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Why This Airline Just Landed in the S&P 500 Index
March 23, 2015

For the first time in its 84-year history, American Airlines was cleared for landing in the S&P 500 Index.

Joining rivals Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, the once-beleaguered carrier is the newest member of the prestigious club for the nation’s largest companies by market capitalization.

Not bad for a company that, only four years ago, found itself in bankruptcy court.

S&P 500 Economic Sectors

But in a classic Cinderella-story transformation, American succeeded at charting a new course for itself. In 2013 it merged with U.S. Airways, making it the biggest airline group in the world. The company now has a market cap of nearly $37 billion and controls 627 active jets in its fleet.

American’s ascension is a perfect reflection of the now-robust airline industry as a whole. As recently as a decade ago, about 70 percent of U.S. carriers were operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Fast forward to 2014, and the industry saw its most profitable year ever. To generate more revenue and save money, airlines have aggressively implemented new policies in the last few years, including adding additional seats on aircraft, streamlining operations and focusing on fuel-efficiency measures.

American Airlines stock is already up more than 51 percent for the 12-month period, compared to the S&P 500’s 14 percent, and is currently trading close to all-time highs. Its inclusion in the S&P 500 should further help its stock price climb higher, as many funds that track the index will now be compelled to purchase shares.

American Airlines Joins Southwest and Delta in the S&P 500 Index
click to enlarge

Low oil prices have benefited American more so than some of its competitors, as the carrier didn’t buy derivatives on fuel and was therefore not locked into higher prices before they began to tumble last summer.

Many analysts predict that the next airline to join the S&P could be United Continental.

Dollar Overbought, Gold Oversold

In a recent Frank Talk I revisited the relationship between the U.S. dollar and gold. For the ninth straight month, the greenback has strengthened, which has weighed heavily on the yellow metal. The inverse relationship between the two is key to understanding the Fear Trade.

As I discussed in the blog post, the dollar is extended—the greatest standard deviation in a decade—and it appears due for a correction.

Gold vs Dollar 3-Month Percent Change Oscillator
click to enlarge

Conversely, the gold selloff is overdone and looking for a rally.

Next week we’ll be looking out for the latest consumer price index (CPI), or inflationary number. It’s important to be aware of this number because the inflation rate has a large influence on gold prices.

The weekend before last I presented at the Investment U conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I had the pleasure of hearing Oxford Club’s natural resources strategist, Sean Brodrick, speak. He reminded his audience why so many investors see gold as a safe haven, saying that, unlike the dollar, “gold will never go to zero.”

As always, I advocate that 10 percent of your portfolio consist of gold: 5 percent in bullion and 5 percent in gold stocks, then rebalance every year.

Munis Still Make Sense

Safety is part of the reason why the municipal bond market is today worth $3.65 trillion. To determine just how safe munis have been for investors, Moody’s looked at more than 54,000 municipal bond issuers and 5,600 high-yield corporate bond issuers between 1970 and 2011. What they found is that only 71 muni issuers defaulted, whereas corporate bond defaults for the period rose to more than 1,800.

What’s more, even lower-rated munis have historically had better credit quality than high-rated corporate bonds. In a similar study, Moody’s reported that since 1970, “adequate” Baa-rated munis have had a default rate of 0.30 percent. But of the corporate bonds that received the highest, “extremely strong” rating, 0.50 percent failed to meet their obligations.

Munis had a stellar 2014, delivering positive returns all 12 months of the year. This helped the asset class outperform both corporate bonds and high-yield corporate bonds.

Munis Delivered Better Returns Than Corporate Bonds in 2014
click to enlarge

 

A Victoria's Secret in the Toronto Pearson International AirportRightfully so, many bond investors are concerned of what might happen to their holdings when the Federal Reserve decides to raise rates, which could happen sometime this year. When interest rates rise, bond prices drop. For this reason, the bond market reacted positively to Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s announcement last Wednesday that a rate hike wouldn’t occur just yet. Short-term munis are where investors want to be when rates inevitably increase.

Recently we’ve also seen a spike in bond yields. John Derrick, portfolio manager of our Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX), has prudently put fund assets to work, using the following oscillator, among other tools, to determine the most opportune times to deploy capital.

Note that we’re using the two-year Treasury as a proxy for interest rate moves. Munis have tended to track these macro trends.

