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

Copper is far outperforming the five year average
click to enlarge

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.

click to enlarge

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.

click to enlarge

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

Germans Have Quietly Become the World’s Biggest Buyers of Gold

Gold investment demand in Germany Hit a New High in 2016
click to enlarge

Germany’s rise to become the world leader in gold investing is a compelling story that’s quietly been developing for the past 10 years. Before 2008, Germans’ investment in physical gold barely registered on anyone’s radar, with average annual demand at 17 metrics tons. The country’s first gold-backed ETC didn’t even appear on the market until 2007.

But then the financial crisis struck, setting off a series of events that ultimately pushed many Germans into seeking a more reliable store of value.

“While the world fretted about Lehman Brothers, German investors worried about the state of their own banking system,” the WGC writes. “Landesbanks, the previously stable banking partners of corporate Germany, looked wobbly. People feared for their savings.”

To stanch the bleeding, the European Central Bank (ECB) slashed interest rates. Banks began charging customers to hold their cash, and yields on German bunds dropped into negative territory.

All of this had the effect of rekindling German investors’ interest in gold. As I’ve explained before, gold prices have historically surged in that country’s currency when real government bond yields turned subzero. What we saw in Germany was no exception.

gold price jumped when German government bond yield turned negative
click to enlarge

Weakening Faith in Paper

As the WGC points out, Germans are acutely aware that fiat currencies can become unstable and lose massive amounts of value. In the 1920s, the German mark dipped so low, a wheelbarrow overflowing with marks wasn’t enough to buy a single loaf of bread. In the past 100 years, the country has gone through eight separate currencies.

It’s little wonder, then, that a 2016 survey found that 42 percent of Germans trust gold more than they do traditional money.

This is where Germans and Indians agree. The latter group’s faith in the banking system has similarly been eroded over the years by regime changes and corruption, and gold has been seen as real money.

It’s not just individual German investors who harbor a strong faith in gold. The Deutsche Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, spent the past four years repatriating 674 metric tons of Cold War-era gold from New York and Paris. The operation, one of the largest and most expensive of its kind, concluded in August. Today the central bank has the second largest gold reserves in the world, following the Federal Reserve.

Room for Further Growth

With Germans’ demand for gold investment products having already reached epic proportions, what can we expect next? Will interest continue to grow, or will it recede?

Analysts with the WGC believe there is room for further growth, citing a survey that shows latent demand in Germany holding strong. Impressively, 59 percent agreed that “gold will never lose its value in the long-term.” That’s a huge number.

Regardless of whether or not investment expands in Germany, this episode shows that gold is still seen as an exceptional store of value, and trusted even more so than traditional fiat money. For gold investors, that’s good news going forward.

When I talk about Indians’ well-known affinity for gold, I tend to focus on Diwali and the wedding season late in the year. Giving gifts of beautiful gold jewelry during these festivals is considered auspicious in India, and historically we’ve been able to count on prices being supported by increased demand.

Another holiday that triggers gold’s Love Trade is Dussehra, which fell on September 30 this year. Thanks to Dussehra, India’s gold imports rose an incredible 31 percent in September compared to the same month last year, according to GFMS data. The country brought in 48 metric tons, equivalent to $2 billion at today’s prices.

As I’ve shared with you many times before, Indians have long valued gold not only for its beauty and durability but also as financial security. Indian households have the largest private gold holdings in the world, standing at an estimated 24,000 metric tons. That figure surpasses the combined official gold reserves of the United States, Germany, Italy, France, China and Russia.

See which countries have the largest gold reserves!

A New Global Leader in Gold Investing?

But as attracted to gold as Indians are, they weren’t the world’s biggest investors in the yellow metal last year, and neither were the Chinese. According to a new report from the World Gold Council (WGC), that title shifted hands to Germany in 2016, with investors there ploughing as much as $8 billion into gold coins, bars and exchange-traded commodities (ETCs). This set a new annual record for the European country.

click to enlarge

Germany’s rise to become the world leader in gold investing is a compelling story that’s quietly been developing for the past 10 years. Before 2008, Germans’ investment in physical gold barely registered on anyone’s radar, with average annual demand at 17 metrics tons. The country’s first gold-backed ETC didn’t even appear on the market until 2007.

But then the financial crisis struck, setting off a series of events that ultimately pushed many Germans into seeking a more reliable store of value.

“While the world fretted about Lehman Brothers, German investors worried about the state of their own banking system,” the WGC writes. “Landesbanks, the previously stable banking partners of corporate Germany, looked wobbly. People feared for their savings.”

To stanch the bleeding, the European Central Bank (ECB) slashed interest rates. Banks began charging customers to hold their cash, and yields on German bunds dropped into negative territory.

