5 Charts That Show Why Gold Belongs in Your Portfolio Now

central banks to withdraw liquidity from financial markets for the first time since crisis
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2. Banks on a Gold-Buying Spree

While I’m on this subject, central banks have been net purchasers of gold since 2010, with China, Russia, Turkey and India responsible for much of the activity. Just this week, I shared with you the news that

The annual “In Gold We Trust” report by Liechtenstein-based investment firm Incrementum is a must-read account of the gold market, and its just-released chartbook for the 2018 edition is no exception.

The strengthening U.S. dollar has lately dented the price of gold, and rising interest rates are making some yield-bearing financial assets more attractive as a safe haven. But as Incrementum shows, there are many risks right now that favor owning gold in your portfolio.

Below I’ve selected five of the most compelling charts that highlight why I think you need gold in your portfolio now.

1. The End of Easy Money

To offset the effects of the global financial crisis a decade ago, central banks increased liquidity by slashing interest rates and buying trillions of dollars’ worth of government securities. Now, however, it looks as though banks are ready to start tightening, and no one is really quite sure what the consequences will be. The Federal Reserve was the first, in late 2015, to begin hiking rates, and it’s been steadily shrinking its balance sheet for about a year now. Other banks are set to follow suit. According to Incrementum, the tide will turn sometime next year, with global liquidity finally set to turn negative. In the past, recessions and bear markets were preceded by central bank tightening cycles, so it might be a good idea to consider adding gold and gold stocks, which have historically done well in times of economic and financial turmoil.

2. Banks on a Gold-Buying Spree

While I’m on this subject, central banks have been net purchasers of gold since 2010, with China, Russia, Turkey and India responsible for much of the activity. Just this week, I shared with you the news that Poland added as much as nine metric tons to its reserves this past summer. If gold is such a “barbarous relic,” why are they doing this? As Incrementum writes, “The increase in gold reserves should be seen as strong evidence of growing distrust in the dominance of the U.S. dollar and the global monetary system associated with it.” Having a 10 percent weighting in gold and gold stocks could likewise help you diversify away from fiat currencies and monetary policy.

change in gold reserves held by emerging countries from 2007 to 2017
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3. Too Much Debt

Everywhere you look, debt is rising to historic highs, whether it’s emerging market debt, student loan debt or U.S. government debt. Meanwhile, higher rates are making it more expensive to service all this debt. As you can see below, interest payments will hit a record $500 billion this year. It’s forecast that the federal deficit will not only reach but exceed $1 trillion in 2019. How will this end? Earlier this year, I called this risk the “global ticking debt bomb,” and I still believe it’s one of the most compelling reasons to maintain some exposure to gold.

US government debt outstanding continues to rise rapidly
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4. An Exceptional Store of Value

In U.S. dollar-denominated terms, the price of gold is down right now. But in Turkey, Venezuela, Argentina and other countries whose currencies have weakened substantially in recent months, the precious metal is soaring. This alone should be reason enough to have part of your wealth stored in gold. Need further proof? According to a recent Bloomberg article, the cost of a black-market passport in Venezuela right now is around $2,000. That’s more than 125,000 bolivars, or 68 times the monthly minimum wage. A Venezuelan family that had the prudence to own gold would be in a much better position today to survive or escape President Nicolas Maduro’s corrupt regime. In extraordinary circumstances such as this, the yellow metal can literally help save your life.

gold does exactly what it is supposed to do protect purchasing power gold price increases in turkish lira and venezuelan bolivar
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5. A Sterling Time to Buy Gold?

Finally, a word about timing. According to Incrementum, some of the best gold buying opportunities have been when the gold/silver ratio crossed above 80—that is, when it took 80 or more ounces of silver to buy one ounce of gold. If you look at the chart below, you’ll see that such instances occurred in 2003, 2009 and late 2015/early 2016—all ideal times to accumulate. We see a similar buying opportunity today, with the gold/silver ratio at a high of 83 as of October 8. What’s more, gold stocks are the cheapest they’ve been in more than 20 years relative to the S&P 500 Index.

highs in the gold silver ratio were great buying opportunities for gold
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Curious to learn more? Download my popular whitepaper on gold’s love trade by clicking here!

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

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

…read more

From:: Frank Talk

We Could See $100 Oil Again Soon, But Not for the Reason You Think

We could see 100 dollar oil again soon but not for the reason you think

According to a recent Cornerstone Macro report, the three most influential macro trends this year have been 1) the strengthening U.S. dollar, 2) the flattening yield curve and 3) slowing global manufacturing expansion. I’ve written about all three topics numerous times this year, but the one I’ve watched the most closely has been global manufacturing, as measured by the purchasing manager’s index (PMI). Since its 12-month high of 54.5 in December 2017, the PMI has declined in eight of the past nine months. September marked the fifth straight month of slower manufacturing growth.


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This matters because the PMI is a useful, forward-looking indicator of the economic health of the manufacturing sector, which accounted for around 15.6 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016. Our research has shown that the index can be used to forecast world demand for materials and energy one, three and six months out, with a reasonable measure of accuracy.

Take a look below. The chart shows that, based on 10 years’ worth of data, copper and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude, as well as energy and materials equities, all benefited in the three months after the PMI crossed above its three-month moving average. WTI saw the biggest jump; 64 percent of the time, it gained 5 percent on average.

Conversely, in the three months after the PMI crossed below its three-month moving average, those same assets either fell or were effectively flat. Seventy-one percent of the time, copper lost a little over 1.5 percent on average when manufacturing growth began to slow.

Shares of Ivanhoe Mines jump on new high grade copper discovery
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Energy Up, Materials Down

how to manage your risk

So how accurate has the PMI been so far this year? The index crossed below its moving average in February, and since then, materials have predictably failed to gain traction. The S&P 500 Materials Index is down about 6 percent, while copper prices are off 13 percent on fears that demand in China, the world’s largest consumer of the metal, is shrinking. (Australian miner BHP Billiton reported last week, however, that it believes Chinese copper consumption is actually set to increase substantially, by as much as 1.6 million metric tons, between now and 2023, thanks to its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)).

