Pelaez: Time to Position for a Decade-Long Bull Market in Natural Resources

Interview by Mike Gleason of www.moneymetals.com

Coming up we’ll hear a wonderfully fascinating interview with first time guest Samuel Palaez of Galileo Global Equity Advisors. Sam highlights what he views as a tremendous investment opportunity in commodities right now, and also talks about how the markets may be getting it wrong when it comes to the trade wars and the likely impact it will have on the U.S. economy, inflation and the dollar.

Samuel Pelaez

Mike Gleason: It is my privilege now to welcome in Samuel Pelaez, CIO and Portfolio Manager at Galileo Global Equity Advisors, a Canadian subsidiary of U.S. Global Investors. Sam manages Galileo’s Growth and Income fund as well as the Technology and Blockchain fund and also follows the natural resource and gold mining space quite closely. And it’s a real pleasure to have him on with us today.

Sam, thanks so much for the time and welcome.

Samuel Pelaez: Thanks, Mike. It’s a great pleasure to join you. I think this is the first time.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, absolutely. Excited to get a chance to talk to you finally. You’ve been talking about commodities being way undervalued. You published a chart back in the spring showing the value of the S&P GSCI Index of commodities companies relative to the broader S&P 500 Index. The ratio is near all-time lows. Since that chart was published in April not a great deal has changed, so talk about where we’re at here in commodities now and give us your thoughts on what the value proposition looks like today because they certainly have been laggards compared to the broader markets.

Samuel Pelaez: Yeah, absolutely. That’s my favorite all-time chart I think. I’m a big proponent of commodities and natural resource investing. Keep in mind, that chart goes over 60 years or so of markets. We’ve had cycles like this three times or this will be the third time. Twice in the past we’ve seen that sort of extreme rating where commodities are so undervalued relative to the broader market as measured by the S&P 500.

What that suggests is that we may be at a juncture here that provides an opportunity to invest in resources that we haven’t had for over 20 years. Last time this happened was coincidental with the NASDAQ 1990-2000 boom. That was the time when the commodities were as undervalued relative to the broader market. And what happened since was obviously the big industrialization of China commodities did very well for a decade up until 2008 and even a little bit further than that.

So, it was at least a decade of commodities out-performance relative to the market. And we’re in a similar predicament right now and that keeps me very excited. Now, if you think about short term especially since the spring, there’s been a lot of talk of the trade wars. Commodities have sunk most of them quite dramatically, especially those that are sort of core to development of China. I would call those short-term deviations in the bigger and broader context. I think this chart is a very powerful indicator for investments over the next decade.

That may not mean that today is the bottom or tomorrow, but as any responsible investor, I would suggest to start reallocating some of your broader market exposure towards commodities just on the back of what this chart is saying. Now, the short-term deviations that we’ve seen can be very material. Copper is over 20% drop from its highs. Same story with zinc. Gold has also under-performed quite dramatically. But in general, I believe we are approaching a situation with that under-performance is unsustainable.

Frank at U.S. Global put out a piece a couple of weeks ago that was actually very insightful. And it said, “Let science drive your investing.” It just shows how gold is two standard deviations below its mean. Copper is 3 1/2 standard deviations below its mean. And in statistical terms, that’s a very sort of powerful indicator for a rebound. Just to say in a little bit more plain language, what that suggests is, there’s a 95% probability that gold rebounds in the next 60 days. And in copper, it’s more like a 99% probability that it rebounds in the next 60 days.

So, maybe we’re just towards the tail end of this short-term trade war inflicted sort of under-performance. And then maybe we can start recapturing the uptrend that we’ve seen over the last year or year and a half that could, I hope, translate into a decade-long bull market for natural resources and commodities.

Mike Gleason: Of course, our focus here is on precious metals, you alluded to gold of course. They often trade like commodities. Particularly silver which has significant uses as an industrial metal. But gold and silver are also monetary metals. They can get more attention from investors looking to hedge against inflation or as a safe haven. Given that, what are your thoughts on where the precious metals might be headed? Do you think they will be pretty well correlated with commodities in the months ahead? Or, are you looking for them to perhaps behave differently, Sam?

