year, and that derive 75% or more of their revenue from mined gold.

There is no guarantee that the issuers of any securities will declare dividends in the future or that, if declared, will remain at current levels or increase over time. Note that stocks and Treasury bonds differ in investment objectives, costs and expenses, liquidity, safety, guarantees or insurance, fluctuation of principal or return, and tax features. A fund’s yield may differ from the average yield of dividend-paying stocks held by the fund.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the Gold and Precious Metals Fund, World Precious Minerals Fund and China Region Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 12/31/2014: B2Gold Corp. 0.28% World Precious Minerals Fund; Goldcorp, Inc. 1.03% Gold and Precious Metals Fund; Osisko Gold Royalties 0.00%; Papillion Resources 0.00%; Probe Mines 0.00%; Randgold Resources Ltd. 2.30% Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 1.43% World Precious Minerals Fund; Virginia Mines, Inc. 1.14% Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 10.35% World Precious Minerals Fund.

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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Currency Wars Heat up as Central Banks Race to Cut Rates
February 2, 2015

Frank Holmes in Zurich holding a gold barThe Chinese Year of the Ram will kick off at the end of this month, but for now it looks as if 2015 will be the Year of the Central Banks.

I spend a lot of time talking about gold, oil and emerging markets, and it’s important to recognize what drives these asset classes’ performance. Government and fiscal policy often have much to do with it. But in the past three months, we’ve seen central banks take center stage to engage in a new currency war: a race to the bottom of the exchange rate in an attempt to weaken their own currencies and undercut competitor nations.

Indeed, amid rock-bottom oil prices, deflation fears and slowing growth, policymakers from every corner of the globe are enacting some sort of monetary easing program. Last month alone, 14 countries cut rates and loosened borrowing standards, the most recent one being Russia.

A weak currency makes export prices more competitive and can help give inflation a boost, among other benefits.

“The U.S. seems to be the only country right now that doesn’t mind having a strong currency,” says John Derrick, Director of Research here at U.S. Global Investors.

Since July, major currencies have fallen more than 15 percent against the greenback.

U.S. Dollar CLimbing HIgher Against Other World Currencies
click to enlarge

Two weeks ago, Switzerland’s central bank surprised markets by unpegging the Swiss franc from the euro in an attempt to protect its currency, known as a safe haven, against a sliding European bill. Its 10-year bond yield then retreated into negative territory, meaning investors are essentially paying the government to lend it money.

This and other monetary shifts have huge effects on commodities, specifically gold. As I told Resource Investing News last week:

Gold is money. And whenever there’s negative real interest rates, gold in those currencies start to rise. Whenever interest rates are positive, and the government will pay you more than inflation, then gold falls in that country’s currency. Last year, only the U.S. dollar had positive real rates of return. All the other countries had negative real rates of return, so gold performed exceptionally well.

Other countries whose central banks have enacted monetary easing are Canada, India, Turkey, Denmark and Singapore, not to mention the European Central Bank (ECB), which recently unveiled a much-needed trillion-dollar stimulus package.

U.S. Dollar CLimbing HIgher Against Other World Currencies

Gold bears are puzzled as hedge funds raise bullish gold bets.A recent BCA Research report forecasts that as a result of quantitative easing (QE), a weak euro and low oil prices, the eurozone should grow “by about 2 percentage points over the next two years, taking growth from the current level of 1 percent to around 3 percent. This is well above the range of any mainstream forecast.” The report continues: “[European] banks, in particular, are likely to outperform, as they will be the direct beneficiaries of rising credit demand, falling default rates and the ECB’s efforts to reflate asset prices.” This bodes well for our Emerging Europe Fund (EUROX), which is overweight financials.

Speaking of oil, the current average price of a gallon of gas, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report, is $2.05. But in the UK, where I visited last week, it’s over $6. That’s actually down from $9 in June. You can see why Brits don’t drive trucks and SUVs.

But that’s the power of currencies. As illustrated by the clever image of a Chinese panda crushing an American eagle, China’s economy surpassed our own late last year, based on purchasing-power parity (PPP).

China's Economy Surpasses the U.S.'s Based on Purchasing Power Parity
click to enlarge

Burgerology: Price of a Big Mac as of 2015Financial columnist Brett Arends puts it into perspective just how huge this development really is: “For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet.”

