Gold royalty companies and bitcoin – a viewpoint

Here at lawrieongold.com we have long advocated the investment positives of precious metals royalty companies – and Franco Nevada and Royal Gold have been the two best performers so far this year out of the precious metals stocks we recommended on Seeking Alpha right at the end of 2016 – See: 2017 Predictions – Gold, Silver, PGMs, The Dollar, Markets, Geopolitics,

However we do have to say that on bitcoin we are not really a believer.  To us there is no underlying value, it is in a bubble, and will likely, at some stage, come crashing down from whence it came – but Frank Holmes. whose thoughts we publish below is very definitely a believer reckoning that it is a currency for our times and is being taken up particularly by millennials.  As I say, we are not so sure but Frank’s views are well worth reading.  After all he runs a successful series of funds, while I do not!  Anyway, do read Frank’s views on the royalty companies and bitcoin below:

My Conviction in Gold Royalty Companies and Bitcoin

By Frank Holmes – CEO and Chief Investment Officer, US Global Investors

Bitcoin

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 the number of its oil and gas assets up to 82. Including precious metals and other minerals, the total number of assets Franco-Nevada had in its diverse portfolio as of the end of the quarter stood at 341.

Here’s the multiplier effect: Not only do the miners benefit from the deals, allowing them to continue exploration and other operations, but shareholders are also rewarded handsomely. Since the company went public nearly 10 years ago, it’s raised its dividend each year and its share price has outperformed both gold and relevant gold equity benchmarks. After its earnings announcement last Monday, Franco-Nevada stock closed up more than 6 percent on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), its best one-day performance in nearly a year and a half. Shares hit a fresh all-time high last week.

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.

Wheaton Precious Metals, the world’s largest precious metal streaming company, showed a sizeable decline in profits in the third quarter, but it continued to generate strong cash flow and looks poised to meet its end-of-year production guidance.

Although some investors might not realize how important these companies are to the industry, many other investors are opting to place their bets on royalty names, seeing them as having ample exposure to precious metals without some of the risks associated with producers. In its review of the third quarter, the World Gold Council (WGC) reported that global gold demand fell to an eight-year low as investment in gold ETFs slowed to 18.9 metric tons, down from 144.3 metric tons in last year’s September quarter. This could be a consequence of the media’s continued negative coverage of gold, despite its competitive performance against the S&P 500 Index. Whatever the cause, in this environment, there was no lack of love for royalty names, as you can see in the chart above.

A Changing Financial Landscape

We were one of Wheaton Precious Metals’ seed investors in 2004, when it was then known as Silver Wheaton. Because Franco-Nevada wouldn’t be spun off from Newmont Mining for another three years, Wheaton had first-mover advantage. It was something new, something different. This, coupled with what I recognized as a superior business model, gave me the conviction to allocate capital into the fledgling company, a move that turned out to be highly profitable.

Today I have the same conviction in blockchain technology and digital currencies. As of the end of October, the initial coin offering (ICO) market had raised $3 billion so far this year. That’s more than seven times the amount generated in crowdfunding in all of the previous years before 2017. And Bloomberg just reported that Google searches for “buy bitcoin” recently surpassed searches for “buy gold.”

Search queries for buy bitcoin surged past buy gold
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With bitcoin’s market cap having grown past that of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, cryptocurrencies can no longer be written off as a curiosity. Major financial institutions have become bullish, having filed approximately 2,700 patents in blockchain technology.

Abigail Johnson, the youthful chairman of Fidelity, was quoted as saying, “Blockchain technology isn’t just a more efficient way to settle securities, it will fundamentally change market structures, and maybe even the architecture of the internet itself.” Johnson allegedly has a crypto-mining computer rig in her office, and Fidelity accountholders are now able to see their bitcoin holdings on the brokerage firm’s online platform. USAA, the massive financial firm used by millions of U.S. military personnel and their families worldwide, provides a similar service.

Bitcoin

This all comes as Coinbase, a leading digital currency broker, saw a record number of people opening new accounts on its platform recently, doubling the number of accounts from the beginning of the year. In one 24-hour period, 100,000 new accounts were opened.

Millennials Driving Interest in Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrencies

A lot of this growth in demand is thanks to millennials, the largest U.S. generation. Forget the stereotype of the “entitled” millennial in the workplace and the misconception that they’re all wasting their money on $10 avocado toast. Consulting firm Deloitte estimates that by 2020, millennials will make up 50 percent of the workforce and control between $19 trillion and $24 trillion. Many are savvy investors and were found to be more likely to be aware of their brokerage account fees than older generations, according to Charles Schwab’s Modern Wealth index.

