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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.

Texas Gold Investors Just Got Their Own Fort Knox
June 11, 2018

Global sales of semiconductors crossed above 400 billion for fisrt time in 2017

If you live in Texas and have any extra gold bars, coins and/or jewelry lying around that need safekeeping, you’re in luck. The Texas Bullion Depository, the first of its kind in the U.S., officially opened to the public in Austin last week, putting a cap on three years of planning and construction. The private firm managing the facility, Lone Star Tangible Assets, calls it the “world’s most advanced depository.”

This is wonderful news. Because Texas is such a trend-setting state, it might encourage other states to look into creating their own depositories. It also has the potential to attract even more investors to precious metals, which I believe are crucial components of any well diversified portfolio. As I’ve shown before, gold has little to no correlation with other assets such as equities, cash and Treasuries.

That makes the yellow metal especially favorable—now more than at any time since the financial crisis. We’re in the second longest economic expansion since World War II, and some experts see another recession as soon as 2020. A new survey by the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) finds that half a panel of 45 “professional forecasters” believe the next recession could occur between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020.

Although I don’t necessarily agree with this assessment, it’s important to recognize the risks and headwinds and prepare accordingly.

“Troubled” Deutsche Has $1.7 Trillion in Assets

Among the most headline-worthy risks is the uncertain survival of Deutsche Bank. Shares of Germany’s biggest lender have plummeted following a first quarter report showing net income fell some 80 percent from a year ago, as well as news that the Federal Reserve downgraded the bank’s U.S. operations to “troubled.”

could deutsche bank be another lehman
click to enlarge

Many analysts are already making the dubious comparison between Deutsche and Lehman Brothers, the storied American financial services firm whose bankruptcy nearly 10 years ago set off the global financial crisis. At the time of its filing, Lehman had approximately $639 billion in assets. As of the end of last year, Deutsche controlled more than double that amount — $1.7 trillion — meaning its failure could be catastrophic to global financial markets.

Ideas are currently being floated to save the distressed bank, including a German government bailout and a merger with rival Commerzbank, but nothing is guaranteed.

Record Student Debt

Starbucks CEO Schultz debt is the greatest economic threat to the United States

Something else I’m keeping my eye on is the ever-growing mountain of government and household debt. Howard Schultz, the outgoing billionaire executive chairman of Starbucks, told CNBC last week that he considered national debt to be the greatest threat to the U.S.

“I think the greatest threat domestically to the country is this $21 trillion debt hanging over the cloud of America and future generations,” Schultz said, adding to speculation that the former Starbucks chief is considering a presidential run in 2020.

I couldn’t agree more with Schultz on this point. I should add that higher interest rates are making servicing this debt even more costly than it already is. No one is off the hook.

Household debt is also ballooning out of control, and today, student loan debt stands at more than $1.5 trillion. Student debt is now the largest form of debt in the U.S. after mortgages. It’s bigger than auto loan debt and credit card debt. Even more alarming is that an estimated 20 percent of borrowers right now are behind on their payments.

US outstanding student loan debt now stands at 1.5 trillion dollars
click to enlarge

Negative Interest Rates in America?

Between Deutsche and student debt, the implications are enormous. They also highlight my recommendation that investors have approximately 10 percent in gold, with half of that in physical bullion and the other half in high-quality gold mining stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

As I said earlier, the investment case for gold is highly appealing right now. Should another recession happen anytime soon, the Federal Reserve at present would be hamstrung to offer monetary accommodation.

That’s according to a recent post by my colleague James Rickards, who writes that it’s historically taken between 3 percent and 5 percent in interest rate cuts to pull the U.S. out of a recession.

The problem with this is that the federal funds rate currently sits at 1.75 percent. You do the math.

Were a recession to strike tomorrow, the Fed would have very little wiggle room to ease monetary policy. It could cut rates exactly 1.75 percent, but then it would hit zero and “be out of bullets,” as Rickards says.