ROlling 100 Day Percent Change Oscillator: 2-Year Treasury Yield
click to enlarge

NEARX has delivered 20 straight years of positive growth in a variety of interest rate environments. Out of 25,000 equity and bond funds, only 30 have done this. Since 1999—the first year he began managing the fund—John has achieved this rare feat by picking only investment-grade munis with short-term maturities. Short-term bonds are less sensitive to rate increases than longer-term bonds that are locked into rates for greater periods of time.

In Various Interes Rate Environments, NEARX Has Had 20 Straight Years of Positive Returns
click to enlarge

To learn more about what municipal bonds can do for your portfolio, check out our latest infographic. Remember to share with your friends!

Why Investing in Short-Term Municipal Bonds Makes Sense Now

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
Near-Term Tax Free Fund 3.07% 2.64% 2.98% 1.21% 0.45%

Expense ratio as stated in the most recent prospectus. The expense cap is a contractual limit through December 31, 2015, for the Near-Term Tax Free Fund, on total fund operating expenses (exclusive of acquired fund fees and expenses, extraordinary expenses, taxes, brokerage commissions and interest). 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 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.

Bond funds are subject to interest-rate risk; their value declines as interest rates rise. Tax-exempt income is federal income tax free. A portion of this income may be subject to state and local income taxes, and if applicable, may subject certain investors to the Alternative Minimum Tax as well. 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. The Near-Term Tax Free Fund may be exposed to risks related to a concentration of investments in a particular state or geographic area. These investments present risks resulting from changes in economic conditions of the region or issuer.

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

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.

The S&P Municipal Bond Index is a broad, market value-weighted index that seeks to measure the performance of the U.S. municipal bond market.

The Bloomberg USD High Yield Corporate Bond Index is a rules-based, market-value weighted index engineered to measure publicly issued non-investment grade USD fixed-rate, taxable, corporate bonds. To be included in the index, a security must have a minimum par amount of 250MM.

The Bloomberg U.S. Corporate Bond Index is a rules-based market-value weighted index engineered to measure the investment grade, fixed-rate, taxable, corporate bond market. It includes USD-denominated securities publicly issued by U.S. and non-U.S. corporate issuers. To be included in the index, a security must have a minimum par amount of 250MM.

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the Near-Term Tax Free Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 12/31/2014: American Airlines 0.00%, Southwest Airlines Co. 0.00%, Delta Air Lines, Inc. 0.00%, United Continental Holdings, Inc. 0.00%.

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.

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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What the Federal Reserve and the Fear Trade Do for Gold
March 19, 2015

Following the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting yesterday, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen made it clear (again) that interest rates would not be raised until inflation gains more steam. With current inflation rates negative for the first time since 2009, and with the U.S. dollar index at an 11-year high, we can probably expect near-record-low interest rates for some time longer.

With the Dollar index at an 11-yeah high, gold prices are under a lot of pressure

Along with major stock indices, gold prices immediately spiked at Yellen’s news, rising nearly 2 percent, from $1,151 to $1,172. That’s the largest one-day move we’ve seen from the yellow metal in at least two months.

It’s also a prime example of gold’s Fear Trade, which occurs when investors buy gold out of fear of war or concern over changes in government policy.

As I’ve frequently discussed, one of gold’s main drivers is the strength of the U.S. dollar. The two have an historical inverse relationship, as you can see below.

Strong Dollar Weighs on Gold

In September 2011, when gold hit its all-time high of $1,921, the dollar index was at a low, low 73. Today, with the dollar having recently broken above 100, the yellow metal sits under a lot of pressure. However, I’m pleased at how well it’s held up compared to the early 1980s, when gold plunged 65 percent from its peak of $850 per ounce as the U.S. currency began to strengthen.

We’re seeing the opposite effect in the eurozone as well as other regions around the world. In the last 11 months, the euro has slipped 24 percent. Many analysts, in fact, expect the euro to fall below the dollar for the first time.

When priced in this weakening currency, gold has climbed to a two-year high.

Gold Prices in Euro Terms Strengthens as the Currency Falls

Inflation consumes the returns on your five-year treasury bond As I write in last year’s special gold report, “How Government Policies Affect Gold’s Fear Trade”:

One of the strongest drivers of the Fear Trade in gold is real interest rates. Whenever a country has negative-to-low real rates of return, which means the inflationary rate (CPI) is greater than the current interest rate, gold tends to rise in that country’s currency.

