Gold Supply Concerns Highlight its Rarity

Article by Frank Holmes – CEO and Chief Investment Officer U.S. Global Investors – abstracted from a longer article suggesting that commodities in general are flashing a once-in-a-lifetime buy signal .  To read full article click here.

Gold ended last week down slightly, the first time in three weeks it’s done so. It looks as if gold investors took some profits late in the week after the yellow metal came close to breaching $1,360 on Wednesday.

I still believe gold could hit $1,500 an ounce this year on rising consumer and producer prices, which I think are understated. This is more than apparent when you compare the official U.S. consumer price index (CPI) and alternative measures such as the New York Fed’s Underlying Inflation Gauge (UIG).And as Dr. Ed Yardeni points out in a recent blog post, the word “inflation” appeared as many as 106 times during the latest Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, a sign that Fed members could be getting more and more concerned about mounting inflationary pressures.

Recent reports also suggest gold production is slowing, which could help support prices long-term. Exploration budgets have been declining pretty steadily since 2012 after the price of gold peaked, and fewer and fewer large-deposit mines are being discovered.

Last week the China Gold Association announced that the country, the largest producer of gold, produced 98 million metric tons in the March quarter, down some 3 percent from the same period last year. This comes after total Chinese output in 2017 fell 6 percent year-over-year to 426 million tons. Granted, miners have been pressured by Beijing to curtail production as part of the government’s enforcement of tougher environmental protection policies, but the decline in output is part of a downward trend we’re seeing across the board, especially among major producers.

Take a look at the declining quarterly output of Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold miner. According to its preliminary results for the first quarter, Barrick produced a total of 1.05 million ounces from its 10 projects. That’s only a 2 percent decrease from the same quarter last year, but a far cry from where it was seven years ago.

Barrick gold reported lowest quarterly output in 16 years
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Since the news hit April 11, shares of Barrick are up about 3 percent, even after a Friday selloff.

While some investors might view the lower output as disappointing, others no doubt see it as a reminder that gold is a finite resource, one of the many reasons why it’s remained so highly valued for centuries. As I’ve written before, the low-hanging fruit has likely already been picked, making the task of mining the yellow metal more difficult as well as expensive. Supply isn’t growing nearly as fast as it once did.

And yet demand continues to climb. Not only do the peoples of India, China, Turkey and other countries have a strong cultural affinity to gold—an obsession that will only intensify as incomes rise—but the metal still plays a vital role as a portfolio diversifier in times of economic and political uncertainty.

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Gold gains from economic storms, ‘fake rates’ and Jackson Hole

Are You Prepared for These Potentially Disruptive Economic Storms?

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

Hurricane Harvey

Here in San Antonio, grocery stores were packed with families stocking up on water and canned food in preparation for Hurricane Harvey, which has devastated Houston and coastal Texas towns. I hope everyone who lives in its path took the necessary precautions to stay safe and dry—this storm was definitely one to tell your grandkids about one day.

Similarly, I hope investors took steps to prepare for some potentially disruptive economic storms, including this past weekend’s central bank symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the possibility of a contentious battle in Congress next month over the budget and debt ceiling.

As you’re probably aware, central bankers from all over the globe visited Jackson Hole this past weekend to discuss monetary policy, specifically the Federal Reserve’s unwinding of its $4.5 trillion balance sheet and the European Central Bank’s (ECB) ongoing quantitative easing (QE) program. Janet Yellen gave what might be her last speech as head of the Federal Reserve.

As I told Daniela Cambone on last week’s Gold Game Film, there are some gold conspiracy theorists out there who believe the yellow metal gets knocked down every year before the annual summit so the government can look good. I wouldn’t exactly put money on that trade, but you can see there’s some evidence to support the claim. In most years going back to 2010, the metal did fall in the days leading up to the summit. Gold prices fell most sharply around this time in 2011 before rocketing back up to its all-time high of more than $1,900 an ounce.

Gold prices generally fell days before the annual economic symposium
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Many of the economic and political conditions that helped gold reach that level in 2011 are in effect today. That year, a similar Congressional skirmish over the debt ceiling led to Standard & Poor’s decision to lower the U.S. credit rating, from AAA to AA+, which in turn battered the dollar. The dollar’s recent weakness is similarly supporting gold prices.

In August 2011, the real, inflation-adjusted 10-year Treasury was yielding negative 0.59 percent on average, pushing investors out of government bonds and into gold. Because of low inflation, we might not be seeing negative 10-year yields right now, but the five-year is borderline while the two-year is definitely underwater. Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees gold surging to $1,400 an ounce by early next year on lower long-term U.S. interest rates.

Are Government Inflation Numbers More “Fake News”?

If we use another inflation measure, though, yields of all durations look very negative. For years, ShadowStats has published alternate consumer price index (CPI) figures using the methodology that was used in 1980. According to economist John Williams, an expert in government economic reporting, “methodological shifts in government reporting have depressed reported inflation” over the years. The implication is that inflation might actually be running much higher than we realize, as you can see in the chart below.

Official US consumer inflation vs shadowstats alternate
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If you believe the alternate CPI numbers, it makes good sense to have exposure to gold.

Recently I shared with you that Ray Dalio—manager of Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund with $150 billion in assets—was one among several big-name investors who have added to their gold weighting in recent days on heightened political risk. That includes Congress’ possible failure to raise the debt ceiling and, consequently, a government shutdown. Dalio recommends as much as a 10 percent weighting in the yellow metal, which is in line with my own recommendation of 10 percent, with 5 percent in physical gold and 5 percent in gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

I urge you to watch this animated video about opportunities in quality gold mining stocks!

Falling Dollar Good for U.S. Trade

Returning to the dollar for a moment, respected CLSA equity strategist Christopher Wood writes in this week’s edition of GREED & fear that it’s “hard to believe that the political news flow in Washington has not been a factor in U.S. dollar weakness this year.”

The U.S. media certainly wants you to believe that Trump is bad for the dollar. Take a look at this chart, showing the dollar’s steady decline alongside President Donald Trump’s deteriorating favorability rating, according to a RealClearPolitics poll.

US dollar tracks trumps favorability down
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However, a weak dollar is good for America’s economy. I’ve commented before that Trump likes a falling dollar, because it is good for the country’s export trade of quality industrial products. It’s also good for commodities, which we see in a rising gold price and usually energy prices.

Ready for a Big Fight?

You might have watched the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight, but have you been watching the fight between Trump and the Fed?

At the symposium in Jackson Hole, Fed Chair Janet Yellen squared up directly against Trump when she defended the strict regulations that were put in place after the financial crisis. Echoing these comments was Dallas Fed chief Robert Kaplan. This is the opposite of what Trump has been calling for, which is the streamlining of regulations that threaten to strangle the formation of capital.

Hurricane Harvey

It’s important to recognize that the market is all about supply and demand. The number of public companies in the U.S. has been shrinking, with about half of the number of listed companies from 1996 to 2016. Readers have seen me comment on this previously, and I believe that the key reason for this shrinkage is the surge in federal regulations. The increasingly curious thing is that we are seeing the evolution of more indices than stocks, as the formation of capital must morph.

As I told CNBC Asia’s Martin Soong this week, there is a huge amount of money supply out there, and investors are looking for somewhere to invest. The smaller pool of stocks combined with the greater supply of money means that the market has seen all-time highs. In addition, major averages were regularly hitting all-time highs not necessarily on hopes that tax reform would get passed, but on strong corporate earnings, promising global economic growth and the weaker U.S. dollar.

Meanwhile, small-cap stocks are effectively flat for 2017 and heading for their worst year since 1998 relative to the market, according to Bloomberg. Hedge funds’ net short positions on the Russell 2000 Index have reached levels unseen since 2009. Remember, these are the firms that were expected to be among the biggest beneficiaries of Trump’s “America first” policies.

However, the weakness in U.S. manufacturing has a great impact on the growth of these stocks, as indicated by the falling purchasing managers’ index (PMI). The slowdown in manufacturing is offset by strength in services, shown by the Flash composite PMI score of 56.0 which came out this week. Though there is a spread between large-cap and small-cap stocks, historically this strong score is an indicator of growth to come.

Spread between large cap and small cap stocks continues to widen
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Some big-name investors and hedge fund managers are turning cautious on domestic equities in general. On Monday, Ray Dalio announced on LinkedIn that he was reducing his risk in U.S. markets because he’s “concerned about growing internal and external conflict leading to impaired government efficiency (e.g. inabilities to pass legislation and set policies).” Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman and Pimco’s Dan Ivascyn have also recently bought protection against market unrest, according to the Financial Times. Chris Wood is overweight Asia and emerging markets.

Stay Hopeful

It’s important to keep in mind that there will always be disruptions in the market, and adjustments to your portfolio will sometimes need to be made. For those of you who read my interview with the Oxford Club’s Alex Green, you might recall his “Gone Fishin’” portfolio, which I think is an excellent model to use—and it’s beaten the market for 16 years straight. Green’s portfolio calls for not just domestic equities, Treasuries and bonds but also 30 percent in foreign stocks and as much as 10 percent in real estate and gold.

Stay safe out there!