Crude oil and energy stocks, on the other hand, have fared very well on tightening supply in Venezuela and Iran, the latter of which is scheduled to face a new round of U.S. sanctions effective November 4. Since February, WTI prices have surged 13.6 percent and are now at four-year highs, while the S&P 500 Energy Index is up 2.7 percent. Oil traders are now betting that crude could rise to as high as $100 a barrel by next year, Reuters reports.

Does oil’s outperformance, despite a steadily cooling PMI, mean our research is flawed? Hardly. The index, remember, only tells us the probability that a price change will occur. Extraordinary government policies, such as the U.S. reimposing sanctions on Iran, must also be taken into consideration. If the PMI alone were 100 percent accurate 100 percent of the time, we would all be multibillionaires from betting on the winners every time. Sadly, that’s not the case.

Could We Reach “Peak Oil” Sooner Than Anticipated?

But back to $100-per-barrel oil. Not only are traders betting on a return to these prices, but banks are also baking it into their forecasts. In a note last week, HSBC said it sees “real risks of this happening” by 2020, adding that “there are clear signs of falling exports and builds in Iranian exports. We would expect to see much more tangible signs of falling exports ahead of the November cut-off.”

So how will this affect the global economy? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that net import countries would be most impacted by higher fuel costs. Among the emerging markets Bloomberg Economics estimates would feel the greatest pain are Thailand, South Korea, South Africa and India. Conversely, the economies that stand to benefit the most from rising oil prices are Mexico, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Emerging markets vulnerability to higher oil prices
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Even higher prices could become a reality as soon as the next decade if world supply continues to tighten. Energy and mining research firm Wood Mackenzie (WoodMac) recently issued a warning that not enough oil discoveries are being made to replace capacity. “We need more Guyanas, a lot more, and we need them soon,” WoodMac chairman and chief analysts Simon Flowers urged, referring to the massive find made in the South American country early last year.

Spending on exploration collapsed following the price crash in 2014, which has propelled the world closer to “peak oil” much sooner than anticipated.

“The oil market could be running short of oil capacity by the late-2020s at the current low discovery rate,” Flowers said. “That’s worryingly near at hand given it takes the best part of 10 years for the average new discovery to build to peak production.”

The supply gap, according to WoodMac, could reach 3 million barrels per day (b/d) by 2030, 9 million b/d by 2035 and a “formidable” 15 million b/d by 2040.

A Promising New Copper Discovery

Speaking of new discoveries, I want to congratulate my friend Robert Friedland, founder and executive chairman of Ivanhoe Mines. The Canadian copper mining company announced last week the “important new discovery” of the metal on its 100 percent owned Western Foreland property in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Makoko, as it’s called, is Ivanhoe’s third major find in the DRC, following Kamoa-Kakula, which WoodMac has called the world’s largest, undeveloped, high-grade copper discovery.

After last Monday’s announcement, shares of Ivanhoe popped 9 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Shares of Ivanhoe Mines jump on new high grade copper discovery
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In the press release, Robert chalked the …read more

From:: Frank Talk

Minute with the Analyst: Meet Joanna Sawicka

Meet Joanna Sawicka – an emerging Europe research analyst at U.S. Global Investors. Prior to joining our team in 2007, Joanna was part of Soros Fund Management in New York and JP Morgan in San Antonio. Since 2015, she has worked on the Investment team and currently is primarily responsible for analyzing companies in emerging European countries.

In this brief Q&A, I invite you to learn more about Joanna’s path to becoming an emerging Europe analyst and read what she sees on the horizon for this region as we head into year end.

What made you want to become an investment analyst?

I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in finance. However, I didn’t know which section of the industry would suit me best until I visited the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) for one of my classes at Baruch College. During this visit, we went to the floor of the exchange and toured a huge vault full of gold. Watching the trading and experiencing the atmosphere firsthand left a huge impression on me. It was after this trip that I moved steadily over to investments.

While working on my investment specialization in school, I especially enjoyed my simulation class. In it, we were given half a million dollars to grow. If I remember correctly, I invested in oil futures and bought Disney stock. I actually made a lot of money!

What was the most memorable trip you’ve taken for your job?

While I have traveled to many fascinating places, like the Warsaw Stock Exchange, to me, the most interesting trip was to the Wood & Company CEE Investor Days Conference in New York earlier this year. I was very surprised by how many people at the conference wanted to learn more about eastern Europe. The number of attendees speaking Polish also caught me off guard, though it makes sense since Wood & Company has a big presence in Poland.

You took a trip to Poland this summer. Did you notice any changes in the country since your last time there?

For the past three years, I have made an annual trip to Poland. Being there so frequently makes it a bit harder to see changes. Having said that, I did notice quite a bit of construction, in particular highway construction. Two years ago, when my flight landed in Warsaw, it took three or four hours to drive to my hometown, Bialystock, because the highway was not complete. This year, the drive only took two hours. There is still a lot of construction, especially on the east side, but the improvements are very apparent.

Many new businesses, small and large, began to appear starting 10 years ago, resulting in new construction projects like shopping centers. People are actually spending a lot of money. That is the most notable change to me in the last decade or so.

Poland was recently upgraded to a developed market by FTSE Russell. What is on the horizon for Poland? Do you believe its growth is sustainable?

The upgrade to a developed market is very positive for Poland. The next step would be updating the country on the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. It’s my understanding that Poland is only missing one factor – gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. That isn’t quite strong enough yet. Once that happens, there will be more inflows into Polish equities.

Joanna Sawicka emerging europe research analyst U.S. Global Investors

It is important to mention that Poland is very strong in central emerging Europe and has the largest stock markets. There are more than 350 stocks trading on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, compared to only a handful in other central emerging European markets. Most of the stocks in other geographically similar markets, like Hungary and the Czech Republic, are not very liquid. The large equity market in Poland makes it much more accessible for larger investors.

Additionally, Poland is growing at around 5 percent, has stable inflation, low unemployment and solid consumer spending. Given these facts, I believe Poland’s growth is sustainable.