Of course, the Fed could dip rates into negative territory, which—in theory—should spur consumer spending. Better to spend your cash on that new boat, the thinking goes, than be punished for letting it sit in the bank. But there’s evidence negative rates haven’t worked as expected to prop up the economies that have experimented with them—notably Japan, Switzerland, Sweden and the eurozone.

And because there’s really no easier way to destroy wealth than with negative interest rates, I would expect gold investment demand to get a massive jolt.

This is precisely why German investors have quietly become the world’s biggest buyers of gold. Until recently, Germany wasn’t known as a nation of gold bugs. But following the financial crisis, the European Central Bank (ECB) slashed rates, and banks began charging customers to hold their cash. Yields on German bonds went subzero. Today, the five-year bond will cost you more than 20 basis points.

For many Germans, the only reliable store of value was gold. Investors ploughed as much as $8 billion into gold coins, bars and exchange-traded commodities in 2016, the most recent year of available data. Demand for safety deposit boxes surged.

I’m curious to see if the same will happen at the Texas Bullion Depository.

Gold ETFs Have Attracted $1 Billion a Month So Far in 2018

The latest report from the World Gold Council (WGC) shows that inflows into global gold ETFs in May were mostly solid. European gold funds grew by 26 metric tons, or $1.2 billion, as geopolitical uncertainty weakened the euro against the dollar. And in Asia, gold ETFs rose by 21 metric tons, or $862 million, a phenomenal 20 percent increase from the previous month. These gains were offset somewhat by net outflows from North American funds as a strong U.S. dollar pushed the price of gold below $1,300 an ounce.

So far this year, gold ETFs have attracted nearly $5 billion, or approximately $1 billion per month.

gold ETF flows were strong in may despite subdued metal prices
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This pace can be maintained for the rest of year, I believe, especially now that it looks as if the U.S. dollar has peaked. Since its 2018 high on May 29, the greenback has already lost close to 1.5 percent. This affords gold more upside potential as we head closer to Diwali and the Indian wedding season, when gifts of gold jewelry are considered auspicious.

 

 

 

Some links above may be directed to third-party websites. U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by these websites and is not responsible for their content. All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor.

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 3/31/2018.

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Gold, World War II and Operation Fish
June 5, 2018

Darkest Hour I recently had the opportunity to see the excellent 2017 film Darkest Hour, about British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s struggle to keep the United Kingdom in the fight against the Nazis, even as members of his own government pressured him to capitulate. Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the tough-as-nails leader is at turns tender and rousing—and very well deserving of the Best Actor Oscar.

I’d recommend the film to anyone, whether they’re a student of World War II or not.

It got me thinking, though, about the important role gold played in how the war was financed, as well as the U.K.’s daring efforts to prevent its gold holdings from falling into Adolf Hitler’s hands, should Nazi forces successfully invade the island and ransack its central bank. After all, Germany had done as much in a number of Central European countries before threatening the U.K.

Although not directly addressed in Darkest Hour, the U.K. ended up evacuating billions of dollars’ worth of gold bullion and other assets across the Atlantic, all to be kept safely in Canada. The mission, codenamed “Operation Fish,” is still the largest movement of physical wealth in history.

Germany’s Economic Straits

So why was Hitler so interested in acquiring gold?

To answer that, we really need to go back to the 1920s. At the time, Germany was in serious economic straits. It faced unprecedented hyperinflation, among the very worst such incidents in world history.

This was clearly a problem for Hitler, who, soon after being appointed Reich Chancellor in 1933, set in motion the remilitarization of Germany, in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Because the Western European country is not particularly resource-rich—the one exception is coal—everything from aluminum to zinc would have to be imported to manufacture the guns, tanks, ships, and warplanes needed to wage an extended conflict in the age of advanced machines.

But this was the Great Depression, which had suffocated the German economy as much as it had the United States’. Unemployment climbed to as high as 30 percent. In his inaugural address via radio, Hitler vowed to “achieve the great task of reorganizing our nation’s economy” through “a concerted and all-embarking attack against unemployment.”

