Gold Looks Like a Bargain Just in Time for Christmas

Barrons gold mining index bear markets since 1942
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“Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is,” Warren Buffett famously said. “The time to get interested is when no one else is.”

The same logic applies to Christmas decorations, gold and mining stocks.

Gold on Track for Its Best Year Since 2010

As of my writing this, gold is trading around $1,280, up 11 percent in 2017. That’s off 5 percent from its 52-week high of $1,351 set in September. If it stays at its present level until the end of the year, the metal will end up logging its best year since 2010,

One of the most compelling and engaging presenters at the Precious Metals Summit in London last month was Ronald-Peter Stöferle, a managing partner at Liechtenstein-based asset management company Incrementum. Incrementum, as you may know, is responsible for publishing the annually-updated, widely-read “In Gold We Trust” report, which I’ve cited a number of times before.

During his presentation, Stöferle shared the fact that his wife prefers to do her Christmas decoration shopping in January. When he asked her why she did this—Christmas should be the last thing on anyone’s mind in January—she explained that everything is half-off. A bargain’s a bargain, after all.

This is very smart. Here we are several days before Christmas, and demand for ornaments, lights and other decorations is red-hot, so be prepared to pay premium prices if you’re doing your shopping now. But mere hours after the Christmas presents have been unwrapped and Uncle Hank has fallen asleep on the couch with a glass of boozy eggnog, stores will begin slashing prices to get rid of inventory.

Gold bullion and mining stocks are currently in the “January” phase, so to speak, according to Stöferle. The Barron’s Gold Mining Index, which goes all the way back to 1938, recently underwent its longest bear market ever, between April 2011 and January 2016. And as I already shared with you, the World Gold Council (WGC) reported last month that gold demand fell to an eight-year low in the third quarter.

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“Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is,” Warren Buffett famously said. “The time to get interested is when no one else is.”

The same logic applies to Christmas decorations, gold and mining stocks.

Gold on Track for Its Best Year Since 2010

As of my writing this, gold is trading around $1,280, up 11 percent in 2017. That’s off 5 percent from its 52-week high of $1,351 set in September. If it stays at its present level until the end of the year, the metal will end up logging its best year since 2010, when it returned 30 percent.

Gold traded up on Friday as the U.S. dollar weakened following news that former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russian officials last December during the presidential transition. It’s possible that the details Flynn might provide as part of a plea bargain could help special prosecutor Robert Mueller advance his investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

But back to gold. Considering it’s faced a number of strong headwinds this year—a phenomenal equities bull run that’s drawn investors’ attention away from “safe haven” assets, lukewarm inflation and anticipation of additional rate hikes, among others—I would describe its performance in 2017 as highly respectable.

And yet if you listen to the mainstream financial news media, gold is “boring” and “flat.” Speaking to CNBC last week, Vertical Research partner Michael Dudas called the gold market “eerily quiet.”

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Dudas was specifically describing gold’s volatility, …read more

Move Over, Tesla – China Holds the Keys to Electric Vehicles

Projected annual global electric vehicle sales
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Chinese automakers are moving fast to meet the demand. Volvo Cars, owned outright by Hangzhou, China-based Geely Auto, has already stated it will cease production of fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2020. On top of that, the company is currently building electric versions of London’s iconic taxis, and Uber is rumored to buy as many as 24,000 electric Volvos.

In October, Great Wall Motors announced its plans to form a joint venture with Germany’s BMW to begin production on a new fleet of EVs. Toward that end, the manufacturer bought a 3.5 percent stake in an Australian lithium-mining company to support long-term development of battery resources and control pricing power.

And although it’s not as big a powerhouse as its peers, relative newcomer Guangzhou Automobile Group also has high ambitions to introduce EVs in as many as 14 global markets including North America, Africa, South and Eastern Europe and South East Asia. It recently signed an agreement with tech behemoth Tencent to cooperate on artificial intelligence (AI)-driving and “smart” vehicles.

Electrified shares of chinese automakers headed higher
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Looking ahead to 2040, China is forecast to capture more than 40 percent of the world EV market, according to a recent report from the

Earlier this month, I shared with you a quote from Arnoud Balhuizen, chief commercial officer of BHP Billiton, the largest mining company in the world. In a September interview with Reuters, Balhuizen called 2017 the “revolution year [for electric vehicles], and copper is the metal of the future.”

Balhuizen’s assessment couldn’t be more accurate, and the implications for investors is too compelling to ignore.

