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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.

Gold and Bitcoin Surge on North Korea Fears
September 11, 2017

bicion

If you’re familiar with ABC’s popular reality show Shark Tank, you should already be familiar with the concept behind the San Antonio Angel Network (SAAN). Select entrepreneurs and innovators pitch their startup ideas to accredited investors, who can choose to make early-stage investments in a potentially successful company.

I attended an SAAN meeting last week at Ferrari of San Antonio, and what struck me the most was how fluid and seamless the whole thing is. Other professionals in attendance, including lawyers and CPAs, had a similar opinion, with some of them saying it was because there wasn’t any bureaucracy or red tape to hamstring the presenters.

This is unlike the world of mutual funds, which I believe has become excessively regulated.

As I’ve said numerous times before, regulation is essential, just as referees are essential to a basketball game. No one disputes that, because otherwise there would be chaos.

Similarly, the new and very unregulated world of cryptocurrencies has grown dramatically, beyond bitcoin and ethereum. Did you know there are over 800 cryptocurrencies? These new initial coin offerings, called ICOs, are like initial public offerings (IPOs) but with little regulation or accountability. As I’ve commented before, if the refs get too powerful or too numerous, and the rules too complex, the game becomes nearly unplayable.

Cryptocurrencies Still Draw Investor Attention Following China Crackdown

Bitcoin, ethereum and other cryptocurrencies have had a meteoric year, with more than $2 billion raised in ICOs so far in 2017, according to Bloomberg. Approximately $155 billion in cryptocurrencies are in circulation around the world right now. Bitcoin by itself is at $78 billion, which is close to the $90 billion invested in all gold ETFs.

Cryptocurrencies have made red hot moves this past year
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Like gold, cryptos are favored by those who have a deep distrust of fiat currency, or paper money. Money, after all, is built on trust, and the blockchain technology that bitcoin is built on top of automates trust through an electronic ledger that cannot be altered. Every transaction is anonymous and peer-to-peer. The system is entirely decentralized and democratic. No monetary authority can see who owns what and where money is flowing.

This, of course, is a huge reason why some world governments want to crack down on the Wild West of virtual currencies, especially with bitcoin surging close to $5,000 this month.

China did just that last week, putting a halt to new ICOs and crypto transactions. In response, ethereum tumbled as much as 15.8 percent last Monday, or $55 a unit. Bitcoin lost $394 a unit.

China’s decision comes a little more than a month after the SEC said cryptocurrencies are securities and therefore should probably be regulated as such. At this point, though, the implications are unclear.

What’s clear to me—after seeing firsthand how easily and quickly transactions are made—is that there’s no going back. It’s possible cryptocurrencies will one day be regulated. But I’m confident bitcoin, ethereum and some other virtual currencies offer enough value to weather such a potential roadblock.

I also believe there has to be a happy medium between the excessively regulated fund industry and the potential chaos of the cryptocurrency. This is what I witnessed at the SAAN event I mentioned, which allowed the professionals in attendance to gain information, ask questions and make informed decisions.

Gold Trading Above $1,350 an Ounce

Speaking on cryptocurrencies last week, Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, said gold could be a beneficiary of China’s decision to clamp down on ICOs. As more governments and central banks turn their attention to virtual currencies, investors could move back into the yellow metal as a store of value.

That’s a possibility, but I think gold’s price action right now is being driven by negative real Treasury yields and fears over a potential conflict with North Korea. Adjusted for inflation, the two-year and five-year Treasuries are both currently yielding negative amounts, and the 10-year continues to fall closer to 0 percent.

Real treasury yeilds fall further
click to enlarge

As I’ve explained numerous times before, gold and real interest rates share an inverse relationship. It makes little sense to invest in an asset that’s guaranteed to cost you money—which is the case with the two-year and five-year government bond right now. Investors seeking a “safe haven” might therefore add to their weighting in gold, especially with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un raising tensions.

The yellow metal closed above $1,350 an ounce, more than a one-year high.   

Gold price up more than 15 percent year to date
click to enlarge

Despite Efforts to Control Spending, National Debt Expected to Continue Growing: CBO

Similarly driving the gold Fear Trade are concerns over the national debt. Last week President Donald Trump sided with Congressional Democrats in raising the federal borrowing limit to allow Hurricane Harvey recovery aid to pass. An initial package of $7.85 billion for Harvey victims was agreed upon, but with total costs expected to be as high as $190 billion—more than the combined costs of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy—and with Hurricane Irma yet to make landfall in Florida, the federal aid amount could eventually run even higher.

