- May 9, 2013
- Basking in Berkshire Hathaway’s Glow
If you look toward Nebraska over farm fields, cottonwoods and goldenrods, the state is likely still radiating from the 30,000 people who descended upon a quiet Midwest town last weekend.
What’s the draw pulling investors away from their busy weekend routines?
This year, I discovered the allure of the annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting, as U.S. Global’s director of research John Derrick, our president Susan McGee, and I were among the thousands of guests who headed to Destination Omaha.
The two-day event was as exhilarating as attending a San Antonio Spurs basketball game, with fans cheering for American capitalism. CenturyLink Center was packed with investors who had as much fervor for gaining tidbits of wisdom and insights from Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger as spectators have when watching their favorite star players in action.
Investors were equally enthusiastic to shop, as a nearly 200,000 square foot center was filled with Berkshire subsidiaries peddling their goods that ranged from books to diamonds to insurance. In his latest shareholder letter, Buffett says in 2012, guests bought more than 1,000 pairs of Justin boots, 10,000 pounds of See’s candy, nearly 13,000 Quikut knives and nearly 6,000 pairs of Wells Lamont gloves. “Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness simply hasn’t shopped at our meeting,” writes Buffett.
In Omaha, I’d say it’s not only money buying happiness, it’s also the fun that Berkshire Hathaway and its subsidiaries had with their own promotional images, as well as of Buffett and Munger. I found rubber duckies donning suits, grey hair and glasses, and cardboard cutouts bearing a striking resemblance to the investment managers.
What I especially enjoyed was the banter between Buffett and Munger, as they took lighthearted jabs at one another, disagreed and debated politics and investments. Each man stands by his own achievements, philosophies and beliefs, yet together they’ve built a successful empire that is now the fifth most valuable company in the U.S.
I have always admired Buffett’s down-to-earth style and his composure and sensibility toward the stock market and have often encouraged investors to mind his wisdom in times of market volatility.
During the meeting this year, he said that many people fret over where interest rates are heading or what the outcome of today’s unprecedented monetary policy will be.
Buffett says investors should think of the markets like a movie with a surprise ending. You don’t know how it will end, so keep on investing and enjoy the moment now.
None of U.S. Global Investors Funds held any of the securities mentioned as of 3/31/13.
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- May 6, 2013
- Don’t Sell in May: Here are Reasons to Extend Your Stay
During the first week of May every year, the maxim, “Sell in May and Go Away,” gets taken out, dusted off and powered up as a reason to sell stocks. The rhyme is more than just a catchy urban legend: June, July, August and September have historically been the weakest months of the year for the S&P 500 Index.
Yet even if seasons trigger certain events, when the snow falls in Minnesota in May, Midwesterners need to throw on their winter gear and roll out snowblowers, not lawnmowers.
Consider this encouraging research: The S&P 500 has been rallying for six months in a row, which has happened 48 times since 1950. Following these six-month winning streaks, stocks have historically continued rising. Sixty percent of the time, the S&P 500 climbed 0.79 percent over the next month; 84 percent of the time, stocks increased 3.50 percent, 7.77 percent and 11.77 percent the next three, six and 12 months following the streak.
In addition, 165,000 jobs were added to payrolls in April, helping the unemployment rate fall to 7.5 percent. This is the lowest level since December 2008.
The news comes days after the Federal Reserve stamped its approval on another month of bond buying, with the added bonus of Ben Bernanke stating that the Fed is “prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation.”
If that’s not enough to validate a continuing bull market, consider the European Central Bank’s exceptional move this week. Mario Draghi cut key interest rates to 0.5 percent, the first time in 10 months, following weaker manufacturing data out of top four largest economies in the eurozone. Germany, France, Italy and Spain all experienced manufacturing contractions.
Our portfolio manager of the Emerging Europe Fund, Tim Steinle, described the ECB’s motivation this way: It’s one thing to punish the periphery; it’s another to weaken the core.
The S&P 500 has climbed an amazing 12.74 percent through April 30, so if you’re eager to do some investment spring cleaning, you might want to consider areas that have underperformed. For example, take a look at the year-to-date returns by sector, which reveal an interesting pattern. Health care, utilities, consumer staples and consumer discretionary have all climbed more than 15 percent, much more than the market. Meanwhile, companies in the materials, energy and industrials sectors have lagged the overall index.