In the third quarter, global sales of electric vehicles (EVs) soared 63 percent compared to the same period last year, 23 percent compared to the second quarter. A total of 287,000 units were reportedly sold in the September quarter, leading Bloomberg New Energy Finance to project total annual sales to exceed 1 million units for the first time.

As the world’s largest auto market, China was responsible for about half of the sales as the crackdown on polluting industries has propelled renewable alternatives from power generation to consumer products.

60 Million Electric Cars by 2040?

This is only the beginning. The chart below, highlighted by Katusa Research and originally provided by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, takes a look at annual global EV sales forecasts through the year 2040. As you can see, China, the U.S. and Germany will push the adoption of EVs forward, with the rest of the world following closely behind. Many analysts believe that by 2040, the global EV market could exceed 60 million vehicles sold per year.

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Chinese automakers are moving fast to meet the demand. Volvo Cars, owned outright by Hangzhou, China-based Geely Auto, has already stated it will cease production of fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2020. On top of that, the company is currently building electric versions of London’s iconic taxis, and Uber is rumored to buy as many as 24,000 electric Volvos.

In October, Great Wall Motors announced its plans to form a joint venture with Germany’s BMW to begin production on a new fleet of EVs. Toward that end, the manufacturer bought a 3.5 percent stake in an Australian lithium-mining company to support long-term development of battery resources and control pricing power.

And although it’s not as big a powerhouse as its peers, relative newcomer Guangzhou Automobile Group also has high ambitions to introduce EVs in as many as 14 global markets including North America, Africa, South and Eastern Europe and South East Asia. It recently signed an agreement with tech behemoth Tencent to cooperate on artificial intelligence (AI)-driving and “smart” vehicles.

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Looking ahead to 2040, China is forecast to capture more than 40 percent of the world EV market, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), as well as nearly 30 percent of total new wind, solar and nuclear capacity additions.

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As for the European market, Germany is expected to outpace its neighbors in adopting EVs as Volkswagen, the world’s number one automaker by sales, seeks to become a global leader in electric and self-driving cars. The Wolfsburg-based company announced plans to …read more

Gobble, Gobble: Thanksgiving Dinners Stuffed with Savings Despite Rising Fuel Costs

Cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people 1986 to 2017
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So why’s this happening? Obviously there’s no shortage in demand for turkey, with an estimated 88 percent of American households enjoying it during last week’s Thanksgiving feast. U.S. turkey consumption, in fact, has nearly doubled over the past 25 years, according to the

I spend a lot of time writing and talking about inflation, especially as it affects the price of gold, oil and other commodities and raw materials. The year-over-year percent change in the cost of living has been reasonably low for the past five years, averaging about 1.3 percent on a monthly basis. For commodities, the average change has been even lower at negative 0.9 percent, as measured by the producer price index (PPI). This hasn’t been too constructive for gold and oil producers, but it’s been a windfall for American consumers and manufacturers.

A helpful way to look at inflation is the changing cost of a typical Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people. For the second straight year, the cost actually declined from the previous year’s holiday, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). This year’s feast, including staples such as turkey, rolls, sweet potatoes and more, fell $0.75 to a five-year low of $49.12. On an inflation-adjusted basis, that’s down more than $10 from 30 years ago. The turkey alone cost about 1.6 percent less than last year.

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So why’s this happening? Obviously there’s no shortage in demand for turkey, with an estimated 88 percent of American households enjoying it during last week’s Thanksgiving feast. U.S. turkey consumption, in fact, has nearly doubled over the past 25 years, according to the National Turkey Federation (NTF). As you might expect, this has led to an explosion in production over the same period, which has helped keep costs relatively stable for a generation.

On Friday, shares of Tyson Foods, one of the top processors of the poultry, were trading above $80, up more than 30 percent year-to-date.

Again, this is good news for consumers. Also good? Multiple studies have found that Americans gain only about a pound in weight as a result of engorging themselves on Thanksgiving Day. So don’t feel so guilty about having helped yourself to that extra slice of pumpkin pie.

Record Number of Americans Hit the Road and Take to the Skies

Holiday gasoline prices, however, are on the rise, with the cost per gallon rising to its highest level since 2014. A trip to the pump this past Thanksgiving will cost motorists an extra 18 percent compared to last year and nearly 25 percent more compared to 2015.

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As I shared with you earlier this month, oil prices climbed to two-year highs following Saudi Arabia’s purge of princes and ministers. Markets also appear to be pricing in expectations that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will extend production cuts to the end of 2018.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was trading on Friday at a 52-week high of $59 a barrel. The next stop is $60, a level we haven’t seen since May 2015. In a strategy report last week, BCA Research recommended an overweight position in energy.