In some ways, millennials are reshaping our living habits. Many of them choose to rent instead of own to stay mobile. They’re more likely to get their news from Twitter than from TV. Online dating apps have helped foster today’s hookup culture, but while young people now might have more sex partners than before, they’re having less sex overall than their parents or grandparents might have had at their age.

It’s little surprise, then, that millennials are among the earliest and most enthusiastic adopters of blockchain technology, bitcoin and digital currencies in general—none of which existed even 10 years ago. A poll conducted by Blockchain Capital found that large percentages of millennials would prefer $1,000 in bitcoin to $1,000 in other assets. More than a quarter said they would prefer bitcoin to stocks, while nearly a third preferred it to bonds.

Percent of millenials who would prefer 1000 in botcoin to 1000 in
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What I find especially encouraging is that only 4 percent of those who took the poll owned or had owned bitcoins. I say encouraging because this suggests there’s quite a lot of upside potential for bitcoin ownership, which in turn could raise prices further. As I shared with you recently, Metcalfe’s law states that the bigger the network of users, the greater that network’s value becomes. Consider Facebook. The social media giant has more than 2 billion active users. That’s 2 billion pairs of eyes Facebook is able to charge top dollar for advertisers to reach, helping it deliver record profits in the third quarter.

We could see the same thing happen across the blockchain and cryptocurrency network as more and more businesses and people embrace this new form of exchange.

Ploughing Capital into Blockchain

It should be clear by now that something is changing in financial markets, and this is what inspired me to make a strategic investment in a company with first-mover advantage in the cryptocurrency space, just as we did with Silver Wheaton years ago. As the “Parable of the Talents” teaches us, no reward can come to you without some risk-taking. Doing nothing is not an option.

That company is HIVE Blockchain Technologies, a blockchain infrastructure company involved in the mining of virgin digital currencies. The first company of its kind to sell shares to the public, HIVE began trading on the TSX Venture Exchange on September 18.

I’m very excited about this new chapter in our company’s history. If you weren’t on today’s earnings call, you can download the slide deck here to learn more about our deal with HIVE and what it means for our investors and shareholders.

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Gold/Silver vs. Bitcoin Comparisons: A No-Brainer… or Brainless?

by: David Smith*

For most of the year, as Bitcoin soared, crashed, and soared again, cryptocurrency vs. physical gold-silver talking heads engaged each other in heated rhetoric about which of these venues is here to stay.

Some of the biggest names in finance, government, and the newsletter analyst space have made comments that – to be charitable – appear less-than-fully informed. Comments like “Even though bitcoin could rise to $100,000, it’s still going to zero!” don’t offer much insight. Some other questionable assumptions:

2017 percent price change comparisons: Relating this year’s gold and silver’s price range to that of bitcoin misses an important point. Yes, bitcoin (BTC) has risen by a much greater percent, but it’s also fallen more. I don’t recall gold dropping 40% this year, which bitcoin has… on a couple of occasions.

Bitcoins

Please note: Bitcoin has no tangible, physical form.

 

Trash-talking gold and silver as “antiquated”: Bitcoin is now considered legal tender in Japan, but at this time, its primary function is for use in the purchase and sale of the 900+ “alt coins” currently available.

Most of these exchange entries in the crypto-space are not really “currencies” at all and will never trade as such.

Rather they are “coins” or “tokens” digitally created and circulated to raise seed money, via initial coin offerings (ICOs) in order to solve some business application in a blockchain-connected manner. Many have no trading volume – possibly because the market is skeptical of their business plan – and have become more or less “dead” coins.

At present, a relative few have an actively trading market. Investors have dropped literally millions of dollars into scores, if not hundreds of entrants which have appeared on the scene like dragon’s teeth, in many cases only to see volume dry up soon thereafter.

At present, digital apparitions can be created and marketed by just about anyone. The following example demonstrates how easy it is (for now), and how gullible some people really are.

Can I interest you in a “Useless Ethereum Token”?

Earlier this year, the “Useless Ethereum Token” (UET) was “announced” online. The “Issuer” wrote:

You are literally giving your money to someone on the Internet and getting completely useless tokens in return. There are no ‘whitepapers,’ no ‘products’, and no ‘experts’. It’s just you, me, your hard-earned Ether, and my shopping list.

You would think this blatantly-stated scam would elicit exactly zero response, yet reportedly, the UET ‘Project” was able to raise more than $60,000!

By the same token, it’s a safe bet that many Venezuelans wish they had traded some of their bolivares fuertes (“strong Bolivar”) notes, rendered worthless over the last few years, for a few ounces of silver – or a single ounce of gold – which could now purchase respectively, six months of food, or a house.