Trump partially ran on reigning in government spending, which I and many others would like to see. Even so, this might not be enough to control our runaway debt. According to an August report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), debt will likely continue to grow as spending for large federal benefit programs—Social Security, Medicare and the like—outpaces revenue. Interest payments on the debt will only continue to accelerate as well.

Below is a chart showing national debt as a percentage of GDP going back to the founding of the U.S. Although we’ve seen periodic spikes in response to national crises, the debt could soar to unprecedented levels within the next 10 years.

Federal debt expected to continue rising
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Financial writer Alex Green, the Oxford Club’s chief strategist, told me during my recent interview with him that he thought out-of-control spending posed a greater threat to our country than even North Korea.

I tend to agree with him, and that’s why I believe that investors should have a 10 percent allocation in gold, with 5 percent in bullion and 5 percent in gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

I urge you to watch this brief video on investing opportunities in gold miners!

 

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.

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.

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The (Investing) World According to Geoffrey Caveney
September 7, 2017

The best call financial writer Geoffrey Caveney ever made was in December 2015. Gold hit a multiyear low of $1,050 an ounce, and he was convinced that the metal had found a bottom. It was time to make a trade, he thought, not just in bullion but precious metal miners, specifically the juniors and some micro-cap names.

Readers who took Geoffrey’s recommendation were no doubt grateful they did. Responding to low to negative interest rates around the world, gold rose as much as 16.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016, its best three-month performance since 1986. By the end of June, it had surged 28 percent, its best first half of the year since 1974. Producers, as measured by the Philadelphia Gold and Silver Index, likewise took off.

gold price per ounce and precious metal miners, september 2015 - July 2016
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Geoffrey’s track record is nothing to sneeze at. In July 2016 he advised readers to take profits on Alexco Resource, which was up an amazing 430 percent for the six-month period. A trade on Fortuna Silver Mines a month earlier netted him a 445 percent profit. He has a number of similar successes under his belt.

“I’m in the habit of thinking for myself,” he told me recently during a chat over the phone.

To make such a contrarian call on gold—or any other asset—you have to think for yourself. If you remember, gold in 2015 hadn’t logged a positive year in three years, and investor sentiment toward the precious metal was down. Every gold conference I spoke at, attendance was unusually light. When an asset gets this beat up, it’s often easy just to fall in with the herd.

But as Warren Buffett himself once said, “The time to get interested is when no one else is.”

Stay in Control of the Decision-Making Process

Thinking for himself has served Geoffrey well in a number of other ways—most notably when he got laid off during the financial crisis. Instead of wasting time looking for work that wasn’t available, he decided to try his luck at freelance tutoring. Combining his interests from when he attended Yale University in the 1990s, he began to teach young people chess, English, math and SAT prep.

His best advice to those about to take the SAT? Focus on the process rather than the goal, and keep your emotions in check. Take deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.

As Geoffrey himself pointed out, this is sound investing advice as well. Greed and fear can be powerful allies, but it’s important to learn to harness them and stay in control of the decision-making process. This isn’t New Age, hippie-dippie stuff. Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, has often attributed his extraordinary success to meditating, which he says keeps him calm and centered.

“If you don’t reset yourself mentally on occasion, you run the risk of making the same mistakes over and over again,” Geoffrey said.

Life Changes, and So Should Your Strategy

Aside from tutoring, Geoffrey grew his interest in investing, where he put his background in math and chess to good use. In his youth he took chess lessons from the distinguished Uzbek grand master Gregory Serper, and he learned to apply this highly strategic mode of thinking to his trades. As his instincts improved, he started writing about investing and finance on sites such as Seeking Alpha, focusing on gold, precious metal miners, emerging markets, tech, cryptocurrencies and other themes. He watched his readership grow.

both chess and investing require strategic thinking

“Gold always gets lots of attention as well as bitcoin or any cryptocurrency,” he said. “I see tremendous value in China, but I find that those articles get much less attention.”

As someone who also writes about gold and China, I can attest to the accuracy of his observation.

As for gold, Geoffrey believes you “don’t have to be a gold bug to invest 5 or 10 percent,” which is in alignment with what I’ve been saying for years. Gold, I believe, is for all seasons and economic climates—5 percent in bullion, 5 percent in quality gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs. Rebalance every year.