Greenspan, Inflation and China boost gold

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

With U.S. inflation rising, a March rate hike now looks all but imminent. Many economists—including the Goldman Sachs economists I had the pleasure to hear speak this week—expect to see at least three such hikes this year alone.

US Inflation Zooms up 5 Year High
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Gold responded accordingly, closing above $1,240 for the first time since soon after the November election. Below you can see the gold price charted against the inflation-adjusted 10-year Treasury yield, which is now in subzero territory.

US Inflation Zooms up 5 Year High
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The question I have is: Why would an investor deliberately choose to lose money? But that’s precisely what’s happening now with inflation where it is.

2-Year 3-Year 10-Year
Treasury Yield 1.22% 1.95% 2.45%
Consumer Price Index 2.50% 2.50% 2.50%
Real Yield -1.28% -0.55% -0.05%
As of February 16
Source: Federal Reserve, U.S. Global Investors

These were among some of the topics addressed by former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan, who spoke with the World Gold Council (WGC) for the winter edition of its “Gold Investor.”

Gold primary global currency

“Significant increases in inflation will ultimately increase the price of gold,” Greenspan said. “Investment in gold now is insurance. It’s not for short-term gain, but for long-term protection.”

He also reiterated his view, which I share, that gold is much more than just a metal but a currency:

I view gold as the primary global currency. It is the only currency, along with silver, that does not require a counterparty signature. Gold, however, has always been far more valuable per ounce than silver. No one refuses gold as payment to discharge an obligation. Credit instruments and fiat currency depend on the credit worthiness of a counterparty. Gold, along with silver, is one of the only currencies that has an intrinsic value. It has always been that way. No one questions its value, and it has always been a valuable commodity, first coined in Asia Minor in 600 BC.

Although major stock indices continue to hit fresh all-time highs on hopes of tax reform and fiscal stimulus, it’s important to temper the exuberance with a little prudence. The bull market, currently in its eighth year, is facing some significant geopolitical and macroeconomic uncertainty, and we could be getting late in the economic cycle. This makes gold’s investment case even more attractive. For the 10-year period, the yellow metal has shown an inverse correlation to risk assets such as stocks and high-yield bonds. It might be time to ensure that your portfolio has the recommended 10 percent in gold—that includes 5 percent in gold coins and jewelry, the other 5 percent in quality gold equities and mutual funds.

China and India to Lead World Economy by 2050

The long-term investment case for gold looks just as compelling following bullish reports last week from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Morgan Stanley. China and India are the world’s top two consumers of gold, and both countries are expected to make huge economic gains in the next few decades. This is likely to boost gold demand even more, which has a high correlation with discretionary income growth.

China alone consumed approximately 2,000 metric tons in 2016, or roughly 60 percent of all the new gold that was mined during the year, according to veteran mining commentator Lawrie Williams, who based his estimates partially on calculations made by BullionStar’s Koos Jansen. The 2,000 metric tons is a much higher figure than what analysts and the media have been telling us, but I’ve always suspected China’s annual consumption to run higher than “official” numbers.

According to PwC’s models, China and India should become the world’s number one and number two largest economies by 2050 based on purchasing power parity (PPP). China, of course, is already the largest economy by that measure, but PwC sees the Asian giant surpassing the U.S. economy on an absolute basis by as early as 2030.

Top 10 Economies Dominated Emerging Markets 2050
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As for India, it “currently comprises 7 percent of world GDP at PPP, which we project to rise steadily to over 15 percent by 2050,” PwC writes. “This is a remarkable increase of 8 percentage points, gaining the most ground of any of the countries we modeled.”

I think it’s also worth highlighting Indonesia, which is expected to replace Japan as the fourth-largest economy by midcentury. E7 economies, in fact, could end up dominating the top 10, with Mexico moving up to number seven and France dropping off. You can see the full list on PwC’s site.

China Set to Become High Income by 2027

Then there’s Morgan Stanley’s 118-page report, “Why we are bullish on China.” The investment bank sees a number of dramatic changes over the coming years, the most significant being China’s transition from a middle-income nation to a prosperous, high-income nation sometime between 2024 and 2027. (The high-income threshold is a gross national income (GNI) of around $12,500 per capita.) This would make China one of only three countries with populations over 20 million that have managed to accomplish this feat in the past 30 years, the other two being South Korea and Poland.

Top 10 Economies Dominated Emerging Markets 2050
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This trajectory is supported by a number of expectations, including, most importantly, Morgan Stanley’s confidence that China will manage to avoid a debt-related financial crisis, as some investors might now believe is forthcoming. The bank’s view is that the Chinese government will successfully provide “adequate policy buffers and deft management of the policy cycle” to ensure the growth of per capita incomes.

Other key transitions will additionally need to take place for the country to reach high-income status by 2027, including transitioning from a high investment economic model to high consumption and implementing meaningful state-owned enterprise reform. Although China is currently transitioning from a manufacturing economy to one that’s focused on consumption and services, the country will also need to emphasize high value-added manufacturing.

chineseshoppers

 In addition, since President Donald Trump has officially withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), China could very well use this as an opportunity to take the lead in global trade, Morgan Stanley writes. This view aligns with comments I’ve previously made. China is already reportedly weighing its options with two alternative free-trade agreements (FTAs), one that includes the U.S. (the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific) and one that does not (the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). It’s probably safe to say, however, that given Trump’s opposition to FTAs, trade negotiations involving the U.S. are unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Investors Underweight China

Taken together, this is all good news for gold. Again, when incomes rise in China and India, gold demand has historically benefited.

But it also makes China a compelling place to invest in. And yet investors have tended to be shy, underweighting the country for at least a decade in relation to the broader emerging markets universe.

Time Reverse Course China Stocks 2050
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This, despite the fact that China has largely outperformed emerging markets for the last 15 years. According to Morgan Stanley, the MSCI China Index has delivered a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13 percent for the 15-year period, versus the MSCI Emerging Markets Index’s CAGR of 10 percent over the same period.

Gold and the “Oprah Effect”

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

Oprah bought 10 percent of weight watchers

Many short sellers of Weight Watchers no doubt felt too down to look in the mirror this week after company stock unexpectedly ballooned nearly 170 percent.

You can thank (or blame) Oprah. The influential former talk show hostess bought a 10 percent stake in the weight management company, sending its shares up from $6.79 to $18.25 in as few as two trading sessions.

This is hardly the first time one of Oprah’s endorsements, whether verbal or monetary, has lifted a struggling business or product. There’s even a name for it: the Oprah Effect.

No matter your opinion of Oprah—her politics, her tastes—you have to admit that she’s a phenomenally savvy businesswoman, whose rags-to-riches success has helped make her one of the most powerful women in not just the U.S. but the world. As such, it’s important for investors to pay attention to her and other such “smart money” influencers. Their decisions often have the power to move markets.

So what’s moving gold right now?

Quite a lot, actually, from widespread doubts of a 2015 interest rate hike, to strong seasonal demand in India and China, to Russia’s military action in Syria. Gold also received a huge endorsement recently from billionaire Paul Singer, CEO of Elliott Management Corp., who said that the precious metal “should be a part of every investment portfolio, maybe five to 10 percent.”

(I always recommend 10 percent: 5 percent in gold stocks, 5 percent in bullion, then rebalance every year.)

But as I discuss in a previous Frank Talk, perhaps the most significant mover of gold right now is the weakening of the strong U.S. dollar against other world currencies. Gold and the dollar share an inverse relationship, and for the past year, the greenback has been putting pressure on the yellow metal, not to mention other commodities and natural resources.

Now that the dollar is showing signs that it’s starting to turn, however, gold is starting to turn heads.

Watch my video below for further insight into what’s moving gold.

China’s economic transformation – NOT an economic collapse

China’s Economy Is Undergoing a Huge Transformation That No One’s Talking About

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

The photo you see below was snapped recently in Beijing. It might not be that special to some readers, but in my 25 years of visiting the Chinese capital, I’ve never seen a blue sky because it’s always been blotted out by yellow smog. Beijing is clearly undergoing a massive transformation right now. This might please proponents of the green movement, but it’s ultimately harmful to the health of China’s manufacturing sector.

Blue skies ahead? A cyclist pedals through Tiananmen Squar in Beijing

On the other hand, blue skies could be ahead for China’s service industries.

Misconception and exaggeration are circling China’s economy right now like a flock of hungry buzzards. If you listen only to the popular media, you might believe that the Asian giant is teetering on the brink of economic disaster, with the Shanghai Composite Index’s recent correction and devaluation of the renminbi held up as “proof.”

Don’t get me wrong. These events are indeed significant and have real consequences. They also make for some great, sensational headlines, as I discussed earlier this month.