Higher fuel costs aren’t expected to discourage domestic travel, though. This Thanksgiving season, approximately 51 million Americans were projected …read more

Synchronized Global Growth May Have Arrived

Global manufacturing PMI at 78 month high in October
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Additional trends and indicators support my bullishness. Worldwide business optimism, as recorded by October’s IHS Markit Global Business Outlook survey, climbed to its highest level in three years, with profits growth and hiring plans continuing to hit multiyear highs. Optimism among U.S. firms was at its highest since 2014, with sentiment above the global average for the second straight survey period.

Small business owners’ optimism remained at historically high levels in October, according to the latest survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Its Small Business Optimism Index came in at 103.8, up slightly from September and extending the trend we’ve seen since the November 2016 election.

Small business owner optimism remained at historically high levels in October
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As I told

Nearly 10 years after the financial crisis brought the global economy to its knees, conditions have finally improved enough to crystallize my conviction that synchronized global growth is currently underway. Revenue and earnings growth are up year-over-year, not just in the U.S. but worldwide. Despite President Donald Trump threatening to raise tariffs and tear up trade deals, global trade is accelerating. World manufacturing activity expanded to a 78-month high of 53.5 in October, with faster rates recorded in new orders, exports, employment and input prices.

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Additional trends and indicators support my bullishness. Worldwide business optimism, as recorded by October’s IHS Markit Global Business Outlook survey, climbed to its highest level in three years, with profits growth and hiring plans continuing to hit multiyear highs. Optimism among U.S. firms was at its highest since 2014, with sentiment above the global average for the second straight survey period.

Small business owners’ optimism remained at historically high levels in October, according to the latest survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Its Small Business Optimism Index came in at 103.8, up slightly from September and extending the trend we’ve seen since the November 2016 election.

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As I told CNBC Asia anchor Bernie Lo last week, U.S., Europe and China’s economies are strong, which is igniting the rest of the world. The eurozone purchasing manager’s index (PMI), in particular—rising to 58.5 in October, an 80-month high—is very constructive for world economic growth in the next six months.

Fewest Number of Countries in Recession

Speaking on CNBC’s “Trading Nation” recently, Deutsche Bank chief international economist Torsten Slok made the case that global economic health “has never been more robust,” citing the fact that the number of countries in recession has dropped to its lowest level in decades.

“We have never seen a smaller number of countries in recession as we do at the moment,” Slok said. “And if you look ahead to the next few years… we are going to see that fall even lower.”

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) backs up this claim in its quarterly economic outlook. According to the Paris-based group, synchronized global growth is finally within sight, with no major economy in contraction mode for the first time since 2008. World GDP is expected to advance 3.5 percent in 2017—its best year since 2011—and 3.7 percent in 2018.

Taken together, this should help boost exports and global trade even further as more countries have the capital and demand to make purchases on the world market.

Exposure to Foreign Markets Boosted Companies’ Bottom Line

Bolstered by a weaker U.S. dollar, exports by American firms hit a three-year high in August, the Commerce Department reported this month. Exports rose to nearly $200 billion, the highest level since December 2014.

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As further proof that the global economy is humming along, S&P 500 Index companies with greater exposure to foreign markets, especially Europe, saw higher revenue and earnings growth …read more

Solar Energy Boom Could Heat Up the Global Energy Sector

Solar PV expected to forge ahead in the Global Power Mix
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According to the IEA, China and India will make up the lion’s share of renewable energy demand, solar PV especially, as the two governments are committed to improving their air quality and lowering costs.

“To meet rising demand, China needs to add the equivalent of today’s United States power system to its electricity infrastructure by 2040,” the IEA writes, “and India needs to add a power system the size of today’s European Union.”

Electricity generation requirements by selected region
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In its September briefing paper, Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory (AECEA), a Hong Kong-based advisory company, reported that China was on track to add 50 gigawatts (GW) of new solar PV capacity this year, a new annual record anywhere around the world. This comes after the Asian country added 34.54 GW in 2016, itself a 128 percent increase from 2015.

As for India, the country just opened the bidding process to install as much as 20 GW of new solar capacity—the most ever for a single deal, according to Indian business newspaper Mint.

Managing Expectations

Whatever your position is on renewables, it’s important as serious investors to recognize where the trend appears to be headed. The tailwinds are undeniably at renewables’ backs at the moment and potentially for the next couple of decades at least.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation, but in the meantime, our

By 2040, the world will need to add the equivalent of India and China’s current energy system to meet the demands of a surging global population and rising incomes. Among all other forms of energy, solar PV (photovoltaic system) is forecasted to see the largest and fastest growth in new capacity additions as prices continue to plummet and world governments enact policy favoring renewables.