In recent days, an inflection point seems to have occurred, with these weaker areas of the market gaining strength. We wrote in the Investor Alert last week that cyclical stocks, including health care, consumer staples, utilities and telecommunication, have been lagging the remaining sectors. From the beginning of the earnings season on April 24 through May 3, energy, industrial and materials stocks are nearly the best performing areas of the market.
We believe expectations might have become too lofty for defensive companies and too gloomy for cyclical stocks, so as perceptions toward global growth improve, it won’t take much for energy, industrials and materials to take off.
Spring Clean Your Treasury Portfolio Too
With the Fed’s insistence to keep interest rates low, real interest rates remain negative for investors. For example, a 90-day T-bill yields 0.06 percent and 2-year Treasury yields 0.23 percent, but inflation burns off 1.5 percent.
It’s interesting to note that while low interest rates help keep the government’s debt payments low, these rates hurt seniors living on a fixed income. My friend, Terry Savage writes this week,
“Savers are the big losers in this rigged game. And most domestic savers are seniors and those approaching retirement, who planned to live on the income generated by their savings. Today, that’s simply not possible – unless they are willing to take on a lot more risk.”
Here’s an alternative that offers both a shorter duration and higher yields, without a lot of risk: The Near-Term Tax Free Fund (NEARX) has a tax-equivalent yield of 1.51 percent as of March 31, 2013. Its 30-day SEC yield is 0.81 percent. These yields are significantly higher than a 2-year Treasury. Learn more today.
The important idea for investors is to adjust to the current conditions. Regardless of the month, if the thermostat shows frigid temperatures, dress accordingly. Likewise for when it’s hot in the summer. What’s important is to stay tuned and make sure your portfolio is dressed accordingly.
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.
Foreign and emerging market investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and less public disclosure, as well as economic and political risk. By investing in a specific geographic region, a regional fund’s returns and share price may be more volatile than those of a less concentrated portfolio. The Emerging Europe Fund invests more than 25% of its investments in companies principally engaged in the oil & gas or banking industries. The risk of concentrating investments in this group of industries will make the fund more susceptible to risk in these industries than funds which do not concentrate their investments in an industry and may make the fund’s performance more volatile.
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. Each 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. Bond funds are subject to interest-rate risk; their value declines as interest rates rise. 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.
The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies.
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- April 17, 2013
- A New Penalty for Playing by the Rules
Taxpayers who save and invest may soon be punished for doing the right thing and investing successfully. In President Barack Obama’s budget proposal, he wants to limit an individual’s total balance in tax-favored retirement accounts to $3 million for someone retiring in 2013. The president feels the need to “define for everyone what is ‘needed’ for a ‘reasonable’ retirement,” says the Wall Street Journal.
For years, the financial industry has been actively educating and encouraging investors to take full advantage of their tax-advantaged 401(k)s and IRAs. “Now He’s After Your 401(k)” says the WSJ, as its headline draws attention to the contradictory message the government is sending to investors. Rather than incentivizing and rewarding hard-working Americans, the policy penalizes “people who work for decades and abstain from buying the bigger house or the new car so they can contribute the maximum to their 401(k)s or IRAs.”
Having the will and thrill to invest is part of the fiber that makes America great. The proposal “undermine[s] a key national priority—helping Americans prepare for a secure retirement,” says the Investment Company Institute in agreement.
I believe the government hindering savers and investors is the equivalent to a referee kicking Miami Heat’s LeBron James out of a game after he’s scored a “reasonable” number of points.
If you have been dutifully paying your taxes, scrimping and budgeting to save and invest in your future, voice your opinion on the budget proposal. Contact your representatives in Washington and tell them to refuse a strategy similar to the socialist policy wonks in Europe who implement anti-saving and investing policies, oblivious and insensitive to the unintended consequences that hurt savers and investors.
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- April 1, 2013
- What Maslow and Rand Would Tell Investors Today
I have always been fascinated by what motivates people. What motivates Tiger Woods to pursue the goal of being the world’s greatest golfer? What’s the motivation driving Warren Buffett to continue purchasing companies instead of retiring in Tahiti? Or how about the motivation behind the trucks allegedly packed with euros parked in front of the Central Bank in Nicosia?
What is most puzzling is the motivation driving investors to buy or sell their equity positions when research shows that holding an investment over the long-term is more successful than timing the market.
As Business Insider puts it, there’s “proof that [investors] stink at investing.” Its headline is catchy, and the chart shows the evidence, as the average investor has significantly underperformed oil, stocks, gold and bonds in the past 20 years. While, on average, investors returned 2 percent, oil, stocks and gold rose about 8 percent.