But what gets hardly any coverage is that China’s economy is not weakening so much as it’s changing, much like Beijing’s skies. Take a look at the following two charts, courtesy of BCA Research:

China's Economy is Shifting Away from Manufacturing More Towards Services
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You can see that the world’s second-largest economy has begun to shift away from manufacturing and more toward consumption and the service industries. While the country’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) reading has been in contraction mode since March of this year, the service industries—which include financial services, insurance, entertainment, tourism and more—are ever-expanding. The problem is that the transformation has not been fast enough to offset the massive size of the manufacturing sector.

the Czech Republic's PMI came in at an impressive 57.50 in July up from 56.90 in June

Just as a refresher, the PMI is forward-looking and resets every 30 days. It helps investors manage expectations. Consider this: The best-performing country in our Emerging Europe Fund (EUROX) is the Czech Republic—which also happens to have one of the highest PMI readings. Coincidence?

In China, overseas travel, cinema box office revenue and ecommerce are all seeing “explosive growth,” according to BCA. The country’s once-struggling real estate market is also robust. The government just relaxed rules to permit more foreigners to purchase mainland property.

But you’d be hard-pressed to come across any of this constructive news because it’s not particularly good for ratings.

A recent Economist article makes this point very clear:

The property market matters far more for China’s economy than equities do. Housing and land account for the vast majority of collateral in the financial system and play a much bigger role in spurring on growth. Yet the barrage of bearish headlines about share prices has obscured news of a property rebound. House prices have perked up nationwide for three straight months. Two months after the stock market first crashed, this upturn continues.

“Commodity Imports Have Actually Been Quite Strong”

Again, China’s transformation from a manufacturing-based economy to one that focuses on consumption has real consequences, one of the most significant being the softening of global commodity prices. As I told Daniela Cambone on last week’s Gold Game Film, gold’s Love Trade has become not a No Trade, but a Slow Trade. We’ve seen demand cool along with a decline in GDP per capita, the PMI readings and China’s M2 money supply growth.

Below you can see the relationship between China’s M2 money supply growth and metal prices. Since its peak in late 2009, money supply growth has been dropping year-over-year, driving down metal prices.

China's falling money supply since 2009 peak has driven down metal prices
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Money supply growth tends to be a “first mover.” When it has contracted, the PMI has usually followed. Recently, this has hurt economies that depend on China as a net buyer of raw materials, including Brazil, which supplies the Asian country with iron ore, soybeans and many other commodities, and Australia.

Australian Dollar and Brazilian Real Retreat with Drop in China's Money Supply
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When M2 money supply growth and the PMIs are rising, commodity prices can also rise. But that’s not what’s happening. It’s important to recognize that when new orders for finished products fall, there’s less consumption of energy to manufacture and ship. Again, this might make the greenies happy, but it’s ultimately bad for manufacturing.

I’ve said several times before that China is the 800-pound commodities gorilla, and it continues to be so. The country currently consumes about a quarter of the total global output of gold. For nickel, copper, zinc, tin and steel, it’s around half of world consumption. For aluminum, it’s more than half.

These are huge figures. But investors should know that Chinese imports of these important metals and materials still remain strong. Tom Pugh, a commodities economist at Capital Economics, told the Wall Street Journal last week that the market has it wrong about China, that the drop in demand has been overstated:

If you look at Chinese commodity imports over the last few months, they’ve actually been quite strong. A lot of it is just that people thought China would continue to grow at 10 percent a year, ad infinitum, and now people are just realizing that’s not going to happen.

Reuters took a similar stance, reporting that “there were at least 21 commodities that showed increases in imports greater than 20 percent in July this year, compared to the same month in 2014.” Weakening demand has been caused by a number of reasons, including “structural oversupply” and “the impact of the recent volatility in equity markets.”

But it’s important to keep things in perspective. Compared to past major market crashes, China’s recent correction doesn’t appear that bad.

China's Crash is Big, But Not the Biggest

Any bad news in this case can be seen as good news. I think that in the next three months we might see further monetary stimulus, following the currency debasement nearly three weeks ago. We might also see the implementation of new reforms in order to address the colossal infrastructure programs China has announced in the last couple of years, the most monumental being the “One Road, One Belt” initiative.

Dividend-Paying Stocks Helped Stanch the Losses

As investors and money managers, it’s crucial that we be cognizant of the changes China is undergoing. With volatility high in the Chinese markets right now, we’ve raised the cash level in our China Region Fund (USCOX), and after the dust settles somewhat and the right opportunities arise, we’ll be prepared to deploy the cash. We’re also diversified outside of China.

We managed to slow the losses during the Shanghai correction by being invested in high-quality, dividend-paying stocks.

According to daily data collected since December 2004, the median trailing price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio for the Shanghai Composite Index constituents currently sits at 48.6 times earnings. If it reverts to the mean, risk is 32 percent to the downside for the index. Currently, the P/E ratio of our China Region Fund constituents sits around 16 times. This suggests that USCOX has less downside risk and is cheaper than the Shanghai Composite.

Median Trailing Price-to-Earnings Ratio for Shanghai Composite Index Constituents
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We seek to take advantage of the trend toward consumption by increasing our exposure to the growing service industries—technology, Internet and ecommerce companies (Tencent is one of our top 10 holdings); financial services (AIA and Ping An Insurance); and enviornmental services (wastewater treatment services provider CT Environmental).

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson unveiling the KT Fire ANTA EARLIER THIS YEAR

Rising sports participation among white collar workers in China is very visibile these days. Xian Liang, portfolio manager of USCOX, says that his friends back in Shanghai share with him, via WeChat, how they track their daily runs using mapping apps on their phones.

With that said, an attractive company is Anta Sports, an emerging, innovative sportswear franchise. Fans of the Golden State Warriors might recall that guard Klay Thompson endorsed its products earlier this year.

We believe the China region remains one of the most compelling growth stories in the world and continues to provide exciting investment opportunities.

Rational investors see gold as on sale and oversold

By Frank Holmes –

CEO and Chief Investment Officer for U.S. Global Investors – www.usfunds.com 

The leveraged gold futures derivatives market is knocking down the precious metal, yet in massive contrast, this drop has ignited a shopping frenzy according to gold coin dealers. I spoke with several friends and industry experts last week who confirmed the record sales numbers for the month. In fact, American Gold Eagle sales reached 161,500 ounces in July, the highest monthly figure since April 2013. What gives?

Gold doesn't tarnish

Gold often attracts conspiracy theories when it falls so abruptly, especially on Mondays. Interestingly, in a recent article on Zero Hedge, ABC Bullion out of Sydney, Australia, details some of the speculation behind the precious metal’s beatdown, which I’ve also discussed in my blog.

Price manipulation, or a “bear raid,” could be a factor. Last week, gold prices experienced a mini “flash crash”—the first one in 18 months—after five tonnes of the metal appeared on the Shanghai market. Whether front-running or fat fingers are to blame, the sell order for what many are calling a bear raid was initially thought to have originated in China, but we now believe it came from New York City.

Did investors anticipate China’s negative flash purchasing managers’ index (PMI) last week? China is the largest consumer of gold, and the PMI is a useful leading indicator of commodities demand as well as job growth.

What about the Greek crisis? This type of debt fear crisis often has the effect of boosting the price of gold, but we didn’t see that happen. Did European central banks sell gold down to dampen the psychological impact of the event? Understating the seriousness of the debt crisis may have prevented investors from seeking gold as protection.

Conspiracy theories or not, I believe none of this tarnishes gold’s sustainable allure. It’s important to look at the two key demand drivers for gold: the Fear Trade and the Love Trade. The Fear Trade is related to money supply and negative real interest rates. The Love Trade comes from the purchase of gold due to cultural affinity and the rising GDP per capita in Asia and the Middle East.

I’ve always advocated, and continue to advocate, a 10 percent weighting: 5 percent in gold stocks and 5 percent in bullion, then rebalance every year.

From Crisis to Opportunity

Take a look at the chart, which shows that the bearish trend is obvious.

Contrarian Tool: Gold Net-Position for Leveraged Futures
click to enlarge

And yet many investors are still buying. In an interview this week with Money Metals Exchange and in talking to Bart Kitner, founder of Kitco, both conversations confirmed that smart investors are enthusiastically buying gold during this downdraft in prices.

Rational Investors Know a Deal When They See One, and Feel One

With so much gloom and doom in the media surrounding gold right now, you might wonder why coin sales are soaring at multiyear highs. The reason is pretty simple: Gold is on sale.

Ray Dalio manages the largest hedge fund in the world

High net worth individuals and other savvy investors realize that even now, as herds of people are rushing for the exit, owning gold is one of the best ways to manage systemic risk. They follow that Greeks had their cash in banks frozen like in Cyprus only a few years ago.

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, said it best: “If you don’t own gold, you know neither history nor economics.”

Indeed, some investors fail to take a long-term perspective on gold. Their sentiment toward the metal extends only as far back as the most recent selloff, induced by the strong U.S. dollar, weak global manufacturing activity and fears that interest rates will soon rise.

Many investors have that “sinking feeling” with a deterioration in global PMI, leading economic indicators, falling commodity prices and the threat of rising U.S. interest rates. Many have raised their cash levels due to decelerating global growth prospects. I’ve written that bad news is good news because when governments accelerate monetary policy, this can be a good opportunity for investors to add to their gold exposure.