Do you see growing nationalism as a risk?

In central emerging Europe, nationalism has always had a presence, such as the Law and Justice in Poland (PiS) and Fidesz in Hungary. However, this trend is not specific to the region. In fact, it has spread into Western Europe. A far right government came into power in Austria last year. The elections in Italy, Germany and Sweden saw similar movements. I do not currently believe this is a threat, but we will have to see how it develops.

The recent emerging market sell-off has captured a lot of headlines. What is your outlook on emerging markets for the rest of 2018?

Emerging markets peaked around mid-January this year and, since then, stocks are down about 20 percent. Emerging markets were suppressed by dramatic currency depreciation in Turkey and Argentina. At one point, we saw the lira drop about 25 percent in a couple days. Argentina experienced a huge drop as well, though the central bank of Argentina was a little more supportive with its rate hikes.

I think we are at a turning point now and emerging Europe will rebound. The Turkish bank just recently hiked rates by 625 basis points, which is very supportive of the lira. Additionally, when the price crosses above the 50-day moving average, we expect inflows. I noticed a cross in emerging markets and emerging Europe, so I think this uptrend will continue towards the end of the year.

With oil on the rise, Turkey looks even more vulnerable. Should investors be concerned?

Brent moving higher is certainly negative for Turkey, since it’s a major importer of crude oil, but a bigger concern is the weakening lira. Year-to-date, the lira has depreciated around 40 percent. So there is more to it than just higher oil prices, especially considering Turkey’s geopolitical situation.

U.S. sanctions are weighing heavily on Russia’s economy. What is Russia doing to counteract the slowdown?

U.S. sanctions have a significant impact, not only on Russia’s economy, but all of Europe’s …read more

From:: Frank Talk

Gold’s Bottom Could Be Investors’ Lost Treasure

gold stocks at their most discounted level in over 20 years, relative to the market
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Gold Industry Ready for Consolidation?

There are other signs that a bottom is near.

For one, Vanguard just

Get ready, gold bulls: The precious metal could be close to finding a bottom.

The price of gold fell back below $1,200 an ounce again last week as the U.S. dollar advanced following another federal funds rate hike. The precious metal logged its sixth straight month of declines, its longest losing streak since 1989.

That gold’s not trading below $1,150 is, I believe, remarkable. There’s a lot motivating the bears right now. Besides a stronger dollar and higher interest rate, stocks are still going strong, buoyed by record buybacks and massive inflows into passive investment products. In the week ended September 20, investors poured as much as $34.3 billion into ETFs, taking year-to-date inflows to nearly $215 billion, according to FactSet data.

This makes gold mining stocks look especially attractive by comparison. Relative to U.S. blue chips, the FTSE Gold Mines Index is now at its most discounted level in over 20 years.

Gold Industry Ready for Consolidation?

There are other signs that a bottom is near.

For one, Vanguard just restructured its precious metals mutual fund, slashing its exposure to the industry from 80 percent to only 25 percent. This means the world’s largest fund company will no longer offer its investors a way to participate in a potential rally in metals and mining stocks.

The last time Vanguard made a change like this, it coincided with a huge run-up in metal prices. In 2001, gold was just as unloved as it is now, prompting Vanguard to drop the word “Gold” from what was then the Gold and Precious Metals Fund.

Bad move—the precious metal went from under $300 an ounce to as high as $1,900 in September 2011.

Last week, mining giants Barrick Gold and Randgold Resources announced an $18 billion merger that, once complete, will create the world’s largest gold producer. An “industry champion for long-term value creation,” according to BMO Capital Markets, the resultant company will “operate five of the 10 ‘tier one’ gold mines on a total cash cost basis and possess numerous projects with potential to” deliver sustainable profitability.

the barrick-randgold merger will create the world's largest gold miner, valued at $18 billion

Historically, a telltale sign that an industry has found a bottom is consolidation. Just look at the wave of mergers and takeovers in the then-struggling airline industry following the financial crisis.

Other financial firms and analysts also find the Barrick-Randgold news positive, for the two senior producers as well as metals and mining as a whole. Scotiabank believes the merger “improves [Barrick’s] overall asset quality, balance sheet, free cash flow profile, technical expertise and management team, with no takeout premium paid.” The deal, says the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), “could spur a pick-up in M&As, which in our view could result in a turnaround in mining equity performance.”

Good news indeed as inflation continues to ramp up. The price of Brent oil, the international benchmark, closed above $80 a barrel last week for the first time since November 2014. That’s an incredible threefold increase from its recent low of $27 a barrel, set in January 2016.

The Incredible Shrinking Stock Market Is Shrinking Even Faster

As you already know, one of the key reasons why gold has been so highly valued for centuries—as a commodity and currency—is its scarcity. It makes up roughly 0.003 parts per million of the earth’s crust. According to the World Gold Council (WGC), an estimated 190,040 metric tons of the stuff have been mined since the beginning of time, leaving only 54,000 metric tons in the ground for producers to dig up, at greater and greater expense.

“Peak gold,” as some experts call it, is a real concern, one that could rocket the price of the yellow metal into the stratosphere on a supply-demand imbalance.

Scarcity, after all, is what’s helping to drive the equity bull market even higher right now. Over the past 20 years, the number of listed companies has steadily been shrinking, mostly as a result of tougher securities regulations.

And now, those companies—flush with cash thanks to last year’s corporate tax reform—are buying back their own stock at record and near-record levels.

stock buybacks have soared faster than capital spending
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Just how much? I shared with you recently that in the June quarter alone, S&P 500 companies spent a record $190.6 billion on stock repurchases, an increase of almost 60 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Apple led the pack, taking $21.9 billion worth of stock out of circulation. That’s down slightly from the record $22.8 billion in the first quarter.

In general, Wall Street likes buybacks, which lower the number of shares outstanding. As a result, earnings per share (EPS) and dividends available per share increase even when there isn’t any profit growth.