Samuel Pelaez: The answer is yes. I expect them to perform very well. Gold is actually one of the more puzzling asset classes so far this year because it’s under-performed. With the whole trade war angle, China and the U.S. at odds. President Donald Trump being at odds with some of Canada, some of the U.S. allies including Canada. That should be a pretty good environment for gold. But what’s happened is the markets have interpreted the trade war as a positive economic impact to the U.S. and we’ve seen the U.S. dollar rise. And that’s generally negative for gold on the other hand.

That’s also been sort of turbocharged for lack of a better word, by the fact that the U.S. continues to raise rates at a much quicker speed than its peers in Europe or in Japan. The 10-year yield in Japan today is as close to zero as it gets. The euro is already at 3%. So that interest rate disparity has also helped the U.S. dollar be pretty strong year to date. I think that’s going to stall and I’ll tell you why.

Number one, inflation. Gasoline prices if you’ve been to the pump recently you’ve seen that from July 4th last year to July 4th this year, gasoline prices have on average risen about 50%. And that’s inflation. That measure is not captured by the inflation metrics that the markets use. But, it’s captured by the inflation that all consumers in the U.S. pay. So, inflation is creeping in so it’s going to be starting to chip away from that 3% 10-year yield that’s larger than that you can get in Japan and other places.

And the second one and perhaps more important is, I think gradually the markets are going to start turning and accepting the fact that the trade war angle could be detrimental to the U.S. We’ve seen General Motors come out with a profit warning. We’ve seen Alcoa come out and issue a profit warning on the back of the trade wars. And this is just the companies that have started reporting so let’s wait another couple of weeks where most of the S&P 500 reports and see how many times the chairman and CEOs of these companies actually comment on the trade war being a potentially negative impact to the U.S. economy and to corporate earnings.

And circling back to gold, that may take some of that very strong support that the U.S. dollar has had year to date, which conversely should be very positive for gold. If you correlate that to what I mentioned earlier about the charts that show gold being two standard deviations below its mean, then we’re in a predicament where over the next two or three months we may see a strong rally in gold prices.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, extremely well put. I agree that maybe the markets don’t quite have it right and there’s maybe a lot of pent-up inflation coming. Obviously, the U.S. economy has not really felt much of these trade wars and that may be coming. That’s very well summarized there.

Now, I’d like to switch gears a little bit and get your take on the overall health of the markets in general. Around here we wonder how “real” markets are these days. For starters, we have central banks here and around the world heavily involved in markets. Interest rates are centrally planned. And these days it is commonplace for central bankers to be buying corporate stocks and even bonds for that matter. Then there’s the mounting evidence of more underhanded activity. Bank traders colluding to rig prices in everything from metals to LIBOR and to cheat their clients. In recent years the advent of high-frequency trading has raised concerns that retail traders may not get a fair shake.

So, we have a pretty dim view when it comes to the honesty and fairness of markets. That said, we rely on exchanges such as the COMEX and want to believe they can still work. Give us your thoughts, Sam, on the integrity of markets since this is the first time we’ve had a chance to get your thoughts on the subject.

Samuel Pelaez: This is a subject that we discuss internally quite a bit. I do believe there is a fair amount of market manipulation. That’s a very strong statement to say, but there’s facts that support that, right? There’s multiple banks have been, for lack of better word just risk locked. LIBOR, the gold market rigging, FX. There’s factual evidence that some of the banks have been actively manipulating markets.

But that’s just one of the angles from it. I think a second angle which is not manipulation but just an effect of passive investing is ETFs continue to raise capital and ETFs, the majority of them, are market cap weighted so they only allocate money to the top of the market. And that creates a sort of self-fulfilling bias for certain stocks that become market darlings and they receive more dollars, so they out-perform so then they receive more dollars. And it becomes like a vicious circle of out-performance.