Becoming a victim of “default bias”: We all have a tendency to operate through a lens which uses the past as a default setting.

We keep doing what we know, avoid taking new risks, and resist changing the way we think.

Default bias can cause lost opportunities – whether it involves learning about the blockchain or being hesitant to buy precious metals when they’re in boring “wear you out or scare you out” sideways action (another David Morgan homily)… as they’ve been lately.

Dismissing Bitcoin as “just digital”: Kim Iskyan (Stansberry Churchouse Research) addresses the criticisms leveled at bitcoin and the blockchain. Responding to the charge that it’s “purely digital,” he notes that fully 90% of all the money – or as David Morgan refers to it, “paper promises” – that exist around the world today are not physical either!

Doug Casey is always one to see beyond the next investment valley (or country), and he pegs what most people miss when they argue that bitcoin is “bad” for the future of precious metals. As he said,

When people buy these cryptocurrencies, even if they know nothing about hard money, economics, or monetary theory, they inevitably ask themselves, “Hmm, Bitcoin or the dollar?” They’re both currencies. Then they start asking questions about the nature of the dollar…the nature of inflation… and whether the dollar has any real value, what’s going to happen to it, and why.

People start asking themselves these questions – which wouldn’t have occurred to them otherwise… and it’s going to make them very suspicious of the dollar. It’s going to get a lot of people thinking about money and economics in a way they never thought about it before. And this will inevitably lead them to gold…

What I am doing: In addition to staying very active in metals and miners, I have placed “small money” into several coins and tokens having viable business models in hopes of making an asymmetric profit.

Gold Bull Market 1970s vs. 2000 to date

In spite of the current turmoil, I remain steadfast in the belief that the next few years will see gold and silver trading several times higher than their nominal 2011 prices of $1,900 and near $50 respectively. The blockchain is here to stay. As for bitcoin, only time will tell.

We may even see digital coins and tokens backed by precious metal. But these changes in the crypto space will not replace them. Indeed, gold and silver will almost certainly – to the surprise of many bitcoin bulls – markedly increase demand.

I plan to continue holding the majority of my investible funds in gold and silver. How about you?

Gold vs Bitcoin: Are they competitors?

Mike Gleason* of Money Metals Exchange interviews Frnak Holmes of U.S. Global Investors

Mike Gleason: It is my privilege now to welcome in Frank Holmes, CEO and Chief Investment Officer at US Global Investors. Mr. Holmes has received various honors over the years, including being named America’s Best Fund Manager for 2016 by the Mining Journal. He is also the co-author of the book The Goldwatcher: Demystifying Gold Investing and is a regular guest on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business as well as right here on the Money Metals podcast. Frank, welcome back and thanks for joining us again. How are you today?

Frank Holmes: Excellent. Thank you, my friend. Thank you.

Mike Gleason: Well, to start out here, Frank, I know you recently attended and spoke at the Denver Gold Show and I always like to talk to insiders like yourself following those sorts of events because you can always glean some good insights on the mood of the industry and how things are really going in the precious metals community. Now the mining industry has taken a pretty good beating over the last few years and it continues to struggle a bit even as we seem to be in a new bull cycle that began in late 2015. You’ve got your new gold fund now, GOAU, so you’ve got lots on insights into the mining industry and know lots of gold bugs. So, what did you glean from the conference Frank? What was the mood in general? Give us some highlights there if you would.

Frank Holmes: Well I think my presentation was well received when I explained how the quant world and data mining, and these other what they call alternative investment research companies, are providing new insight the way investing is taking place. Understanding the paradigm shift on that data collection and that analysts love their old reports on mid asset value, are irrelevant. They’re not relevant to picking stocks today. And you have to go with the forces of physics either as electromagnetic rebounding to the mean is a cheap stock and math says it will rebound or has strong momentum. And you can take a universe of 88 gold stocks and take it down to 28 and far outperform the GDX or GDXJ.

Using data that was foreign to a lot of these analysts and recognizing … the other thing I think worth commenting on was gold and this whole thing on Bitcoin, is it a competition for bullion? It is not. First of all, without electricity Bitcoin is not worth any money. It needs electricity. Gold is always gold. It conducts electricity and it will always have its materiality for currency in addition to being jewelry. But I think that’s really important is to recognize that it’s so much easier, this idea of crowdfunding, to go and open up an exchange and trade 24/7 all these different currencies all around the world than it is to open a brokerage account. And I think that this excessive regulations is basically seeing people migrate over to angel investing, crowdfunding such as into cryptocurrencies, et cetera. And I think that’s the bigger danger is to overall investing in trading in the capital markets. So they’re the comments that I made and that seem to have come back with many written messages to me regarding the quants and how they’re changing the landscape.