But there are a couple of issues. First, buybacks require capital that could have otherwise been spent on investing, upgrading equipment, giving workers raises and the like. For the first time in 10 years, according to Goldman Sachs, buybacks have outstripped capital spending so far in 2018. The S&P 500 is already trading at overinflated prices, meaning companies like Apple are buying high.

Second, buybacks take shares off the market. Over the past decade, companies have bought back $4.4 trillion as historically low interest rates created, for some, a more favorable environment to float debt instead of equity. Below, I chose to highlight the consumer staples sector because the decline in shares since 2006 has been so dramatic, falling from around 32.5 billion shares to 27.5 billion shares—a decrease of more than 15 percent.

total shares outstanding of S&P 500 consumer staples companies are plunging
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Today, “not enough shares are being issued to offset those being withdrawn from circulation,” according to Reuters. Net equity supply turned negative for the first time ever in 2016, and it could end in negative territory again by the end of this year.

Coupled with the ticking passive index bomb …read more

From:: Frank Talk

Two Big Reasons Why I Believe China Looks Attractive Right Now

emerging markets look like a buy after decoupling from the U.S. market
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S&P Dow Jones Indices reported this week that buybacks in the second quarter increased almost 60 percent from the same three months a year ago to a record $190.6 billion. For the 12 months ended June 30, S&P 500 companies, flush with cash thanks to corporate tax reform, spent an unprecedented $645.8 billion shrinking their float. In the first half of 2018, in fact, companies spent more on buybacks than they did on capital expenditures.

As I told CNBC recently, this, combined with

Emerging markets continue to decouple from the U.S. market, making them look attractive as a value play—particularly distressed Chinese equities. Below I’ll share with you two big reasons why I think China is well-positioned to outperform over the long term.

So far this year, the MSCI Emerging Markets Index has given up about 10 percent, mostly on currency weakness and global trade fears. The S&P 500 Index, meanwhile, has advanced roughly 9 percent as a flood of passive index buying pushes valuations up and companies buy back their own stock at a record pace.

S&P Dow Jones Indices reported this week that buybacks in the second quarter increased almost 60 percent from the same three months a year ago to a record $190.6 billion. For the 12 months ended June 30, S&P 500 companies, flush with cash thanks to corporate tax reform, spent an unprecedented $645.8 billion shrinking their float. In the first half of 2018, in fact, companies spent more on buybacks than they did on capital expenditures.

As I told CNBC recently, this, combined with fewer stocks available for fundamental investing, could contribute toward a massive selloff when it comes time for multibillion-dollar index funds to rebalance at year’s end.

But let’s get back to emerging markets.

The Selloff Is Overdone, According to Experts

Again, China in particular looks like a buying opportunity with stocks down near a four-year low. Speaking with CNBC last week, chief executive of J.P. Morgan Chase’s China business, Mark Leung, said that the emerging market selloff is largely overdone. “If you look at the positioning and also the fundamentals side, we think there are reasons to start going into emerging markets for the medium and long term,” Leung said, adding, “China is a big piece.”

This view was echoed by Catherine Cai, chairman of UBS’s Greater China investment banking arm, who told CNBC that she believes “among all the emerging markets, China’s still representing the most attractive market.”

The U.S. just imposed tariffs on as much as $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, which will have the effect of raising consumer prices. Among the retailers and brands that have already announced they will be passing costs on to consumers are Walmart, General Motors, Toyota, Coca-Cola and MillerCoors. China plans to retaliate with tariffs of its own on $60 billion in U.S. exports.

Despite this, the tariffs’ impact on the Chinese economy will be “very small,” Cai said, as the country’s government is now “prepared” to handle the additional pressure.

The Power of 600 Million Millennials

The two reasons I find China so compelling right now are 1) promising demographics, and 2) financial reform.

As for the first reason, there’s really no arguing against the sheer math of Asia’s exploding population. You’ve heard the expression “There is strength in numbers,” and nowhere is that more apparent than in China and India, affectionately known as “Chindia,” where 40 percent of all humans live.

But there’s more. According to a recent report from CLSA, the entire continent of Asia is now home to nearly one billion millennials, or people aged 20 to 34. China and India alone contribute more than 600 million millennials, the youngest of whom will “start to hit their ‘peak’ earning capacity” over the next 10 years, says CLSA.

Asian millennials are changing global consumption
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“Millennials are more affluent, better educated with difference perspectives and priorities than their parents’ generation, which tends to sacrifice present consumption for the future,” CLSA writes. “Millennials care less about saving.”

This translates into not only the largest consumer class the world has ever seen, but also the most eager to spend their money on goods and services their parents and grandparents could never have imagined.

Consumption, in fact, now accounts for nearly 80 percent of China’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth, helping the country become less dependent on capital input and foreign trade.

China’s Capital Markets Continue to Mature

chinese premiere li keqiang: the pool is full of water and the challenge is to unblock the channels. As for my second reason, financial reform, Premier Li Keqiang recently pledged to give equal treatment to foreign investors in capital markets, all in the name of bolstering confidence among investors who may have been rattled lately by the U.S.-China trade dispute.

“The pool is full of water,” Li said, “and the challenge is to unblock the channels.”

China A-shares, those traded in the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges, were once available only to Chinese citizens living on the mainland. But as a sign of the financial market’s maturation, last week marked the first time that foreign investors living in mainland China, as well as employees of listed Chinese firms living overseas, could freely trade A-shares.

Many A-shares have already been added to indexes provided by MSCI, and FTSE Russell said it will decide soon whether to do the same.

As we’ve seen in the U.S. market and elsewhere, a stock’s inclusion in a major index has meant, for better or worse, that it automatically gets an infusion of investors’ money, regardless of fundamentals.

That Premier Li plans to open China’s market up even further is exciting, and makes its investment case even stronger.

To learn more about investment opportunities in China and the surrounding region, watch our short video by clicking here.

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 MSCI Emerging Markets Index captures large and mid-cap representation across 24 Emerging Markets (EM) countries. The S&P 500 index is a basket of 500 of the largest U.S. stocks, weighted by market capitalization.