That’s because there’s a lot of academics who are very interested in the subject and are writing about it. I think the term they coined for this is the passive investment paradox because the more dollars that go passive, the less dollars that go active essentially. And we start getting into this complacent type of markets, which I think we started to see especially in the broader indices in the U.S. like the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ.

Now, that may have started to crack. I think we can talk about it in a second. But before or after I complete the answer to this question, but we think ETFs have become a problem. They’ve hit that sort of like momentum and size where they’ve started to disrupt the natural flows of money in the markets. I agree completely with you about the LIBOR and FX manipulations.

But then lastly, and you did mention COMEX and I’m glad you did, because I don’t know if people are aware and I don’t think they are, when you buy a gold futures contract on the COMEX, it specifically states that you can redeem in kind. Meaning you can actually show up to COMEX and demand to be paid in physical gold. The problem is… and this number fluctuates… but there’s about 400 contracts for every ounce of gold. Meaning if just one out of 400 people show up to reclaim their gold in physical form, the COMEX vaults would be completely empty.

So, there’s this false perception that this paper contract from the COMEX actually represents one ounce of gold. It actually represents one four hundredths of an ounce of gold. And that in a way is a form of manipulation as well because it inflates the number of contacts. It inflates the liquidity of the sector. It inflates the supply of gold that realistically in physical form is not there.

These things worry us. They concern us. But, what we’re really focusing on in our investing is allocating capital to sustainable companies that have higher than average return invested capital. We are supporting businesses. We’re supporting management teams and we believe that the better ones will be able to surface amidst this market manipulation and still be darlings for a lot of investors.

Mike Gleason: Sam, among other responsibilities you manage the Galileo Technology and Blockchain Fund. Cryptocurrency has been a big topic in the precious metals space. Many people who look at gold as sound money have taken interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for some of the same reasons. We at Money Metals Exchange do significant business both selling metals and taking crypto in payment and vice versa, buying metal and making crypto payments. Do you think a cryptocurrency offers genuine potential for widespread adoption as money? What do you make of the comparison between Bitcoin and gold?

Samuel Pelaez: Let me turn the question around. I don’t believe that Bitcoin and gold are the same thing as has been purported by other market participants. I believe gold has a unique status and it’s had it for a long time and it has a lot to do with its physical properties. Gold is the only metal that you can store for decades and then come back to it and it looks exactly the same. It doesn’t rust. It’s essentially oxygen proof, rusting proof, among other things.

You cannot say that about Bitcoin or a paper wallet of Bitcoin or a physical wallet of Bitcoin. So, I’m not subscribing to that thesis that cryptocurrencies are a store of a value akin to what gold is. I do subscribe to the thesis that blockchain technology… and I think tokens are just one representation of blockchain technology… blockchain technology is transformational for multiple industries. The payment processing industry or the barter industry let’s call it, is obviously the most ripe industry for disruption from this kind of technology and that’s what Bitcoin has done and Ethereum in the field of crypto have done, is create a secondary market for transactions outside of the fiat world.

It’s much more efficient than gold at that because you can trade it instantaneously with people anywhere in the world which is something that you can’t really do with gold in its physical form. Now, what do I think about the technology going forward? I think it’s going to disrupt virtually every industry. And people probably heard it before. This is the internet all over again. We’re only starting to learn how deep this is going to get. And also, think about it from a consumer perspective. The internet came about very late. But, for decades now or least two or three decades, when you pay anything at the supermarket and show it to the cash register, that’s an Oracle machine with internet all through the back connected to a number of devices that make all of it possible. If you’re at Walmart, then it automatically connects to the suppliers and updates the inventories and the unit numbers so they can place orders.

The internet has been amongst us for a long time. And I think blockchain technology would be the same. Now, Bitcoin, Ethereum and the other ones we can see as consumers. But the real transformation I think is happening in the business to business world. We’re involved in a number of companies that are doing some incredible amount of work that will facilitate business to business. Not payment transfers but all sorts of technological processes that will completely disrupt the way things are being done right now.