All of this had the effect of rekindling German investors’ interest in gold. As I’ve explained before, gold prices have historically surged in that country’s currency when real government bond yields turned subzero. What we saw in Germany was no exception.

click to enlarge

Weakening Faith in Paper

As the WGC points out, Germans are acutely aware that fiat currencies can become unstable and lose massive amounts of value. In the 1920s, the German mark dipped so low, a wheelbarrow overflowing with marks wasn’t enough to buy a single loaf of bread. In the past 100 years, the …read more

Here’s Why Bitcoin Won’t Replace Gold So Easily

Have gold and bitcoin peaked for 2017
click to enlarge

But I don’t think for a second that cryptocurrencies will ever replace gold, for a number of reasons. For one, cryptos are strictly forms of currency, whereas gold has many other time-tested applications, from jewelry to dentistry to electronics.

Unlike cryptos, gold doesn’t require electricity to trade. This makes it especially useful in situations such as hurricane-ravished Puerto Rico, where 95 percent of people are reportedly still without power. Right now the island’s economy is cash-only. If you have gold jewelry or coins, they can be converted into cash—all without electricity or WiFi.

Finally, gold remains one of the most liquid assets, traded daily in well-established exchanges all around the globe. Every day, some £13.8 billion, or $18 billion, worth of physical gold are traded in London alone, according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). The cryptocurrency market, although expanding rapidly, is not quite there yet.

I will admit, though, that bitcoin is energizing some investors, especially millennials, in ways that gold might have a hard time doing. The proof is all over the internet. You can find a number of TED Talks on bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, but to my knowledge, none is available on gold investing. YouTube is likewise bursting at the seams with videos on cryptos.

Bitcoin is up 350 percent for the year, Ethereum an unbelievable 3,600 percent. Gold, meanwhile, is up around 10 percent. Producers, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, have gained 11.5 percent in 2017, 23 percent since its 52-week low in December 2016.

What a week it was.

First and foremost, I’d like to acknowledge the horrific mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas, the deadliest in modern American history. On behalf of everyone at U.S. Global Investors, I extend my sincerest and most heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families.

The memory of the shooting was still fresh in people’s minds during last Tuesday’s Hollywood premiere of Blade Runner 2049, which nixed the usual red carpet and other glitz in light of the tragedy. Before the film, producers shared poignant words, saying that in times such as these, the arts are crucial now more than ever.

I had the distinct privilege to attend the premiere. My good friend Frank Giustra, whose production company Thunderbird Entertainment owns a stake in the Blade Runner franchise, was kind enough to invite me along. Despite the somber mood—a pivotal scene in the film even takes place in an irradiated Las Vegas—I thought Blade Runner 2049 was spectacular. Even if you’re not a fan of the original 1982 film, it’s still worth experiencing in theaters. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s synth-heavy score is especially haunting.

CNET recently published an interesting piece examining the accuracy of future tech as depicted in the original Blade Runner, from androids to flying cars to off-world travel read the article here.

Still in the Early Innings of Cryptocurrencies

Speaking of the future, I spoke on the topic of the blockchain last week at the Subscriber Investment Summit in Vancouver. My presentation focused on the future of mining—not just of gold and precious metals but also cryptocurrencies.

Believe it or not, there are upwards of 2,100 digital currencies being traded in the world right now, with a combined market cap of nearly $150 billion, according to Coinranking.com.

Obviously not all of these cryptos will survive. We’re still in the early innings. Last month I compared this exciting new digital world to the earliest days of the dotcom era, and just as there were winners and losers then, so too will there be winners and losers today. Although bitcoin and Ethereum appear to be the frontrunners right now, recall that only 20 years ago AOL and Yahoo! were poised to dominate the internet. How times have changed!

It will be interesting to see which coins emerge as the “Amazon” and “Google” of cryptocurrencies.

For now, Ethereum has some huge backers. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), according to its website, seeks to “learn from and build upon the only smart contract supporting blockchain currently running in real-world production—Ethereum.” The EEA includes several big-name financial and tech firms such as Credit Suisse, Intel, Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase, whose own CEO, Jamie Dimon, knocked cryptos a couple of weeks ago.

To learn more about the blockchain and cryptocurrencies, watch this engaging two-minute video.

Will Bitcoin Replace Gold?

Lately I’ve been seeing more and more headlines asking whether cryptos are “killing” gold. Would the gold price be higher today if massive amounts of money weren’t flowing into bitcoin? Both assets, after …read more

Manufacturers Just Had a Gangbuster Month

U.S. Manufacturing Activity Expanded for 100th straight month in september
click to enlarge

Not only is this reflective of a strengthening U.S. economy, but it also supports demand for commodities going forward. With construction spending also up in the U.S., I think the time could be ripe for investors to consider increasing their allocation to

American manufacturers grew at their fastest pace since May 2004 in September, according to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). Manufacturing activity, as measured by the ISM Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), expanded for the 100th straight month, climbing to a 13-year high of 60.8. The higher above 50, the more rapid the acceleration.

click to enlarge

Not only is this reflective of a strengthening U.S. economy, but it also supports demand for commodities going forward. With construction spending also up in the U.S., I think the time could be ripe for investors to consider increasing their allocation to energy, natural resources and basic materials.