 

To illustrate this point, take a look at the current five-year Treasury yield and subtract from it the consumer price index (CPI), or the inflationary number. You get either a positive or negative real interest rate.

When that number is negative, gold has tended to be strong. And when it’s positive, gold has in the past been weak.

This month, real interest rates in the U.S. have turned massively positive, putting additional downward pressure on the yellow metal.

HOw real interest rates drive gold

When you look at the yield on a five-year Treasury bond in March 2013, you see that it was 0.88 percent. Take away 1.5 percent inflation, and investors were getting a negative real return of 0.6 percent. This made gold a much more attractive and competitive asset to invest in. March 2013, by the way, was the last time we saw gold above $1,600 per ounce.

Because inflation is in negative territory right now, returns on the five-year Treasury are higher than they’ve been in several quarters. Compared to many other government bonds worldwide, the U.S. five-year Treasury is actually one of the very few whose yields are positive, which tarnishes gold’s appeal somewhat as an investment.

The following oscillator for the five-year period gives you another way to look at the strong inverse relationship between the five-year Treasury bond and gold. As if locked in a synchronized dance, each asset class swings when the other one sways, and vice versa.

HOw real interest rates drive gold

This is why it’s so important to manage expectations.

As Ralph Aldis, portfolio manager of our two precious metals funds, said in our most recent Shareholder Report:

You need to use gold for what it’s best at: portfolio diversification… You have to be a bit of contrarian. Buy it when everybody hates it, sell it when everybody loves it. Our suggestion is to have 5 to 10 percent of your portfolio in gold or gold stocks and rebalance once a year. You might also get some additional benefits by rebalancing quarterly. That’s like playing chess with the market as opposed to rolling craps.

 

Discover U.S. Global Investors’ two gold funds:

The Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX)The Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) is the first no-load gold mutual fund in the U.S. and seeks opportunity in gold mining, investing in proven gold-producing companies.

 

 

The World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX) The World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX) gives investors increased exposure to junior and intermediate mining companies involved in precious minerals such as gold, silver, platinum, palladium and diamonds for added growth potential.

 

 

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.

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

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.

The U.S. Trade Weighted Dollar Index provides a general indication of the international value of the U.S. dollar.

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.

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.

Diversification does not protect an investor from market risks and does not assure a profit.

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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Who’s Who of Gold Investing
March 10, 2015

Last week I was honored and humbled to be included in American Bullion’s list of “11 powerful people and their insights on gold.” Among the investment giants and thought leaders who also appear on the list are publishing executive Steve Forbes, Mad Money’s Jim Cramer, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Good company, indeed.

gold investing experts

All of my fellow gold investors offer scintillating insight into gold investing, much of which I’ve often shared myself—most notably Greenspan’s comment that “gold has special properties that no other currency, with the possible exception of silver, can claim.”

Gold’s value, after all, is not dependent on the credit guarantee of any world government and is universally accepted as a form of payment. If this were not the case, why else would global central banks bother to hold the precious metal? Why else would we be seeing them repatriating their gold reserves from foreign institutions?

Or consider hedge fund manager Kyle Bass’s keen observation that unlike paper money, “they can’t print any more [gold]. They can mine some more, but they can’t print it at the rate central banks are printing.”

Whereas there’s only a finite amount of the yellow metal available to be exhumed from the earth, global central banks are printing money at a furious rate as if it were imaginary Monopoly paper.

The Goldwatcher John Katz Frank Holmes In my book The Goldwatcher: Demystifying Gold Investing—which American Bullion quotes from—I write that “bullion is for value investors and mining stocks are for growth investors.” At U.S. Global Investors, we’re growth investors. 

But I’ve always advocated that you should own 10 percent gold in your portfolio: 5 percent in bullion or gold jewelry and 5 percent in mining stocks, then rebalance every year.

Although depressed gold prices have put a squeeze on miners lately, there are still quality, well-managed companies out there expanding their profit margins and paying dividends. Many of them we own in our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) and World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX), including Klondex Mines, Royal Gold, Goldcorp and Franco-Nevada.