A New Market Newsletter

Right now Geoffrey is focused on the next trade and increasing his readership. In June he launched a newsletter, the Stock & Gold Market Report, which can be found on Seeking Alpha. In it he shares his latest buy and sell recommendations, and he also offers a handy service on how to build a well-balanced portfolio from the ground up.

After reading his valuable insights and speaking one-on-one with him, I feel confident recommending a subscription to the Stock & Gold Market Report. I wish Geoffrey all the best in this new endeavor and look forward to hearing from him again!

 

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 Philadelphia Gold and Silver Index (XAU) is a capitalization-weighted index that includes the leading companies involved in the mining of gold and silver.

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.

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 6/30/2017.

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Are You Prepared for These Potentially Disruptive Economic Storms?
August 28, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

Here in San Antonio, grocery stores were packed with families stocking up on water and canned food in preparation for Hurricane Harvey, which has devastated Houston and coastal Texas towns. I hope everyone who lives in its path took the necessary precautions to stay safe and dry—this storm was definitely one to tell your grandkids about one day.

Similarly, I hope investors took steps to prepare for some potentially disruptive economic storms, including this past weekend’s central bank symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the possibility of a contentious battle in Congress next month over the budget and debt ceiling.

As you’re probably aware, central bankers from all over the globe visited Jackson Hole this past weekend to discuss monetary policy, specifically the Federal Reserve’s unwinding of its $4.5 trillion balance sheet and the European Central Bank’s (ECB) ongoing quantitative easing (QE) program. Janet Yellen gave what might be her last speech as head of the Federal Reserve.

As I told Daniela Cambone on last week’s Gold Game Film, there are some gold conspiracy theorists out there who believe the yellow metal gets knocked down every year before the annual summit so the government can look good. I wouldn’t exactly put money on that trade, but you can see there’s some evidence to support the claim. In most years going back to 2010, the metal did fall in the days leading up to the summit. Gold prices fell most sharply around this time in 2011 before rocketing back up to its all-time high of more than $1,900 an ounce.

Gold prices generally fell days before the annual economic symposium
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Many of the economic and political conditions that helped gold reach that level in 2011 are in effect today. That year, a similar Congressional skirmish over the debt ceiling led to Standard & Poor’s decision to lower the U.S. credit rating, from AAA to AA+, which in turn battered the dollar. The dollar’s recent weakness is similarly supporting gold prices.

In August 2011, the real, inflation-adjusted 10-year Treasury was yielding negative 0.59 percent on average, pushing investors out of government bonds and into gold. Because of low inflation, we might not be seeing negative 10-year yields right now, but the five-year is borderline while the two-year is definitely underwater. Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees gold surging to $1,400 an ounce by early next year on lower long-term U.S. interest rates. 

Are Government Inflation Numbers More “Fake News”?

If we use another inflation measure, though, yields of all durations look very negative. For years, ShadowStats has published alternate consumer price index (CPI) figures using the methodology that was used in 1980. According to economist John Williams, an expert in government economic reporting, “methodological shifts in government reporting have depressed reported inflation” over the years. The implication is that inflation might actually be running much higher than we realize, as you can see in the chart below.

Official US consumer inflation vs shadowstats alternate
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If you believe the alternate CPI numbers, it makes good sense to have exposure to gold.

Recently I shared with you that Ray Dalio—manager of Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund with $150 billion in assets—was one among several big-name investors who have added to their gold weighting in recent days on heightened political risk. That includes Congress’ possible failure to raise the debt ceiling and, consequently, a government shutdown. Dalio recommends as much as a 10 percent weighting in the yellow metal, which is in line with my own recommendation of 10 percent, with 5 percent in physical gold and 5 percent in gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

I urge you to watch this animated video about opportunities in quality gold mining stocks!

Falling Dollar Good for U.S. Trade

Returning to the dollar for a moment, respected CLSA equity strategist Christopher Wood writes in this week’s edition of GREED & fear that it’s “hard to believe that the political news flow in Washington has not been a factor in U.S. dollar weakness this year.”

The U.S. media certainly wants you to believe that Trump is bad for the dollar. Take a look at this chart, showing the dollar’s steady decline alongside President Donald Trump’s deteriorating favorability rating, according to a RealClearPolitics poll.

US dollar tracks trumps favorability down
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However, a weak dollar is good for America’s economy. I’ve commented before that Trump likes a falling dollar, because it is good for the country’s export trade of quality industrial products. It’s also good for commodities, which we see in a rising gold price and usually energy prices.