But I think the other part that’s important for your listeners is that there were 1,100 people there. Now they don’t allow investment bankers in. Research analysts, traders, CEOs, gold analysts from the buy and sell side, they’re allowed to participate and there were 1,100. The week before there was a big event for the juniors (junior miners) but this event is the premiere event of the world. And I was impressed with it. The conversations looking for companies that are going to be taken over. What’s the probability. Because the seniors are desperate for future production and where is that growth going to come from because they’re just not finding the gold as fast as they’re mining. So, the Newmonts of the world have to go and strike deals like they did with Continental in Columbia to get a foothold into high grade big geographic footprints. So I thought that was interesting. I think that in the next 12 months there’s going to be lots of M&A work. And the other part was the royalty companies seem to get a new sort of respect for how their positioned in the capital markets in that gold space.

Mike Gleason: Yeah definitely. Sounds like there is a wave of optimism there and some good things ahead. Now I wanted to get back to some of the cryptocurrency conversation here. Your firm, Frank, US Global Investors, recently made an investment in HIVE Blockchain Technologies and you have been appointed chairman of the board there. Given you are heavily involved in the cryptocurrency space now, we’d like to get your take on a topic of growing interest in the metals community. You alluded to this a moment ago but cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin in particular, have been seen by many as another form of honest money. You’ve obviously maybe shot a little bit of a hole in what it is that is needed in order to continue the cryptocurrency world, that being electricity. But since you’re a fan at least in part of both metals and blockchains. What are your thoughts on how metals might fit in with this emerging technology, Frank?

Frank Holmes: Well let’s just focus on this emerging technology. We go back to the internet and it was actually very boring when it first come out because it was very slow and it used to be a joke that it was just porn and dark things. And now it’s fast porn. No, I’m kidding. But the real catalysts for the internet exploding in usage were emails, AOL. And long before Yahoo came out to give you free email. And then people saw the incredible capacity for this channel of distribution of information. Well I think that the Bitcoin and Ethereum are doing that for blockchain technology and that there’s a huge scramble to be able to apply this so that you’ll be able to trade stocks 24/7.

And when I was doing my research and I went to the largest cryptocurrency event, that used to be where the gold show used to be held in New York at the Marriott. I was just shocked to see how many young people were there. Many more than ever when gold was peaking. And two is that they weren’t drinking scotch and whiskey at the bar and beer, they were drinking Pepsi and coffee. That really threw me off to just watch those young people and how they’re looking at it. And then to find out that the keynote speaker was a CEO of Fidelity. Fidelity is a massive multi-trillion dollar asset management company and they have all their employees on Bitcoin. They have a wallet and you can buy goods in the store. And seeing that she’s the keynote and that the New York Stock Exchange when it was launching GOAU they were commenting that they had put money into Coinbase along with USAA in San Antonio.

So, at Coinbase you can open an account so easily and they will now let your 10,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 of coins show up as an asset over all in your portfolio. USAA and all that should do that at Fidelity. So I said well it’s something really that’s not mainstream and then in the summer it came out in the Wall Street Journal that Fidelity is doing it. But really it didn’t seem to captivate a lot of people’s interest. And I think that the big part with the New York Stock Exchange is just their worry of being Uberized the way taxi cabs were with having stock trading 24/7 and a lot cheaper.

So, I think that that’s the big trend and along I was trying to launch a cryptocurrency, ETF, or a product with that and I just kept bringing up cul-de-sacs. Had to back that car out, back that truck out. It didn’t matter if it was the U.S., the SEC, or Canada with the OSC. They’re just so consumed that AML (Anti Money Laundering) supersedes, even though you can track Bitcoin, supersedes anything else. So that’s why you’ve not seen anything come out directly where you can trade Bitcoin into an ETF.

So I’ve been working on this and then all of the sudden I hear from my friend Frank Giustra saying, “Look, we have this deal. Do you know much about this space?” And I said “Oh, yes. I’ve been working on it. And I just keep running into cul-de-sacs.” And he said, “Well, why don’t you explore it” and explored it and I said, “You know what, I’ll be come your third biggest shareholder, and I will go on the board,” because I think that HIVE is so special and unique because it’s the mining business.

