An American Energy Revolution

By Frank Holmes

CEO and Chief Investment Officer

U.S. Global Investors

An American Energy Revolution

In Texas these days, there’s a feeling of absolute and unwavering confidence in the concept of an American energy revolution. From the depths of reserves to the richness of the energy, an incredible transformation is taking place.

We’ve been talking about the significant impact of the U.S.’s oil production for a while now, but the buzz about shale oil and gas is only getting louder. At Morgan Stanley’s energy forum in Houston this week, Director of Research John Derrick and Portfolio Manager Evan Smith said shale was the prevailing topic.

One area that’s driving this game-changing trend is located only hours from our headquarters. It’s the Permian Basin located in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico, covering an enormous area. Three component parts make up the Permian: the western Delaware, Central Basin and eastern Midland. If you overlay the Eagle Ford and Bakken basin areas over the Permian, you can see that both the Bakken and the Eagle Ford shale formations easily fit inside.

Permian Basin is bigger than eagle Ford and Bakken combined

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The area isn’t new to the oil industry, as companies have been drilling in the Permian area for almost a century. Back in the 1970s, oil production reached 2 million barrels per day, but fell to 800,000 barrels per day in 2007. It wasn’t because the oil wells had dried up but companies couldn’t get at the resource. But now since the introduction of shale technology, oil production began increasing once more to 1.2 million barrels per day by 2012.

And as more data is released, the more convinced we are that this incredible growth will continue. According to Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., by 2025, oil production is projected to more than double to more than 3 million barrels per day. That’s about as much oil that is produced these days by Kuwait, the third largest oil producer in OPEC.

Permian Basin oil production may reach more than 3 million barrels of oil per day by 2025

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Natural gas in the Permian Basin is also estimated to substantially increase, growing from about 4.3 million cubic feet per day to more than 7 million cubic feet per day.

When it comes to investment plays, “the Permian is red hot right now,” says Global Hunter Securities. The research firm finds that, on a year-to-date basis, if you invested in the “pure-play” companies, including Diamondback Energy (FANG), Concho Resources (CXO) and Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD), that have a resource base in the Permian area, your portfolio would be up an incredible 39 percent.

By comparison, over the same timeframe, the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (XOP) increased only 15 percent. The S&P 500 Index, which has had a great run so far, rose 16 percent.

Pioneer has been a long-term holding in the Global Resources Fund (PSPFX), and has benefited the fund with its handsome return of about 60 percent so far this year. We continue to be bullish on the company due to its substantial presence in the Permian. Pioneer has a net resource base of about 7 billion barrels of oil equivalent across more than 40,000 drilling locations in the Permian, according to Global Hunter. This enormous resource base translates to decades of drilling ahead.

Here in San Antonio, we’ve personally witnessed several economic benefits that have positive repercussions for the entire U.S. Locally, there’s been a rapid monetization of energy assets. Businesses have been building incredible expertise and creating a growing number of high-paying jobs. For the rest of the country, the effects of cheaper gas and readily available energy create enormous potential for a more competitive United States of America.

We’re seeing savvy investors already taking advantage of the nation’s incredible energy shift. You might not want to miss out. One solution that aims for better growth potential and lower volatility is the Global Resources Fund, which takes a balanced approach to the energy and materials sectors.

Evan Smith contributed to this commentary.

Index Summary

  • Major market indices finished lower this week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.33 percent. The S&P 500 Stock Index dropped 1.84 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite declined 1.86 percent. The Russell 2000 small capitalization index fell 2.63 percent this week.
  • The Hang Seng Composite fell 0.45 percent; Taiwan rose 1.89 percent while the KOSPI appreciated 3.01 percent.
  • The 10-year Treasury bond yield fell three basis points this week to 2.79 percent.

Domestic Equity Market

The S&P 500 sold off this week as the threat of U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict and possible regional geopolitical ramifications weighed on the market. Financials led the way down this week with regional banks among the worst performers, concerns of a slowing housing market was the likely culprit.

Domestic Equity Market - U.S. Global Investors

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Strengths

  • In a down week for the market, the energy sector was the best relative performer as concerns of a U.S. military strike on Syria and the potential for a wider conflict in the Middle East caused oil to spike mid-week and supported the sector.
  • The telecom services and utilities sectors were both outperformers as defensive areas generally outperformed this week.
  • Salesforce.com was the best performer in the S&P 500 this week rising 12.71 percent as the company reported better than expected second quarter sales and earnings results.