Much like Roosevelt’s New Deal in the U.S., Hitler’s government tackled unemployment by dipping into deficit spending. It financed great public works projects such as the autobahn, railroad, housing and more.

The plan worked. Within four years, just as promised, unemployment was virtually thwarted. It’s been said that, had Hitler stopped in 1936 or 1937, he might today be remembered as one of the 20th century’s most admired leaders.

However, Hitler assumed a much more aggressive stance toward national rearmament in an effort to reclaim lost dignity—the Treaty of Versailles be damned. What stood in his way was not only his country’s lack of natural resources but also the fact that many supplier nations would not accept Germany’s worthless currency. They insisted instead to be paid in their own currency; some other international, convertible currency such as Swiss francs or U.S. dollars; or hard currency.    

How then would Germany pay for Sweden’s iron ore? Romania’s oil? Turkey’s chromium? Portugal’s tungsten and Spain’s manganese?

Enter gold.

In Gold We Trust

Before we continue, I want to make it clear that Hitler had no respect for the yellow metal, any more than he had for human life. Gold as a currency is built on trust, of which Hitler had none. He hated the metal and all it stands for—but he needed it to push forward his rearmament strategy.

during world war II, Germany's suppliers preferred gold to the reichsmark

Walther Funk, the Reich’s minister of economics and president of the country’s central Reichsbank, echoed this resentfulness at having to rely on gold:

“As far as currency is concerned, gold is unimportant to us,” Funk said in 1940. “We don’t need it as backing for a currency—which is being managed by price, volume, and wage control—but only to pay clearing balances.” 

In other words: We have absolutely no need for gold—until we need it.

But here another problem emerged: Just as it had few natural resources of its own, Germany laid claim to a relatively small gold reserve. In 1933, the Reich’s official holdings stood at only $109 million—not nearly enough to finance the kind of force Hitler envisioned.

The Greatest Gold Heist in History

So began the Reich’s looting of Europe’s gold reserves, beginning with Austria’s in 1938. At the time, Germany’s coffers were nearly empty. The infusion of Austria’s 90 to 100 metric tons of hard currency gave Hitler the boost he needed to continue his plundering.

Today we remember the Nazi’s gold heist as “one of the greatest thefts by a government in history,” in the words of Ambassador and Undersecretary of Commerce Stuart E. Eizenstat, spoken during his 1997 hearing on the status of Holocaust assets. Although estimates vary, and although the gold price fluctuates over time, it’s believed that as much as $600 million—now valued in the billions—were seized from the central banks and vaults of neighboring, occupied countries, including Austria, Poland, Belgium, Holland and the Netherlands. Millions more in silver, platinum, diamonds, artwork and other assets were stolen as well.

Operation Fish

Not every country’s hoard was pilfered, however. Once it was clear what the Nazis were up to, many outlying European countries had the prudence and foresight to secure their own reserves and keep them falling into Hitler’s hands.

And this is where we catch up with the timeline in Darkest Hour. In July 1940, as fears of a Nazi invasion intensified by the day, the U.K. shipped as much as 1,500 metric tons in gold—worth a mind-boggling $160 billion in 2017 dollars—across the Atlantic to be stored in Canada’s central bank in Ottawa.

one of the gold-bearing ships, the HMS enterprise

Codenamed “Operation Fish,” the evacuation was one of the greatest gambles ever. Writes Ottawa-based historian James Powell:

The only way to transport the tons of gold and securities was by ship across the U-boat infested North Atlantic, where 100 Allied and neutral merchant ships had been sunk in May 1940 alone. History was also not reassuring. During World War I, the SS Laurentic, carrying 43 tons of gold from Liverpool to Halifax, had been sunk in 1917 by a German U-boat off of Ireland. The loss of even one treasure ship would have major negative consequences. To buy weapons and other war materiel that it sorely needed from neutral United States, Britain had to pay in gold or U.S. dollars; no credit was permitted under the strict Neutrality Act in effect in the United States at that time.