And the company behind HIVE is Genesis Mining and Genesis Mining is the largest cryptocurrency miner in the word. They have a million people give them 500 bucks a year and one of the things I learned was that if you want to do mining of cryptocurrency you need to have cheap energy like two cents a kilowatt hour. So you find that a lot of these big dealer centers are in Iceland where it’s cool and you have cheap electricity. Google is there. Facebook is there and so is Genesis. And you need to have computer graphic cards because the processing power to validate a transaction. So, you found that NVIDIA stock has taken off because the cryptocurrency companies like Genesis have been massive buyers of their computer graphics cards.

And so, with that, I said, “You mean, we’re going to be investing in a company that’s mining and validating transactions all over the world, and we create new coins, fresh coins, mint coins, virgin coins” … however you want to characterize them. We are not trafficking on the silk road. We are not buying and selling a coin that could have been painted et cetera. No. We’re the creator because we validate transactions and you get paid every time you validate a blockchain transaction. So, I became extremely excited about this opportunity and so far we’ve made for our shareholders more than 500% on their money.

Mike Gleason: That’s fantastic. Now I’d like to get your take on the U.S. dollar. The dollar had a miserable performance through the first eight months of the year and bottomed in early September at 91.5. The greenback then bounced and has enjoyed a very good rally since then. What is driving this rally in your view and are you expecting the dollar to keep moving higher in the months ahead, Frank?

Frank Holmes: Well, historically it does get a bit of a rally going into the year end. That’s one. Two is the 5-year government bond. The 5-year government bond is positive now, the yield. So, the CPI number is 1.9 and you just take whatever the government is trying to entice you to buy their 5-year government bond, subtract the CPI number… it recalibrates every month and it gives you a good idea for where fund falls are going for real rates return. And whenever the five year government bond and the two year government bond are negative, gold is positive. And so, we went from a 1.4 to 1.5 5-year government bond to a 1.93. Now it’s just slightly positive but that was enough to sort of have the dollar rally and gold come off in the past month.

But I think that unless you really get change, you get fiscal change, trying to get the tax code streamlined and trying to get other parts of the legislation body in its Beltway to streamline regulations. We need to have the TSA preferred, how you can fly much more quickly now, rather than those two hour waits to fly and to go and catch your flight. You know most people in San Antonio were driving to Houston rather than going to wait two hours for an hour flight. And so, you’re seeing now this TSA preferred. That’s just streamlining processes and this has to be done for the movement of money, for opening a trading accounts, for opening up investment accounts, et cetera. If we don’t get those things, we’re going to have to have negative real interest rates to keep the economy going. Or you’re going to have to a very weak dollar to drive exports.

And I think that Trump has been a master disrupter. He’s so disruptive to the Beltway Party, which is the regulatory regime that’s been their professional regulatory. I’ve listened to other people like Bernanke spoke about the difficulty for Jimmy Carter and Trump to take on the Beltway Party. But he’s different and so he’s trying to push for the streamline of regulations. If he can, rates can trade higher and I think that the dollar will just trade with the real interest rates relative to the rest of the world.

But I remain very positive on gold. It’s amazing to see how well gold has done this year. The gold stocks have had a great run until the GDXJ blew up. Basically, they captured 95% of all fund flows. Therefore, they had to be concentrated owning more than 20 companies 20% means they had to do a force takeover. They had to back out of that one and they blew out three billion dollars. They brought in five billion dollars over 12 months and then they did an exit in only a matter of weeks of three billion dollars. And that really damaged the bid side and bruised people. It’s like getting hit by Mike Tyson. You just don’t heal quickly when he hits you and it’s the same thing with the gold stocks. But I think there’s some just fabulous gold stocks out there that are ripe to be taken over, that have very strong positive cash flow. The weaker dollar in the U.S. and the higher gold prices, there’s very strong margins for companies like Klondex.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, certainly can be interesting as we go towards the latter part of the year here to see what might be sustained in this correction in gold or if it can rebound and get back to where it was maybe a month ago or so. We did have a good first half of the year in the metals but the markets obviously have hit some of those headwinds here recently, a rising dollar and so forth that you alluded to. If you would, give us your bull case for metals in near term and then also if you would maybe a bear case as well and then kind of expand more on which side you’re betting on, as we begin to wrap up here.

Frank Holmes: Well, there’s the two drivers for gold: love trade and fear trade. And the fear trade dominates the psychic of Americans and the same thing with Europeans in that’s predominantly negative real interest rates. So whenever the government has to monetize most of their debt, and basically negative real interest rates are losing money and buying their government bonds, gold does well. I don’t think that they can raise rates significantly without a massive streamlining of regulations and the government is doing everything to try to stop Trump from doing that. So, I think we’re going to end up still living with negative interest rates.