According to the ISM report, growth was fastest in prices, which rose 9.5 percentage points from the August level. Factories reported having to pay higher prices for materials including textiles, plastics, wood products, chemical products and more. Other areas that saw rapid expansion were supplier deliveries, up 7.3 percentage points in September, and new orders, up 4.3 percentage points.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma disrupted supply chains in August and September, prompting companies to stockpile goods as a precautionary measure. This likely lifted the already-impressive ISM reading somewhat, but it doesn’t change the strong fundamentals that underlie the U.S. economy in general right now.

Optimism Among Manufacturers Historically High

Manufacturers’ optimism remained historically high during the September quarter, with nearly 90 percent of those surveyed by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) saying they expected to see strong industry growth over the next 12 months. That reading’s up more than 28 percentage points compared to the same quarter last year.

click to enlarge

In the March quarter following the U.S. election, the survey rose to the highest level in its 20-year history as manufacturers expressed optimism in President Donald Trump’s plans to lower corporate taxes and streamline industry regulations. Although the reading has cooled since then, optimism still remained at historically high levels during the quarter.

Other Regions Showed Marked Improvement

The U.S. wasn’t the only region that made strong gains. Manufacturing activity in the world’s two other major economies, China and the eurozone, surged in September. China’s official manufacturing PMI rose to a five-year high of 52.4, representing the 14th straight month of expansion and beating analysts’ expectations.

Chinese manufacturing profits are among the highest in years, spurred by government spending on infrastructure, higher prices and stronger exports.
The eurozone PMI, meanwhile, climbed to a 79-month high of 58.1 in September, with output and new orders expanding in all eight of the ranked countries. Backlogs of work reached its steepest acceleration in over 11 years. Even Greece, which has struggled to come out from under mountains of debt, registered a 52.8, a 111-month high.

All of this could be a tailwind for companies engaged in the production of natural resources and basic materials. Such companies make up a little over 60 percent of our Global Resources Fund (PSPFX). We believe energy companies also stand to benefit from increased manufacturing activity, make up close to 20 percent of …read more

This Could Be a No-Brainer Gold Buying Opportunity

Gold price has traded down prior to chinas Golden Week in October
click to enlarge

As you can see above, gold immediately rallied following the correction in 2014 and 2015, but it continued to drop in 2013 and 2016.

There’s no telling what it might do this year, of course, but I believe this could be a good buying opportunity, as the

Last week I was pleased to be the keynote speaker at the Denver Gold Show in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado. Attendance was strong, sentiment was up and my presentation on quant gold investing was very well received.

As I’ve explained before, our firm uses quantamentals in our gold investing process, combining old-fashioned, bottom-up stock picking with big data and machine learning. This allows us to screen for the best possible producers with the most attractive balance sheets. We prefer miners that have a proven track record of sustainable profitability even when precious metal prices are down.

It’s these quantamentals that went into the creation of our newest quant ETF, our first to launch in Canada.

On Friday, I was thrilled to be back in my hometown of Toronto, where Galileo team members and I had the privilege of opening the Toronto Stock Exchange. The TSX, as you may know, has a long history of being the world’s premiere marketplace for mining stocks, and in 2016, 57 percent of the world’s financing for mining companies was done on the TSX. It’s only fitting, then, that our new ETF is traded there.

I urge you to listen to the ETF Trends webcast in which Tom Lydon and I discuss the gold market today and the factors we use in picking the strongest gold stocks.

Prepare for Gold to Get Sloppy, but Backdrop Remains Strong into Year-End

Early last week, North Korea said it was interpreting some of President Donald Trump’s comments as a declaration of war, insisting it can freely shoot down American military planes even if they’re not flying in North Korean airspace. As everyone is pointing out, the country has made similar threats in the past, but with Trump as president, there could be an added level of unpredictability.

Ordinarily, we would expect geopolitical risk of this scale to boost the price of gold on increased safe haven demand. Instead, the yellow metal struggled last week to extend the gains it’s made in 2017 so far.