Countries with largest gold holdings

I’m not the only one who takes this position. Besides the investors gobbling up American Gold Eagles, central banks around the world continue to buy, hold and repatriate bullion. The U.S. Federal Reserve maintains its 8,133 tonnes, the most of any central bank. Germany, the Netherlands and other countries have brought home mounds of the yellow metal in the last 12 months. China has increased its reserves 60 percent in the last six years. And Texas is in the early stages of establishing its own gold depository, the first state to do so. If there were no faith left in the metal, why would banks even bother with it?

At the same time, massive amounts of paper money are still being printed. In fact, the International Monetary Fund has asked the Bank of Japan to be ready to increase its monetary stimulus further,according to Bloomberg. Let the paper printing roll! In the U.S., where quantitative easing was supposed to have ended back in October, the Fed’s balance sheet is still within 0.3 percent of its all-time high, according to Sovereign Man.

Based on Historical Volatility Models Gold Is Extremely Oversold

Before the bottom fell out, gold’s support seemed to have been around $1,150, whereas the resistance trend line was breaking down. The descending triangle pattern, seen below, indicates that demand was weakening and downside momentum was gathering force.

Gold Price Falls Through Key Support Level
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A useful tool that traders and analysts use is Bloomberg’s relative strength indicator (RSI). Below is gold’s RSI over the same one-year period. It shows that gold has passed below the 30 mark into oversold territory. When this happens, many analysts see it as a buying opportunity. Between November 3—the last time gold fell this significantly below 30—and January 20, the yellow metal ended up rallying 13 percent.

Gold at Its Most Oversold Since November 2014
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A similar tool we use to identify buy and sell signals is the price oscillator, which I often explain while speaking at conferences. This tool measures how many standard deviations an asset’s value has moved from its mean (and in which direction). When the number crosses above two standard deviations, it’s often interpreted as an opportunity to take some profits, and when it crosses below negative two, it might be a good time to think about accumulating.

Gold 20-Day Percent Change Oscillator
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Love Trade and Fear Trade: Gold’s Tailwinds and Headwinds

I always look at two demand factors for gold, the Fear Trade and the Love Trade. The Love Trade is the purchase of gold for weddings, anniversaries and cultural celebrations while the Fear Trade is gold’s reaction to monetary and fiscal policies, particularly real interest rates.

10,000 Chinese consumers wait in line to buy gold.

Historically, the Love Trade has been on the upswing starting around this time—late July and early August—in anticipation of international festivals and holidays such as Diwali, Christmas and the Chinese New Year. But as you can see in the oscillator chart above, gold is down 1.4 standard deviations for the 10-year period. This suggests gold may be at an attractive level to accumulate, and gold stocks can offer greater beta when gold begins to revert to its mean.

The Fear Trade, on the other hand, involves the Fear Trade and real interest rates (inflation – CPI = real interest rates). Several times in the past I’ve explained how gold tends to benefit when real interest rates turn negative. When the rate of inflation exceeds the yield on a five-year Treasury note, it makes gold much more attractive to many investors.

At this time, the five-year Treasury yield sits at 1.58 percent while inflation is crawling along at 0.1 percent. This means that real rates are a positive 1.48 percent—a headwind for gold. As I told Daniela Cambone during last week’s Gold Game Film, the U.S. has some of the highest real rates of return in the world right now.

To see gold gain traction again, not only do we need to see negative real interest rates in the U.S. we need to see rising real GDP per capita in China and rising PMI in China.

On a final note, there appears to be a battle between the debt markets and equity markets. The debt market yields suggest rates will not be rising next month or quarter, while equity markets suggest they will. I think the bond market is more accurate. With a struggling global economy and commodity deflation odds favor rates will not rise soon in America, and gold will revert back to the mean.

Gold seasonality and the metal’s relevance to runaway global debt

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

Frank looks at gold in the context of total global and U.S. debt – and points to the strong seasonality in gold price performance

Ever wonder how much gold has ever been exhumed in the history of the world? The GFMS

Gold Survey estimates that the total amount is approximately 183,600 tonnes, or 5.9 billion ounces. If we take that figure and multiply it by the closing price on June 16, $1,181 per ounce, we find that the value of all gold comes within a nugget’s throw of $7 trillion.

This is an unfathomably large amount, to be sure, yet it pales in comparison to total global debt.

According to management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the world now sits beneath a mountain of debt worth an astonishing $200 trillion. That’s greater than twice the global GDP, which is currently $75 trillion. If we were to distribute this amount equally to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth, we would each owe around $28,000.

More surprising is that if gold backed total global debt 100 percent, it would be valued at $33,900 per ounce.

Try convincing your gold dealer of this next time you want to sell a coin.

Besides imagining being able to buy a new BMW with a single American Gold Eagle coin, why is it important to think of the yellow metal in this way?

The Case of the Runaway Debt

To answer that, let’s back up a bit. For thousands of years, in countless cultures around the world, gold has been recognized as an exceptional store of value and, as such, accepted in all forms of transactions. A new archeological discovery, in fact, shows that the metal was being traded in the British Isles as far back as 2500 B.C., an entire millennium before the world’s first gold coins were minted in what is now present-day Turkey.

Up until the twentieth century, most nations were still using the gold standard. Just as most music is composed in a particular key signature to control tonality, the gold standard has historically provided long-term stability and inflationary controls. Even so, several financiers and central bankers throughout history tried experimenting with a fiat currency system, a decision which often led to major imbalances between monetary and fiscal policies, and eventually economic depressions. Last week I shared two such examples, including Scottish gambler John Law’s four-year experiment with paper money in the early eighteenth century, which ruined France’s economy and laid the groundwork for the French Revolution.

More to the point, the gold standard limits the amount of debt that can be issued. Forty-four years ago, when the U.S. made the switch to a fiat currency system, the federal government owed $399 billion.Since then, outstanding debt has ballooned 4,411 percent to $18 trillion—more than twice the amount of all the gold in the world. Such massive debt levels can be reached only in a fiat currency system, where money is easy, virtually limitless and unsecured by anything tangible.

Below, you can see how dramatically all debt in the U.S., both public and private, has been allowed to soar past economic growth since the end of the gold standard.

Runaway Debt in the U.S Beats GDP Growth
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The $200 Trillion Question

So how would any of this debt ever be settled were it called in tomorrow? The U.S. currently holds “only” 8,133.5 tonnes of gold in its reserves, a significant decline from the all-time high of over 20,000 tonnes in the 1950s. This amount calculates to about $340 billion—nothing to sneeze at, but a far cry from the current U.S. debt level.

Countries with the largest gold holdings

This is the case in other nations as well. As you can see, Japan is one of the top holders of gold, but at 400 percent, its debt-to-GDP ratio is higher than any other country’s in the world.

Lately we’ve seen several central banks repatriate more of their gold reserves from foreign vaults, most notably Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland and others. Texas is even in the early stages of creating its own gold depository, the first to be run by a state. The fact that central banks still hold the metal has less to do with “tradition”—as former Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke put it during a Congressional hearing in 2011—and more to do with confidence in gold’s enduring power.

It’s unlikely that gold will ever reach $33,900 per ounce—or even $12,000, as investing expert James Turk calculates—but the fact that supply has not kept up with debt levels suggests that prices might very well rise.

Gold’s Late Summer Rebound Trend

A new report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch shows that since 2001, bullion has reached a bottom between mid-June and mid-July and rebounded thereafter. In all but two of the last 27 years, or 93 percent of the time, gold and gold equities enjoyed a late summer rally, thanks in large part to the approaching Indian festival and wedding seasons.

This helps confirm what I often write and speak about, that gold prices have historically followed seasonality trends for the five-, 15- and 30-year periods. You can see how gold troughed between June and July and then rose in anticipation of Diwali and the wedding season.

Gold: 24 Hour Composite
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According to BofA Merrill Lynch, from 2001 to 2014, the yellow metal gained 14.9 percent on average between mid-summer and mid-autumn.

Gold’s Summer Seasonal Rallies
Year Start Date Gold Price per Ounce End Date Gold Price per Ounce Percent Change in Gold Price
2001 July 30 $265 September 28 $293 10.6%
2002 July 29 $303 September 24 $326 7.8%
2003 July 16 $344 September 24 $389 13.2%
2004 August 12 $394 November 22 $499 14.0%
2005 July 14 $420 September 21 $472 12.6%
2006 July 14 $560 August 9 $650 16.1%
2007 June 12 $647 September 2 $734 13.4%
2008 August 15 $786 October 9 $913 16.3%
2009 July 8 $910 October 13 $1,064 17.0%
2010 July 27 $1,157 November 9 $1,393 20.4%
2011 July 1 $1,487 September 5 $1,900 27.8%
2012 July 12 $1,572 October 4 $1,790 13.9%
2013 June 27 $1,201 August 28 $1,418 18.1%
2014 June 2 $1,244 July 11 $1,339 7.6%
Average $937.89 14.9%

Source: Bloomberg, BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, U.S. Global Investors

Gold equities fared even better, posting an average gain of 23.6 percent during the same time periods. This could be a tailwind for both our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) and World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX).

Let us know what you think!

How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

Texas is taking the right steps to protect its economic freedom and stability by creating its own gold depository.