Now, the other positive part, for the U.S., is that the dollar is down but the exports are up. So we have our strong industrial base. And it’s showing up in PMI, that’s Purchasing Manufacturer’s Index, which is a forward looking index. It’s not like GDP, which is looking out the rear view mirror. This is like looking with headlights looking down six months. And the one month is above the three month, and that’s really positive for global growth. So I remain positive and constructive towards it. What could derail it? North Korea could derail it. China’s policies could derail it. And I think that if rates were to surge dramatically in the U.S., that could derail it.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen. We’re in a very constructive mode and it’s a great opportunity for stock picking. I just spoke at a conference in Vancouver yesterday, and I commented on … By the way, I commented on HIVE. I was asked and I said, “You know, if you’re a value investor, HIVE is extremely overvalued.” But if you are a first mover advantage in the first public company where funds can go by and get exposure to crypto-mining. It is not. It’s like Tesla, it’s like Amazon. They will always trade at lofty valuations. And so, it’s extremely attractive that way when you look at it as being first mover advantage.

Mike Gleason: Well that’s great stuff as usual. Thanks as always for joining us. It’s a real honor to hear your thoughts and we appreciate your time as always. Now before we let you go, please tell our listeners a little bit more about your firm and your services and then also mention the Frank Talk Blog so people can learn more about that if they’re not already checking it out.

Frank Holmes: Well, we are USfunds.com, makes it so easy, just go to USfunds.com, sign up for investor alert. It’s right in the middle of the page. And we write every week and we do a game film analysis, three strengths or weaknesses for last week and opportunities and threats that can come out next week. Sort of forward looking like game film and looking back.

And the Frank Talk is my global travels and I try to be insightful and learn about how we’ve applied quant math. What’s called quantamentals to stock picking. And especially we launched our GOGO Canadian gold ETF and we’ve launched one here in the U.S., which we’re really proud of because the ten year index based on those smart factors, both performs of GDXJ say 94% of the time are rolling 12 month periods. So we think that GOAU, we’ll write about it, we’ll tell you about the changes. And we also have unique products like JETS which is also an ETF listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, it’s great stuff. Certainly the Go Gold fund is looking very good from what I’ve been reading about. Obviously performing just as you were hoping it would and continued success there. We always appreciate it and good luck with the other endeavors that you have going on and keep up the good work on those market commentaries and we’ll certainly look forward to our next conversation. Take care, Frank.

Frank Holmes: Take care, my friend.

Mike Gleason: Well that will do it for this week. Thanks again to Frank Holmes, CEO of US Global Investors and manager of the recently launched GOAU Gold Fund. For more information, the site is USfunds.com. Be sure to check out the previously mentioned Frank Talk blog while you’re there for some of the best market commentary you will find anywhere on gold and other related topics. Again, you can find all that at USfunds.com, and you can also go to GOAUETF.com for more information on that new gold fund.

And check back here next Friday for our next Weekly Market Wrap Podcast. Until then, this has been Mike Gleason with Money Metals Exchange. Thanks for listening, and have a great weekend, everybody.

Gold and Bitcoin Surge on North Korea Fears

Article written prior to the sharpish turndown in the gold price after the weekend.

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

bicion

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.

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 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 happy medium between the excessively regulated fund industry and the potential chaos of the cryptocurrency. This is what I witnessed at the SAAN event I mentioned, which allowed the professionals in attendance to gain information, ask questions and make informed decisions.

Gold Trading Above $1,350 an Ounce

Speaking on cryptocurrencies last week, Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, said gold could be a beneficiary of China’s decision to clamp down on ICOs. As more governments and central banks turn their attention to virtual currencies, investors could move back into the yellow metal as a store of value.

That’s a possibility, but I think gold’s price action right now is being driven by negative real Treasury yields and fears over a potential conflict with North Korea. Adjusted for inflation, the two-year and five-year Treasuries are both currently yielding negative amounts, and the 10-year continues to fall closer to 0 percent.

Real treasury yeilds fall further
click to enlarge

As I’ve explained numerous times before, gold and real interest rates share an inverse relationship. It makes little sense to invest in an asset that’s guaranteed to cost you money—which is the case with the two-year and five-year government bond right now. Investors seeking a “safe haven” might therefore add to their weighting in gold, especially with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un raising tensions.

The yellow metal closed (last week) above $1,350 an ounce, more than a one-year high – (but has come down quite sharply this week as some of thge geopolitical fears eased – temporarily perhaps? – Editor).   

Gold price up more than 15 percent year to date
click to enlarge

Despite Efforts to Control Spending, National Debt Expected to Continue Growing: CBO

Similarly driving the gold Fear Trade are concerns over the national debt. Last week President Donald Trump sided with Congressional Democrats in raising the federal borrowing limit to allow Hurricane Harvey recovery aid to pass. An initial package of $7.85 billion for Harvey victims was agreed upon, but with total costs expected to be as high as $190 billion—more than the combined costs of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy—and with Hurricane Irma the federal aid amount could eventually run even higher.