The main contributor to the pullback is likely the fact that markets in China will be closed this week in observance of Golden Week. Think of Golden Week as China’s Fourth of July—if the Fourth of July lasted for several days. This year marks the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Given that the country is the world’s largest gold market, the metal has in the past depreciated leading up to the week-long celebration. If you remember from last year, gold was knocked down significantly after someone dumped as much as $2.25 billion of the metal in the futures market, and on October 2, gold suffered its biggest one-day loss in three years. Last week it fell 1.33 percent.

click to enlarge

As you can see above, gold immediately rallied following the correction in 2014 and 2015, but it continued to drop in 2013 and 2016.

There’s no telling what it might do this year, of course, but I believe …read more

Here’s Why China Region Stocks Are in the Spotlight Right Now

China Region Fund USCOX outperformed its benchmark by roughly 25% for 12-month period
click to enlarge

Put another way, USCOX has beaten the HSCI in eight of the past 11 months, or 73 percent of the time, with the greatest monthly spread between fund and index occurring in June.

china region fund uscox bet its benchmark 73% of past 11 months
click to enlarge

One of the main contributors to our outperformance is our overweight positions in

Between escalating tensions with North Korea and a U.S. Congress in gridlock, it can sometimes be challenging to stay positive. That’s why I’m pleased to share with you this good news: Our China Region Fund (USCOX) was up more than 45 percent for the 12-month period as of September 22, 2017, beating its benchmark, the Hang Seng Composite Index (HSCI), which gained 20.7 percent over the same period. This means USCOX outperformed the index by roughly 25 percent.

click to enlarge

Put another way, USCOX has beaten the HSCI in eight of the past 11 months, or 73 percent of the time, with the greatest monthly spread between fund and index occurring in June.

click to enlarge

One of the main contributors to our outperformance is our overweight positions in information technology and consumer discretionary stocks, which made up a combined 61 percent of the fund as of September 22. As we see it, these sectors are where the growth is, driven by innovative tech firms, from Sunny Optical to Tencent, and automakers such as Geely Automative, Guangzhou Automotive and Great Wall Motor.

click to enlarge

Asian Stocks Look Cheap Compared to the American and European Markets

When measured against the American and European markets, Asian stocks, excluding Japan, have been the top performers of 2017 so far, returning more than 30 percent year-to-date. That’s compared to an 11.7 percent gain for the S&P 500 Index and 20 percent gain for the STOXX Europe 600.

Asian stocks also have a more attractive valuation than these other two regions. With the S&P 500 trading at 21.4 times earnings and the STOXX Europe 600 trading at 21.2 times earnings, the MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan Index looks more reasonable at 15.6 times earnings.

The China Region Fund, meanwhile, trades at 15.5 times earnings, making it, I believe, an exceptional value.

Cars, Tech and Sportswear Driving Growth

We believe our exposure to Chinese automakers and tech firms makes USCOX well-positioned for long-term growth. Not only is China the largest passenger car market in the world, it was also the fastest growing. In the first eight months of this year, auto sales in the country were up close to 5 percent compared to the same eight months in 2016, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Geely, which completed its acquisition of Volkswagen in 2010, sold 718,000 vehicles during this period, an amazing 88 percent increase year-over-year.

Tech manufacturers, especially those that supply Apple, look very attractive. Our favorite right now is Sunny Optical, which specializes in lenses for a number of advanced applications. The company announced that shipments of handset lenses surged 96 percent in August, while vehicle lenses rose 65 percent. For the 12-month period as of September 22, its stock was up 264 percent.
We’re also fans of Anta Sports Products, China’s largest sportswear company by revenue. By selling pricier athletic gear under its Fila brand, the company is seeking to capitalize on rising incomes and the Chinese
…read more

The Biggest Global Tax Break Ever Bubbles Up from Texas Oil Industry

Drilling productivity up in Texas shale regions despite lower oil prices
click to enlarge

The typical Permian well remains very profitable even with $50-a-barrel oil, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The research group estimates that oil would need to drop below $45 a barrel for some Permian wells to become unprofitable.

Christi Craddick, the Texas Railroad Commissioner,

Recently, I had the privilege of appearing on “Countdown to the Closing Bell,” Liz Claman’s program on Fox Business. When asked if I was nervous that stocks are heading too high, I said that I’m very bullish. All around the world, exports are up, GDPs are up and the global purchasing manager’s index (PMI) is up.

Oil prices continue to remain low, however, thanks in large part to the ingenuity of Texas fracking companies. As I told Liz, this has served as a multibillion-dollar “peace dividend” that has mostly helped net importing markets, including “Chindia”—China and India combined, where 40 percent of the world’s population lives—Japan and the European Union.

I can’t emphasize enough how impressive it is that Texas shale oil producers continue to ramp up output even with crude remaining in the $50 per barrel range.

This underscores their efficiency and innovation in drawing on oil reserves that were largely out-of-reach as recently as 10 or 12 years ago. What’s more, common law property rights here in the U.S. benefit mining companies in ways that simply can’t be found in Latin America and other parts of the world that operate under civil law.