Ready for a Big Fight?

You might have watched the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight, but have you been watching the fight between Trump and the Fed?

At the symposium in Jackson Hole, Fed Chair Janet Yellen squared up directly against Trump when she defended the strict regulations that were put in place after the financial crisis. Echoing these comments was Dallas Fed chief Robert Kaplan. This is the opposite of what Trump has been calling for, which is the streamlining of regulations that threaten to strangle the formation of capital.

Hurricane Harvey

It’s important to recognize that the market is all about supply and demand. The number of public companies in the U.S. has been shrinking, with about half of the number of listed companies from 1996 to 2016. Readers have seen me comment on this previously, and I believe that the key reason for this shrinkage is the surge in federal regulations. The increasingly curious thing is that we are seeing the evolution of more indices than stocks, as the formation of capital must morph.

As I told CNBC Asia’s Martin Soong this week, there is a huge amount of money supply out there, and investors are looking for somewhere to invest. The smaller pool of stocks combined with the greater supply of money means that the market has seen all-time highs. In addition, major averages were regularly hitting all-time highs not necessarily on hopes that tax reform would get passed, but on strong corporate earnings, promising global economic growth and the weaker U.S. dollar.

Meanwhile, small-cap stocks are effectively flat for 2017 and heading for their worst year since 1998 relative to the market, according to Bloomberg. Hedge funds’ net short positions on the Russell 2000 Index have reached levels unseen since 2009. Remember, these are the firms that were expected to be among the biggest beneficiaries of Trump’s “America first” policies.

However, the weakness in U.S. manufacturing has a great impact on the growth of these stocks, as indicated by the falling purchasing managers’ index (PMI). The slowdown in manufacturing is offset by strength in services, shown by the Flash composite PMI score of 56.0 which came out this week. Though there is a spread between large-cap and small-cap stocks, historically this strong score is an indicator of growth to come.

Spread between large cap and small cap stocks continues to widen
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Some big-name investors and hedge fund managers are turning cautious on domestic equities in general. On Monday, Ray Dalio announced on LinkedIn that he was reducing his risk in U.S. markets because he’s “concerned about growing internal and external conflict leading to impaired government efficiency (e.g. inabilities to pass legislation and set policies).” Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman and Pimco’s Dan Ivascyn have also recently bought protection against market unrest, according to the Financial Times. Chris Wood is overweight Asia and emerging markets.

Stay Hopeful

It’s important to keep in mind that there will always be disruptions in the market, and adjustments to your portfolio will sometimes need to be made. For those of you who read my interview with the Oxford Club’s Alex Green, you might recall his “Gone Fishin’” portfolio, which I think is an excellent model to use—and it’s beaten the market for 16 years straight. Green’s portfolio calls for not just domestic equities, Treasuries and bonds but also 30 percent in foreign stocks and as much as 10 percent in real estate and gold.

Stay safe out there! In the meantime, explore investment opportunities in emerging markets!

 

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

The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The Russell 2000 Index is a U.S. equity index measuring the performance of the 2,000 smallest companies in the Russell 3000. The Russell 3000 Index consists of the 3,000 largest U.S. companies as determined by total market capitalization. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 blue chip stocks that are generally leaders in their industry.

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

The U.S. Dollar Index is an index (or measure) of the value of the United States dollar relative to a basket of foreign currencies, often referred to as a basket of U.S. trade partners' currencies.

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Is this the Start of a Hot New Metals Bull Market?
August 14, 2017

Aluminum metals

Major U.S. indices slid for a second straight week as President Donald Trump and North Korea both escalated their saber-rattling, with Kim Jong-un explicitly targeting Guam, home to a number of American military bases, and Trump tweeting Friday that “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded.” The S&P 500 Index fell 1.5 percent on Thursday, its largest one-day decline since May. Military stocks, however, were up, led by Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

As expected, the Fear Trade boosted gold on safe haven demand. The yellow metal finished the week just under $1,300, a level we haven’t seen since November 2016. Last week, Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, said it was time for investors to put between 5 and 10 percent of their portfolio in gold as a precaution against global and domestic geopolitical risks. The threat of nuclear war is at the top of everyone’s mind, but Dalio reminds us that our indecisive Congress could very well fail to agree on raising the debt ceiling next month, meaning a “good” government shutdown, as Trump once put it, would follow.