The claims above, which come from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) just-released World Energy Outlook 2017, is constructive for one of our favorite stocks, SolarEdge Technologies, held in our Global Resources Fund (PSPFX). The company was up more than 202 percent in 2017 as of November 13, jumping nearly 20 percent in a single day last week after record revenues and profitability were announced for the third quarter. The S&P 500 Energy Index, by comparison, has delivered negative returns for the year.

As I [Frank Holmes, CEO of U.S. Global Investors] told you back in May, we managed to buy shares of SolarEdge and other renewable names [tracking #USGL-2017-05-24-0161] after they contracted last November on fears that the incoming Donald Trump administration would curtail incentives for “green” energy capacity additions. We saw the correction as a prime buying opportunity, a move that helped drive performance in PSPFX, which was up 13.6 percent as of November 13.

SolarEdge at the Cutting Edge of the Solar Market

Our bet on SolarEdge—which made up 1.39 percent of PSPFX as of September 30—continued to pay off as the company just closed out a stellar third quarter. During the earnings call last week, founder and CEO Guy Sella reported record revenue of $166.6 million, up 30 percent from the same quarter last year; record cash flow generation of $33.6 million; and net income of $28 million, with diluted earnings per share at $0.61. This beat consensus estimates by 11 cents. Gross margins stood at 35 percent for the quarter. Oh, and the company has carried absolutely no debt for at least the past year.

There isn’t much about SolarEdge, in other words, that I can find fault with.

Some investors might believe that after such a phenomenal run, SolarEdge is due for a correction. Obviously I can’t predict the future, but for whatever it’s worth, the company’s own guidance for the fourth quarter has revenues reaching between $175 million and $185 million—which, if achieved, would set another fresh record.

So who are SolarEdge’s customers? According to Sella, the U.S. accounted for a little less than half of the Israeli company’s quarterly sales, with market share in Europe climbing. Australia, India and Japan are also “beginning to bear fruit.”

“We remain confident in our technology leadership, innovation and intellectual property we have to defend it,” Sella said, adding that consumers can expect to see a new product line soon that will add to its residential power optimizers, solar inverters and more.

China and India Driving Renewables Adoption

SolarEdge’s success is emblematic of the impressive growth we’ve been seeing in the broader renewables space. As I’ve shared with you before, …read more

My Conviction in Gold Royalty Companies and Bitcoin

Precious metal royalty names have outperformed gold and gold producers
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Other royalty companies’ reports were just as impressive and show the rewards of putting your “talents” to work. Sandstorm Gold, reporting higher operating cash flow of $11.9 million, has acquired as many as 10 separate royalties since the end of September on properties in Peru, Botswana and South Africa that collectively cover more than 2.4 million acres.

Osisko Gold Royalties bought a $1.1 billion portfolio of 74 precious mineral royalties, including a 9.6 percent diamond stream. The company reported record quarterly gold equivalent ounces (GEOs) of 16,664, up 65 percent from the same quarter last year, and record quarterly revenues from royalties and streams of $26.1 million, up 48 percent.

Royal Gold also had a strong quarter, reporting operating cash flow of $72 million, an increase of 30 percent from last year, and returned as much as $16 million to shareholders in dividends.

Some of you reading this might already be familiar with the “Parable of the Talents,” but it’s worth a brief retelling. The story, which appears in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, involves a master who entrusts three servants with some of his “talents,” or gold coins, while he’s away on business. Two of the servants take a risk by putting the money to work and end up doubling their master’s wealth. The third servant, however, buries his share to “keep it safe” and so doesn’t generate any returns. (Indeed it likely loses value because of inflation.)

When the master returns, he’s so pleased at how the first two servants grew his wealth that he puts them in charge of “many things” and invites them to share in his own success.

The third servant, though, he calls “wicked and lazy” and says he might as well have deposited the money in a bank while he was away—at least then he would have received a little interest. The servant is punished by having his share of the talents given to the two who faithfully grew their master’s money, leaving him with nothing.

The lesson here should be plainly obvious, and we can express it in a number of different ways: There can be no reward without risk. You must spend money to make money. You reap what you sow. This should resonate with investors, entrepreneurs and any true believer in the power of capitalism.

Jesus’ parable applies not just to individuals but to corporations as well. Companies must grow to keep up with the rising cost of labor and materials and to stay competitive. To do that, they must put their money to work just as the two servants do.