Britain’s gamble paid off. Every last ingot made it safely across the Atlantic and was prevented from being used by the Nazis to extend their reign of terror a single day longer.

Germany Today a Gold Powerhouse

Although Hitler’s goals were despicable, his absolute need for gold reflects the precious metal’s centuries-long role as a widely accepted and trusted currency.

It’s a lesson Germany hasn’t forgotten, even today.

The country’s official gold holdings stand at 3,372 metric tons, more than any other except the U.S. Gold represents a whopping 70 percent of its foreign reserves—again, second only to the U.S. This has helped Germany become one of the most powerful and stable economies in the world.

More recently, Germany has emerged as the world’s largest gold investor. Although China and India still outpace the European country in total amount of gold consumed, Germans are ploughing more money into gold coins, bars and exchange-traded commodities (ETCs).

Interested in reading more about the history of gold? Check out some of my other posts below!

 

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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GO GOLD! Inflationary Tariffs Could Supercharge the Yellow Metal
June 4, 2018

Global sales of semiconductors crossed above 400 billion for fisrt time in 2017

Ready for inflation?

Just days after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reassured markets that a trade war between the U.S. and China was “on hold,” the Trump administration announced that it would be moving forward with plans to impose 25 percent tariffs on as much as $50 billion worth of Chinese exports to the U.S. Beijing has already suggested that it will retaliate in kind.

The White House also reinstated tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union (EU) after allowing earlier exemptions to expire. Again, there’s a big chance the U.S. will see some sort of tit-for-tat response.

Steel prices are already up 45 percent from a year ago. The annual change in the price of a new vehicle in the U.S. has been dropping steadily since last summer, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, but with the cost of materials set to rise dramatically, we could see a price reversal sooner rather than later.

US midwest hot rolled steel price up 45 percent from last year
click to enlarge

Next up, the U.S. government could slap steep tariffs on imported automobiles—and possibly even ban German luxury vehicles outright, according to a report by German business news magazine WirtschaftsWoche.

These decisions, if fully implemented, will have a multitude of implications on the U.S. and world economies. What I can say with full confidence, though, is that prices will rise—for producers and consumers alike—which is good for gold but a headwind for continued economic growth.

You Can’t Suck and Blow at the Same Time

US midwest hot rolled steel price up 45 percent from last year

Let me explain. I’ve often said that middle class taxpayers elected Trump president by and large to take on entrenched bureaucrats, cut the red tape and streamline regulations. People are fed up. A study last year by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that government workers not only earn more on average than private-sector workers with similar educational backgrounds, they’re also guaranteed health, retirement and other benefits. Trump responded to these concerns by signing an executive order that eased the firing of federal workers.

He’s kept his word in other ways. Since being in office, he’s already eliminated five federal rules on average for every new rule created, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). He’s weakened Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, not to mention slashed corporate taxes.

In 2017, the number of pages in the Federal Register, the official list of administrative regulations, dropped to 61,950 from 97,069 the previous year. This is especially good news for productivity. Research firm Cornerstone Macro found that Americans were more productive when there were fewer rules, less productive when there were more rules. 

productivity decreased as the number of federal rules and regulations grew
click to enlarge

These are all positive developments that should help boost the economy. The problem is that they could be undermined by tariffs, which are essentially regulations. We believe government policy is a precursor to change, and history suggests that rising tariffs and regulations hurt the economy.

Consider automobiles. U.S. automakers are the second largest consumer of steel following construction. In March, the Wall Street Journal estimated that the tariffs could add at least $300 to each new vehicle sold in the U.S. And speaking to Bloomberg last week, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will make cars more expensive. “These tariffs will result in an increase in the price of domestically produced steel—threatening the industry’s global competitiveness and raising vehicle costs for our customers,” Gloria Bergquist said.