According to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) most recent report on drilling productivity, total U.S. shale oil output is expected to climb above 6 million barrels a day for the first time in September. The biggest contributors are Texas shale oilfields, which will exceed 4 million barrels a day. West Texas’ Permian Basin alone represents nearly 400 percent of these gains, according to research firm Macrostrategy Partnership.

click to enlarge

The typical Permian well remains very profitable even with $50-a-barrel oil, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The research group estimates that oil would need to drop below $45 a barrel for some Permian wells to become unprofitable.

Christi Craddick, the Texas Railroad Commissioner, praised the Texas fracking industry in her address at the annual Panhandle Producers and Royalty Owners Association (PPROA) meeting last week. She noted how essential shale oil producers are to the Texas economy, adding that despite the downturn in oil prices, “the Texas oil and gas industry has shown extraordinary resilience.”

“When times were tough, the industry did what it does best—innovate,” she said. “Because of your ingenuity, we’re seeing industry growth today despite the price of oil.”

Again, it’s this ingenuity that’s kept oil prices relatively low, which in turn has helped strengthen GDPs in oil-importing emerging markets and squeeze the revenue of exporters such as Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and others.

Texas-based oil and gas exploration company Anadarko Petroleum was one of the top performing natural resource stocks last week, gaining more than 12 percent. The surge came on the heels of the company’s announcement that it approved a $2.5 billion stock buyback program.

Explore investment opportunities in oil and other natural resources!

Coming Together as a Community

A month after the Texas Gulf Coast was devastated by the unprecedented wind and rains of Hurricane Harvey, the cleanup and rebuilding continues. …read more

The Blockchain Could Potentially Be as Disruptive as Amazon Was in the 1990s

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as President
click to enlarge

Some could easily take from this poll that Frank Talk readers are huge Trump supporters—and many of them are—but that would be overlooking the fact that nearly 40 percent said they disapprove of the way he’s handled his job.

I share this because it serves as a relatively accurate cross section of the types of opinions and perspectives I come across during my travels. Some of those opinions end up informing my own thinking, some don’t—but all of them are added to my “book.”

Now with North Korea launching even more rockets over Japan, the market continues to make new highs. This is what I was asked most often last week on CNBC Asia, Bloomberg Radio and Fox Business. As I said then, I’m bullish because the purchasing manager’s index (PMI) is up and oil prices are down, thanks to the ingenuity of Texas fracking, which has created a global peace tax break. The weaker dollar is also favorable for exports and gold.

Block chain map

Bitcoin on Sale After the China-Dimon One-Two Punch

Someone whose opinion I greatly admire, even if I don’t always agree with it, is Jamie Dimon’s. The highly-respected JPMorgan Chase CEO was asked last week at a global financial services conference in New York to share his thoughts on bitcoin—which can be as polarizing as President Trump. Some people love the cryptocurrency, some people hate it.

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon

Dimon, who’s decidedly in the latter camp, didn’t mince his words.

Although he likes blockchain technology, which bitcoin is built on top of, he began by saying he would fire any JPMorgan trader who was caught trading bitcoin, which he went on to call “stupid,” “dangerous” and “a fraud.”

“You can’t have a business where people can invent a currency out of thin air,” he said.

With all due respect to Dimon, some might point out that “inventing a currency out of thin air” is how we got Federal Reserve Notes and other forms of paper money in the first place. Even he admits this:

“The first thing a nation does when it forms itself—literally the first—is forming currency.”

Bitcoin—and any of the 800 other cryptocurrencies—takes this idea to the next level, the main difference being that no third party or monetary authority controls its issuances or transactions. It’s all peer-to-peer.

Governments tend to resist anything that disrupts the status quo, which is why we saw

By Frank Holmes
CEO and Chief Investment Officer
U.S. Global Investors

A quote often attributed to St. Augustine, the early Christian theologian, is: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” I feel blessed to be able to travel as much as I do—not because I’m a big fan of 10-hour flights or living out of a hotel room. I feel blessed because travel allows me to meet and speak at length with some truly fascinating and successful people, from CEOs of firms both large and small, to deal lawyers, to audit partners.

Hearing varying opinions on global issues and politics has helped expand the scope and depth of my “book,” or understanding of the world. In turn, I enjoy sharing some of these thoughts with you, as regular readers of Investor Alert and Frank Talk know well.

Opinions come a dime a dozen, of course, and in today’s hyper-partisan world, it’s impossible to expect everyone to agree on all things all of the time.