On another note, be sure to register for today’s online video event hosted by Casey Research, Going Vertical: Deep-Value Stocks to Own in a Rising Gold Market. I’ll be joined by seven other top players in the precious metals market, including Chairman Doug Casey, Franco-Nevada chairman Pierre Lassonde, Pretium Resources president Bob Quartermain and Casey Research’s chief metals and mining strategist Louis James. The event starts at 2:00 p.m. EST, but if you can’t make it, the replay will be available soon afterward.

Also, stay current with the latest news and trends in the world of gold by watching my weekly web program, Gold Game Film, hosted by Kitco’s Daniela Cambone. This Monday we discussed the main drivers of the metal right now, including the strong U.S. jobs data and the start of the Indian wedding season, which begins in mid-April.

What's gold's touchdown pass this week? Watch Kitco's Gold Game Film with Frank Holmes.

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.

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

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.

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.

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: Franco-Nevada Corp. 6.97% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 1.32% in World Precious Minerals Fund; Goldcorp, Inc. 1.03% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund; Klondex Mines Ltd. 10.00% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 9.78% in World Precious Minerals Fund; Pretium Resources, Inc. 3.35% in World Precious Minerals Fund; Royal Gold, Inc. 5.99% in Gold and Precious Metals Fund, 1.51% 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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Could Apple Buy a Third of the World’s Gold?
March 2, 2015

Is there anything Apple can’t do?

Thing gold. AppleFirst it revolutionized the personal computing business. Then, with the launch of the iPod in 2001, it forced the music industry to change its tune. Against initial market reservations, the company succeeded at making Star Trek-like tablets hip when it released the iPad in 2010. And in Q1 2015, a record 75 million units of its now-ubiquitous iPhone were sold around the globe. The smartphone’s operating system, iOS, currently controls a jaw-dropping 89-percent operating profit share of all systems worldwide, pushing the second-place OS, Google’s Android, down to 11 percent from 30 percent just a year ago.

As you might already know, the company that Steve Jobs built—which we own in our All American Equity Fund (GBTFX) and Holmes Macro Trends Fund (MEGAX)—is history’s largest by net capitalization. In its last quarterly report, Apple posted a record $75 billion in revenue and is now sitting pretty on a mind-boggling $180 billion in cash. Many analysts believe the company will reach a jaw-dropping $1 trillion in market cap.

So what’s Apple’s next trick?

How about moving the world’s gold market?

iGold

Apple Watch Edition sporting a 18-karat gold caseThis April, Apple will be venturing into the latest wearable gadget market, the smartwatch, joining competitors such as Samsung, Garmin and Sony. All of the models in Apple’s stable of watches look  sleek and beautifully designed—just what you’d expect from Apple—and will no doubt be capable of performing all sorts of high-tech functions such as receiving text messages, monitoring the wearer’s vitals and, of course, telling time.

But the real story here is that the company’s high-end luxury model, referred to simply as the Apple Watch Edition, will come encased in 18-karat gold.

What should make this news even more exciting to gold investors is that the company expects to produce 1 million units of this particular model per month in the second quarter of 2015 alone, according to the Wall Street Journal.

That’s a lot of gold, if true. It also proves that the Love Trade is alive and well. Apple chose to use gold in its most expensive new model because the metal is revered for its beauty and rarity.

To produce such a great quantity of units, how much of the yellow metal might be needed?

For a ballpark estimate, I turn to Apple news forum TidBITS, which begins with the assumption that each Apple Watch Edition contains two troy ounces of gold. From there:

If Apple makes 1 million Apple Watch Edition units every month, that equals 24 million troy ounces of gold used per year, or roughly 746 metric tons [or tonnes].

That’s enough gold to make even a Bond villain blush, but just how much is it? About 2,500 metric tons of gold are mined per year. If Apple uses 746 metric tons every year, we’re talking about 30 percent of the world’s annual gold production.

India's Sripuram Golden Temple, the world's largest golden structure, is made out of 1.5 tonnes of goldTo put things in perspective, the Sripuram Golden Temple in India, the world’s largest golden structure, is made from “only” 1.5 tonnes of the metal.

TidBITS acknowledges that the amount of gold is speculative at this point. Two troy ounces does seem pretty hyperbolic. But even if each luxury watch contains only a quarter of that, it’s still an unfathomable—perhaps even unprecedented—amount of gold for a single company, even one so large as Apple, to consume.