Weaknesses

  • The financials sector was the worst performing sector this week falling by more than 3 percent. Rising mortgage rates have dampened the housing market in recent months and that trend continued this week with weaker housing data. This housing data, along with a flatting of the yield curve were the likely drivers of the decline in the sector.
  • The industrials sector was also hit hard this week as Joy Global cut its revenue forecast for the upcoming 2014 fiscal year. Generally speaking, cyclicals underperformed this week on geopolitical uncertainty.
  • Advanced Micro Devices was the worst performer in the S&P 500 for the week, falling 10.41 percent. The drop is in response to continued weak personal and notebook computer sales.

Opportunity

  • The current macro environment continues to be positive as economic data remains robust enough to give investors confidence in an economic recovery but not too strong as to force the Federal Reserve to change course in the near term.
  • Money flows are likely to find their way into domestic U.S. equities and out of bonds and emerging markets.
  • An improving macro backdrop out of Europe and China could be the next catalyst for the market to move higher.

Threat

  • A market consolidation could occur in the near term after such a strong year.
  • Higher interest rates are a threat for the whole economy, the Fed must walk a fine line and the potential for policy error is potentially large.
  • Seasonally September is one of the worst months of the year and volatility coming into the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in mid-September should be expected.

The Economy and Bond Market

Treasury yields moved lower this week. This was particularly true for the long end of the yield curve. The market continues to wait for the Fed to begin “tapering” at the September 17-18 FOMC meeting and this week economic data did not really change the thinking on this issue. The market driver this week was global geopolitical tensions concerning Syria and whether the U.S. and/or its allies would “punish” the Assad regime for using chemical weapons. This caused a flight to quality into U.S. treasuries, sending yields lower on the potential for broader ramifications in the region should a strike occur.

10-Year Government Yield

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Strengths

  • Second quarter GDP was revised higher to 2.5 percent, up from the originally reported 1.7 percent. This upward adjustment was related to more exports and fewer imports than were previously estimated.
  • China’s industrial profits jumped 11.6 percent in July, potentially signaling the economic recovery is really underway.
  • The Mortgage Bankers Association’s purchase activity index increased for the second week in a row. This is the first back-to-back positive reading since April.

Weaknesses

  • Durable goods orders unexpectedly fell 7.3 percent in July, well below estimates. That was the biggest drop in almost a year and adds to the uncertainty regarding quantitative easing (QE) tapering.
  • Housing data has shown mixed results recently but home price gains slowing and pending home sales declining in July.
  • Rising inflation, depreciating currencies and weak growth in many emerging market countries are putting pressure on policy makers to act.

Opportunity

  • Despite recent conflicting commentary, the Fed continues to remain committed to an overall accommodative policy.
  • Key global central bankers are still in easing mode, such as the European Central Bank (ECB), Bank of England and the Bank of Japan.
  • The recent selloff in bonds is likely an opportunity as higher yields will act as a brake on the economy and potentially become self fulfilling, thus postponing Fed action.

Threat

  • Inflation in some corners of the globe is getting the attention of policymakers and may be an early indicator for the rest of the world.
  • Trade and/or currency “wars” cannot be ruled out which may cause unintended consequences and volatility in the financial markets.
  • The recent bond market selloff may be a “shot across the bow” as the markets reassess the changing macro dynamics.

Gold Market

For the week, spot gold closed at $1,395.15, down $2.60 per ounce, or 0.19 percent. Gold stocks, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, lost 6.89 percent. The U.S. Trade-Weighted Dollar Index rose 0.83 percent for the week.

Strengths

  • The Austrian Mint, which produces the Philharmonic coin, commented that sales increased this year after falling gold prices fueled demand. Sales of gold coins from January to July rose 79 percent from a year earlier to 383,500 ounces, nearly matching sales for the whole of 2012 at 400,000 ounces. The U.S. Mint has seen a similar surge in purchasers this year.
  • Russia and Kazakhstan expanded their gold reserves for the tenth-straight month in July, while Mexico reduced its holdings. Russian holdings, the seventh largest by country, gained about 6.3 metric tons to 1,002.8 tons. Kazakhstan’s reserves rose 1.1 tons to about 132 tons, and Turkey boosted holdings by 22.5 tons to 464 tons. Various nations added 534.6 tons to reserves last year, the most since 1964, and the World Gold Council expects that central banks may buy 350 additional tons this year.
  • Over the last 60 days, the one-month and three-month gold forward offered rates have turned negative, and historically this means the gold price rises. Gold forward offered rates are the interest an investor has to pay on gold-collateralized U.S. dollar loans. Under normal circumstances, it is positive for an investor to pay interest in order to borrow U.S. dollars against gold collateral. However, since July 2103 an investor with gold is now being paid interest to provide gold as collateral against U.S. dollar loans. The most likely reason behind the negative gold forward offered rate is a shortage in physical gold supply.