And just as the two servants were invited to share in their master’s success, corporate growth has a multiplier effect—for the company’s employees and their families, shareholders, the local economy, strategic partners, companies up and down the supply chain and much more.

A Bonanza for Precious Metal Royalty Companies as Exploration Budgets Have Declined

I think the business model that best illustrates the meaning of the “Parable of the Talents” is the one practiced by gold and precious metal royalty companies. As much as I write and talk about royalty companies, I still encounter investors who aren’t aware of how significant a role they play in the mining space.

As a refresher, these firms help finance explorers and producers’ operations by buying royalties or rights to a stream. Because miners have had to slash exploration budgets since the decline in metal prices, the kind of financing royalty companies provide has only grown in demand—as evidenced by the mostly positive earnings reports last week.

Chief among them is Franco-Nevada, which had a very strong third quarter, reporting earnings of $55.3 million, or $0.30 a share, up 3.4 percent from the same three-month period last year. The Toronto-based company, having also recently diversified into the oil royalties space, closed its purchase of an oil royalty for C$92.5 million, bringing …read more

Oil at Two-Year Highs as Saudi Arabia Engages in Its Own “Game of Thrones”

crude oil trading at more than a two-year high
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Mike McGlone, commodity strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence, points out that 2017 marks the first year since 2013 that the median price of WTI crude is higher than the previous year’s. (This is assuming WTI will trade range bound or higher between now and the end of 2017.)

The last time we saw Brent do this was from 2011 to 2012. On Monday, the European benchmark closed above $64 a barrel, more than a two-year high. As of November 5, Brent crude had made positive weekly gains in 10 out of the past 11 weeks.

is oil staging a turnaround?
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Taken together, this has the bulls excited. Hedge funds are currently building record or near-record net long positions in oil, indicating they’re betting prices will continue to climb. According to Reuters, bullish positions in Brent

Recently I identified five agents of change that I believe investors should know about right now. I’d like to add one more to the list: Mohammad bin Salman. The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, 32, was little known outside the region before this past weekend when he jailed members of the royal family, presumably in an attempt to consolidate power ahead of taking the throne. Resembling a plotline from an episode of “Game of Thrones,” the mass detentions signal a seismic change in Saudi leadership—which, in turn, is putting upward pressure on global oil prices.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s second-largest oil producer and single biggest oil exporter, so any development that might alert investors that the kingdom’s production levels or oil policy could be disrupted has historically had a profound effect on prices. When the country’s former king, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, passed away in January 2015, oil jumped more than 8.6 percent for the week.

And so was the case on Monday, after news broke of the shakeup. West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the American benchmark for crude, closed above $57 a barrel for the first time since June 2015, adding nearly 35 percent from its summer 2017 low. A weaker U.S. dollar, down about 3.2 percent from the same time last year, is also providing support, as is slower U.S. supply growth following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

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Mike McGlone, commodity strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence, points out that 2017 marks the first year since 2013 that the median price of WTI crude is higher than the previous year’s. (This is assuming WTI will trade range bound or higher between now and the end of 2017.)

The last time we saw Brent do this was from 2011 to 2012. On Monday, the European benchmark closed above $64 a barrel, more than a two-year high. As of November 5, Brent crude had made positive weekly gains in 10 out of the past 11 weeks.

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Taken together, this has the bulls excited. Hedge funds are currently building record or near-record net long positions in oil, indicating they’re betting prices will continue to climb. According to Reuters, bullish positions in Brent stood at a record 587 million barrels as of Friday, with a record 530 million of those net long.

“Most investors appear to believe prices are moving into a new and higher trading range and want to ride the rally until the new price ceiling is discovered,” says Reuters.

Saudi “Game of Thrones” Could Be More than Mere Palace Intrigue

But let’s return to Saudi Arabia and Mohammad bin Salman, known to many as “MBS.” The official explanation for the detainments—which involve at least 11 princes, including well-known billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, four ministers and “dozens” of ex-ministers—is that they are part of an ongoing crackdown on corruption. According to the BBC, this is only “phase one,” meaning we can probably expect to see more to this process.

MBS’s fight brings to mind …read more

5 Agents of Change Investors Need to Know About Now

China manufacturing power expanded at slightly lower pace in October
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Citing these indicators as well as strong medium and long-term bank lending to nonfinancial corporations, research firm BCA recommended that investors overweight Chinese stocks relative to the emerging market aggregate.

The world is changing fast right now in ways that many investors might not easily recognize or want to admit. This could end up being a costly mistake. If you’re not paying attention, you could be letting opportunities pass you by without even realizing it.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of five agents of change that I think investors need to be aware of and possibly factor into their decision-making process.