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. The …read more

From:: Frank Talk

The Best Time to Prepare Is While the Bull Runs

how to manage your risk

In case you couldn’t tell from the ubiquitous political ads and yard signs, midterm elections are right around the corner. Historically, volatility has increased and markets have dipped leading up to midterms on uncertainty, but afterward they’ve outperformed.

Of especially good news is that we’re entering the three most bullish quarters in the four-year presidential cycle, according to LPL Financial Research. The fourth quarter of the president’s second year in office, which begins next month, and the first and second quarters of the third year have collectively been the best nine months for returns, based on 120 years of data.


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It makes sense why this has been the case. Following midterms, the president has been motivated to “boost the economy with pro-growth policies ahead of the election in year four,” writes LPL Financial.

Government Policy Is a Precursor to Change

Should Republicans manage to hold on to both the House and Senate—which Wells Fargo analysts Craig Holke and Paul Christopher estimate has a 30 percent probability—it’s likely they’ll try to pass “Tax Reform 2.0,” with an emphasis on the individual tax side. We can also probably expect to see additional financial deregulation.

Cornerstone Macro is in agreement, writing that “the better Republicans do in the election, the more confidence investors will have that [President Donald] Trump could be reelected and the business-friendly regulatory practices will remain in place.” A GOP Congress, the research firm adds, would be supportive of banks and energy, specifically oil, gas and coal. Since Trump’s inauguration, the Dow Jones U.S. Coal Index has climbed nearly 60 percent, double the S&P 500’s performance.

Back from the dead: coal stocks have risen since inauguration day
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The more likely outcome, according to Holke and Christopher, is a divided Congress, with Democrats taking control of the House. In such a scenario, financial deregulation would slow, but Trump, who’s pushed hard for aggressive infrastructure spending, might find the support he needs for a bill from Democrats. This would help increase demand for commodities and raw materials, but “additional stimulus in an economy already near capacity may result in higher inflation, negatively affecting fixed income,” Holke and Christopher write.

On the other hand, higher inflation has historically meant higher gold prices. After climbing for 12 months, year-over-year change in consumer prices cooled in August to 2.7 percent, from July’s 2.9 percent.

Government policy is a precursor to change, as I often say. It’s not the party that matters but the policies, and there are ways for investors to make money however the midterms unfold.

Money Managers and Banks Are Adding Safe Havens at a Faster Pace

With the bull run now the longest in U.S. stock market history, there’s a lot of talk and speculation about when the next major pullback will happen. I’ve discussed a number of possible catalysts with you already, from record levels of global debt to the flattening yield curve. Recently I shared with you that Goldman’s bull/bear indicator hit its highest level in nearly 50 years.

Even as markets closed at fresh all-time highs, essentially ignoring the intensifying U.S.-China trade war, Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) called the bull run “dead” last week, due to slowing global economic growth and the end of monetary stimulus. “The Fed is now in the midst of a tightening cycle, ignoring structural deflation, focusing on cyclical inflation,” writes BofAML chief strategist Michal Hartnett.

Against this backdrop, a growing number of money managers hold a dim view of continued economic growth. September’s Bank of America Merrill Lynch Fund Manager Survey found that a net 24 percent of fund managers believe global growth will slow over the next 12 months. That’s the highest percentage of managers with such a view since December 2011, the height of the European debt crisis. Reasons given for this bearishness are the U.S.-China trade tensions and, again, the end of central bank accommodation.

Fund managers are raising their cash levels, Hartnett says, as well as their exposure to fixed income, which has traditionally been used as a safe haven in times of uncertainty. In July, the most recent month of Morningstar data, bond funds attracted the greatest amount of any asset class in the U.S., with taxable and municipal bonds seeing a collective $28.5 billion in inflows. U.S. equity funds, meanwhile, collected a little under $3 billion, and in fact have seen $11 billion in outflows in the 12 months through July 31.

Getting even more specific, U.S. actively-managed ultrashort bond funds were the biggest winner, attracting over $6 billion in July, according to Morningstar.

You can read more about short-term bond funds by clicking here.

Central banks added gold in first half at fastest pace since 2015
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Gold demand among central banks has also accelerated this year. According to the World Gold Council (WGC), banks added a net 193.3 metric tons of gold to their reserves in the first half of the year, an 8 percent increase from 2017. This was the most purchased in the first six months since 2015.

Watch my interview with Kitco News to learn why now might be a good time to follow the “Golden Rule.”

The Next Crisis Could Be Triggered by Passive Indexing

One of the biggest risks right now, I believe, is the explosion in passive, “dumb beta” indexing. Trillions of dollars have poured into products that track indices built not on fundamental factors like revenue, cash flow and return on invested capital (ROIC), but on simple market capitalization. A piling on effect has occurred, whereby multibillion-dollar funds are buying more and more of the most expensive stocks. This has resulted in overinflated valuations.

The big risk is when these funds rebalance, which could happen as early as the beginning of next year. Last year, junior mining stocks got crushed after the VanEck Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (GDXJ) restructured its portfolio. Imagine what could happen if all passive index funds did …read more

From:: Frank Talk

Are We Headed for a Passive Index Meltdown?

Index funds have grown as a share of the fund market
click to enlarge

As for when passive investments will overtake the active market, Moody’s Investors Service estimates we’ll see this happen sometime between 2021 and 2024. Markets simply wouldn’t be able to function without active managers calling the shots—rewarding good corporate governance and punishing the bad—so Bogle’s what-if scenario of 100 percent indexing is, for now, purely hypothetical.

Nevertheless, the seismic shift into indexing has come with some unexpected consequences, including price distortion. New research, which I’ll get into below, shows that it has inflated share prices for a number of popular stocks. A lot of trading now is based not on fundamentals but on low fees. These ramifications have only intensified as active managers have increasingly been pushed to the side.

Watch Out for Rebalance Risk

This could

Without Googling, try to guess who said the following quote: “If everybody indexed, the only word you could use is chaos, catastrophe. The markets would fail.”

Give up?