  • Strongly agree
  • Agree
  • Neutral, or I don’t know
  • Disagree
  • Strongly disagree

Please consider carefully a fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For this and other important information, obtain a fund prospectus by visiting http://www.usfunds.com or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS (1-800-873-8637). Read it carefully before investing. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

Pulling the rug: The consequences of breaking from the gold standard

a 1928 Federal Reserve Note

 

 

 

 

By Frank Holmes

CEO and Chief Investment Officer, US Global Investors

About 100 years ago, in his testimony before Congress, banking giant J.P. Morgan famously stated: “Gold is money, and nothing else.”

At the time, this was true in every sense of the word “money,” as the U.S. was still on the gold standard.

Of course, that’s no longer the case. Despite the fact that previous attempts in other countries to adopt fiat currency systems wreaked havoc on their economies, the U.S., under President Richard Nixon, cut all ties between the dollar and gold in 1971. Gold rose 2,330 percent during the decade, from $35 per ounce to $850.

Today, money supply continues to expand while federal gold reserves remain at the same levels.

M2 Money Supply Rises While Gold Supply Remains the Same, 1959 - 2010
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Many people still view the yellow metal as something more than just another asset. They also contend that it’s grossly undervalued. In a recent interview with Hard Assets Investor, author and veteran gold investing expert James Turk explained that the money we use now in transactions is not real money at all but a substitute for gold—real money—which he sees fundamentally valued at $12,000 per ounce.

That is to say, if the U.S. government decided tomorrow to return to the gold standard, one ounce of the metal could be valued as high as $12,000, according to Turk’s model.

The current fiat currency system in the U.S. is more than 40 years old. That’s much longer than many in the past lasted, including two of the earliest attempts by central bankers Johan Palmstruch and John Law, both of which I summarize below. Some readers might identify more than a few parallels between then and now.

Johan Palmstruch, the Dutchman Who Started a Paper Ponzi Scheme in 1661

a 1928 Federal Reserve Note

In the mid-1600s, a Dutch merchant named Johan Palmstruch founded the Stockholms Banco in Sweden, the first bank in Europe to print paper money. The Swedish currency at the time was thedaler, essentially a copper plate. Palmstruch’s bank began holding these and issuing banknotes, which were exchangeable in any transaction and fully backed by the physical metal.

At least, that’s what customers were told.

As you might imagine, people found these notes to be much more convenient than copper plates, and their popularity soared. But there was one (huge) problem. Palmstruch had been doling out so many paper bills, that their collective value soon exceeded the amount of metal on reserve. When customers heard the news, a major bank run occurred, but Palmstruch was unable to honor the rapidly-weakening notes.

By 1664, a mere three years into his monetary experiment, the Stockholms Banco was ruined and Palmstruch was jailed—just as Bernie Madoff would be three and a half centuries later.

John Law, the Infamous Scottish Gambler Who Defrauded the French with Worthless Paper

A little over 50 years later, in the early 1700s, a similar experiment was conducted in France, with even more disastrous consequences. This time, the perpetrator was a Scottish gambler and womanizer named John Law, who as a young man had been forced to flee Britain after he killed a man in a duel over a love interest—and bribed his way out of prison. After escaping jail time, Law spent 10 years or so gallivanting about Europe and developing his economic theories, which he outlined in an academic paper.

It was the Age of Enlightenment, when great iconoclastic thinkers such as Descartes, Locke and Newton emerged, changing our understanding of consciousness, politics and physics. Baroque music was all the rage in Europe, as were composers like Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. It was also a golden age of get-rich-quick schemes, and as investors, it’s important that we be aware of the history of human behavior.

In 1715, France was insolvent. It had just lost its king, Louis XIV, and the Duke d’Orléans was named regent until the late monarch’s great-grandson came of age to rule. Familiar with Law and his unorthodox ideas, the duke established him as head of the Banque Générale in hopes that he might reduce the massive debt Louis XIV left behind.

To this end, Law began printing banknotes—lots of them—and flooding the economy with easy money. Doing so, he believed, would expand employment, boost production and increase exports.

John Law, the central banker who broke the Banque de France (and many women's hearts)

It indeed had those effects—for a time. Paris was booming. The number of millionaires multiplied.

Unlike Palmstruch, Law made no claims that the notes could be converted back into gold or any other metal. He believed that a currency, whether gold or paper, had no intrinsic value other than as a government-sanctioned medium of exchange. Instead, his notes were “secured,” vaguely, by French land, including its colonies in the Americas. There was also no limit to the amount of money that could be pumped into the French economy. Like many of today’s central bankers, Law was of the opinion that if 500 million notes were good, a billion were even better.

But to make it all work according to plan, he had to take extreme measures. Law outlawed the hoarding of money, the use of coins and the possession of more than the minimalist amount of gold and silver.

The system turned out to be untenable and the paper money became worthless. After only four short years, the currency bubble burst. Law was not only removed from office but exiled from the country. Until his death in 1729, he roamed Europe heavily in debt, making his way by his former occupation, gambling.

The incident had long-lasting effects. It sustained the country’s economic woes for years and contributed to the start of the French Revolution later in the century, as it stoked working class disenfranchisement.

Lessons Learned?

Just as we still read Locke and listen to Bach, we should remember what Palmstruch, Law and other reckless central bankers did—which was essentially pull the rug out from under their countries’ monetary systems. It would be extreme to suggest that a similar collapse in currency might one day happen in the U.S., but it’s worth repeating that the gold supply has not kept pace with the money supply.

This could have huge implications.

As James Turk points out:

Eventually people are going to understand that all of this fiat currency that is backed by nothing but IOUs is only as good as the IOUs are good. And in the current environment, the IOUs are so big, a lot of promises are going to be broken.

Should those IOUs one day become as worthless as Palmstruch’s or Law’s paper—however unlikely that might be—I suspect many readers would feel relieved to know that they had had the prudence to invest in gold.

I always advise investors to hold 10 percent of their portfolios in gold—5 percent in bullion, 5 percent in gold stocks, then rebalance every year.

Tell us what you think! – http://www.usfunds.com 

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“Wrestling with Something Else”: Why this Gold Bear Market Is Different

By Frank Holmes*

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure to appear on Jim Puplava’s Financial Sense Newshour radio program and discuss the state of the gold market. Along with my peers John Doody of the Gold Stock Analyst and Ross Hansen of Northwest Territorial Mint, I shared my thoughts on how we arrived in the current bear market, what factors might help us get out of it and the role real interest rates play in prices.

Below I’ve highlighted a few of my responses to Jim’s questions.

Q: Let’s begin with the bear market that began in 2011. Two questions I’d like you to answer. Number one: What do you believe caused it? Number two: Do you think this is cyclical or a secular bear market?

A: As I often say, two factors drive gold: the Love Trade and the Fear Trade.

In 1997 and 1998, the bottom of the emerging market meltdown took place. Four years later, we saw China and Asia starting to take off and GDP per capita rise. This is an important factor in this whole run-up that I would characterize as the Love Trade. A strong correlation is rising GDP per capita, and in China, India and the Middle East, they buy gold and many gifts of love.

We saw the Fear Trade starting to take place after 9/11. The biggest factor behind the Fear Trade is negative real interest rates. So when you had both—negative real interest rates and rising GDP per capita in the emerging countries—you had gold demand going to record numbers.

At the very peak of 2011, the dollar had just been basically downgraded by Moody’s and we had negative interest rates on a 10-year government bond. It was a record negative real rate of return, like in the ‘70s. You saw this spending from the Fear Trade, but this Love Trade was in negative real interest rates.

Negative Real Interest Rates Have Had a Positive Impact on Gold
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Since then, the U.S. has gone positive. But we’re seeing that in Europe, gold is taking off in euro terms, and in Japan it’s taking off in yen terms. They’re running at negative real interest rates the way we were on a relative basis up to 2011.

Gold Returns in Euros and Japanese Yen vs. U.S. Dollars
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Q: So would you define this bear market as a cyclical bear market, a correction in a long-term trend, or would you define it as secular very much in the way that we experienced the price of gold between, let’s say, the 1980s and 1990s?

A: I think that we’re wrestling with something else. When we look at the other basic metals, what drives the demand for iron, copper, anything that makes steel? It’s fiscal policies. Huge infrastructure spending and fiscal policies. What’s happened since 2011—and after the crash of 2008 but particularly in 2011—is that when the G20 central bankers get together, they don’t talk about trade. It’s all about tax and regulation. They have to keep interest rates low to try to compete, to try to get exports up, to drive their economies. That is a big difference on the need for all these commodities, and it seems to have ended the bull market. Until we get global fiscal policies up and increase infrastructure building, then I have to turn around and look the other way, and say it’s going to take a while.

I do think that gold is going through a bear market. A lot of it has to do more with the central bankers and everything they try to do to discredit gold as an asset class, at the same time try to keep interest rates low to keep economic activity going strong. That’s been a much different factor in driving the price of gold.

The other thing that’s been fascinating is this shift of gold from North America to Switzerland to China. The Chinese have a strategy for the renminbi. Not only do they have 200 million people buying gold on a monthly program throughout their banking system, but the government is buying gold because it needs to back the renminbi to make it a world-class currency of trade.

