First Quarter 2019

During the quarter, the Global Resources Fund underperformed its benchmark, the S&P Global Natural Resources Index, by 901 basis points. See complete fund performance here. 

Past performance does not guarantee future results. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. The principal value and investment return of an investment will fluctuate so that your shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Strengths

  • Oil is set for its best quarter since 2009 due to supply cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the loss of barrels due to U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. Bloomberg reports that West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures have risen 32 percent so far in 2019 as of the end of the first quarter.
  • Iron ore futures continue to surge and surpassed the highest level since 2014 on growing concern that Vale’s crisis in Brazil will continue to curtail global supplies of the metal, reports Bloomberg. The company lowered output forecasts by 40 million tons after its dam disaster, and then cut production another 30 million tons after its license was revoked to operate another dam in Brazil. As a result of that, the global iron ore market is set to face a 12 million ton deficit this year, writes Bloomberg. Credit Suisse estimates that iron ore prices could spike to average $90 a ton in the second quarter.
  • The Senate could soon be voting on the Green New Deal (GND) announced in order to get a feel for support of the measures designed to combat climate change. Although there is disagreement between parties on the feasibility need for green initiatives, what do investors think about it? Stephen Liberatore, managing director at asset manager Nuveen, says that “Wall Street would take this seriously” because there are “more and more investors who are interested in having exposure to green projects and green debt.” According to the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, sustainable investing is a $12 trillion market in the U.S., and data from Bloomberg shows that global issuance of green bonds rose to $600 billion in 2018. Evidence of the growth in renewable sources of energy has started to show up in places like Texas, where wholesale power prices at a hub in Houston fell below zero to average negative $71.06 per megawatt-hour, reported Bloomberg. This is due to the growing amount of wind power, which has led to more frequent instances of negative pricing as the grid trying to get rid of power it can’t store.

Weaknesses

  • In January, a dam collapse at Vale’s Feijao mine in rural Brazil left nearly 100 dead and at least 250 people missing. This is the second fatal disaster for the world’s biggest producer of iron ore. The Brazilian police have so far arrested five people—three Vale employees and two subcontractors—who attested to the instability of the dam. The company suspended dividends and its shares tanked as much as 20 percent on the announcement.
  • Oil demand in China is set to rise 13.2 million barrels per day in 2019, which is up from 12.9 million from last year. However, this is the slowest pace of growth in a decade. According to Morgan Stanley, oil consumption in China will peak in 2025 due to the growing shift to electric cars. Electric vehicles now account for over 50 percent of new vehicle sales in Norway, according to data from January and February, with nearly 250,000 purchased in the nation to date. China’s adoption of electric buses is also eating away at oil demand.
  • The coal industry is having a hard time finding capital and is seeing weakening demand for thermal coal. During a panel at the CERAWeek conference in Houston, several coal CEOs spoke about industry challenges. Glenn Kellows, CEO of Peabody Energy, said that coal has been “miscast as a Hollywood villain.”

Opportunities

  • ExxonMobil aims to reduce the cost of pumping oil in the Permian basin to $15 per barrel and reach a 1 million barrel per day target, according to Staale Gjervik, president of XTO Energy. Bloomberg writes that the shale revolution has made the Permian the world’s largest shale field that has production of over 4 million barrels per day, close to the same amount as Iraq. Royal Dutch Shell announced it is looking for deals to beef up its position in the basin where it lags behind Exxon and Chevron. Wael Sawan, Shell’s deepwater boss, said in an interview that “we are definitely actively looking at opportunities.”
  • According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) research, corporate purchasing of clean energy doubled in 2018. Globally, companies bought 13.4 gigawatts of clean energy in 2018, which is double the previous record of 6.1 gigawatts in 2017. Over 63 percent of the activity occurred in the U.S. while China News reported that clean energy will account for 80 percent of total installed capacity in China’s Greater Bay Area by 2035.
  • BNEF analyst Yayoi Sekine said in a recent interview that “there’s a lot more solar and storage happening now than we’ve seen before,” and that “natural gas is still king, but it’s starting to get displaced.” Only three years ago natural gas overtook coal to become the top source of energy in the U.S. Now batteries are beginning to challenge natural gas as some solar farms with batteries are able to compete with gas plants. Increasing storage systems allows solar plants to store cheap electricity, plus solar-storage projects are already cheaper than gas plants to build in the U.S. Southwest, writes Bloomberg.

Threats

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its growth forecast for the world economy for the second time in three months. Analysts cited a bigger-than-expected slowdown in China-U.S. trade tensions, a possible no “Brexit” deal and weakness in Europe and emerging markets. The IMF expects global growth to decline to 3.3 percent this year, the slowest since the Great Recession.
  • In private talks at the CERAWeek conference in Houston, former OPEC president and current United Arab Emirates (UAE) oil minister told members of the financial community in a meeting that the “NOPEC” legislation would be very bad for shale prices. NOPEC is legislation that is being considered by the U.S. government that would allow it to sue OPEC, which would stop the cartel from working. Bloomberg writes that this would raise production capacity in member nations and cause oil prices to crash. Many are critical of the NOPEC idea, as it would disrupt oil markets heavily.
  • The coal industry continues to face headwinds. UBS said that it will no longer provide project-level financing for new coal plants, strengthening its environmentally friendly policies. “The bank believes the transition to a low-carbon economy is vital,” said the bank in a statement. In the annual Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card released by the Rainforest Action Network and other environmental groups, data shows that overall funding for fossil fuels has grown, but that coal funding declined 3.1 percent last year to $13.4 billion. Furthermore, according to an assessment by the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice and other groups, the power industry’s own data shows widespread groundwater contamination near sites that store coal ash. These groundwater wells used by 265 coal power plants reveal unsafe levels of arsenic, lithium and other pollutants in most of them. Bloomberg writes that every year U.S. power plants alone produce around 100 million tons of coal ash that is normally stored in landfills and disposal ponds.

The S&P Global Natural Resources Index includes 90 of the largest publicly-traded companies in natural resources and commodities businesses that meet specific investability requirements, offering investors diversified, liquid and investable equity exposure across 3 primary commodity-related sectors: Agribusiness, Energy, and Metals & Mining.

A basis point, or bp, is a common unit of measure for interest rates and other percentages in finance. One basis point is equal to 1/100th of 1%, or 0.01% (0.0001).

Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the Global Resources Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 3/31/2019: Vale SA (0.00%), Peabody Energy Corp. (0.00%), ExxonMobil Corp. (0.00%), Royal Dutch Shell PLC (1.02%), Chevron Corp. (0.00%).

 

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