Case in point: I recently polled readers on their approval of the way Donald Trump has handled his job as president so far. This isn’t a scientific poll by any stretch of the imagination, but for whatever it’s worth, a combined 56 percent of participants said they approve of the president. Amazingly, that’s roughly the percentage of Electoral College votes given to Trump in November. (The exact figure is 56.87 percent.)

click to enlarge

Some could easily take from this poll that Frank Talk readers are huge Trump supporters—and many of them are—but that would be overlooking the fact that nearly 40 percent said they disapprove of the way he’s handled his job.

I share this because it serves as a relatively accurate cross section of the types of opinions and perspectives I come across during my travels. Some of those opinions end up informing my own thinking, some don’t—but all of them are added to my “book.”

Now with North Korea launching even more rockets over Japan, the market continues to make new highs. This is what I was asked most often last week on CNBC Asia, Bloomberg Radio and Fox Business. As I said then, I’m bullish because the purchasing manager’s index (PMI) is up and oil prices are down, thanks to the ingenuity of Texas fracking, which has created a global peace tax break. The weaker dollar is also favorable for exports and gold.

Bitcoin on Sale After the China-Dimon One-Two Punch

Someone whose opinion I greatly admire, even if I don’t always agree with it, is Jamie Dimon’s. The highly-respected JPMorgan Chase CEO was asked last week at a global financial services conference in New York to share his thoughts on bitcoin—which can be as polarizing as President Trump. Some people love the cryptocurrency, some people hate it.

Dimon, who’s decidedly in the latter camp, didn’t mince his words.

Although he likes blockchain technology, which bitcoin is built on top of, he began by saying he would fire …read more

Natural Disasters Have Not Caused a Single Muni Default: Moody’s

For the first time since we’ve been keeping track, two separate Category 4 hurricanes struck the mainland U.S. in the same year. It should come as no surprise, then, that the combined recovery cost of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is expected to set a new all-time high for natural disasters. AccuWeather estimates the total economic impact to top out at a whopping $290 billion, or 1.5 percent of national GDP.

With parts of Southeast Texas, Louisiana and Florida seeing significant damage, many fixed-income investors might be wondering about credit risk and local municipal bond issuers’ ability to pay interest on time. If school districts, hospitals, highway authorities and other issuers must pay for repairs, how can they afford to service their bondholders?

It’s a reasonable concern, one that nearly always arises in the days following a major catastrophe. But the concern might be unwarranted, if the past is any indication.

Lessons from Hurricane Katrina

According to credit ratings firm Moody’s Investors Service, natural disasters have not been the cause of a single default in U.S. muni bond history. Even Hurricane Katrina, responsible for a then-unprecedented $120 billion in damages, wasn’t enough to cause New Orleans to renege on its debt obligations.

The reason for this is that the affected areas normally receive substantial disaster relief from both the federal and state governments. Congress appropriated tens of billions of dollars in aid following Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and this year it’s already approved an initial payment of $7.85 billion. Combined with flood insurance proceeds, this has often been enough to keep municipalities solvent and day-to-day operations running.

“FEMA aid (often 75 percent or more of disaster-related costs) and flood insurance can go a long way in mitigating financial strain in the medium term,” wrote Lindsay Wilhelm, senior vice president of municipal credit research at Raymond James, in a note last week.

Texas and Florida Have Investment-Grade Credit Ratings

It’s also important to keep in mind the sheer size of Houston’s economy and its impeccable credit-worthiness. As I shared with you in a previous Frank Talk, the Texas city had a gross domestic product (GDP) of roughly $503 billion as of 2015, which is equivalent to the size of Sweden’s economy. This puts Houston, the fourth-largest city in the U.S., in a better position to handle a hurricane’s devastating aftermath than New Orleans, which had a GDP of between $69 billion and $72 billion at the time of Hurricane Katrina, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

The 18 Texas counties that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared a disaster all have strong, investment-grade credit ratings from Moody’s and/or Standard & Poor’s. Highest among them is Harris County, where Houston is located, which currently has the highest-possible ratings of Aaa from Moody’s and AAA from S&P. This allows it to issue debt relatively easily, which it will likely need to do more of in the years and possibly decades to come.

In addition, the State of Texas has the highest ratings possible from both firms, while Florida …read more

Gold and Bitcoin Surge on North Korea Fears

Cryptocurrencies have made red hot moves this past year
click to enlarge

Like gold, cryptos are favored by those who have a deep distrust of fiat currency, or paper money. Money, after all, is built on trust, and the blockchain technology that bitcoin is built on top of automates trust through an electronic ledger that cannot be altered. Every transaction is anonymous and peer-to-peer. The system is entirely decentralized and democratic. No monetary authority can see who owns what and where money is flowing.

This, of course, is a huge reason why some world governments want to crack down on the Wild West of virtual currencies, especially with bitcoin surging close to $5,000 this month.