An easier way to comprehend PPP is by using The Economist’s Big Mac Index, a “lighthearted guide to whether currencies are at their ‘correct’ level.” The index takes into account the price of McDonald’s signature sandwich in several countries and compares it to the price of one here in the U.S. to determine whether those currencies are undervalued or overvalued. A Big Mac in China, for instance, costs $2.77, suggesting the yuan is undervalued by 42 percent. The same burger in Switzerland will set you back $7.54, making the franc overvalued by 57 percent. 

Earning More in a Low Interest Rate World

From what we know, the Federal Reserve is the only central bank in the world that’s considering raising rates sometime this year, having ended its own QE program in October.

Last month we learned that the Consumer Price Index (CPI), or the cost of living, fell 0.4 percent in December, its biggest decline in over six years. We’re not alone, as the rest of the world is also bracing for deflation:

Global Consumer Price Index (CPI) Trends
click to enlarge

Following Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s announcement last Wednesday, the bond market rallied, pushing the 10-year yield to a 20-month low.

U.S. 10-Year Bond Yield Dips to a 20-Month Low
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Interest rates remain at historic lows, where they might very well stay this year. But when they do begin to rise—whenever that will be—shorter-term bond funds offer more protection than longer-term bond funds. That’s basic risk management. We always encourage investors to understand the DNA of volatility. Every asset class has its own unique characteristics. For example:

The Longer the Maturity, the Greater the Price Volatiity
click to enlarge

Our Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX) invests in shorter-term municipal bonds, thereby taking off some of the risk if the Fed decides to raise rates this year. We’re very proud of this fund, as it’s delivered 20 years of consistent positive returns. Among 25,000 equity and bond funds in the U.S., only 30 have achieved the feat of giving investors positive returns for the same duration, according to Lipper.

That equates to a rare 0.1 percent, roughly the same probability that your son or grandson will be drafted into the NFL and play in the Super Bowl.

In the past 30 years, we’ve experienced massive volatility in both the equity and bond markets, and we’re thrilled for our shareholders that we’ve been able to deliver such a stellar product, under the expert management of John Derrick. What’s more, NEARX continues to maintain its coveted 5-star overall rating from Morningstar, among 173 Municipal National Short-Term funds as of 12/31/2014, based on risk-adjusted return. If you are in Orlando next week, come by the World Money Show to hear John talk about the fund’s history of success. The event is free and my team would love to meet you at booth 514.

Request more information on NEARX today!

 

Upcoming Webcast

To those who listened in on our last webcast, “Bad News Is Good News: A Contrarian Case for Commodities,” we hope you enjoyed it and received some good, actionable insight. If you weren’t able to join us, you can watch the webcast at your convenience on demand. Our next webcast is coming up February 18 and will focus on emerging markets, China in particular. We hope you’ll join us! We’ll be sharing a registration link soon.

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. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

Morningstar Rating

     Overall/173
     3-Year/173
     5-Year/142
    10-Year/103

Morningstar ratings based on risk-adjusted return and number of funds
Category: Municipal National Short-term funds
Through: 12/31/2014

Morningstar Ratings are based on risk-adjusted return. The Morningstar Rating for a fund is derived from a weighted-average of the performance figures associated with its three-, five- and ten-year Morningstar Rating metrics. Past performance does not guarantee future results. For each fund with at least a three-year history, Morningstar calculates a Morningstar Rating based on a Morningstar Risk-Adjusted Return measure that accounts for variation in a fund’s monthly performance (including the effects of sales charges, loads, and redemption fees), placing more emphasis on downward variations and rewarding consistent performance. The top 10% of funds in each category receive 5 stars, the next 22.5% receive 4 stars, the next 35% receive 3 stars, the next 22.5% receive 2 stars and the bottom 10% receive 1 star. (Each share class is counted as a fraction of one fund within this scale and rated separately, which may cause slight variations in the distribution percentages.)

Bond funds are subject to interest-rate risk; their value declines as interest rates rise. Though the Near-Term Tax Free Fund seeks minimal fluctuations in share price, it is subject to the risk that the credit quality of a portfolio holding could decline, as well as risk related to changes in the economic conditions of a state, region or issuer. These risks could cause the fund’s share price to decline. Tax-exempt income is federal income tax free. A portion of this income may be subject to state and local taxes and at times the alternative minimum tax. The Near-Term Tax Free Fund may invest up to 20% of its assets in securities that pay taxable interest. Income or fund distributions attributable to capital gains are usually subject to both state and federal income taxes.