Do tariffs on imported vehicles threaten united states auto sales
click to enlarge

Higher Inflation Has Historically Meant Higher Gold Prices

The good news in all this is that higher inflation has historically been supportive of the price of gold. In the years when inflation was 3 percent or higher, annual gold returns were 15 percent on average, according to the World Gold Council (WGC).

gold has historically rallied in periods of high inflation
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When gold hit its all-time high of $1,900 an ounce in August 2011, consumer prices were up nearly 4 percent from the same time the previous year. The two-year Treasury yield, meanwhile, averaged only 0.21 percent, meaning the T-note was delivering a negative real yield and investors were paying the U.S. government to hang on to their money. This created a favorable climate for gold, as investors sought a safe haven asset that would at least beat inflation.

CIBC: Major Gold Firms to Generate Strong Free Cash Flow and ROIC

gold has historically rallied in periods of high inflation

Finally, I want to draw attention to an exciting research report released last week by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). I’m a huge admirer of the work CIBC does, especially that of Cosmos Chiu, director of precious metals equity research. Chiu and his team write that the “future looks brighter” for gold equities on improved free cash flow and return on invested capital (ROIC). Both factors are among our favorites. I recently shared with you a chart that shows that, over the past 30 years, ROIC outperformed other factors by as much as one and half times.

With gold trading near $1,300 an ounce, producers are currently posting positive margins, according to CIBC. As a result, every stock in the bank’s large-cap universe, with the exception of Kinross, is expected to generate positive free cash flow through 2019.

Go Gold! Royalty/Streaming Companies Deliver the Profits

The bank has even better news for royalty and streaming companies, particularly Franco-Nevada, Royal Gold and Wheaton Precious Metals. For one, the three big royalty names delivered combined shareholder returns of 6.2 percent between 2013 and 2017, outperforming both senior producers and physical gold.

Three largest royalty and streaming companies forecast to deliver strong return on invested capital
click to enlarge

Now, CIBC forecasts the royalty group will generate strong ROICs, “steadily inching higher over the next decade… to average between the 5 percent and 8 percent mark from 2018 – 2023.” ROIC measures how well a company can turn its invested capital into profits.  

Loyal readers already know we’ve long been fans of Franco-Nevada, Wheaton Precious Metals and other royalty/streaming names. 

 

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. Some links above may be directed to third-party websites. U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by these websites and is not responsible for their content.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of (03/31/2018): Franco-Nevada Corp., Royal Gold Inc., Wheaton Precious Metals Corp.

Free cash flow is the cash a company produces through its operations, less the cost of expenditures on assets. In other words, free cash flow or FCF is the cash left over after a company pays for its operating expenses and capital expenditures or CAPEX.

Return on invested capital (ROIC) is a profitability ratio. It measures the return that an investment generates for those who have provided capital, i.e. bondholders and stockholders. ROIC tells us how good a company is at turning capital into profits.

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Spinning Italy's Distressed Debt into Gold
May 30, 2018

Spinning Italy’s Distressed Debt into Gold

Serious gold investors know that May has historically been a weak month for the price of the yellow metal. For the 10-year and 30-year periods, the month delivered negative returns. The general decline in enthusiasm comes before the late summer rally in anticipation of Diwali and the Indian wedding season, when gifts of gold are considered auspicious. In the past, the fifth month has provided an attractive buying opportunity.

This particular May, the price of gold also had to contend with a stronger U.S. dollar, which appreciated against the euro as political strife in Italy spread throughout the entire continent. Priced in euros, then, gold is performing well, having closed at a nearly one-year high of 1,125 euros on May 29.

gold priced in euros at one-year high on political uncertainty in Italy
click to enlarge

Italian government bond yields surged dramatically following President Sergio Mattarella’s decision to block the opposition parties’ pick for economic minister, a euroskeptic who supports Italy’s exit from the eurozone. The two-year bond in particular plunged the most since the creation of the bloc’s common currency in 1999.

italian government borrowing costs surge
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With no working government at the moment, it appears likely that Italy will hold another election soon, raising the odds that either the Five-Star Movement or the League—both populist, anti-establishment parties—could take control. Although at opposite ends of the political spectrum, the two parties have expressed interest in at least opening an earnest discussion on the idea of ditching the euro.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Italy’s appetite for change fits into what I see as a global trend right now. Based on what I’ve heard during my travels, middle class taxpayers, in the U.S. and elsewhere, are increasingly fed up with special interests and entrenched bureaucrats. As a result, the U.K. elected to end its complicity with failed socialist rules and regulations from Brussels. Donald Trump, an outsider and disruptor, was recognized by American voters as the right candidate to take on the beltway party.