China did just that last week, putting a halt to new ICOs and crypto transactions. In response, ethereum tumbled as much as 15.8 percent last Monday, or $55 a unit. Bitcoin lost $394 a unit.

China’s decision comes a little more than a month after

If you’re familiar with ABC’s popular reality show Shark Tank, you should already be familiar with the concept behind the San Antonio Angel Network (SAAN). Select entrepreneurs and innovators pitch their startup ideas to accredited investors, who can choose to make early-stage investments in a potentially successful company.

I attended an SAAN meeting last week at Ferrari of San Antonio, and what struck me the most was how fluid and seamless the whole thing is. Other professionals in attendance, including lawyers and CPAs, had a similar opinion, with some of them saying it was because there wasn’t any bureaucracy or red tape to hamstring the presenters.

This is unlike the world of mutual funds, which I believe has become excessively regulated.

As I’ve said numerous times before, regulation is essential, just as referees are essential to a basketball game. No one disputes that, because otherwise there would be chaos.

Similarly, the new and very unregulated world of cryptocurrencies has grown dramatically, beyond bitcoin and ethereum. Did you know there are over 800 cryptocurrencies? These new initial coin offerings, called ICOs, are like initial public offerings (IPOs) but with little regulation or accountability. As I’ve commented before, if the refs get too powerful or too numerous, and the rules too complex, the game becomes nearly unplayable.

Cryptocurrencies Still Draw Investor Attention Following China Crackdown

Bitcoin, ethereum and other cryptocurrencies have had a meteoric year, with more than $2 billion raised in ICOs so far in 2017, according to Bloomberg. Approximately $155 billion in cryptocurrencies are in circulation around the world right now. Bitcoin by itself is at $78 billion, which is close to the $90 billion invested in all gold ETFs.

click to enlarge

Like gold, cryptos are favored by those who have a deep distrust of fiat currency, or paper money. Money, after all, is built on trust, and the blockchain technology that bitcoin is built on top of automates trust through an electronic ledger that cannot be altered. Every transaction is anonymous and peer-to-peer. The system is entirely decentralized and democratic. No monetary authority can see who owns what and where money is flowing.

This, of course, is a huge reason why some world governments want to crack down on the Wild West of virtual currencies, especially with bitcoin surging close to $5,000 this month.

China did just that last week, putting a halt to new ICOs and crypto transactions. In response, ethereum tumbled as much as 15.8 percent last Monday, or $55 a unit. Bitcoin lost $394 a unit.

China’s decision comes a little more than a month after the SEC said cryptocurrencies are securities and therefore should probably be regulated as such. At this point, though, the implications are unclear.

What’s clear to me—after seeing firsthand how easily and quickly transactions are made—is that there’s no going back. It’s possible cryptocurrencies will one day be regulated. But I’m confident bitcoin, ethereum and some other virtual currencies offer enough value to weather such a potential roadblock.

I also believe there has to be a …read more

The (Investing) World According to Geoffrey Caveney

gold price per ounce and precious metal miners, september 2015 - July 2016
click to enlarge

Geoffrey’s track record is nothing to sneeze at. In July 2016 he advised readers to take profits on Alexco Resource, which was up an amazing 430 percent for the six-month period. A trade on Fortuna Silver Mines a month earlier netted him a 445 percent profit. He has a number of similar successes under his belt.

“I’m in the habit of thinking for myself,” he told me recently during a chat over the phone.

To make such a contrarian call on gold—or any other asset—you have to think for yourself. If you remember, gold in 2015 hadn’t logged a positive year in three years, and investor sentiment toward the precious metal was down. Every gold conference I spoke at, attendance was unusually light. When an asset gets this beat up, it’s often easy just to fall in with the herd.

But as Warren Buffett himself once said, “The time to get interested is when no one else is.”

Stay in Control of the Decision-Making Process

Thinking for himself has served Geoffrey well in a number of other ways—most notably when he got laid off during the financial crisis. Instead of wasting time looking for work that wasn’t available, he decided to try his luck at freelance tutoring. Combining his interests from when he attended Yale University in the 1990s, he began to teach young people chess, English, math and SAT prep.

His best advice to those about to take the SAT? Focus on the process rather than the goal, and keep your emotions in check. Take deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.

As Geoffrey himself pointed out, this is sound investing advice as well. Greed and fear can be powerful allies, but it’s important to learn to harness them and stay in control of the decision-making process. This isn’t New Age, hippie-dippie stuff. Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, has often attributed his extraordinary success to meditating, which he says keeps him calm and centered.

“If you don’t reset yourself mentally on occasion, you run the risk of making the same mistakes over and over again,” Geoffrey said.