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 concentrated portfolio. The Emerging Europe Fund invests more than 25% of its investments in companies principally engaged in the oil & gas or banking industries.  The risk of concentrating investments in this group of industries will make the fund more susceptible to risk in these industries than funds which do not concentrate their investments in an industry and may make the fund’s performance more volatile.

Although Lipper makes reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained herein, the accuracy is not guaranteed by Lipper. Users acknowledge that they have not relied upon any warranty, condition, guarantee, or representation made by Lipper. Any use of the data for analyzing, managing, or trading financial instruments is at the user's own risk. This is not an offer to buy or sell securities.

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.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the Emerging Europe Fund and Near-Term Tax Free Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 12/31/2015: McDonald’s Corp. 0.00%.

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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There’s More to the Gold Rally Than European Market Fears
January 27, 2015

Gold is having a spectacular run so far this year.Gold was down 1.72 percent at the end of 2014, but things are looking up for the yellow metal. Last week I returned from presenting at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference, where sentiment for gold was through the roof.

And with good reason. Even though gold was down last year, it still ranked as the second-best-performing currency, following the U.S. dollar. The metal has risen about 10 percent year-to-date, and last Tuesday, for the first time since mid-August, it broke through the $1,300 mark.

Are you excited yet?

Our two gold funds, the Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) and World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX), have responded positively to the rally. Both have jumped above their 50-day moving averages, a key trend indicator many investors use to decide when to allocate assets.

Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) Breaks Out
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World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX) Breaks Out
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You’ve probably heard or read that gold’s breakout is a direct result of what’s currently happening in Europe, but there’s much more to the story.

To be clear, the events I’m referring to are a huge deal and shouldn’t be discounted. As we say at U.S. Global Investors, government policy is a precursor to change, and certainly gold has struck a musical chord in the world of currency symphonies.

The European Central Bank’s (ECB’s) unveiling of a much-needed, trillion-dollar quantitative easing (QE) program will hopefully lead to a stronger economy in the eurozone. For two years now, it seems the region has held much of the world hostage with its lack of growth.

Switzerland unexpectedly unpegged its currency, the Swiss franc, from the euro, shocking money managers all over the world. The country also let its 10-year government bond yield sink into negative territory, joining Germany, Spain and Italy, whose yields now hover near record lows. This makes other assets, especially gold, look much more attractive.

And in Greece, the radical far-left, anti-austerity Syriza party just took control of the government, sending shockwaves throughout the European markets and raising the possibility that the Mediterranean country might leave or be booted out of the eurozone.

All of these developments have spurred investors to seek safety in gold. But there’s more at work fueling the metal’s ascent.

Currency Wars

As I’ve discussed many times before, the strong U.S. dollar—it’s currently up 2.2 standard deviations for the 10-year period—has not only weighed on crude oil but also caused other global currencies to depreciate. Both have helped many foreign gold producers expand their profit margins, as bullion is then able to gain in value more quickly.

“The Canadian dollar has weakened quite a bit against the U.S. dollar for a lot of our gold stocks in Canada,” Ralph Aldis, portfolio manager of our gold funds, explained during our most recent webcast. “These producers benefit when the local currency depreciates.”

This is because they pay their workers in the weaker local currency but sell their bullion in U.S. dollars.

When expressed in Canadian dollars, gold has sharply ramped up to a nine-month high:

Gold Price in Canadian Dollar Terms
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Gold has also shot upward in Japanese yen and euro terms:

Gold Price in Japanese Yen Terms
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Gold Price in Euro Terms
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A weaker South African rand has been a tailwind for two of our South African holdings, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold Mining. Below you can see that both companies have broken free of their 50-day moving averages—by a much wider spread than we’ve seen since at least March of last year.

Low Fuel Costs and a Weakened Rand Have Benefited South African Godl Producers
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Then there are falling fuel costs, ordinarily gold miners’ biggest expense.

“If you factor in lower energy prices, that basically gives companies a double whammy in terms of margin expansion,” Ralph said.

Headquartered in Toronto, Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold producer, saves about $25 per ounce on lower diesel expenses, according to BullionVault.

Before it started recovering at the beginning of January, gold had been pretty banged up since mid-August. As a result, companies have slashed capital spending, especially the junior miners.