The speaker, believe it or not, is John Bogle, founder of Vanguard, which has been at the forefront of indexing. Bogle made the comment last year at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting, basically admitting that there’s a limit to the amount of passive investing the market can handle and still function efficiently.

The thing is, we’re testing that limit more and more every day as passive mutual funds and ETFs—those that seek not to “beat the market” but track an index—take up a larger slice of the pie. The share has increased dramatically in the past 10 years, rising from only 15 percent in 2007 to as much as 35 percent by the end of 2017.

As for when passive investments will overtake the active market, Moody’s Investors Service estimates we’ll see this happen sometime between 2021 and 2024. Markets simply wouldn’t be able to function without active managers calling the shots—rewarding good corporate governance and punishing the bad—so Bogle’s what-if scenario of 100 percent indexing is, for now, purely hypothetical.

Nevertheless, the seismic shift into indexing has come with some unexpected consequences, including price distortion. New research, which I’ll get into below, shows that it has inflated share prices for a number of popular stocks. A lot of trading now is based not on fundamentals but on low fees. These ramifications have only intensified as active managers have increasingly been pushed to the side.

Watch Out for Rebalance Risk

This could end very badly for some investors, as I told CNBC Asia last week. It’s possible we could see a correction when it comes time for a number of multibillion-dollar funds to rebalance at year’s end. The same thing happened to the tech bubble in 2000, when everyone rebalanced after a phenomenal run-up in tech stocks.

And remember what happened to small-cap gold stocks last year when the massive VanEck Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (GDXJ) was forced to restructure its portfolio? They were knocked down despite having incredible fundamentals.

Take a look at the following chart. Internet commerce stocks—Apple, Amazon and the like—are up nearly eight times since May 2010.

Ecommerce is the second largest bubble of the last four decades
click to enlarge

This isn’t just the second largest bubble of the past four decades. E-commerce is also vastly overrepresented in equity indices, meaning extraordinary amounts of money are flowing into a very small number of stocks relative to the broader market. Apple alone is featured in almost 210 indices, according to Vincent Deluard, macro strategist at INTL FCStone.

If there’s a rush to the exit, in other words, the selloff would cut through a significant swath of index investors unawares. And just as Warren Buffett once said, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

A Huge Opportunity in Under-Indexed Stocks

Deluard’s research also suggests that passive index investors could be missing the hidden gems. After analyzing returns in the Russell 3000 Index, he found that stocks that are overrepresented in indices—again, think Apple—have been underperforming those in fewer indices. Despite lagging for the past five years, stocks that were in 75 indices or fewer returned more than 60 percent for the 12-month period, while the performance of stocks featured in 200 indices or more was around half that. Over-indexed stocks were also 2.5 times more expensive, Deluard found.

Stocks that are included in fewer indexes have outperformed over the last 12 months
click to enlarge

Whether we’re dealing with causation or correlation is probably too complex for me to get into here. The implication, as I see it, is that there’s huge potential for gains in stocks that are least loved by index providers. Talented active managers who are able to uncover these hidden gems and make the appropriate allocations are worth every cent investors pay them in fees.

In the Race to the Bottom, Everyone Ends Up Last

As I said earlier, a lot of trading now is based not on fundamentals but expense ratios. There’s been a race to the bottom to see who can provide the lowest fees. Fidelity appears to be first to introduce a no-fee fund—the catch being the investor must use Fidelity’s brokerage firm. Some industry experts now believe it’s only a matter of time before we see an index fund with negative fees.

You get what you pay for, as the saying goes, and buying cheap often comes with a high price in the long run. A tummy tuck in Tijuana costs a whole lot less than one in L.A., but you might end up having to pay far more in medical expenses should a mishap occur.

The same thinking applies with certain passive mutual funds and ETFs.

Recently Ray Dalio, billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, told CNBC that we’re in the “seventh inning” right now, and as such, investors should probably get “more defensive.” In addition, the Goldman Bull/Bear Indicator just hit its highest level since 1969.

Investors who feel this bull run might be getting long in the tooth would be prudent to make sure they have their recommended 10 percent weighting in gold and gold stocks, as well as a position in short-term, tax-free municipal bonds. Both assets have long been sought as safe havens in times of economic uncertainty and have performed well even when markets are down.

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 Russell 3000 Index is a market-capitalization-weighted equity index maintained by the FTSE Russell that provides exposure to the entire U.S. stock market. The index …read more

From:: Frank Talk

Is This Just the Calm Before the Storm?

Goldman Bull Bear indicator at highest level since 1969
click to enlarge

Goldman analysts point out, however, that the indicator could be read to mean not that a bear market is right around the corner, but that a period of lower returns could be expected.

One of the ways investors could batten down the hatches, so to speak, is with gold, which historically has performed very well in September as we approach Diwali and the Indian wedding season. Last week I had the privilege to join Liz Claman on FOX Business’ Countdown to the Closing Bell, and I told her that, under the circumstances,

Photo: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Florence, now a tropical depression, made landfall in North Carolina on Friday, bringing with it destruction and calamity, the cost of which could top $170 billion, according to analytics firm CoreLogic. If so, that would make it the costliest storm ever to hit the U.S. To date, 2005’s Hurricane Katrina holds the top spot, costing an estimated $160 billion, followed by last year’s Harvey ($125 billion) and Maria ($90 billion).

Not to minimize the impact Florence will have on millions of Americans’ lives, but storms, even of this size, have rarely triggered major equity selloffs. According to research firm CFRA, in the last 15 years, the S&P 500 Index declined an average 0.2 percent in the month after a hurricane, but was up an average 3.9 percent in the subsequent three months. Home improvement companies such as Home Depot and Lowe’s could be beneficiaries, while insurance companies might take a hit.

Markets are subdued right now, with the S&P 500 having gone more than 55 days without a 1 percent move in either direction. Trading volumes are also lower-than-average, suggesting Wall Street is in wait-and-see mode before making major adjustments.

Could this just be the calm before the storm?