Trump partially ran on reigning in government spending, which I and many others would like to see. Even so, this might not be enough to control our runaway debt. According to an August report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), debt will likely continue to grow as spending for large federal benefit programs—Social Security, Medicare and the like—outpaces revenue. Interest payments on the debt will only continue to accelerate as well.

Below is a chart showing national debt as a percentage of GDP going back to the founding of the U.S. Although we’ve seen periodic spikes in response to national crises, the debt could soar to unprecedented levels within the next 10 years.

Federal debt expected to continue rising
click to enlarge

Financial writer Alex Green, the Oxford Club’s chief strategist, told me during my recent interview with him that he thought out-of-control spending posed a greater threat to our country than even North Korea.

I tend to agree with him, and that’s why I believe that investors should have a 10 percent allocation in gold, with 5 percent in bullion and 5 percent in gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

Even another flash crash can’t keep gold price down for long

This is a lightly edited version of one first posted on the Sharps Pixley news website

2 million ounces of gold were dumped on the gold market in a minute on Friday, just ahead of Janet Yellen’s speech at Jackson Hole – and, after a very brief downwards spike to below $1,280, the gold price rapidly climbed back to unchanged.  This has to be an incredibly bullish signal for gold in that even this amount of presumably paper gold thrown at it (62.2 tonnes) couldn’t keep the gold price down.  Bloomberg described the 2 million ounce trade as ‘mysterious’.  Perhaps at least that is a welcome change from the usual ‘fat finger’ attribution which seems to be applied to these seemingly increasingly frequent mega-sales of paper gold which, despite protestations to the contrary, seem to be designed to keep the gold price suppressed.

Today, the gold price drifted upwards ahead of New York’s opening and then, at around 11.00 am New York time the price spiked upwards sharply, soaring through the $1,300 psychological barrier.  The question is where to next?

The key here may well be what has been happening with physical gold.  On Friday the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (GLD) had almost 6 tonnes of gold bought into it.  GLD has thus seen 18.33 tonnes of physical gold added to it in 2 weeks after what we might describe as ‘mysteriously’ seeing some 80 tonnes withdrawn over the previous two months – during which time the gold price didn’t seem to be spooked by this amount of gold being taken out of the world’s biggest gold ETF.  We had already pointed out the anomaly that America’s second biggest gold ETF – the iShares Gold Trust (IAU) – had not seen corresponding metal liquidations.  The Swiss gold import and export statistics, also reported in these pages, had shown that there appears to be a ready market in Asia for any physical gold released in the west, and this could well be a sign that gold could be moving into a short supply situation in the West.  If America starts buying physical gold again, we could thus see big price rises with buyers bidding up what might be an increasingly rare commodity.

As I write, the gold price rise seems to have stalled at the $1,310 level and there will almost certainly be attempts to drive it down, or at least prevent it rising further.  But it does seem to have some momentum behind it and could well move up to the $1,320s.  But, as we have pointed out before, this time next week is the U.S. Labor Day holiday and this often seems to provide an inflection point in economic trends.  It could presage a sell-off in gold or see the price boosted into the stratosphere, figuratively speaking.  Nothing is simple with gold.  But if gold gets a boost after September 4th we could see equities – and perhaps bitcoin – moving sharply in the other direction.  Both would seem to be in bubble situations and sooner or later all bubbles burst.

We’d rather bet on gold than alternatives.  Even if there is a gold price turndown ahead it is likely to be relatively minor, while the fall, when it comes, as come it must, in equities and bitcoin could be devastating.  Food for thought ahead of the U.S. holiday weekend.

The Blockchain: A Gold and Silver Launchpad?

By David Smith*

Central governments around the globe have waged, against their own citizens, a virtual “War on Cash.” Efforts by Sweden to become “cash-free;” progressive “downsizing” of Eurozone currency units; a currency recall in India that affected 1.3 billion people; solemn talk about eliminating $100 and even $50 bills in the U.S. – all in the supposed fight against “drug dealing and tax evasion.”

US 100 Dollar Bill

Will Ben Be Going Bye Bye?

It’s really about people control.

The War on Cash goes hand in hand with the imposition of onerous taxation levels, negative interest rates, and destruction of what little privacy we have left.