Weaknesses

  • Gold surged earlier in the week with the prospects of an expanded conflict in Syria, but retreated somewhat later in the week from a three-month high on speculation that the Federal Reserve will follow through on its plans to withdraw stimulus. The U.S. economy expanded more than previously stated. Gross Domestic Product for the second quarter was revised up from 1.7 percent to 2.5 percent. Application for jobless benefits declined from 336,000 to 331,000, adding to the case for the Fed to taper stimulus.
  • South Africa says gold miners will go on strike next week after labor groups refused to accept a revised pay offer. A spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers said that the strike will start Tuesday after the Chamber of Mines, which represents mine owners, did not improve its last offer of a 6 percent pay raise.
  • U.S. gold production dropped 4 percent in the first five months of the year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The May production of gold by U.S. mines dropped 5 percent from production in May 2012. The USGS also noted that May was the eighth consecutive month that the average gold price decreased.

Opportunities

  • Citigroup strategist Tom Fitzpatrick said in a telephone interview that gold and silver should surge in the coming years as the precious metals continue to benefit from easy monetary policies adopted by central banks. “We believe we are back into that track where gold is the hard currency of choice, and we expect for this trend to accelerate going forward. We still believe that in the next couple of years we will be looking at a gold price of around $3,500. As the gold and silver ratio plummets near 30, this would also suggest a silver price above $100,” Tom commented in the interview.
  • CEE Holdings Ltd, a venture between Li Ka-shing’s flagship company and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, is looking to invest in gold mining companies after a slump in prices created buying opportunities. CEE Chief Executive Officer Warren Gilman said in an interview in Hong Kong that “long term, gold is a good place to be.” Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd. is controlled by Li, Asia’s richest man.
  • Today Alamos Gold reported the completion of a previously reported acquisition of all the issued and outstanding common shares of Esperanza Resources Corporation. To get the deal across the line, Alamos extended the expiry date of the proposed warrants of Alamos to be issued under the agreement to Esperanza shareholders. The expiry date was extended from four years to a term of five years from the effective date of the agreement.

Threats

  • Finding new gold is proving difficult. Exploration spending has risen, but the success rate of finding major discoveries has fallen. In addition, despite a five-fold increase in gold prices, gold production has still not expanded. For established gold producers, this is a real challenge to value proposition, especially with any substantial pullback in the gold price. Exploration spending is the first thing that is cut to protect margins.
  • India’s Trade Minister suggested that the central bank should look into the possibility of monetizing the country’s gold holdings. The plan was to have the banks buy the gold from ordinary citizens for rupees and recycle the gold, with an aim to reduce the imports of gold bullion into the country. This may have the effect of lowering Indian gold demand. However, it seems Indians have been buying gold in order to protect their wealth from a fall in the value of the rupee in international markets. Some have speculated that the only way to get the populace to turn in their gold would be by legislative mandate, or essentially a confiscation of wealth.
  • India’s commodity market regulator ordered exchanges to double margins on gold futures. This came after a record plunge in the nation’s currency fueled a rally in bullion priced in rupees to an all-time high. Initial margins on all contracts will rise from 4 percent to 5 percent of the value from September 2. An additional margin of 5 percent will also be levied on gold, silver, Brent crude, crude oil and natural gas contracts.

Energy and Natural Resources Market

Global Oil and Gas Reserve Replacement Costs Rising

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Strengths

  • Brent and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oils moved higher this week on rising geopolitical threats to oil supply in the Middle East on expectations that the United States may engage in military strikes in Syria.
  • The price of natural gas reached a five-week high this week as warmer temperatures increased cooling demand.

Weaknesses

  • U.S. sales of existing homes fell 1.3 percent month-over-month in July, following a 0.4 percent drop in June, confounding consensus market forecasts for a steady level of transactions. A rise in mortgage rates to two-year highs has been blamed for pushing some prospective buyers out of the market.
  • Grupo Mexico is delaying a planned IPO in London of its mining unit, Bloomberg reports citing three unidentified people with direct knowledge of the matter. Grupo Mexico tabled the offering of the unit, Americas Mining, after the price of copper and emerging market stocks fell. An IPO is unlikely until at least next year.

Opportunities

  • Steel destocking slowed in China. Steel inventories in Chinese warehouses have fallen for 23 straight weeks, to 14.8 million tons at the week ending August 16. This total is now down approximately 35 percent from mid-March highs.
  • Peru’s anti-mining protests are the main constraint on its expansion, according to Standard & Poor (S&P), as the protests could lead to projects being delayed or scrapped. However, S&P still believes Peru’s mining sector is poised for significant growth, given its large and high quality metals reserves, reasonable tax regime, regulations that promote private investment, attractive power costs, and a long track record of mining activity.