1. Xi Jinping

At China’s 19th National Party Congress two weeks ago, Xi Jinping’s political thought was enshrined into the country’s constitution, an honor that, before now, had been reserved only for Mao Zedong, founder of the People’s Republic of China, and Deng Xiaoping. It was Deng, if you recall, who in 1980 established special economic zones (SEZs) that helped turn China into the economic powerhouse it is today.

But back to Xi. His elevation to Chairman Mao-status not only cements his place in the annals of Chinese history but also makes him peerless among other world leaders in terms of political and militaristic might, with the obvious exception of U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

But whereas Trump has been criticized by some for setting the U.S. on a more isolationist path—shrinking the size of the State Department, just to name one example—Xi sees China emerging as the de facto global leader by 2050. To get there, his country is spending billions on the “Belt and Road Initiative” and other massive infrastructure projects, opening its doors to foreign investors, reforming state-run enterprises, weeding out corruption, investing heavily in clean energy and public transportation and expanding its middle class. And let’s not forget that the Chinese yuan, also known as the renminbi, was included in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) basket of reserve currencies in 2015, placing it in the same league as the U.S. dollar, British pound, Japanese yen and euro.

During his three-hour speech before the congress, Xi made reference to the “Chinese dream,” adding that the “Chinese people will enjoy greater happiness and well-being, and the Chinese nation will stand taller and firmer in the world.”

Xi has his own detractors, of course, who see China’s rise as a threat to established world order. But if his vision is to be realized, it might be prudent to recognize and prepare for it now. China’s economy grew a healthy 6.8 percent in the third quarter year-over-year, helping it get closer to meeting economists’ target of 6.5 percent for 2017. And although manufacturing expansion slowed in October, falling from 52.4 in September to 51.6, it was still well above the 50 threshold.

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Citing these indicators as well as strong medium and long-term bank lending to nonfinancial corporations, research firm BCA recommended that investors overweight Chinese stocks relative to the emerging market aggregate.

Explore investment opportunities in Chinese equities!

2. Poland

Besides …read more

Holidays Come Early for Investors as Consumer Spending Surges from Previous Year

U.S. consumer spending surged in september
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In its report, the BEA notes that consumption was driven primarily by new automobile sales and household utilities. Americans drove an impressive 18.5 million autos and light trucks off car lots in September, up 4.7 percent from a year earlier. Contributing to this, it must be pointed out, was the loss of an estimated 1 million vehicles as a result of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Among the companies whose stock appreciated following the two devastating storms was Copart, a preowned vehicle auctioneer. The company has yet to report sales figures for the third quarter—which includes the period when Harvey and Irma struck the U.S.—but its

American consumers were more willing to open their wallets in September, an encouraging sign of what Santa might bring for investors this year. According to the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data, consumer spending in the U.S. rose a robust 1 percent between August and September, the largest month-to-month gain since 2009.

For investors, I think this news bodes well for the consumer discretionary sector as we head toward the busy holiday shopping season, already expected to be strong compared to last year’s.

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In its report, the BEA notes that consumption was driven primarily by new automobile sales and household utilities. Americans drove an impressive 18.5 million autos and light trucks off car lots in September, up 4.7 percent from a year earlier. Contributing to this, it must be pointed out, was the loss of an estimated 1 million vehicles as a result of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Among the companies whose stock appreciated following the two devastating storms was Copart, a preowned vehicle auctioneer. The company has yet to report sales figures for the third quarter—which includes the period when Harvey and Irma struck the U.S.—but its July quarter saw attractive top and bottom growth year-over-year, with sales up 14 percent.

Copart, which just celebrated its 35th anniversary, is one of the top holdings in our Holmes Macro Trends Fund (MEGAX).

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Although the unusually high consumption rate partially reflected Americans’ need to replace vehicles and other durables in the wake of Harvey and Irma, total U.S. spending in September was also supported by rising household incomes and strengthening confidence in the U.S. economy.

According to the University of Michigan’s survey of U.S. households, consumer sentiment surged to 100.7 in October, up from 95.1 in September. This is the highest monthly level since 2004 and, amazingly, represents only the second time the survey has crossed above 100 since the end of the 1990s.

“Personal finances were judged near all-time record favorable levels due to gains in household incomes as well as decade highs in home and stock values,” the University of Michigan writes.

Americans Splurged on Home Improvement and DIY

Of particular note is the increase in spending at building, hardware and garden stores. The most recent Visa Retail Spending Monitor finds that consumption on home improvement and do-it-yourself (DIY) goods and services rose 12.8 percent in August compared to the same month in 2016.