What I’m trying to convey is that sense that this technology is not just limited to payment processing and money transfers. That’s just one of the sectors. There’s dozens and dozens of other sectors where these this technology will transform the way we do our business going forward.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, very interesting technology and that I think is the bigger story here: the blockchain technology much more than say, yeah, just Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency for instance. Well, as you know, we’ve had Frank Holmes on a number of times here on our podcast and he’s talked a lot about the gold royalty ETF, ticker symbol GOAU here in the U.S. and GOGO there in Canada. I know you played a big part in the research behind that. So talk about mining royalty space here, Sam, and why are you guys so excited it. And also, talk about the fund’s performance over the first year or two now.

Samuel Pelaez: Absolutely. We are big proponents of the royalty model. We think it’s a superior business model relative to the miners. They also fit one of the key characteristics in everything you look for which is return on invested capital. The return invested capital in the royalty companies is exceptional. I warn you though if you just calculate the ratio on Bloomberg or any other data source, the return capital may appear lower than it actually is.

And that is because these companies have spent so much money forward in projects that will generate cash flows in the future. But, if you take them on a project-by-project basis, any investment they did and what they’re deriving out of it, the returns are spectacular and they come at a very low risk. So when you sort of risk adjust then they’re even better than they are in absolute form. So, we’re big proponents of the model. We’ve been big supporters of the formation and the ongoing marketing of these companies. Frank was involved in the seeding of what became Wheaton Precious Metals which is the second largest royalty company out there right now.

So, what we decided to create was an ETF that offered investors that alpha generation that the royalty companies have offered us, over the full business cycle. We’ve noticed that many people only invest in gold when they think gold’s going up. We actually believe that everybody should have an allocation to gold throughout the business cycle because it has this diversification properties relative to the other components of your portfolio given to broader the market.

So, what product could we offer our investors in the market that would allow them to invest across the full business cycle and deride all the benefits of gold investing without some of the detriments? And we created this ETF that’s overweight the royalty companies because they offered that intrinsically and then after that it holds a number of gold producers that also have very high returns in invested capital and generally trade at a discount to their peers.

We believe that’s part of the magic sauce. There’s a few other factors that they’re clearly listed on the marketing materials, you could get those at the U.S. Global website or at the Galileo Funds website. And what we’ve been able to achieve and I want to make sure that this doesn’t sound promissory, it’s actually based on the one year of performance, is the data of the ETF to the upside as in how it moves to the upside relative to the gold sector is about one for one.

So when gold starts to go up, owning our product or owning any other product is about the same. It’s when the markets go down that our ETF goes down by a lesser amount than the competing products. And then when you bootstrap that difference over a long time, it creates a very big spread above performance. So far for the one year, our product beat the GDX by about 8%. That’s a pretty… I call it… a pretty impressive alpha generation. The fund also has a lower management fee and it has a lower standard deviation or pretty much every other risk metric is inferior.

So, we’re very confident that it will continue to do that. The back tests suggest that it can do over the full business cycle. And I encourage your listeners to go and have a look because we’re very proud of what we’ve created.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, you should be. It’s done very well and it’s exciting stuff and I love the model as well, you guys have done a great job putting that together and the research behind it. Well, as we begin to close here, Sam, any final comments? What will you be watching most closely in the months ahead? Maybe give us a final synopsis on commodities and metals as we wrap up.

Samuel Pelaez: I’ll give you anecdotal piece of evidence. I had some friends visit from Colombia, where I’m from originally. And the first thing they mentioned was, and they looked at all the cranes and they said, “Wow, there’s so much construction going on.” And I guess because we live in North America and we see it all the time, we don’t really recognize it every day. But, just think about all the wonderful things taking place in terms of… if you travel to New York often you’ve seen the big transformation that’s taking place at the airport at LaGuardia.

I’m sure in all your communities and your cities you’re going to see major projects being built. President Donald Trump has made a big focus of his presidency to roll out a major infrastructure plan. So, we’re going to need these commodities. It’s not like we achieved that peak moment of commodity demand. Commodity demand continues to go up every year. It’s almost like GDP growth. So we will need these commodities. And right now you have the opportunity to buy them at one of the cheapest relative valuations that you’ve had in the last 20 years. And if you’re like me, I wasn’t investing – I wasn’t old enough to be investing in the ’90s – this is the best entry into the resource market that’s ever been presented to me.