Consumers and Small Business Owners Are Feeling Good

Lehman Brothers headquarters at Rockefeller Center in August 2007
By David ShankboneCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Appropriately enough, Florence comes to us on the 10-year anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ collapse— the spark that set off the financial crisis—reminding us it’s never the wrong time to prepare for such a catastrophe. (I’ll have more to say on Lehman later.) That includes now, even as a raft of positive economic data was released last week. The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index climbed to 100.8 in September, against expectations of only 96.6. This was its second-highest reading since 2004.

What’s more, the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index soared to 108.8 in August, its highest level ever in the series’ 45-year history.

“As the tax and regulatory landscape changed, so did small business expectations and plans,” commented National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) president and CEO Juanita Duggan.

Against this background, Nobel laureate Robert Shiller told Bloomberg last Thursday that the market “could get a lot higher before it comes down… It’s highly priced, but it could get much more highly priced. It’s a risky market now.”

Time to Get Defensive?

Ray Dalio has a slightly different perspective. The billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, reminded investors last week that we’re in the “seventh inning” right now, and as such, investors should probably get “more defensive.” Recently I shared with you that the global purchasing manager’s index (PMI) is steadily slowing down, falling to a 21-month low of 52.5 in August.

Again, markets have been relatively tranquil for a while now, but just as people on the East Coast were urged to prepare in anticipation of Florence, now might be the time to adjust your portfolio in advance of a possible market downturn. Last week, Goldman Sachs reported that its bull/bear indicator, which gauges the likelihood of a bear market, climbed to its highest point since 1969.

Goldman analysts point out, however, that the indicator could be read to mean not that a bear market is right around the corner, but that a period of lower returns could be expected.

One of the ways investors could batten down the hatches, so to speak, is with gold, which historically has performed very well in September as we approach Diwali and the Indian wedding season. Last week I had the privilege to join Liz Claman on FOX Business’ Countdown to the Closing Bell, and I told her that, under the circumstances, gold is doing exceptionally well. The precious metal may be under pressure from a strong U.S. dollar and higher Treasury yields, but in Japan, Germany and elsewhere, government bond yields are negative, which has boosted gold demand.

Frank and Liz on Fox Business

While I’m here, I’d like to congratulate Liz and her show—Countdown placed in the top four business news programs this past quarter, reaching nearly 230,000 viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. Liz continues her reign as the highest-rated female business news anchor on television. I’m very honored to be able to share my views with her and her audience, and to have appeared in her 2007 book, The Best Investment Advice I Ever Received.

What Caused the Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy: A New Accounting Rule

Lehman Brothers headquarters at Rockefeller Center in August 2007

Before my interview, Liz spoke with the very man who was called in to conduct forensic accounting on Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, Anton Valukas. The fourth-largest U.S. bank at the time of its demise, with $85 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities, Lehman resulted in global market-cap erosion of $10 trillion in October 2008 alone.

Among the most eye-opening comments Valukas made during his interview is that “the federal government knew everything Lehman was doing—its risk exceedances [and] the fact that they did not have a liquidity pool.” According to Lehman’s 10-K from November 2007, the bank was leveraged an incredible 30.7 times its net worth, up dramatically from 23.7 times only four years earlier.

“Why were there no prosecutions or civil suits?” Valukas asked. Simply put: “The government knew.”

Some of the blame is also owed to an accounting rule, FAS 157—also known as “mark-to-market,” or “fair value accounting”—that was enacted in November 2007. A year later, after Lehman had sent global markets in a tailspin, FAS 157 was already being fingered by some as the culprit. William Isaac, the former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), said before the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the bankruptcy was “due to the accounting system, and I can’t come up with any other explanation.” …read more

From:: Frank Talk

Minute with the Trader: Meet Michael Matousek

Meet Michael Matousek – head trader at U.S. Global Investors. With almost 20 years’ worth of industry experience, Matousek is responsible for monitoring our investment portfolios and conducting day-to-day trading. In addition to advising the investment team on market behavior, he spends his day buying and selling based on technical metrics.

Matousek joined U.S. Global Investors in January 2008 and was promoted to head trader not long after. Before joining our team, he was director of institutional sales and trading for a broker-dealer, advising the firm’s hedge fund clients on trading strategy and implementation.

In this brief Q&A, Matousek recounts how he found his way to U.S. Global Investors and shares his take on what it means to be a trader.

Tell us about your journey to become a trader. What drew you to the investment business?

I always thought that I wanted to be a stockbroker. Junk bonds were big in the ‘80s when I was in high school. After graduating from college in the late ‘90s, I got a job as a stockbroker but I didn’t really fully understand the industry. It was very different from what I had expected it to be. While I was there, I started to speak with the traders that we’d send our orders to.

Then, a position on the sell side opened up at a firm in Chicago, where I worked for five or six years. After they were bought by a larger company, I did consulting work, similar to helping people trade.

One day, I saw an ad for U.S. Global Investors. Ralph Aldis, a portfolio manager at USGI, and I had met before and I thought it would be interesting to see what it’s like working on the buy side as a trader. One of my friends said, “You’ve got a chance to work with Frank Holmes! You’ve got to do that!”

What was the most memorable trip you’ve taken into the field?

The most memorable trip I’ve taken was going to Hong Kong for a CLSA conference in 2012 or 2013. We met a lot of diverse people and talked about so many different trading strategies. Seeing firsthand how their financial district was changing was very insightful. Their markets were really starting to ramp up.

Every night was a big party. Katy Perry played in concert. The last night was standing room only in a small venue with catered food. They did things like that every day of the conference. Mike Tyson was a speaker once.

During that trip, my wife and I went to mainland China for a day. Also, I had my first espresso there. I didn’t know what it was before then and probably had 20 of them.

ETFs have become increasingly popular in the last few years. What is your take on the shift from mutual funds to ETFs?

It’s funny. I was a proponent of ETFs even before I came on board at U.S. Global Investors. In fact, I started trading them back in 1998 and I used to have a newsletter focused on ETFs. When I first came to USGI, we were a mutual fund shop. Now, I manage our ETFs.

