Frank Holmes, CEO and chief investment officer of U.S. Global Investors, says it doesn’t matter if the U.S. sees a Red victory or a Blue victory in the presidential election; gold will be the real winner. In this far-ranging interview with Streetwise Reports, he discusses gold’s prospects post-election, inflation, stock market performance, criteria to evaluate mining companies, and companies in U.S. Global funds.
Streetwise Reports: Frank, let’s begin with gold. After a substantial rise in the price of the metal earlier this year, which went as high as $2,036 an ounce in early August, it has since been trading sideways, consolidating roughly around the $1,900 mark. What effect do you think the U.S. presidential election will have on the price of gold? Do you see different scenarios based on which candidate wins?
Frank Holmes: Well, you can hit the red button or the blue button, but I’m hitting the gold button, no matter which one it is. You have to sit back and look at macro forces and macro themes to understand gold and the drivers of gold.
When we go back 30 years ago, as Pierre Lassonde pointed out at the Denver Gold Show a year ago, China and India represented only 10% of gold demand-6% India, 4% China. Today, however, these two countries comprise 53% of all gold demand. Why is that? Because a rising gross domestic product per capita and purchasing power parity are highly correlated with what I call the love trade, that is gold jewelry demand and gifts in gold. So that’s the underlying factor that keeps driving gold demand. The supply side has peaked and outside of recycling, there are no major new discoveries being made and no major deposits coming onstream. So I think this bodes very well for 60% of all gold consumption.
Now we get into the fear trade, and that’s what really accelerates things-negative real interest rates and unprecedented money printing. The G20 finance ministers and central bankers started their own cartel 20 or so years ago. At the beginning of the century, they were consumed with global trade, the World Trade Organization, China, and, all of a sudden, there’s a huge global boom. Gold stocks took off. Bullion went from $250 to $800/ounce. We had this incredible cycle. Along comes 2008–2009 and we go to synchronized taxation and regulation. Today, we have synchronized money printing to fight COVID-19. There is not one country printing money faster than another. They’re all taking turns at it.
If we take a look at the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet and how it’s exploded under this cycle compared to 2008–2009, simple math would suggest in the next three years gold could be $4,000/ounce. The other big part is the inflationary number, because it’s changed several times. If you use the inflationary algorithm, when gold hit $850 and silver $50, inflation was over 18%, today we have inflation running 8% so gold would be valued about $7,000. So I comfortably feel that in the next three years, in this next cycle, we could see gold double from here based on just the U.S. money printing.
SWR: You’ve looked at broad stock market performance in presidential election years. What have you found?
FH: Well, historically, the first two years of a presidential election cycle are very sloppy, some are modestly up. But it’s in the last two years that the market usually is on a tear. If it’s not, then it usually derails the political party in power, such as we saw with President Obama’s election in 2008. During President George W. Bush’s last term, his last quarter, we had Lehman Bros. go bankrupt, and then there was just incredible turmoil in stocks and the economy.
This is a very different world. Even though we have COVID, the U.S. Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is the highest in the world, and that means six months from now, we’re going to see higher energy, copper and iron prices. This has been trending up all through the summer. So that remains very bullish.
We also track the airline industry very carefully. We have the only airlines exchange-traded fund (ETF) available to investors: the U.S. Global Jets ETF (JETS:NYSE). The Transportation Security Administration used to clear 2.7 million people a day; in April it fell to fewer than 90,000 people a day. Just last week, we went through 1 million, so we’re climbing. This is very positive for the travel industry and for JETS, and it’s a reflection of the PMI and the stock market being stronger.
When you have negative real interest rates, what we’re seeing is that it’s not just Americans buying stocks because of low yields-and dividend yields are more attractive than what you’re going to get from a money fund or a bank-but also you’re seeing central banks like Switzerland print negative money. No one’s going to buy it, so it buys it itself, and then goes and buys real assets like Apple Inc. When you take a look at what we see now in Japan-this is where capital formation morphed dramatically-15% of the stock market is owned by the government, the central bank. So this is a very different world.
What we saw in this cycle, in the past six months, is the Federal Reserve starting to buy bond funds. It dropped the interest rates to zero, but the real cost of capital was running at 14%. So what did it do? It came in and started buying muni bonds. That helped get the pressure off a trillion dollar muni market when bonds are being rolled over. Then it came in and bought corporate bonds to get corporate yields down so it didn’t put a burden on corporations. Now, one of the largest bond holders of ETFs is the Federal Reserve. So we’re seeing things change in that formation of capital.
SWR: Going back to gold, it is often touted as a hedge against inflation. What’s the situation with inflation in the United States currently and looking ahead?
FH: If we look at what the inflationary number is today, and if we look at 10-year, 5-year and 2-year bonds, they all have negative real interest rates. That says that gold is a very attractive class. For me, gold stocks with rising dividends and free cash flow are even more attractive. I think that’s one reason why Warren Buffett all of a sudden bought Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX:TSX; GOLD:NYSE). It has strong leadership. Newmont Corp. (NEM:NYSE) also looks attractive for many fundamental factors. Both have free cash flow. I think the free cash flow allows for rising dividends, so it’s much higher than what you’re going to earn with the negative real interest rates.
I can’t see interest rates rising dramatically. John Williams has a newsletter called Shadowstats. He looks at the old algorithms used to determine the Purchasing Power Index, Consumer Price Index, etc. And if you use his factors, inflation really is 8% today. So that says back up the truck and buy as many physical assets as you can. That’s why real estate is up 10% in this bearish crisis. It’s amazing.