Similarly, it’s possible that Italy could end up being next to say addio to further European Union (EU) control and take back its own economic and political destiny.

That said, the fear of another government debt crisis, similar to Greece’s, has naturally rattled markets. Because Italy, the eurozone’s third-largest economy, already has the highest debt-to-GDP in the bloc after Greece, and because Five-Star and the League both support ending austerity and challenging Brussels’ limits on government borrowing and spending, financials were the worst performing sector in the U.S. market, falling close to 4.5 percent for the week ended May 29. The Euro Stoxx Banks Index was down 5 percent for the same period. Italian banks fared even worse, collapsing nearly 25 percent since their high in late April.

italian banks get crushed
click to enlarge

Gold Seeing a Boost on Safe Haven Demand

Gold is trading above $1,300 an ounce again, but there could be bigger upside the more investors realize the full and global implications of Italy’s political turmoil.

The country’s public debt currently stands at 132 percent of GDP, and ratings agencies are reviewing a possible downgrade of its credit rating. Should it default on its billions of dollars in loans, a chain reaction could quickly spread to financial markets all over the world.

This is a worst-case scenario, but it’s for these reasons I think it’s prudent to have a 10 percent weighting in gold, with 5 percent in physical gold and the other 5 percent in high-quality gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

 

The EURO STOXX Banks Index is a free float market capitalization index which covers 30 stocks of banks market sector leaders mainly from 12 eurozone countries: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. The FTSE Italia All-Share Banks Index is a free float market capitalization index of Italian banks.

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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Blockchain Will Completely Revolutionize How We Mine Gold and Precious Metals
May 21, 2018

Global sales of semiconductors crossed above 400 billion for fisrt time in 2017

Last week I had the pleasure to attend Consensus 2018 in New York, the premiere gathering for the who’s who in blockchain, bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Attendance doubled from last year to an estimated 8,500 people, all of them packed in a Hilton built for only 3,000. Ticket sales alone pulled in a whopping $17 million, while event booths—the largest of which belonged to Microsoft and IBM—generated untold millions more.

The entire three-day conference, hosted by crypto news outlet CoinDesk, had the energy and flair of the world’s greatest carnival. Sleek lambos sat outside the hotel, attracting all sorts of gawkers. Passersby also stopped and stared at the “bankers against bitcoin” protest, conceived and funded by Genesis Mining, one of the largest bitcoin mining companies. (You can read my interview with Genesis cofounder and CEO Marco Streng here.)

Bankers agaisnt Bitcoin protest

The same money went to finance bitcoin awareness billboards outside the Omaha office of Warren Buffett, who recently bashed the cryptocurrency, calling it “rat poison squared.”

“Warren,” the billboards read, “you said you were wrong about Google and Amazon. Maybe you’re wrong about Bitcoin?”

Warren Buffet billboard Bitcoin Genesis Mining

Bringing #BitcoinAwareness to the Masses

That Buffett has a negative opinion of bitcoin shouldn’t surprise anyone. The “Oracle of Omaha” has famously been averse to emerging technology and tech stocks he doesn’t fully understand, including Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others. But he’s changed his mind in the past after he’s seen the value these companies provide.

I’m old enough to remember when Buffett was vehemently against airline stocks. The industry was a “death trap” for investors, he once said. Today, his company Berkshire Hathaway is one of the top holders of stock in the big four carriers—United Continental, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines. He even told CNBC he “wouldn’t rule out owning an entire airline.”