I think the industry will gravitate towards ETFs. Mutual funds have a place, but for a select group of investors. Not necessarily asset allocators. They are useful when investors want to outperform since mutual funds can add extra alpha to your portfolio.

What should traders keep in mind for the remainder of 2018?

Everyone has a different view of what a trader is. My opinion has been more short-term in nature. Not buying and holding something for six months or a year. You’re trying to find opportunities. Admittedly, my background in day-trading might skew my thoughts a bit.

Knowing that, I don’t believe in predictions. I don’t want to have an opinion. If the market is doing this, I want to do this. If it’s doing that, I’ll do that. You try to stay with the trend based on your investment time horizon.

Want to stay on top of market trends? Subscribe to the award-winning Investor Alert newsletter for a weekly recap of the biggest market-moving events.

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor.

Alpha is a measure of performance on a risk-adjusted basis. Alpha takes the volatility (price risk) of a mutual fund and compares its risk-adjusted performance to a benchmark index. The excess return of the fund relative to the return of the benchmark index is a fund’s alpha.

…read more

From:: Frank Talk

This Self-Made Billionaire Reminds Americans that Only Capitalism Creates Wealth

Mapping the belt and road initiatives progress

“Capitalism works” is how Ken Langone, billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, opens his new book, I Love Capitalism!: An American Story.

“Let me say it again: It works! And—I’m living proof—it can work for anybody and everybody…. Show me where the silver spoon was in my mouth. I’ve got to argue profoundly and passionately: I’m the American Dream.”

Last week, I had the privilege to attend the Cornerstone Macro Conference in New York. Langone’s presentation, moderated by Omega Advisers CEO Lee Cooperman, stood out as one of the highlights.

Growing up poor in Roslyn Heights, Long Island, the son of a plumber and a school cafeteria worker, Langone didn’t initially seem destined for greatness.

Mapping the belt and road initiatives progress

But like other self-made billionaires, Langone didn’t let his humble background stand in the way of his ambitions. Married with a toddler and another baby on the way, he quit a good-paying insurance position to try and make it on Wall Street—a “closed, Waspy world back in those bad old days,” as he describes it in I Love Capitalism!

He managed to get his first Wall Street job, in institutional sales at broker-dealer R.W. Pressprich, after offering to get paid a secretary’s salary. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since co-founding Home Depot—which employs upwards of 400,000 people and hit $100 billion in sales for the first time last year—Langone has become a prominent philanthropist.

Remember hearing recently that New York University (NYU) would now be tuition-free for all incoming med students? That was made possible not because of socialism, but because of donations from capitalists like Langone. He and his wife gave the school $100 million after learning that the U.S. could face a serious doctor shortage in the coming years.

As he explained at the conference, only capitalism creates wealth, which is then freely redistributed. Socialism creates little to no wealth and redistributes poverty. People in Venezuela, sadly, are learning this lesson firsthand, as inflation there is forecast to hit an unbelievable 1 million percent by the end of the year.

I believe this is a lesson many Americans need to be reminded of, especially now as faith in capitalism is waning and interest in socialism is getting stronger, according to a Gallup poll in August. Capitalism “is not perfect,” Langone said on FOX Business last month, “but it’s the best out there.”

Check out our latest slideshow on the world’s 10 youngest billionaires!

Global Risks May Bring the Polish to Gold

Keep your eyes on the price of gold because the Fear Trade is about to heat up. And I’m not just saying that because the U.S. trade war with China is about to intensify even further, with tariffs on $267 billion worth of Chinese goods announced on Friday.

It’s been 10 years now since the start of the global financial crisis, and emerging markets are signaling trouble that some investors fear could have a spillover effect into developed markets. Last week, the MSCI EM Index, which consists of 24 countries, entered bear market territory after falling more than 20 percent from its January high.

EM currencies have been under considerable pressure so far this year, with some of them falling to record or near-record lows against the U.S. dollar. Other factors include global trade tensions and higher oil prices—both of which contribute to faster inflation. Rising U.S. interest rates are also making it harder for governments to pay off dollar-denominated debt.

The fear is that the EM slowdown could spell contagion, as we saw in the late 1990s with the Asian financial crisis. Although I don’t believe the current situation to be as bad as the one in 1997, it might prove prudent to ensure that your portfolio has the recommended 10 percent weighting in gold bullion and high-quality gold funds with a proven track record. In its latest report, research firm Metals Focus warns that global growth could take a hit should these markets continue to stumble, “with the resultant stock market impact encouraging investors to gradually rotate in favor of gold.”

We’re already seeing some slowdown in the global manufacturing expansion rate. The purchasing manager’s index (PMI) has been dropping steadily since its recent high in December 2017, and in August it fell slightly to 52.5 from a July reading of 52.8, with “confidence regarding the outlook for one year’s time [dipping] to a near two-year low,” according to IHS Markit, which compiles the monthly PMI data.

global manufacturing fell to 21-month low in august
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Last week gold was trading in the $1,200 an ounce range. But there’s even greater upside potential, I believe, as investors, especially those in emerging markets, seek a safe haven from their country’s weakening currencies against the dollar. Now could be a good opportunity to add to your exposure at an attractive valuation.

Another Emerging Market Crisis?

Turkey was among the fastest growing economies last year, expanding 7.4 percent, but it could be facing stagflation on higher inflation—consumer prices rose close to 18 percent in August—U.S.-imposed sanctions and a private sector debt crisis. The lira has lost more than 40 percent this year, and as I shared with you last month, President Recep Erdogan has urged his fellow Turks to convert gold and hard currencies into lira in an attempt to shore up the country’s troubled currency.

The worst performing currency in emerging markets so far this year is the Argentinian peso, off 50 percent as South America’s second-largest economy edges closer to recession. Investors were rattled last week when President Mauricio Macri’s administration unexpectedly enacted new export taxes and austerity measures, including ministry cuts, in an effort to balance the budget ahead of a $50 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). With interest rates at an eye-watering 60 percent, the highest in the world, economists surveyed by the country’s central bank forecast an economic contraction of nearly 2 percent in 2018.

And then there’s …read more

From:: Frank Talk