Dalio’s not the only one recommending gold right now. Speaking to CNBC last week, commodities expert Dennis Gartman, editor and publisher of the widely-read Gartman Letter, said that he believed “gold is about to break out on the upside strongly” in response to geopolitical risks and inflationary pressures. Gartman thinks investors should have between 10 and 15 percent of their portfolio in gold.

Government shutdowns haven’t always been harmful to the stock market—during the last one, in October 2013, stocks actually gained about 3 percent—but I agree that it might be prudent right now for investors to de-risk and ensure their portfolios include safe haven assets such as gold and municipal bonds. Dalio and Gartman’s allocation percentages mirror my own. For years, I’ve recommended a 10 percent weighting in gold, with 5 percent in bullion and 5 percent in high-quality gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

 

Analysts Bullish on Metals and Commodities

Weaker US Dollar helped commodities beat the market in july

click to enlarge

Like stocks, the U.S. dollar continued its slide last week. This has lent support not just to gold but also commodities, specifically industrial metals. The Bloomberg Commodity Index actually beat the market in July, the first time it’s done so this year.

If we look at the index’s constituents, we find that six metals—aluminum, copper, zinc, gold, silver and nickel—have been the top drivers of performance this year, thanks to a weaker dollar, China’s commitment to rein in oversupply and heightened demand. According to Bloomberg, an index of these six raw metals has jumped to its highest in more than two years.

Some market observers believe this is only the beginning. Guy Wolf, an analyst with Marex Spectron Group, told Bloomberg that he doesn’t “see anything” to make him doubt the firm’s belief that metals “are now in a bull market.”

“As people start to realize that the reasons for prices going up are robust and sustainable, that’s going to bring more money into the market,” Wolf added.

This bullish sentiment is shared by Mike McGlone, senior commodities analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, who writes that commodities’ strong performance in July  “could be the beginning of a trend.”

“Supported by demand exceeding supply, on the back of multiple years of declining prices, a peaking dollar should mark an inflection point for sustained commodity recovery,” McGlone says.

I can’t say whether we might eventually see the highs of the commodities supercycle in the 2000s, but this news is certainly constructive.

Aluminum Liftoff

The top performer right now is aluminum, up more than 20 percent year-to-date. Last week it breached $2,000 a tonne for the first time since December 2014 and is currently trading strongly above its 50-day and 200-day moving averages.

US ISM non-manufacturing PMI sinks to 11 month low in july
click to enlarge

Demand for aluminum is growing in the automotive and packaging industries, its two key markets. With consumers and governments demanding better fuel efficiency, automakers are increasingly turning to aluminum, which is around 40 percent lighter than steel. According to Ducker Worldwide, a market research firm, the amount of aluminum used to build each new vehicle will double between the early 2010s and 2025, eventually reaching 500 pounds. That’s up from only 100 pounds per vehicle, which was the case in the 1970s. Airline manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus are also expected to increase demand for the lightweight metal.

Supply-side conditions are also improving. Prices have struggled in recent years as China—which accounts for roughly 40 percent of world output—flooded the market with cheap, and often illegal, metal. Recently, however, the Asian giant has called for dramatic capacity cuts in a number of provinces. By the end of 2017, an estimated 4 million metric tons of capacity will have closed, or one-tenth of the country’s total annual output, according to MetalMiner.

Also supporting prices is the Commerce Department’s decision last week to slap duties on aluminum coming into the U.S. from a number of Chinese producers that were found to be heavily subsidized by the Chinese government.

The Virginia-based Aluminum Association applauded the decision, saying that its members “are very pleased with the Commerce Department’s finding and we greatly appreciate Secretary [Wilbur] Ross’s leadership in enforcing U.S. trade laws to combat unfair practices.”

The aluminum industry, the trade group says, supports more than 20,000 American jobs, both directly and indirectly, and accounts for $6.8 billion in economic activity.

Miners Getting Back to Work

There’s perhaps no greater signal of a shift in sentiment than an increase in mining activity as producers take advantage of higher prices. Bloomberg reported last week that the number of new holes drilled around the globe has accelerated for five straight quarters as of June. What’s more, drilling activity so far this quarter, as of August 7, suggests that number could extend to six quarters.