And because it only happens every 20 or 30 years, over the course of a professional life. You may only have one or two of this big macro cycles. So, I encourage listeners to follow that chart. We publish it very frequently every six or eight weeks as part of our marketing materials. I invite them to think seriously about reallocating some of the capital from the broader market. The S&P and NASDAQ have been a phenomenal investment over the last nearly decade, since 2009.

So, maybe it’s time to start rolling some of those profits and rolling some of that allocation from some of the sectors that have out-performed into the sectors that have under-performed. And I believe over the next decade you will be handsomely rewarded for that.

Mike Gleason: Very good way to wrap up, very well put. Really enjoyed the conversation today and appreciate you sharing your market insights with our audience. Before we let you go please tell people how they can learn more and how they can reach you and your firm if they’re so inclined.

Samuel Pelaez: Absolutely. The easiest way to reach is through our website GalileoFunds.ca. We’re based in Toronto, Canada. I do travel to the U.S. a lot to speak at conferences, I travel a lot with Frank at U.S. Global. You can find all of our contact information and our fund fact sheets on the website. You can also follow us with social media. We have a LinkedIn page. We have an Instagram account. We’re catching up to the times and finding all the new ways to reach the new demographics and to be out there for people to find us.

Mike Gleason: Well, good stuff. Thanks again, Sam. Keep up the good work. Continued success there and I hope we can speak with you again in the future. Take care.

Samuel Pelaez: Thank you, Mike. Bye, bye.

Mike Gleason: Well, that will do it for this week. Thanks again to Samuel Pelaez, CIO and Portfolio Manager at Galileo Global Equity Advisors. For more information visit www.GalileoFunds.ca.

China domestic demand could be driver to new commodities supercycle

If you thought Black Friday and Cyber Monday were the peak of overhyped sales frenzy – you ain’t seen nothing yet!  China’s Singles Day – an even more hyped up event from China’s online giant, Alibaba, sees even more conspicuous demand than Black Friday and Cyber Monday rolled together – and all in one day.  The event falls on the 11th day of the 11th month and this year saw sales hit an almost unbelievable US$14.3 billion – up from just over $9 billion a year earlier.  For a country the media tells us is in recession and struggling with its domestic economy – a factor blamed for many of theWest’s current ills, and for the resource sector’s poor performance in particular – this has to be a truly remarkable figure and suggests that whatever may be afflicting the country’s manufacturing and exports sector, domestic demand is running higher than it has ever been – and substantially so.

Do read a couple of my articles published recently on Seeking Alpha about what the Chinese administration is trying to do in terms of a complete reboot of the nation’s economy.  It is turning it from a manufacturing and export driven economy to a consumer and services society, and some sectors, both inside and outside the Middle Kingdom,  are indeed feeling the pain.  The articles are : The Real Facts Behind China’s Economic Restructuring and China’s Singles Day Sales Eclipse Black Friday and Cyber Monday Combined (Click on the article titles to read).

Such a transition cannot be made without cracking a few eggs, but the latest Singles Day sales figures suggest that the country may already be almost there!  With China’s middle classes (where the purchasing power lies) continuing to grow in numbers at a rapid rate, this puchasing power can only but increase – hence the supercycle comment above.  A return to the heady days seen post the 2008 Great Financial Crisis may be just around the corner as China’s domestic conspicuous consumption continues to surge and replace demand for what will be a far more efficient manufacturing sector producing ever higher quality goods.  The new demand thus created will serve to benefit an equally more efficient global resource sector – surely a win-win situation.

And as for gold!  China as a nation has a strong relationship with gold, both as a store of wealth to protect against any future economic woes which may re-occur, but also as a hugely popular element in a society where gifting is an important part of everyday life coming to its peaks at major festivals – and in particular at the Chinese New Year.  Demand as seen from Shanghai Gold Exchange withdrawals is running at huge new record levels this year (it will already have surpassed the 2013 full year record total when the latest SGE weekly withdrawal figures are announced tomorrow, with six weeks to go until the year end).  Even the World Gold Council is seeing an increase in demand coming through, along with record central bank purchases!