Life Changes, and So Should Your Strategy

Aside from tutoring, Geoffrey grew his interest in investing, where he put his background in math and chess to good use. In his youth he took chess lessons from the distinguished Uzbek grand master Gregory Serper, and he learned to apply this highly strategic mode of thinking to his trades. As his instincts improved, he started writing about investing and finance on sites such as

The best call financial writer Geoffrey Caveney ever made was in December 2015. Gold hit a multiyear low of $1,050 an ounce, and he was convinced that the metal had found a bottom. It was time to make a trade, he thought, not just in bullion but precious metal miners, specifically the juniors and some micro-cap names.

Readers who took Geoffrey’s recommendation were no doubt grateful they did. Responding to low to negative interest rates around the world, gold rose as much as 16.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016, its best three-month performance since 1986. By the end of June, it had surged 28 percent, its best first half of the year since 1974. Producers, as measured by the Philadelphia Gold and Silver Index, likewise took off.

click to enlarge

Geoffrey’s track record is nothing to sneeze at. In July 2016 he advised readers to take profits on Alexco Resource, which was up an amazing 430 percent for the six-month period. A trade on Fortuna Silver Mines a month earlier netted him a 445 percent profit. He has a number of similar successes under his belt.

“I’m in the habit of thinking for myself,” he told me recently during a chat over the phone.

To make such a contrarian call on gold—or any other asset—you have to think for yourself. If you remember, gold in 2015 hadn’t logged a positive year in three years, and investor sentiment toward the precious metal was down. Every gold conference I spoke at, attendance was unusually light. When an asset gets this beat up, it’s often easy just to fall in with the herd.

But as Warren Buffett himself once said, “The time to get interested is when no one else is.”

Stay in Control of the Decision-Making Process

Thinking for himself has served Geoffrey well in a number of other ways—most notably when he got laid off during the financial crisis. Instead of wasting time looking for work that wasn’t available, he decided to try his luck at freelance tutoring. Combining his interests from when he attended Yale University in the 1990s, he began to teach young people chess, English, math and SAT prep.

His best advice to those about to take the SAT? Focus on the process rather than the goal, and keep your emotions in check. Take deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.

As Geoffrey himself pointed out, this is sound investing advice as well. Greed and fear can be powerful allies, but it’s important to learn to harness them and stay in control of the decision-making process. This isn’t New Age, hippie-dippie stuff. Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, has often attributed his extraordinary success to …read more

We Looked into the Effects of Hurricane Harvey and Here’s What We Found

5 largest oil refineries impacted by hurricane Harvey
click to enlarge

Motiva isn’t the only refinery that was affected, of course. As much as

Unless you’ve been away from a TV, computer or smartphone for the past week, you’ve likely seen scores of pictures and videos of the unprecedented devastation that Hurricane Harvey has brought to South Texas and Louisiana. As a Texan by way of Canada, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the human and economic impact of this storm, one of the worst natural disasters to strike the U.S. in recorded history.

Below are some key data points and estimates that help contextualize the severity of Harvey and its aftermath.

$503 Billion

In a previous Frank Talk, “11 Reasons Why Everyone Wants to Move to Texas,” I shared with you that the Lone Star State would be the 12th-largest economy in the world if it were its own country—which it initially was before joining the Union in 1845. Following California, it’s the second-largest economy in the U.S. A huge contributor to the state economy is the Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land area, which had a gross domestic product (GDP) of $503 billion in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Not only does this make it the fourth-largest metropolitan area by GDP in the U.S., but its economy is equivalent to that of Sweden, which had a GDP of $511 billion in 2016.

1-in-1,000 Years

The amount of rain that was dumped on parts of Southeast Texas set a new record of 51.88 inches, breaking the former record of 48 inches set in 1978. But now we believe it exceeds that of any other flood event in the continental U.S. of the past 1,000 years. That’s according to a new analysis by the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies and Dr. Shane Hubbard, a researcher with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Hubbard’s conclusion required the use of statistical metrics since rainfall and flood data go back only 100 years or so, but the visual below might help give you a better idea of just how rare and exceptional Harvey really is.

$190 Billion

According to one estimate, Hurricane Harvey could end up being the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Analysts with Risk Management Solutions (RMS) believe economic losses could run between $70 billion and $90 billion, with a majority of the losses due to uninsured property. This is a conservative estimate compared to AccuWeather, which sees costs running as high as $190 billion, or the combined dollar amounts of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. If so, this would represent a negative 1 percent impact on the nation’s economy.

500,000 Cars and Trucks

The wind and rains damaged more than just houses, schools, refineries and factories. According to Cox Automotive, which controls Kelley Blue Book, Autotrader.com and other automotive businesses, as many as half a million cars and trucks could have been rendered inoperable because of the flooding. That figure’s double the number of vehicles that were destroyed during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. What this means, of course, is that auto dealerships are going to have their work cut out for them …read more