The Great Tectonic Shift of Physical Gold From West to East

Q: Explain two things: one, why we never saw the hyper-inflation that people thought we were going to see with the massive amounts of quantitative easing (QE), and two, investor preferences changing from hard assets into stocks.

A: Well first of all, a lot of money didn’t really go directly into the economy. We never had a huge spike in credit supply in 2011, ’12, ’13. Only in ’14 did we start to see it really pick up.

U.S. Bank Loan Growth is Nearing Pre-Recession High
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We never got this big inflation some expected because the money is so difficult, outside of getting a car loan or an extension on a house. Even Ben Bernanke, after he left the Federal Reserve, had trouble refinancing his house following his own procedures. It’s extremely onerous to get a loan.

I think the biggest part is to follow the money. And where is the money going? It’s showing up in stocks. When I look at gold stocks, it’s amazing to see that the indexes are down since 2011, but a basket of the royalty companies is positive. So why is money finding its way to them? What are the factors driving that? Well, not only do they have free cash flow, but they also have a higher profit margin and they’ve been raising their dividends. Franco-Nevada again just raised its dividend. Since 2011, the dividend yield on Franco-Nevada and Royal Gold has been higher than a 5-year government bond and many times higher than a 10-year government bond. So money all of a sudden starts going for that yield and growth.

Q: What’s happened to the industry since the downturn began in 2011?

A: Well, when you take a look at the big run we had until 2006, we had very strong cash flow returns on invested capital. We had expanding free cash flow. And then a lot of the mining companies lost their focus on growth on a per-share basis. They kept doing these acquisitions, which made a company go from “$1 billion to $2 billion in revenue.” However, the cost of that meant that there was less gold per share in production and there were less reserves per share. You had this run-up in the cost for equipment, for exploration, for development. The result was you had seven majors lose their CEOs. And in the junior to mid-cap size, you probably had another 20 in which management was thrown out.

The new management is much more focused on capital returns. They have to be. Otherwise they get criticized. That will hold a lot of these managements accountable, and I think that’s very healthy. And now it’s starting to show up that the returns on capital are improving for several of these companies.

Today, gold mining company management is much focused on capital returns.

Q: What would you be doing with money right now if you were to be in the gold market? How much would you put in the gold market? How would you have that money invested.

A: I’ve always advocated 10 percent and rebalance every year. Five percent would go into gold bullion, coins, gold jewelry—you travel around the world and you can buy gorgeous gold jewelry at basically no mark-up compared to the mark-up on Fifth Avenue. The other 5 percent is in gold stocks, and if it’s a basket of these royalty companies, I think you’ll do well over time, and you rebalance.

If not, then you go to an active manager, like we have. Speaking from a buyer’s position, Ralph Aldis— portfolio manager of our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) and World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX)—is a TopGun ranked in Canada as an active manager.

Q: Explain your caution in terms of gold in the percentage you recommend.

A: I’ve always looked at gold as being a hedge from the imbalance of government policies. Having that 10-percent weighting and rebalancing every year might help protect your overall portfolio. There are many studies going back 30 years that show that rebalancing helps.

It’s also advisable to put half your money in dividend-paying blue chip stocks that are increasing their revenue. When there are great years in the stock market, people often take some profits. And when gold’s down, as it is now, it might be time to put money in gold and gold equities.

For more, listen to the entire interview.

*Frank Holmes is CEO and Chief Investment Officer for U.S. Global Investors – www.usfunds.com 

Junior Mining Companies Have Taken a Senior Role

By Frank Holmes

Smaller-cap explorers and producers are generating greater wealth for investors

For the past decade, junior mining companies have outperformed senior miners at finding new mineral deposits and generating wealth for investors.

These are among some of the findings released in a study conducted by resource company strategist MinEx Consulting, which analyzed the performance of explorers and producers operating in Canada between 1975 and 2014. What the consultancy firm found is that, in the last decade, junior companies were responsible for more than three quarters of all new mineral discoveries and were approximately 30 percent more effective than senior companies at generating wealth.

Ralph Aldis, portfolio manager of our two precious metals funds— the World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX) and Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX), which holds four stars overall from Morningstar, among 71 Equity Precious Metals funds as of 3/31/2015, based on risk-adjusted returns—agrees with the results of the study. In a March interview with The Gold Report, he noted that junior gold producers “have the flexibility to be able to adjust” to varying commodity-price conditions.

“It’s the smaller, midsized companies that have a better handle on their operations,” Ralph said.

A good example of such a small-cap miner would be Claude Resources Inc., which we own in both USERX and UNWPX. Claude, the only producer operating in Saskatchewan, Canada, managed to turn its operation around fairly quickly after netting a huge loss of $73 million in 2013. The company just reported a profit of $4.6 million in 2014, driven by “record production performance,” according to President and CEO Brian Skanderbeg. For the one-year period, the company is up a phenomenal 216 percent.

“Claude has been around for a long time, but its new management understood that it had to change its mining method, which has made a big difference,” Ralph said in The Gold Report.

Junior companies have increasingly played an essential exploratory role in Canada. Nearly 40 years ago, they were responsible for only 5 percent of all capital spent on exploration; by 2007, that amount had ballooned to more than 65 percent. Over the past decade, juniors have accounted for 54 percent of all spending on exploration in Canada.

Importance of Junior Mining Companies in Canada Has Been Rising Over Time
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As a result, major producers have steadily lost ground to the smaller players in terms of discovering new mineral deposits. In three of the previous 10 years, in fact—2009, 2010 and 2012—senior companies failed to make a single new discovery.

In the Last Decade, 3/4 of All Mineral Discoveries in Canada Were Made by Junior Explorers
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Quality or Quantity? How about Both?

Frank Holmes in the copper Mountain Mine in Princeton, British Columbia

Not all mineral deposits are created equal, of course. Some might be all a producer needs to be successful, whereas others aren’t even worth the time and capital to develop.

You can think of a Tier 1 deposit as a “company making” mine—one that might yield up to 250,000 ounces of gold per year over its lifespan of 20 years or more. Some of these projects can easily be valued at over $1 billion.

A Tier 2 deposit is significant but not as profitable as a Tier 1, with a typical valuation of between $200 million and $1 billion.

Finally, a Tier 3 deposit is considered marginal, valued at anywhere between $0 and $200 million.

About 80 percent of the mining industry’s wealth is generated from Tier 1 and Tier 2 projects. But such discoveries, as you might imagine, are muchrarer than Tier 3s. To give you an idea of just how rare they are, consider this: Every decade in Canada, the industry discovers on average 40 Tier 3 deposits, seven Tier 2 deposits—and only three Tier 1 deposits.

So how do the juniors stack up against the seniors when it comes to finding quality mines? In the table below, you can see that they’re running slightly behind. In the past decade, juniors made 7.3 Tier 1 or 2 discoveries in Canada, compared to the seniors’ 8.7.

Spend and Performance in Canada: 2005 – 2014
Exploration Spend in Billions Number of Discoveries Tier 1 and 2 Discoveries Estimated Value of Discoveries, in Billions Value/Spend
Seniors $12.5 46% 21 24% 8.7 54% $7.9 39% 0.63
Juniors $14.6 54% 66 76% 7.3 46% $12.1 61% 0.83
Past performance does not guarantee future results.
Source: MinEx Consulting, U.S. Global Investors

But—and this is a big “but”—they handily beat the seniors when it came to the total number of discoveries. Of all the deposits found, over three quarters were made by junior miners.

As I said earlier, juniors spent more than the seniors on exploration during this timeframe ($14.6 billion compared to $12.5 billion), and their discoveries collectively had a much higher valuation ($12.1 billion compared to $7.9 billion). Accordingly, they were roughly 30 percent more effective than seniors at generating wealth for investors. Put another way, they had a greater “bang for your buck.”

Small Cap, Big Opportunities

This news bodes well for our two precious metals funds. Although they both invest in junior explorers and producers, the Gold and Precious Metals Fund also allocates assets to the large-cap, senior mining companies.

Market Capitalization Breakdown for USGI's Gold Funds
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Not only that, but Canada is the top investment destination in both funds: 57 percent in USERX, 77 percent in UNWPX. Canadian mining companies have lately seen margin expansion because the majority of their costs are in the relatively weak Canadian dollar, yet they sell their commodities in the strong U.S. dollar.

According to MinEx, 19 percent of the world’s high-quality Tier 1 and 2 mineral discoveries were made in Canada between 2005 and 2014. That’s second only to the entire continent of Africa (25 percent). The country’s mining industry also has an estimated value of $19 billion, or 21 percent of total valuation worldwide. At 0.77, Canada’s value-spend ratio, or “bang for your buck,” was better than the global average of 0.67.

frank Holmes is CEO and Chief Investment Advisor for U.S. Global Investors – http://www.usfunds.com 

The Fed, the Fear Trade and Gold – Frank Holmes

Latest thoughts from Frank Holmes, CEO and chief investment officer of U.S. Global Investors – www.usfunds.com

Following the recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen made it clear (again) that interest rates would not be raised until inflation gains more steam. With current inflation rates negative for the first time since 2009, and with the U.S. dollar index at an 11-year high, we can probably expect near-record-low interest rates for some time longer.