Obviously there’s a world of difference between airline stocks and bitcoin—although blockchain, the technology that bitcoin is built on top of, is already being used in aviation to increase transparency in aircraft manufacturing and maintenance. All I’m saying is I wouldn’t rule out bitcoin, or cryptocurrencies in general, just because Buffett isn’t a fan. He doesn’t like gold as an investment either, and that hasn’t stopped it from being one of the most liquid assets on the planet.

The Future of Gold Mining (And Investing)  

But back to Consensus. It wasn’t all fun and games, and there were some serious discussions on how governments might one day use cryptocurrencies; the future of bitcoin mining; and blockchain applications in finance, health care, insurance, energy and more. As I explain in last week’s Frank Talk Live, charitable giving is down because donors are increasingly concerned about fraud. Blockchain can help validate where your money is going.

I would include the mining industry to that list. Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize how gold and precious metals are manufactured and delivered. Consider the journey a gold nugget must take along its supply chain, from mine to end consumer—it cuts through several other industries and practices, including legal, regulatory, financial, manufacturing and retail, each of which might have its own ledger system.

These ledgers are vulnerable to hacking, fraud, errors and misinterpretations. They can be forged, for example, to conceal how the metal or mineral was sourced.

With blockchain technology, there’s no hiding anything. Decentralization guarantees complete transparency, meaning anyone along the supply chain can see how, when and where the metal was produced, and who was involved every step of the way.

This will give the industry a huge shot of trust, not to mention dramatically increase efficiency.

Many producers, tech firms and entire jurisdictions have already adopted, or plan to adopt, blockchain technology for these very reasons. IAMGOLD, a Toronto-based producer, announced last month that it partnered with Tradewind Markets, a fintech firm that uses blockchain technology to facilitate digital gold trading. IBM just helped launch a diamond and jewelry blockchain consortium, TrustChain, that will track and authenticate diamonds, metals and jewelry from all over the world. And sometime this year, the Democratic Republic of Congo will begin tracking cobalt supply from mines to ensure children were not involved.

With precious metals being used more widely in industrial applications, from smartphones to electric cars to Internet of Things (IoT) appliances, tracking metals across the supply chain has become increasingly more important to businesses and consumers. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), global sales of semiconductors—which contain various metals, including gold—crossed above $400 billion for the first time in 2017. Total sales were $412.2 billion, an increase of nearly 22 percent from the previous year.

That’s a lot of metal and other materials that blockchain tech can help authenticate.

Global sales of semiconductors crossed above 400 billion for fisrt time in 2017
click to enlarge

Before I get off this topic, I want to mention that blockchain is also bringing change to gold investment. Consider Royal Mint Gold (RMG), which aims to provide the “performance of the London Gold Market with the transparency of an exchange-traded security.” There’s also the Perth Mint’s InfiniGold, which issues digital certificates guaranteeing ownership of gold and silver in the mint’s vault. A number of other platforms exist to help facilitate gold trading.

Should even one of these become hugely popular, it “could be as big a change to the gold markets as the development of ETFs, but with the added advantage of appealing to younger generations,” according to the World Gold Council’s (WGC) chief strategist, John Reade.

Who Says Size Matters?

The small-cap Russell 2000 Index closed at its third straight record high on Friday after putting up bigger gains than the larger-cap S&P 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average.   

the russel 2000 index hit a new all-time high
click to enlarge

As I’ve explained before, President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies and low corporate tax and regulatory environment strongly favor small-cap stocks. Investors hate uncertainty, which is precisely what the market is feeling with regard to tariffs and global trade. Because small-cap companies don’t rely as heavily on overseas markets as huge multinationals do, it’s little wonder why we’re seeing money flow into the Angie’s Lists and Yelps of the world right now.

 

The Russell 2000 Index is a small-cap stock market index of the bottom 2,000 stocks in the Russell 3000 Index. The index is maintained by FTSE Russell, a subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange Group. The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 blue chip stocks that are generally leaders in their industry.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of (03/31/2018): IAMGOLD Corp., United Continental Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., American Airlines Group Inc.

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 05/20/2019

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