The gold price though remains unmoved by all this apparent positive fundamental data, but this cannot, and will  not, go on for ever without a counter reaction setting in sooner or later.  Gold investors will obviously hope it is sooner, and as supply continues to move east surely this crunch point cannot be too far away, although the vested interests in keeping it under control may yet have a few more tricks up their sleeves?

Frank Holmes on Resource Commodities and Currencies: Reaching an Inflection point?

Have Commodities Reached an Inflection Point?

By Frank Holmes – CEO and Chief investment Officer US Global Investors

Iceberg, Nominal Interest Rates and Real Interest Rates

Last week the Federal Reserve announced it would delay the interest rate liftoff yet again, but while everyone seems concerned about nominal rates—the federal funds rate, in this case—real rates have already risen about 5 percent since August 2011. This “invisible” rate hike is much more impactful to commodity prices and emerging markets than a nominal rate hike, which is simply the “tip of the iceberg.”

Since July 2014, the U.S. dollar has appreciated more than 20 percent. This has had huge implications for net commodity exporter countries, both developing and emerging, which typically see their currency rates fluctuate when prices turn volatile.

But why does this happen?

The main reason is that most commodities, including crude oil, metals and grains, are priced in U.S. dollars. They therefore share an inverse relationship. When the dollar weakens, prices tend to rise. And when it strengthens, prices fall, among other past ramifications, as you can see in the chart below courtesy of investment research firm Cornerstone Macro.

Dollar-Appreciation Spikes Almost Always Lead to International Currency Crises
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Indeed, commodities have collectively depreciated close to 40 percent since this time a year ago and are at their lowest point since March 2009. We might very well have reached an inflection point for commodities, which opens up investment opportunities.

Net Commodity Exporters under Pressure

The number of developing and emerging markets that are dependent on commodity exports has risen in recent years, from 88 five years ago to 94 today, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Many of these countries—located mostly in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia—have a dangerously high dependency on a small number of not only commodity exports but also trading partners.

For many suppliers, China is the leading buyer. But the Asian giant’s imports have been slowing as its economy transitions from manufacturing to services and housing, forcing many net commodity export countries to rethink their dependency on China.

China's Services Industry Surpasses 50 Percent GDP
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This is the position Indonesia finds itself in right now. As much as 50 percent of its total exports consists of crude oil, palm oil, copper, coal and rubber, for all of which China has historically been a vital importer. A stunning 95 percent of Mongolia’s exports flow into its southern neighbor, according to the World Factbook. And for Chile, commodities represent close to 90 percent of total exports, about 25 percent of which goes to China.

But countries needn’t have such a high dependency on commodities for their currencies to be affected. The Australian dollar, for instance, has a positive correlation with iron ore prices.

Australian Dollar Tracks Iron Ore Prices
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About 98 percent of the world’s iron ore supply is used to make steel. So important is the metal to the state of Western Australia, where most of the continent’s deposits can be found, that every $1 decline in prices results in an estimated $49 million budget loss.

The same relationship exists between the Peruvian sol and copper. Peru is the fourth-largest copper producer in the world, preceded by Chile, China and the U.S.

The Peruvian Sol Tracks Copper Prices
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The Russian ruble, Canadian dollar and Colombian peso all follow crude oil prices. (Russia is the third-largest oil producer in the world; Canada, the fifth-largest; Colombia, the 19th-largest.)

Russian Ruble Tracks Oil Prices
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Canadian Dollar Tracks Oil Prices
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Colombian Peso tracks Oil Prices
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It’s important that we see stability in emerging market currencies, which would help support resources demand. We’ve seen some stabilization in the Chinese renminbi after it was depreciated in August, but a few others are down pretty significantly.