After inflation, the average Joe or Jill actually lost money.
You can easily attribute the meager returns to the emotional rollercoaster that drives buying and selling decisions, but to break the pattern of poor performance, it may be better to understand the motivation occurring on a subconscious level.
Anyone who sat in on a psychology course in university is likely familiar with Abraham Maslow’s classic hierarchy of needs driving human motivation. The most fundamental need is shown at the base of the pyramid. Our physiological needs for food, water, shelter and warmth are of the highest priority. Only after those needs are met, we try to meet our need for safety. After that, we can move to belonging, then our own self-esteem and, only until we feel confident that all those needs are met, can we achieve fulfillment or self-actualization.
I have to thank Christine Comaford, the dynamic presenter and global thought leader on corporate culture and performance optimization, for my proverbial light bulb moment when I connected Maslow’s observations from the 1940s to investors’ reactions to global events today.
I love learning about neuroscience and behavioral finance, so I looked forward to her presentation at a global leadership conference for CEOs that I attended in Turkey. But when I walked into the room, I was impressed with how many like-minded executives were interested in her research and insights.
These executives want to understand why customers buy certain products, why investors sell equities to buy bonds, and why their employees don’t seem to have a level of engagement they once had. Also, I believe leaders want to understand why people don’t feel secure or safe these days.
In a recent post in Forbes, Christine stresses how important it is for people to feel safe, to feel as if they belong and to feel as if they matter before they can get to what she calls the “smart state.” This state is when people have access to all parts of the brain and can respond from choice, rather than the “critter brain,” when one simply reacts in one of three ways: fight, flight or freeze.
The needs for people to feel safe, feel like they belong and feel like they matter “are programmed into their subconscious so powerfully that they literally crave them,” she says.
Her discussion particularly resonates with me today, as I believe governments’ actions around the developed world have perpetuated this lack of feeling safe, inhibiting investors from moving up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and preventing their portfolios from achieving the outstanding returns offered by oil, gold and stocks over the past 20 years.
Now, with the most recent drama created by the triangular powers of the Cyprus parliament, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, news of Cyprus’ bank seizures is sending shock waves rippling across the entire world. How can investors feel safe when governments have the audacity to confiscate their money?
Ayn Rand warned of such actions in her book, “Atlas Shrugged.” Here’s a snippet that is particularly appropriate today:
“Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values.”
And to her, gold was the objective value, “an equivalent of wealth produced,” as paper is only “a mortgage on wealth that does not exist.”
This is precisely why many gold investors were disappointed that the yellow metal didn’t perform well. While gold’s performance in the short term has been counterintuitive, I plan to stick to my own advice. I simply feel safer with a small weighting in gold as insurance.
Past performance does not guarantee future results.
The commentary references the investment theory of an investment as insurance against a separate market event that could negatively affect performance of an investment. The reference does not guarantee performance or a safeguard from loss of principal by investing in that asset. By clicking the links above, you will be directed to third-party websites. U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by these websites and is not responsible for their content.
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- March 28, 2013
- What’s the Best Investment Advice You Received?
Throughout my years in the financial industry, I’ve been fortunate to meet many wonderful people who helped shape my philosophies about life, business and investing. One such role model has been Seymour Schulich. While some may have never heard of the Canadian entrepreneur, those who meet him, don’t forget him and his straightforward approach to the resources industry. He’s one significant person who continues to be an inspiration to me.
Football Coach Vince Lombardi is another person who inspires me. In my essay printed in Liz Claman’s book, The Best Investment Advice I Ever Received, I share the evergreen importance of Lombardi’s famous line, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”
All great money managers are intellectually competitive, similar to the way athletes are fiercely competitive. What they both have in common is that they never experience the perfect day when the conditions for winning are just right. Markets are seemingly random, so to be successful in investing, money managers need to be skilled in the art of “perfect practice.” That way, no matter what obstacle comes their way, the focus on the long-term goal of building wealth remains in play.
Liz Claman, currently an anchor with FOX Business Network, put together an extensive list of top moneymakers who offer their humble words of wisdom. I believe this book can inspire you to be a better investor. Check out the book with investment advice from Warren Buffett, Jim Cramer and Steve Forbes and more here.
What’s the best investment advice you’ve ever been given? Email U.S. Global at email@example.com to share your story.
All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. By clicking the links above, you will be directed to third-party websites. U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by these websites and is not responsible for their content.
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