But recently we’ve seen merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the gold space, typically a good sign. In late November, Osisko Gold Royalties announced it would buy Quebec City-based Virginia Mines for $424 million, and last week we learned that Vancouver-based Goldcorp will be acquiring precious metals explorer Probe Mines for $440 million. Probe is a relatively new player in the field, having made two discoveries in Ontario since 2009.

This makes sense. If you’re looking to expand your company, you might as well do it when everything’s on sale. But these M&As also indicate that there’s enough confidence in the future of the precious metals industry to justify such capital spending. It says a lot about the market that Goldcorp would agree to purchase a younger exploration company, a move we haven’t seen in a while.

Repatriation Games

This is what largely drives gold demand: confidence in the metal as a store of value, in good times and in bad. Gold is much more than a commodity—it’s a form of currency, one that “has never required the credit guarantee of a third party,” as former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan made clear in September.

Last year, gold was the second-strongest currency in the world, trailing only the U.S. dollar. It’s amazing how well it held up under the pressure of the greenback. Not just investors but also central banks recognize this.

The Bundesbank, Germany's central bank, repatriated 120 tonnes of gold in 2014.

“If the dollar or any other fiat currency were universally acceptable at all times,” Greenspan said, “central banks would see no need to hold any gold. The fact that they do indicates that such currencies are not a universal substitute.”

Indeed, we’re seeing central banks all around the world shoring up their own gold reserves by repatriating bullion from foreign institutions. December saw the biggest monthly outflow of gold from the New York Fed since 2001, bringing its holdings to their lowest level this century. 

Gold Held in New York Fed Drops to Lowest in 21st Century AFter Biggest Monthly Withdrawal Since 2001
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Central banks might be jittery from global growth concerns—the International Monetary Fund just downgraded its growth forecast for 2015—or simply recognizing the tenuousness of fiat money. Either way, the message is resounding: gold is an essential component to a strong portfolio and an excellent store of value.

As always, we recommend a 10-percent weighting in gold: 5 percent in bullion, 5 percent in gold stocks, then rebalancing every year.

I’ll have more to share with you when I return next week from Zurich, where I’ll be presenting at its International Business School.

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. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

Total Annualized Returns as of 12/31/2014
  One-Year Five-Year Ten-Year Gross Expense Ratio Expense Cap
Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) -14.00% -15.67% 0.38% 2.15% 1.90%
World precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX) -16.52% -18.79% -2.57% 1.86% N/A

Expense ratios as stated in the most recent prospectus. The expense ratio after waivers is a voluntary limit on total fund operating expenses (exclusive of any acquired fund fees and expenses, performance fees, taxes, brokerage commissions and interest) that U.S. Global Investors, Inc. can modify or terminate at any time, which may lower a fund’s yield or return. Performance data quoted above is historical. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Results reflect the reinvestment of dividends and other earnings. For a portion of periods, the fund had expense limitations, without which returns would have been lower. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. The principal value and investment return of an investment will fluctuate so that your shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Performance does not include the effect of any direct fees described in the fund’s prospectus (e.g., short-term trading fees of 0.05%) which, if applicable, would lower your total returns. Performance quoted for periods of one year or less is cumulative and not annualized. Obtain performance data current to the most recent month-end at www.usfunds.com or 1-800-US-FUNDS.

Gold, precious metals, and precious minerals funds may be susceptible to adverse economic, political or regulatory developments due to concentrating in a single theme. The prices of gold, precious metals, and precious minerals are subject to substantial price fluctuations over short periods of time and may be affected by unpredicted international monetary and political policies. We suggest investing no more than 5% to 10% of your portfolio in these sectors.

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.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the Gold and Precious Metals Fund and World Precious Minerals Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 12/31/2014: Barrick Gold 0.00%; Gold Fields Ltd. 1.51% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 0.36% in World and Precious Minerals Fund; Goldcorp, Inc. 1.03% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund; Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd. 0.90% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 0.82% in World Precious Minerals Fund; Osisko Mining 0.00%; Probe Mines Ltd. 0.00%; Virginia Mines, Inc. 1.14% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 10.35% in World Precious Minerals Fund.

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

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Net Asset Value
as of 02/27/2015

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $6.28 -0.01 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $5.78 0.08 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $4.93 0.06 China Region Fund USCOX $8.31 -0.02 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.52 -0.04 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $28.63 -0.02 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $20.78 -0.17 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.25 -0.01 China Region Fund USCOX $8.31 -0.02