With the Dollar index at an 11-yeah high, gold prices are under a lot of pressure

Image courtesy of http://www.welovecostarica.com/watching/ 

Along with major stock indices, gold prices immediately spiked at Yellen’s news, rising nearly 2 percent, from $1,151 to $1,172. That’s the largest one-day move we’ve seen from the yellow metal in at least two months.

It’s also a prime example of gold’s Fear Trade, which occurs when investors buy gold out of fear of war or concern over changes in government policy.

As I’ve frequently discussed, one of gold’s main drivers is the strength of the U.S. dollar. The two have an historical inverse relationship, as you can see below.

Strong Dollar Weighs on Gold

In September 2011, when gold hit its all-time high of $1,921, the dollar index was at a low, low 73. With the dollar having recently broken above 100, although since fallen back a little, the yellow metal sits under a lot of pressure. However, I’m pleased at how well it’s held up compared to the early 1980s, when gold plunged 65 percent from its peak of $850 per ounce as the U.S. currency began to strengthen.

We’re seeing the opposite effect in the eurozone as well as other regions around the world. In the last 11 months, the euro has slipped 24 percent. Many analysts, in fact, expect the euro to fall below the dollar for the first time.

When priced in this weakening currency, gold has climbed to a two-year high.

Gold Prices in Euro Terms Strengthens as the Currency Falls

Inflation consumes the returns on your five-year treasury bondAs I write in last year’s special gold report, “How Government Policies Affect Gold’s Fear Trade”:

One of the strongest drivers of the Fear Trade in gold is real interest rates. Whenever a country has negative-to-low real rates of return, which means the inflationary rate (CPI) is greater than the current interest rate, gold tends to rise in that country’s currency.

To illustrate this point, take a look at the current five-year Treasury yield and subtract from it the consumer price index (CPI), or the inflationary number. You get either a positive or negative real interest rate.

When that number is negative, gold has tended to be strong. And when it’s positive, gold has in the past been weak.

This month, real interest rates in the U.S. have turned massively positive, putting additional downward pressure on the yellow metal.

HOw real interest rates drive gold

When you look at the yield on a five-year Treasury bond in March 2013, you see that it was 0.88 percent. Take away 1.5 percent inflation, and investors were getting a negative real return of 0.6 percent. This made gold a much more attractive and competitive asset to invest in. March 2013, by the way, was the last time we saw gold above $1,600 per ounce.

Because inflation is in negative territory right now, returns on the five-year Treasury are higher than they’ve been in several quarters. Compared to many other government bonds worldwide, the U.S. five-year Treasury is actually one of the very few whose yields are positive, which tarnishes gold’s appeal somewhat as an investment.

The following oscillator for the five-year period gives you another way to look at the strong inverse relationship between the five-year Treasury bond and gold. As if locked in a synchronized dance, each asset class swings when the other one sways, and vice versa.

HOw real interest rates drive gold

This is why it’s so important to manage expectations.

As Ralph Aldis, portfolio manager of our two precious metals funds, said in our most recent Shareholder Report:

You need to use gold for what it’s best at: portfolio diversification… You have to be a bit of contrarian. Buy it when everybody hates it, sell it when everybody loves it. Our suggestion is to have 5 to 10 percent of your portfolio in gold or gold stocks and rebalance once a year. You might also get some additional benefits by rebalancing quarterly. That’s like playing chess with the market as opposed to rolling craps.

Mind blowing stats: China consuming more gold than world producing

Mind-Blowing: China Consumes More Gold Than the World Produces

Frank Holmes’ take on the huge pre-Chinese New Year demand figures as shown by the Shanghai Gold Exchange where withdrawals in the first six weeks of the year have totalled a ‘mind-blowing’ 374 tonnes.

Welcome to the year 4713. Or, if you prefer, the Year of the Ram.

The Chinese New Year, which kicks off today, is the largest and most widespread cultural event in mainland China, bringing with it massive consumer spending and gift-giving. During this week alone, an estimated 3.6 billion people in the China region travel by road, rail and air in the largest annual human migration.

Chinese New Year Spending Double That of U.S. Thanksgiving Spending in 2014Imagine half a dozen Thanksgivings and Christmases all rolled into one mega-holiday, and you might begin to get a sense of just how significant the Chinese New Year festivities and traditions are.

According to the National Retail Federation, China spent approximately $100 billion on retail and restaurants during the Chinese New Year in 2014. That’s double what Americans shelled out during the four-day Thanksgiving and Black Friday spending period.

As I’ve discussed on numerous occasions, one of the most popular gifts to give and receive during this time is gold—a prime example of the Love Trade.

Can’t Keep Gold Down

Most loyal readers of my Frank Talk blog know that China, along with India, leads the world in gold demand. This Chinese New Year is no exception. Official “Year of the Ram” gold coins sold out days ago, and since the beginning of January, withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold Exchange have grown to over 315 tonnes, exceeding the 300 tonnes of newly-mined gold around the globe during the same period. (Editor’s Note: Since Frank penned this article week 6 Chinese demand figures as presented by the Shanghai Gold Exchange surged by another 59 tonnes to total 374 tonnes in the six week runup to the Chinese New Year)

China, in other words, is consuming more gold than the world is producing.

What’s not so well-known—but just as amazing—is that China’s supply of the precious metal per capita is actually low compared to neighboring Asian countries such as Taiwan and Singapore.

The World Gold Council (WGC), in fact, calls China “a huge, relatively untapped reservoir of gold demand.”

This might all change as more and more Chinese citizens move up the socioeconomic ladder. Over the next five years, the country’s middle class is projected to swell from 300 million to 500 million—nearly 200 million more people than the entire population of the United States. This should help boost gold bullion and jewelry sales in China, which fell 33 percent from the previous year.

Chinese and Indian Growth Has Spurred Gold Market
click to enlarge

“I don’t see demand staying down because you have had structural changes,” commented WGC Head of Investment Research Juan Carlos Artigas in an interview with Hard Assets Investor. “One of them, emerging market demand from the likes of India and China, continues to grow, and we expect it to continue to grow as those economies develop further.”

New Visa Policy Promises Increased Chinese Tourism

The Year of the Ram has also ushered in a new visa policy, one that has the potential to draw many more Chinese tourists to American shores.

For years, Chinese citizens could receive only a one-year, multi-entry visa. Now, leisure and business travelers can obtain a visa that allows them to enter multiple times over a 10-year period. The visa application process has also been relaxed.

American companies to benefit from greater influx of Chinese touristsIn terms of overseas spending, Chinese tourists already sit in first place, just above their American counterparts. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, a record $129 billion was spent by Chinese travelers in 2013 alone. The average Chinese visitor spends between $6,000 and $7,200 per trip in the U.S.

This visa policy reform is an obvious boon to travel and leisure companies such as those held in our All American Equity Fund (GBTFX)—Walt Disney and Carnival Corp., for examples, not to mention retailers such as Kohl’s, Coach and The Gap.

Other beneficiaries include Chinese airlines such as Air China, which we own in our China Region Fund (USCOX). Global airline stocks are currently soaring as a result of low oil prices, increased seat capacity and more fuel-efficient aircraft. The new visa policy has the potential to give these stocks an even stronger boost.

On a lighter note, at least a couple of airports in North America are making the most of the Chinese New Year, hosting performances by Chinese musical artists and providing entertainment such as a lion dance through the terminal and calligraphy.

To our friends and shareholders here in the U.S. and abroad, I wish you all a Happy Chinese New Year!

Africa Could Mine Its Way to Prosperity if It Addressed Instability

Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors gives us his views on investing in African mining following his vist to Cape Town last week for the Mining Indaba and what governments need to do to help encourage it.

Last week I attended the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa, as both a presenter and a student seeking opportunities. One of the highlights of the conference was former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s keynote address, during which he offered some crucial advice to African governments: To attract and foster a robust mining sector, a commitment to fiscal stability must be made.

Goods Trade with Africa in 2013

Since 2009, Blair has run the Africa Governance Initiative, which counsels leaders in countries such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and others.

Simply put, without fiscal stability and predictability in taxation, capital will be unwilling to flow into any country—African or otherwise—for exploration and production. If a government changes its tax policy every three years or so, that instability discourages the inflow of financing. This is bad for Africa.

“The mining sector remains absolutely vital for Africa’s future,” Blair said, “and even with the sharp declines in [commodity] prices, there are tremendous opportunities and there will be, no doubt, an adjustment and reshaping of the face of mining within Africa over these next few years.”

I shared the following map last week, but it’s worth showing again, as it supports Blair’s point. Central and Southern Africa, especially, are extremely commodity-rich and maintain a large global share of important metals and minerals such as platinum, diamonds and gold.

In 2014, China Channeled Over $100 Billion into 156 Countries and Regions Around the Globe
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Fiscal instability is also bad for investors in Africa. If foreign investment is not respected by a government, if it is punitively taxed or arbitrarily confiscated, further investment will not flow into that country. Politically, African nations need to recognize that seemingly faceless investment institutions represent real people’s hard earned dollars.