Ralph Aldis, portfolio manager of our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) and World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX), likens the idea of Apple buying a third of the world’s gold to China’s voracious consumption of the metal. As I mentioned last week, China is buying more gold right now than the total amount mined worldwide.

“If the estimates of how much gold each watch contains are close to reality, and if Apple’s able to sell as many units as it claims, it really ought to help gold prices move higher,” Ralph says.

But Can Expectations Be Met?

Here’s where this whole discussion could unravel. Although we don’t yet know what the Apple Watch Edition will retail at, it’s safe to predict that it will fall somewhere between $4,000 and $10,000, placing it in the same company as a low-end Rolex.

With that in mind, are Apple’s sales expectations too optimistic?

Possibly. But remember, this is Apple we’re talking about here. Over the years, it has sufficiently proven itself as a company that more-than-delivers on the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy. Steve Jobs aggressively cultivated a business environment that not only encourages but insists on “thinking different”—to use the company’s old slogan—risk-taking and developing must-have gadgets.

“Our whole role in life is to give you something you didn’t know you wanted,” says current Apple CEO Tim Cook. “And then once you get it, you can’t imagine your life without it.”

A perfect case study is the iPhone. When it launched in June 2007, the cell phone market was decidedly crowded. Consumers seemed content with the choices that were already available. Why did we need another phone?

Yet here we are more than eight years later, and as I pointed out earlier, 75 million iPhones were sold in the last quarter alone.

Apple iPhone Sales Reach Record Number in Q1 2015
click to enlarge

So it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility for Apple to move 1 million $10,000 Apple Watch Editions per month.

Early in January I shared the following chart, which shows various analysts’ Apple Watch shipment forecasts for 2015, ranging from 10 million to 60 million units. Of course, all models are included here, not just the luxury model.

Estimated 2015 Apple Watch Shipments
click to enlarge

Looking at it now, many of the predictions seem a little understated. After all, Apple hasn’t released a dud product in at least two decades (remember the Newton?). Come April, we’ll see for sure what the demand really is—for the Apple Watch as well as gold.

Global Metals & Mining Conference

Last weekend I attended the BMO Metals & Mining Conference in Hollywood, Florida, along with Ralph, Brian Hicks, a portfolio manager of our Global Resources Fund (PSPFX), and junior analyst Alex Blow.

“Generally speaking, companies have streamlined operations and are focused on shareholder returns,” Brian said.

Alex came away from the conference with renewed conviction that the global climate is conducive for gold, citing central bank easing policies and increasing volatility in world currencies, both of which support the yellow metal’s performance.

“It looks as though gold has technical support and that a bottom has been reached,” he said. “If the eurozone really picks up, gold demand should rise, which would also benefit China since its primary gold export destination is the eurozone.”

Mark Your iCalendar

I invite everyone to join us during our next webcast, to be held this Wednesday, March 4, at 4:30 PM ET/3:30 PM CT. The discussion will center on our Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX), which has delivered 20 straight years of positive returns. We hope you can make it!

 

Yes, 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.

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

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.

Bond funds are subject to interest-rate risk; their value declines as interest rates rise. Tax-exempt income is federal income tax free. A portion of this income may be subject to state and local income taxes, and if applicable, may subject certain investors to the Alternative Minimum Tax as well. 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. The tax free funds may be exposed to risks related to a concentration of investments in a particular state or geographic area. These investments present risks resulting from changes in economic conditions of the region or issuer.

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, Holmes Macro Trends Fund, Gold and Precious Metals Fund, World Precious Minerals Fund, Global Resources Fund and Near-Term Tax Free Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 12/31/2014: Apple, Inc. (3.52% All American Equity Fund), (5.37% Holmes Macro Trends Fund); Google, Inc. 0.00%; Samsung Electronics Co. 0.00%; Garmin Ltd. 0.00%; Sony 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.

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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
click to enlarge

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.

Share “Why We Invest in Royalty Companies”

Net Asset Value
as of 03/27/2015

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.84 -0.02 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $5.39 -0.03 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $4.53 -0.01 China Region Fund USCOX $8.32 0.05 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $6.15 -0.06 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $27.82 0.05 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $20.80 0.15 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.26 No Change China Region Fund USCOX $8.32 0.05