US ISM non-manufacturing PMI sinks to 11 month low in july
click to enlarge

I believe activity will only continue to expand as China pursues further large infrastructure projects, which will require even more raw materials such as aluminum, copper, zinc and other base metals. And I still have confidence that Trump and Congress can deliver on a grand infrastructure deal—the president has been turning up the heat on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, writing on Twitter that the Kentucky senator needs to “get back to work” and put “a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing.”

With government spending on infrastructure falling to a record low of 1.4 percent of GDP in the second quarter, such a bill would help modernize our nation’s roads, bridges, waterways and more. It would also serve as a huge bipartisan win for Trump, which he sorely needs to build up his political capital.

But beyond that, a $1 trillion infrastructure deal would greatly boost demand for metals and other raw materials, perhaps ushering in a new commodities supercycle.

 

 

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

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

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 6/30/2017: The Boeing Co., Airbus SE.

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Storm Advisory—What You Need to Know Now
August 7, 2017

Venezuela on the Brink - An Opportunity for Oil Investors?

In July, the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Non-Manufacturing Index fell to an 11-month low of 53.9, 3.5 points below its June reading of 57.4. The index measures the non-manufacturing, services industries such as food services, education, real estate, health care and more.

U.S. ISM Non-Manufacturing PMI sinks to 11-month low in July
click to enlarge

Economists had expected a reading closer to 56.9, so it’s safe to call this a disappointment. Although the index is still above the key 50 threshold, where it’s held for 91 straight months now, the slowdown suggests that “the economy may have lost some momentum going into the third quarter,” as Capital Economics’ Andrew Hunter said in a note last week.

Following this report, it’s possible we’ll see the U.S. dollar rally before pulling back even further. Having hit a 15-month low last week, the dollar looks oversold and ready for a “retracement,” as CLSA’s Christopher Wood put it.

“It remains remarkable how weak the dollar has been so far this year given the Fed’s surprisingly hawkish rhetoric and given that its latest statement last week still suggests that the American central bank intends to commence balance sheet contraction next quarter,” Wood wrote in the latest “GREED and fear.”

New York Post Survivor White House

I’ll have more to add on the Fed’s balance sheet later. 

July was the dollar’s fifth consecutive month of losses, the longest such stretch since December 2010 through April 2011. As I said in a Frank Talk last week, the major contributing factor to the greenback’s slide is political uncertainty surrounding President Donald Trump and Congress. Not only did the Obamacare repeal and replace bill fail (again), but Trump’s White House continues to look like a revolving-door workplace, with the foul-mouthed Anthony Scaramucci pushed out as communications director last week after only 10 days on the job. This reportedly came at the urging of brand new chief of staff John Kelly, who recently replaced Reince Priebus.

But it’s no secret that Trump favors a weaker currency. Since he declared that the dollar was “getting too strong” back in April, it’s lost close to 8 percent of its value against a basket of several other currencies. Add to this the disappointing ISM report, weakening automobile sales and slightly lower-than-hoped-for GDP growth in the second quarter, and it seems less and less likely we’ll see more than one additional rate hike in 2017.

Economic Growth Revised Down

On Friday, the Labor Department announced the U.S. economy added a robust 209,000 jobs in July, beating the consensus, while the unemployment rate dropped even further to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent.

Wage growth, however, remained pretty flat, which is a concern. Consumption is the number one driver of economic growth in the U.S., and if American workers aren’t getting raises, they’re not spending more.

All of this is spurring some economists to rethink their U.S. growth estimates. In its World Economic Outlook for July, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised down its domestic economic growth forecast, from 2.3 percent to 2.1 percent in 2017, and from 2.5 percent to 2.1 percent in 2018. The Washington-based fund attributes this revision to “the assumption that fiscal policy will be less expansionary than previously assumed, given the uncertainty about the timing and nature of U.S. fiscal policy changes.”

IMF economists, in other words, have doubts that tax reform, deregulation or an infrastructure package will be coming anytime soon.

We’ll see if they’re right. After the August recess, Congress plans to tackle tax reform, which the U.S. sorely needs. I hope lawmakers can come together and pass a comprehensive bill this fall that will deliver some relief to American workers, families and corporations.

Fed to Take Away the Punchbowl

Big changes could be coming on the monetary side this fall as well. In an address to the Economic Club of Las Vegas last week, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco John Williams said the Fed will likely begin the process of monetary normalization as soon as next quarter. This includes unwinding the Fed’s $4.5 trillion balance sheet, composed of long-term Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). The process could take up to four years to complete.