Threats

  • Rio Tinto has delayed targeted production from the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea by three years, according to an Australian newspaper. It is understood the Simandou partners—Rio, China’s Chalco and the World Bank have signed a draft agreement with the Guinea government that says first exports are now not expected until the end of 2018.
  • Sumitomo Corp. forecast a global aluminum surplus will extend into an eighth year in 2014 as demand growth in China is slowing, Bloomberg reports. Supply will outpace demand by 994,000 metric tons, expanding from 883,000 tons estimated for this year, said Shingi Yamagiwa, manager of light metals trading. “The situation won’t change much over the next two to three years as demand growth in China is slowing,” Yamagiwa said in an interview. “The surplus will remain next year as output cuts so far were less than we had expected,” he said.

Emerging Markets

Strengths

  • China has approved a free trade zone for Shanghai, which is a strong indicator that China is serious in pushing economic reform. In addition to the Qianhai free trade zone between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, there might be other free trade zones in major economic areas, such as Tianjin. Business and industrial people are now looking forward to the third plenary meeting of the communist party in November, in which major economic policies are expected to be announced.
  • July industrial profits were up 11.6 percent to Rmb419.60 billion, according to the National Statistical Bureau in China.
  • China will “gradually” start a new round of investment from second half of more than Rmb1 trillion, Caijing magazine reports, citing unidentified people close to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). The market may have priced in the good news.
  • ChiNext, a start-up small cap market in China is the best performing stock market in the world this year, up 66 percent year-to-date. Many believe this is due to the fact that investors are positioned to benefit from the new economy in China. The market’s small cap companies are in areas such as technology, biotech, environmental protection and healthcare, areas poised to benefit from China’s new economy. The NDRC may raise renewable power surcharge, the China Business News reported today.
  • Hong Kong July exports growth surprised on the upside, rebounding 10.6 percent year-over-year after two consecutive months of disappointment.
  • The Indonesian central bank (BI) raised its reference rate by 50 basis points to 7 percent, higher than the market expectation of 25 basis points, to support Indonesia rupiah. Though the tightening monetary policy is negative to the growth of the economy, the market welcomed the action. BI also raised its deposit rate by 50 basis points to attract local money to stay in rupiah. The government also extended its currency swap agreement with Japan, which provides hard currency to both sides when in need.
  • The Philippines saw its second quarter GDP grow 7.5 percent.

Weaknesses

  • Four senior executives from PetroChina and Kunlun are being investigated, which shows there are corporate governance issues in China.
  • The Thailand manufacturing index was down 4.5 percent in July versus the market estimate of -1.8 percent. Thailand’s July exports fell 1.48 percent versus the market expectation of a 1 percent gain. The value of exports was $19.06 billion which is not enough to reverse the trade deficit, the source of the Thai balt fall. The trade deficit widened to $2.28 billion as imports grew 1.1 percent.
  • Philippine June imports fell 4.8 percent year-over-year.

Opportunities

Philippines continued to lead Asian growth thanks to government spending

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  • As shown in the graph above, Philippines second quarter GDP was up 7.5 percent, thanks to robust consumption and government spending. Unlike many Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries with current account deficits, the Philippines run a current account surplus. The Philippines have just begun their investment and GDP growth cycle. The recent stock market selloff in Manila has nothing to do with Philippine economic fundamentals, but is driven by flow of funds which is usually short lived.
  • The rise in U.S. bond yields has been a problem for many emerging markets. However amidst all the current talk of QE tapering and the identity of the next Fed chairman, it has almost gone unnoticed that recent data points from the U.S. economy have been weaker than expected, particularly with regards to the rate sensitive housing market.
  • Analyst expectations for emerging markets might have become too negative, according to HSBC, with implied 12-month forward return on equity (ROE) two standard deviations down relative to developed markets.

Analyst Expectations for Emerging Markets may be too negative

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Threats

  • After the recent currency selloff, the economic fundamentals in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand may have weakened to some extent. Economists say those countries need to find a new equilibrium for their overvalued currency so that the economies will find a footing to grow again. In fact, the most important factor behind the currency depreciation was caused by fund outflow, not a misaligned economy. Since the 2008 global financial crisis, over-supplied cheap money had flowed into the emerging markets due their better returns and sound economies. That money is now returning to developed countries after the eurozone sees the light at the end of the tunnel and the U.S. is in a solid recovery. Certainly, the little currency crisis is triggered by Fed tapering talk. Nevertheless, further currency depreciation in ASEAN countries will be the source of volatility for equity and bond markets, which will add further pressure to the liquidity in those countries.
  • The outlook for equity markets in countries with current account deficits is almost entirely hostage to the outlook for U.S. yields. Emerging market policy makers have to choose among tighter monetary policy, inflation, or capital controls – all of which are negative for equity markets.

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