Many Americans, according to Visa chief economist Wayne Best, “are opting to remodel rather than wait for the elusive housing market to pick up, a boon for building, hardware and garden sales.”

I believe this could also be a boon for our Holmes Macro Trends Fund (MEGAX). Not only is consumer discretionary the fund’s largest sector weighting at 27.55 percent, as of September 30, but it also invests heavily in names associated with building and home improvement. Among the companies we own in MEGAX are Home Depot, the fund’s number one holding; Trex, a decking and …read more

The World Is Running out of Gold Mines—Here’s How Investors Can Play It

Total nonferrous exploration budgets fell to an 11 year low in 2016
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And because it takes seven years on average for a new mine to begin producing—thanks to feasibility studies, project approvals and other impediments—output could recede even more rapidly in the years to come.

“It doesn’t really matter what the gold price will do in the next few years,” Pierre says. “Production is coming off, and that means the upward pressure on the gold price could be very intense.”

Have We Reached Peak Gold?

Frank Holmes standing next to Pierre Lassonde right at Mines and Money London in December 2015

What Pierre is talking about, of course, is the idea of “peak gold.” I wrote about this last year and suggested another factor that could be curtailing new discoveries—namely, the

My good friend Pierre Lassonde, cofounder and chairman of Franco-Nevada, doesn’t know how we’ll replace the massive gold deposits of the past 130 years or so. Speaking with the German financial newspaper Finanz und Wirtschaft this month, Pierre says we’re seeing a significant slowdown in the number of large deposits being discovered. Legendary goldfields such as South Africa’s Witwatersrand Basin, Nevada’s Carlin Trend and Australia’s Super Pit—all nearing the end of their lifecycles—could very well be a thing of the past.

Over the medium and long-term, this could lead to a supply-demand imbalance and ultimately put strong upward pressure on the price of gold.

According to Pierre:

If you look back to the 70s, 80s and 90s, in every one of those decades, the industry found at least one 50+ million ounce gold deposit, at least ten 30+ million ounce deposits and countless 5 to 10 million ounce deposits. But if you look at the last 15 years, we found no 50 million ounce deposit, no 30 million ounce deposit and only very few 15 million ounce deposits.

So few new large mines are being discovered today, Pierre says, mostly because companies have had to slash exploration budgets in response to lower gold prices. Earlier this year, S&P Global Market Intelligence reported that total exploration budgets for companies involved in mining nonferrous metals fell for the fourth straight year in 2016. Budgets dropped to $6.9 billion, the lowest point in 11 years. Although we’ve seen an increase in spending so far this year, it still dramatically trails the 2012 heyday.

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And because it takes seven years on average for a new mine to begin producing—thanks to feasibility studies, project approvals and other impediments—output could recede even more rapidly in the years to come.

“It doesn’t really matter what the gold price will do in the next few years,” Pierre says. “Production is coming off, and that means the upward pressure on the gold price could be very intense.”

Have We Reached Peak Gold?

What Pierre is talking about, of course, is the idea of “peak gold.” I wrote about this last year and suggested another factor that could be curtailing new discoveries—namely, the low-hanging fruit has likely already been picked. Gold is both scarce and finite—one of the main reasons why it’s so highly valued—and explorers are now having to dig deeper and venture farther into more extreme environments to find economically viable deposits.

Other factors contributing to the decline include tougher regulations and higher production costs. And unlike with the oil industry, no “fracking” method has been invented yet to extract gold from hard-to-reach areas, though Barrick—the world’s largest producer by output—has been experimenting with sensors at its Cortez project in Nevada.

Take a look at how drastically annual output has fallen in South Africa, once the world’s top gold-producing country by far. In the 1880s, it was the discovery of gold in South Africa’s prolific Witwatersrand Basin—responsible for more than 40 percent of all gold ever …read more

Are ICOs Replacing IPOs?

Are ICOs Replacing IPOs?

Background image created by Dragana_Gordic – Freepik.com

Last week I was in Barcelona speaking at the LBMA/LPPM Precious Metals Conference, which was attended by approximately 700 metals and mining firms from all over the globe. I found the event energizing and stimulating, full of contrary views on topics ranging from macroeconomics to physical investment markets to cryptocurrencies.

My keynote address focused on quant investing in gold mining and the booming initial coin offering (ICO) market. I’m thrilled to share with you that the presentation was voted the best, for which I was awarded an ounce of gold. I want to thank the London Bullion Market Association, its members and conference attendees for this honor.