Currency Depreciations Against the U.S. Dollar for the 12-Month Period
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Global Manufacturing Could Reverse Course Sooner Than You Think

I’ve shown a number of times that commodity demand depends on manufacturing strength, as measured by the J.P. Morgan Global Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI). This indicator has steadily been trending lower. Although the reading is still above the neutral 50.0 line, commodity prices have reacted negatively.

Commodities are Highly Correlated to Global PMIs
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Cornerstone Macro believes both the Chinese and global PMI are “likely” to rise in October, leading to a full year of upside potential. If true, this is indeed welcome news, but it’s worth remembering that the PMI looks ahead six months, meaning it’ll take approximately that long for commodities to recover.

In any case, now might be a good time for investors to consider getting back into commodities and natural resources since we could be in the early innings of an upturn.

“You want to buy commodity stocks when they’re out of favor, because they are cyclical,” Brian Hicks, portfolio manager of our Global Resources Fund (PSPFX), told The Energy Report last week. “If you look out 12, 18, 24 months from now, those equity values should reflect equilibrium commodity prices and move significantly higher from here.”

Legendary investors going for gold, copper and coal

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

A few legendary influencers in investing are making huge bets right now on commodities, an area that’s faced—and continues to face—some pretty strong headwinds. What are we to make of this?

I already shared with you that famed hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller made a $323-million bet on gold, now the largest position in his family office fund. It’s also come to light that George Soros recently moved $2 million into coal producers Peabody Energy and Arch Coal. Meanwhile, activist investor Carl Icahn took an 8.5-percent position in copper miner Freeport-McMoRan, which we own.

These giants of the investing world have just given huge endorsements for gold, coal, copper, and precious metals

My friend Marc Faber, the widely-respected Swiss investor and editor of the influential “Gloom, Boom & Doom Report,” is now plugging for the mining sector and precious metals. Speaking to Bloomberg TVlast week, Faber claimed that investors are running low on safe assets and suggested they revisit mining companies:

If I had to turn anywhere where… the opportunity for large capital gains exists, and the downside is, in my opinion, limited, it would be the mining sectors, specifically precious metals and mining companies… like Freeport, Newmont, Barrick. They’ve been hammered because of falling commodity prices. Now commodities may still go down for a while, but I don’t think they’ll stay down forever.

Late last month, Freeport became the first major miner to announce production cuts in response to depressed copper prices, which have slipped around 19 percent since their 2015 high of $2.95 per pound in May. This reduction should remove an estimated 70,000 tonnes of copper from global markets, according to BCA Research, and eventually help support prices.

Platinum and palladium miners in South Africa, a leading producer of both metals, also announced job cuts and mine closures, as platinum has slipped more than 16 percent this year, palladium a quarter.

But Marc sees opportunity, as I do. In my keynote speeches earlier this year I suggested that 2015 would see a bottom in cost-cutting due to divesture and slashing of capital expenditures, and that in 2016 we should see higher returns on capital.

Furthermore, using our oscillators to measure the degree to which asset classes are overbought and oversold, we find that commodities are extremely oversold right now and currently bouncing off low negative sentiment. The smart money is buying.

When asked if he thought commodities had reached a bottom, Marc had this to say:

I would rather focus on precious metals—gold, silver, platinum—because they do not depend on industrial demand as much as base metals and industrial commodities.

Marc was referring, of course, to China, the 800-pound commodity gorilla, as I’ve often described the country. The Asian powerhouse is currently responsible for nearly 13 percent of the world’s commodity demand, followed by the U.S. at a little over 10 percent.

China's demand for commodities is huge
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But as I discussed recently, China is transitioning from a manufacturing-based economy to one that emphasizes services, consumption and real estate. Commodity demand is cooling, therefore, and we can expect it to cool even further. Aside from the strong dollar, this is one of the key reasons why prices have plunged to multi-year lows.

Commodities Seeking an Upturn to Global Manufacturing

The JPMorgan Global Manufacturing PMI continues to decline as well. Since its peak in February 2014, the reading has fallen 4.5 percent. The August score of 50.7, just barely indicating manufacturing expansion, is the sixth consecutive monthly reading to remain below the three-month moving average.