Federal reserve expected to begin unwinding its balance sheet this fall
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Now that “we’ve finally recovered from the recession,” Williams said, it’s time for the private and public sectors to “step up and take the lead in making the investments and enacting policies needed to improve the longer-term prospects of our economy and society.”

I agree 100 percent. For nearly 10 years now we’ve seen an imbalance in monetary and fiscal policies, with the economy and stock market being propped up by cheap credit.

There’s a historical risk in the Fed reducing its balance sheet, though. The central bank has embarked on this reduction six times in the past—in 1921-1922, 1928-1930, 1937, 1941, 1948-1950 and 2000—and all but one episode ended in recession.

That’s according to research firm MKM Partners, whose chief economist, Mike Darda, urged attendees of a Fidelity event in May to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

New York Post Survivor White House

“My opinion is that business cycles don’t just end accidentally,” Darda said. “They are killed by the Fed. If the Fed tightens enough to induce a recession, that’s the end of the business cycle.”

So how can investors prepare?

“Obviously, diversification is important,” Darda said, highlighting municipal bonds and emerging markets. “But my focus there would be on the commodity-importing emerging markets.”

Fidelity’s Julian Potenza seconded Darda’s emphasis of muni bonds, saying “investors should consider keeping the portion of their fixed-income portfolio that is currently earmarked for liquidity relatively short, in terms of duration.”

Indeed, shorter-duration, tax-free munis have a history of delivering positive returns even during economic downturns and in environments of rising and lowering interest rates.

 

As for emerging markets, CLSA reported last week that international ETF inflows so far this year are outpacing domestic U.S. ETF inflows, $103 billion to $86 billion. The brokerage and investment firm recommended an overweight position in emerging markets, specifically Europe ex-U.K.

Tech Stocks a Third of Market Gains in 2017

For the second quarter, close to a record 75 percent of S&P 500 Index companies are beating not just sales estimates but also earnings per share (EPS) estimates, according to FactSet data. What’s more, they’re beating these estimates by wider margins than historical second-quarter averages.

Record 73% of s&p 500 companies have beaten sales estimates in second quarter
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Granted, only around 60 percent of companies have reported as of this writing, but the news is impressive nonetheless.

How much of this is due to euphoria over Trump’s pro-growth fiscal agenda, and how much to a weakening U.S. dollar? That’s difficult to say, but no one can argue the fact that American multinationals are benefiting from a weaker dollar, which makes their exports more competitive globally. Apple, which generated 61 percent of its revenue from foreign markets in the second quarter, just reported an all-time quarterly services revenue record. “Services,” which includes Apple Music, iTunes, iCloud and Apple Pay, brought in an astounding $7.3 billion, up from $6 billion during the same quarter last year.

Speaking of Apple, it’s one of only five U.S. stocks that, together, are responsible for a third of the market’s gains in 2017, the other four being Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet (Google). As you can see below, information technology is up close to 22 percent year-to-date, followed by health care at 15.5 percent.

tech stocks disproportionately driving market gains
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The reason I share this with you is because, while the market appears to be seeing solid growth right now, it’s being propelled disproportionately by only a handful of tech stocks. The S&P 500 is up 10.6 percent, but if we remove information technology, it’s up only around 7.5 percent. This makes the market vulnerable, should those stocks see a correction.

And that’s why I believe it’s particularly important to stay diversified, as Mike Darda said—diversified in emerging markets, which offer attractive valuations; muni bonds; and, as always, gold and gold stocks.

 

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 ISM Nonmanufacturing index based on surveys of more than 400 non-manufacturing firms' purchasing and supply executives, within 60 sectors across the nation, by the Institute of Supply Management (ISM). The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index tracks economic data, like the ISM Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index. A composite diffusion index is created based on the data from these surveys that monitors economic conditions of the nation.

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

Earnings per share (EPS) is a figure describing a public company's profit per outstanding share of stock, calculated on a quarterly or annual basis. EPS is arrived at by taking a company's quarterly or annual net income and dividing by the number of its shares of stock outstanding.

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

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 6/30/2017: Apple Inc.

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Net Asset Value
as of 09/19/2017

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $5.83 0.02 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $7.96 0.09 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $6.75 0.07 China Region Fund USCOX $11.32 0.01 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $7.02 -0.03 All American Equity Fund GBTFX $24.33 -0.04 Holmes Macro Trends Fund MEGAX $19.84 -0.13 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.23 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $2.00 No Change