Historically, nations backed their paper currencies with gold and/or silver. Today – without a single one doing so – it might seem, as some naysayers have observed, that gold is at best a “barbarous relic;” at worst, just a “pet rock.” And yet…

The War on Cash has unleashed a hydra. From the invention less than a decade ago of the “cryptocurrency” Bitcoin, to its present-day evolution, a change of monumental significance is underway.

The Foundation Is the Blockchain

Satoshi Nakamoto is credited with the creation of Bitcoin and as part of its implementation, devised the first blockchain database. By definition, a blockchain “allows connected computers to talk to each other, rather than through a central server. Using a ‘consensus mechanism’ the connected computers on the network stay in sync and agree with each other.” Every data entry references an earlier one, agreeing with the entire chain. (Summary from an essay by Peter van Valkenburgh.)

Three years ago, David Morgan aired his views in an essay titled, “My Two Bits about Bitcoin.” The technology was complex, relatively slow, and looked to become unwieldy. This was 15 months before the debut of a process that now holds the potential to turn night into day for just about any kind of online commercial transaction… and could spark a revolution for the use of “digital gold and silver.”

The key (for now) is Ethereum. Ethereum is a computing platform – and a cryptocurrency… that runs smart contracts – applications that run exactly as programmed without the possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud, or third-party interference (ethereum.org).

The Potential and the Promise

Acceptance of gold and silver as a store of value and medium of exchange most likely pre-dates recorded history. Then someone (the Chinese?) got the bright idea to create a paper substitute exchangeable for, but still backed by, precious metal.

American Gold Buffalo

In Venezuela, one ounce of gold
buys a house.

This worked swimmingly until they decided to print unlimited amounts of what David Morgan at The Morgan Report has so famously termed “paper promises.” These promises are never fully honored, causing the eventual decline of a circulated currency’s purchasing power to zero.

The original promise of value is accepted in good faith, but when that promise is broken through devaluation, faith evaporates, along with the value of the once-supported currency. For proof of this today, look no further than Venezuela.

Digital Metal Data Points

A number of firms work to merge cryptocurrencies with physical gold and silver. The weakness of purely digital money is that it is unbacked by anything tangible. It only works for people who have electricity and are connected to the Internet. Physical gold and silver don’t rely upon the grid and can never be “hacked.”

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin cost almost nothing to transfer around the globe and they promise to be easy to transact with (akin to using a credit card). If those digital tokens can be anchored to tangible gold and silver bars, they could be more compelling as a store of value.

As you read the following passage in italics from an interview with Beautyon, editor of bitcoin-think, conducted on lfb.org., try substituting the term “digital metals” wherever you see “bitcoin.” Doing so shows the potential, the promise, and very possibly – eventual reality – for the evolving union of digital metals with physical gold and silver.

Bitcoin will succeed. There is nothing any government can do to stop it… No amount of time can put the Bitcoin genie back in the bottle…. (it) is good money, and all the State can produce is bad money… Bitcoin means the final death of government fiat money. It means the end of Big Government. It means an era of unprecedented prosperity, as savings once again become the source of investment.

Will the Promise Be Honored?

The keys to the argument are that when a person purchases digital metal, it must be stored in a secure location, in physical form of a stated purity, immediately available to its designated owner upon demand. It is not being loaned to others. The price is transparent, accurate, and available globally.

Bitcoin

Even though this is a nice image,
remember that Bitcoin itself is intangible.

The “authorities” have always sought, and will continue to try to control, peoples’ activities. But to the extent that investable physical gold and silver are removed from the control of exchanges and government coffers, and placed under “supervision” of the individual, the ability to manipulate the price and physical supply will deteriorate.

This, I believe, is the potential that digital metal represents. It will operate on a decentralized, secure, transparent platform. The blockchain and the portal through which it flows could be Ethereum or a similar protocol.

And if the “promise” is not honored? Then the concept of digital metal will be dispatched to irrelevance in the dustbin of history, as other experiments which have toyed with its essence have been. But pass or fail, no amount of digital tinkering will be able to stunt demand for gold and silver. Rather, the result will have simply been to introduce millions of new holders to the virtues of physical precious metals ownership.

Unintended Consequences

Global governments, having previously removed metals’ backing from the currencies they print, now attempt to force their citizens into holding only digital paper currency “wealth.” How ironic it will be, if by these very actions, the ultimate effect turns out to be the unleashing of new demand waves for digital metal – redeemable for physical gold and silver.

Last week, Stewart Thomson of Graceland Updates predicted the following:

“Going forwards, India-China operated digital gold wrapped in blockchain technology will be the undisputed currency of the world gold community, a 3-billion-person-strong titanic force…. This is the beginning of the end for world gold price manipulation, and you can take that to the bank.”