I’ve shown a number of times in the past that when this is the case—that is, when the one-month reading is below the three-month trend—commodity prices have tended to trade lower. Unlike other economic indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP), the PMI is forward-looking and helps investors manage expectations. Based on our own research, there’s a strong probability that copper and crude oil prices might dip three months following a “cross below.”

The opposite has also been true: Prices have a stronger probability of ticking up three months after the one-month crosses above the three-month.

Commodities and commodity stocks historically rose three months after pmi "cross-above"
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This is why we believe prices will have a better chance at recovery after the global PMI crosses above its three-month moving average.

I have great respect and admiration for Druckenmiller, Soros, Icahn and Marc—all of whom are clearly bullish on commodities—but we would prefer to see global manufacturing growth reverse course.

In the meantime, low commodity prices are a windfall for many companies in Europe, Japan and the U.S. Metals and other raw materials are at their lowest in years, which is the equivalent of a massive tax break for the construction and manufacturing sectors.

Low gold prices are also expected to generate high demand in India as we approach fall festivals such as Diwali and Dussehra, not to mention weddings. According to estimates from Swiss precious metals refiner Valcambi, demand could reach 950 tonnes by the end of the year, compared to 891 tonnes in 2014.

 

Gold fifth best performing commodity of 2014

Palladium did best in dollar terms of all commodities in 2014, while gold’s overall performance, while disappointing for gold bulls, was far better than most others.  Article now up on Mineweb.com – to read it and other global mining and metals news and comment there click on this link

Lawrie Williams

Before you gold bulls out there cry ‘rubbish’ it should be borne in mind that last year was a disastrous year in dollar terms for virtually all commodities across the board.  Only four internationally traded commodities showed gains over the year, while gold was the least bad negative performer among the rest with a drop of only 1.7% – but has now shot up nearly 10% since the start of the year.  Indeed, as we pointed out in a recent article, gold performed positively over 2014 in virtually every currency other than the U.S. dollar.  So despite being a disappointing year for dollar area gold bulls, it will have been a positive year in all non-dollar tied nations.

See:  Gold great value protector in 2014 – silver not

We are indebted to Frank Holmes and U.S. Global Investors for the graphic below which sets out the performance comparisons for the globally traded commodities since 2005.  It can be see that palladium, nickel, zinc and aluminium were the only commodities which showed gains in price – with palladium the comfortable winner for the year.  But gold, despite showing a small loss, performed hugely better than most other commodities like copper which was down a heavy 14% during the year.  But even this was a small fall compared with crude oil – down 46% – and natural gas – down 31%.  Even agricultural commodities like corn and wheat were down in price by much more than gold.  A larger high res pdf version of this table is available by clicking on this link.

pt chartWhile slower industrial growth than hoped in the West and the downturn in the Chinese economy primarily responsible for the weaker commodity prices, the prime culprit will have been the U.S. dollar which rose by 13% over the year against the basket of currencies against which the dollar index is measured.  So in most currencies other the reversal in fortunes for commodities would not have been nearly so bad.  While in dollar terms 2014 may well have seen the biggest commodity reversal in recent years (since 1986 in fact), in other currencies it will not have been nearly so bad.  As we pointed out in our earlier article on the subject  (see link at the start of this article), perhaps we are too fixated on the dollar as the reference baseline when making these kinds of judgements.  In the Russian ruble for example commodity prices will have been booming in 2014!

Palladium’s performance to buck the overall trend with a significant rise of more than 11% was partly due to a relatively buoyant global market for automobile sales, coupled with an assumed  supply deficit of over 1 million ounces in 2014 according to the platinum experts at Johnson Matthey.  However there didn’t appear to be any significant non-availability of metal presumably because stockpiles at the main users have been well maintained when prices were lower.  Platinum also saw a perhaps 1 million ounce deficit, largely due to the South African platinum mine strikes, but here the overall price still fell – perhaps because of additional supply coming out of the platinum ETFs.