Speaking of gold and cryptocurrencies, the LBMA conducted several interesting polls on which of the two assets would benefit the most in certain scenarios. In one such poll, attendees overwhelmingly said the gold price would skyrocket in the event of a conflict involving nuclear weapons. Bitcoin, meanwhile, would plummet, according to participants—which makes some sense. As I pointed out before, trading bitcoin and other cryptos is dependent on electricity and WiFi, both of which could easily be knocked out by a nuclear strike. Gold, however, would still be available to convert into cash.

It’s a horrific thought, but the poll results show that the investment case for gold as a store of value remains favorable. Goldman Sachs echoed the idea last week, writing in a note to investors that “precious metals remain a relevant asset class in modern portfolios, despite their lack of yield.” The investment bank added that precious metals “are still the best long-term store of value out of the known elements.”

Metcalfe’s Law Suggests Crypto Prices Could Keep Rising

This isn’t meant to knock bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Because they’re decentralized and therefore less prone to manipulation by governments and banks—unlike paper money and even gold—I think they could also have a place in portfolios.

Even those who criticize cryptocurrencies the loudest seem to agree. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jaime Dimon, if you remember, called bitcoin “stupid” and a “fraud,” and yet his firm is a member of the pro-blockchain Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA). Russian president Vladimir Putin publicly said cryptocurrencies had “serious risks,” and yet he just called for the development of a new digital currency, the “cryptoruble,” which will be used as legal tender throughout the federation.

Follow the money.

Metcalfe’s law states that the bigger the network of users, the greater that network’s value becomes. Robert Metcalfe, distinguished electrical engineer, was speaking specifically about Ethernet, but it also applies to cryptos. Bitcoin might look like a bubble on a simple price chart, but when we place it on a logarithmic scale, we see that a peak has not been reached yet.

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Bitcoin adoption could multiply the more people become aware of how much of their wealth is controlled by governments and the big banks. This was among the hallway chatter I overheard at the Precious Metals Conference, with one …read more

Car Manufacturers Are Electrifying Copper, “The Metal of the Future”

Copper is far outperforming the five year average
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Several factors are driving the price of the red metal right now. Manufacturing activity, as measured by the purchasing manager’s index (PMI), is

As many of you know, copper is often seen as an indicator of economic health, historically falling when overall manufacturing and construction is in contraction mode, rising in times of expansion.

That appears to be the case today. Currently trading above $3 a pound, “Doctor Copper” is up close to 28 percent year-to-date and far outperforming its five-year average from 2012 to 2016.

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Several factors are driving the price of the red metal right now. Manufacturing activity, as measured by the purchasing manager’s index (PMI), is expanding at a pace we haven’t seen in years in the U.S., eurozone and China. The U.S. expanded for the 100th straight month in September, climbing to a 13-year high of 60.8.

Speculators are also buying in response to word of copper shortages in China, despite September imports of the metal rising to its highest level since March. The world’s second-largest economy took in 1.47 million metric tons of copper ore and concentrates last month, an amount that’s 6 percent higher than the same month in 2016.

Why Copper Is the “Metal of the Future”

Why are we seeing so much copper entering China? One reason could be battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which require three to four times as much copper as traditional fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

China is already the world’s largest and most profitable market for BEVs, and Beijing is now reportedly working on plans to curb and eventually ban the sale of fossil fuel-powered vehicles, according to the Financial Times. This would place the Asian giant in league with a number of other powerful countries similarly crafting bans on internal combustion engines within the next 25 years, including Germany, France, Norway, the United Kingdom and India.

Because of the sheer size of the Chinese market, this move is sure to delight copper bulls and investors in any metal that’s set to benefit from higher BEV production. That includes cobalt, lithium and nickel.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, BEVs will account for 54 percent of all new car sales by 2040. That year, China, Europe and the U.S. are expected to make up 60 percent of the global BEV fleet.

This could have a huge effect on copper prices over the next 10 years and more. With fewer and fewer large deposits being discovered, demand should accelerate from 185,000 metric tons today to an estimated 1.74 million tonnes in 2027, according to the International Copper Association.

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These are among the reasons why Arnoud Balhuizen, chief commercial officer of Australian mining giant BHP Billiton, called copper “the metal of the future” in an interview with Reuters last month.

“2017 is the revolution year [for electric vehicles], and copper is the metal of the future,” Balhuizen said, adding that the market is grossly underestimating the red metal’s potential as BEV adoption surges around the world.

Cobalt Gets Its Day in the Sun

And let’s not forget cobalt. The brittle, silver-gray metal, used to extend the life expectancy of …read more