In Zambia, for example, a huge 12 percent of the country’s GDP comes from mining, an industry that employs 10 percent of all Zambians. Yet its government has increased, rather than cut or at least eased, restrictive royalty taxes on mines. In the case of open pit mines, royalties were raised from 6 percent to a crippling 20 percent.

Speaking to Reuters, a mining industry spokesperson speculated: “Mining companies are not going to put another dollar in [Zambia]” if the government continues to be unreliable.

Less Friction, Fewer Disruptions

This is proof positive of what I frequently say: Government policy is a precursor to change. In the example above, the tax policy is leading to change that could very well hurt Zambia’s economy. With mining being such a strong contributor to its GDP, it seems the government would want to make it easier, not more challenging and costly, for international producers to conduct business there.

The less friction and fewer disruptions there are, the easier it is for money to flow.

But Zambia’s isn’t the only African government that’s placing roadblocks in front of miners. The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the early stages of hiking royalties on mines and revising its mining code. And in his recent State of the Nation Address, South African President Jacob Zuma announced that foreigners could no longer own land in the country, which raises the question of what implications, if any, this might have on U.S. and Canadian companies that own and operate South African mines. Zuma’s announcement comes at a time when persistent electricity shortages have stymied mining activity and rumblings of a miners’ strike similar to the one last year that brought platinum and palladium production to a five-month halt are intensifying.

At the same time, many governments in Africa are waking up to see that they’re going to have to provide the sort of stability and consistency Prime Minister Blair outlined if they hope to attract the capital necessary to fund and develop their mining opportunities.

Miners Giving Back

A strong mining sector doesn’t just benefit the native country, either. It’s a global good that benefits all. In another presentation at the African Mining Indaba, Terry Heymann of the World Gold Council convincingly showed that the economic output of the global gold mining sector far exceeds the collective aid budget of world governments. Gold mining, he said, created and moved as much as $47.3 billion to suppliers, businesses and communities in 2013, compared to governments’ $37.4 billion.

Many gold mining companies take a more direct approach to helping the communities in the countries they operate in, including Randgold Resources, which works primarily in Mali. In an interview during the African Mining Indaba, CEO Mark Bristow detailed his company’s involvement in the fight against Ebola and other epidemics that have hit the West African country:

Our doctors, the Randgold doctors, run a technical committee meeting every day where we coordinate with the [Malian] health authorities, and we help manage the deployment of energy. Now that we’ve eradicated the second [Ebola] outbreak, our big focus is on prevention and education.

Goods Trade with Africa in 2013

Bristow explained that the company had sponsored the development of an educational film about Ebola, before highlighting other company achievements:

We were part of the Neglected Tropical Disease Initiative rollout… We’re very big on the AIDS programs around the country. We brought the malaria incident rate around our mines down by more than four times.

Because Randgold is the largest employer in Mali, Bristow suggested, he feels a moral obligation to partner with his host country and make it a healthier, safer place to live and work.

During the same interview, he insisted that Randgold, which we hold in our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) and World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX), has a “solid five years ahead of us,” citing the fact that the company holds no debt and managed to replace all the ounces it mined in 2014 at $1,000 long-term gold price. It also increased its dividend 20 percent.

Despite bullion’s price hovering just above the relatively low $1,230 range, Randgold has delivered 16 percent year-to-date.

This is in line with gold mining stocks in both the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index and FTSE Gold Mines Index, which are outperforming the return on bullion.

Gold-Mining-Stocks-Outperforming-Bullion-Year-to-Date
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As I mentioned back in July, when mining stocks do well, bullion has tended to follow suit. This also shows that producers are successfully adjusting to a $1,200-per-ounce environment by scaling back on capital spending, selling off assets, putting exploration on hold and engaging in mergers and acquisitions—which in the past has signaled that a bottom in spot prices might be reached. B2Gold Corp. closed on its deal to buy Papillon Resources in October; we learned in November that Osisko Gold Royalties is taking over Virginia Mines; and last month it was announced that Goldcorp would bepurchasing Probe Mines.

Weak Currencies, Low Fuel Prices

Speaking with Kitco News’s Daniela Cambone during last Monday’s Gold Game Film, I commented on some of the macro events aiding gold mining companies such as Randgold:

Mark Bristow has just hit the ball out of the park. He benefits from a weak Mali currency and he benefits from a weak euro because everything is priced in euros. He’s also benefited from weak oil prices.

Indeed, many miners not operating in the U.S. are the beneficiaries of a weak local currency. The West African CFA franc, Mali’s currency, is off 20 percent; the South African rand, 40 percent; the Canadian dollar, 15 percent.

Low energy prices are also helping gold producers, just as they’re helping companies in other industries, airlines especially. In most cases, fuel accounts for between 20 and 30 percent of gold miners’ total operating costs. Because Brent oil is currently priced around $60 per barrel, gold producers are seeing significant savings.

The Gold Demand

This Thursday marks the Chinese New Year, a traditional occasion for gold gift-giving. Chinese demand for the yellow metal was strong in 2014, as 800 tonnes flowed into the country. Over half of the global gold demand, in fact, was driven by the world’s two largest markets, China and India.

Chinese-and-Indian-Growth-Has-Spurred-Market-Infrastructure-Development
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Historically low real interest rates are also driving investors into gold and gold stocks. As I told Daniela:

When you look at real interest rates out of the G7 and G10 countries, the only one with a modest increase is the U.S. dollar. Any time you get this negative real interest rate scenario, gold starts to rally in those countries’ currencies. Now what’s really dynamite is the gold mining companies like Goldcorp, which pays a dividend higher than a 5-year government bond.

Gold great value protector in 2014 but silver tanked

LBMA Gold price end 2013: US$1201.50; Gold price end 2014: US$1199.00.

Lawrence Williams

LBMA Gold price end 2013: US$ 1201.50; Gold price end 2014: $1199.25 – only down a minute 0.19% over the year   Thus, by effectively marking time vis-a-vis the US dollar over the full year gold outperformed virtually all other currencies in maintenance of value.  Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors pointed this out neatly with the graph below in a recent article – but maybe he jumped the gun a little producing the graph just before the final year-end London gold price was set, with gold making a small recovery in the interim to bring it even closer to its 2013 closing figure (LBMA Fix – or London Gold Price as it is now called). However, the spot price did fall back to the $1180s after the final London price for the year was set.  Indeed its LBMA afternoon price on December 30th at $1206 was actually 0.4% higher than its 2013 close but something of a dollar rally on the morning of the 31st brought it down a little.   See Frank’s chart below comparing key currency performance with that of the U.S. dollar over the year.  To read his full original article click on Gold Beat All Other World Currencies in 2014.

FHGP

Most gold investors will probably have considered 2014 a poor year with gold making early-year moves upwards before coming back down again in the latter part.  But if one looks at the strength of the US dollar (or perhaps this should be the weakness of other currencies vs the dollar) with the dollar index rising 12.4% over the year, an investment in gold in any other currency will have seen an increase of above this percentage over the year.  And if one lives in Russia or Argentina the percentage increase would have been large indeed!  Gold has thus, over 2014, performed extremely well as a wealth protector.  As an example – in Swiss Francs the gold price actually rose 9.5% over the year. In the Russian ruble it rose no less than 77% over the period.  Perhaps we are far too focused on gold’s US dollar performance to see its real value for those outside the USA.  Sometimes one needs to take a step back and look at other valuation parameters.

For the time being at least, gold seems to have found a price equilibrium at, or around the $1200/ounce level.  We might argue that this is the kind of level China is comfortable with – see: Path of the gold price is in China’s hands.  Whether China is, or is not, keeping the price at this level is obviously open to speculation, but it certainly has the capability of so doing and with so many of its citizens holding gold it may well have a strong interest in keeping prices relatively stable.

It is also widely believed that China is building its national gold reserve without reporting it to the IMF, and that this gold reserve is now very comfortably above the official 1,054 tonnes which it has claimed to have had for the past six years since its last upwards valuation.  But this again remains as speculation until and unless China reports another reserve increase.  The thought is that it may refrain from doing so until its gold reserve matches the official reserve of the U.S.A. north of 8,000 tonnes.

By comparison, silver investors have had a pretty dismal year.  Of the countries featured in Frank Holmes’ chart above, only silver investors in Russia and Argentina will have seen value protection in their own currencies.  Again, as we pointed out here recently silver investors take much more of a gamble than those investing in gold given the white metal’s vastly increased volatility over its yellow sibling.  See: Silver in 2015 – the gambler’s precious metal.   But even so, this year’s silver price performance, or lack of it could be considered remarkable vis-à-vis gold with which it usually has a closer relationship.  By many calculations silver is currently in a supply deficit, but this seems to have had no positive effect on price movement.  The key price drivers at the moment are purely speculative and as a much smaller market than gold, speculators have a far easier path to price manipulation than gold – and the general belief nowadays is that the gold price is being manipulated too by mega-money players.  If the manipulation premise is correct, then the gamble therefore with silver is in picking the point at which the speculators change tack to make huge profits on an upturn.  Maybe this point is near, but relying on this is not for widows and orphans.