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Commodity ETFs: It pays to do the research

By Emily Doak, Managing Director of ETF Research for Charles Schwab Investment Advisory.
Just because an investment drops in value doesn’t mean it’s a bargain.
The post Commodity ETFs: It pays to do the research first appeared on ETF Strategy.

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By Emily Doak, Managing Director of ETF Research for Charles Schwab Investment Advisory.

Commodity ETFs: It pays to do the research

Commodity ETFs: It pays to do the research.

Just because an investment drops in value doesn’t mean it’s a bargain. That’s a lesson many investors learned the hard way back in April when they scooped up shares of a popular oil ETF after the spot price of crude dropped below zero.

Contrary to some investors’ expectations, the ETF continued to struggle for several days after the price of oil recovered. So where did investors go wrong?

What they thought was a fund that tracked the spot price of West Texas Intermediate crude – the US benchmark for oil – was in fact a fund that tracked the benchmark’s futures contracts, which can produce very different returns.

With any fund, but especially those that track commodities, it’s important to understand the fund’s strategy before you buy. Here are three questions to ask when researching commodity ETFs for your portfolio.

  1. Does it hold physical assets or futures?

Some precious-metal ETFs actually purchase the physical commodities – such as bars of gold or silver – and warehouse them in secure vaults. These ETFs tend to closely track the spot price of the commodity in question because the metals can be retrieved and sold on the spot market at any time.

However, most commodities – including livestock, oil, and wheat – are too costly or cumbersome for an ETF to transport and store. Instead, ETFs typically invest in these commodities via futures contracts, which are agreements to buy a commodity on a future date for a specified price, with the intention of selling the contract before it expires rather than taking possession of the commodity in question.

As a result, ETF managers must regularly sell expiring contracts and purchase new ones with later expiration dates – with two potential consequences:

  • When contracts approaching expiration have higher prices than those with expiration dates further out, ETFs are effectively selling high and buying low with every contract rollover – a condition known as backwardation. This happens when the current demand for a commodity is higher than investors expect it to be in the future, relative to its supply.
  • Conversely, when contracts approaching expiration have lower prices than those with expiration dates further out, ETFs are effectively selling low and buying high with every contract rollover – a condition known as contango. This happens when the current demand for a commodity is lower than investors expect it to be in the future, relative to its supply.

While contango obviously isn’t ideal, fund managers often invest in futures contracts of various durations to help mitigate its effects.

A fund’s prospectus will tell you whether the ETF relies on physical assets or futures contracts. Schwab clients can log in, search its ticker symbol, and click the Prospectus link.

  1. How volatile is it?

Commodity ETFs are notoriously volatile because of the supply-and-demand characteristics of their underlying holdings, which can be dramatically impacted by certain events. Unseasonably cold or wet weather, for example, can be catastrophic to some agricultural commodities, while OPEC (to say nothing of COVID-19) can unduly influence oil prices.

One solution to this potential problem is to consider ETFs that track a broadly diversified commodity index. That said, the degree of diversification will vary by index. For example, 61.7% of the S&P GSCI Commodity Index is allocated to the more-volatile energy sector (as of May 2020), while the Bloomberg Commodity Index’s allocation is roughly a third of that, at 23.4% (as of July 2020).

  1. What is its tax treatment?

The complexities of commodity ETFs can also create unusual tax issues. Funds with direct ownership of precious metals, for example, are taxed as collectibles under US rules. Depending on your income tax bracket, the tax bill for this investment may be higher than the long-term capital gains rate or even your ordinary income tax rate.

Funds that invest in futures and other derivatives contracts, on the other hand, may be structured as partnerships, meaning you get a K-1 tax form at the end of the year instead of the typical 1099. To avoid the complications and added expense K-1s can create at tax time, some newer funds pass their investments through an offshore entity, which allows the fund to be taxed like a traditional mutual fund. However, it’s important to note that such funds are actively managed and may offer less visibility into their underlying holdings.

Know your fund

Investing in commodity ETFs can be a low-cost way to add diversification and inflation protection to your long-term portfolio. However, if you’re looking to make shorter-term tactical moves, be sure you understand how the ETF you’re considering is constructed, since a fund’s volatility, in particular, can have an outsize impact on your short-term prospects.

(The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of ETF Strategy.)

The post Commodity ETFs: It pays to do the research first appeared on ETF Strategy.

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Government

When Will Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian Drop Vaccines, Testing?

One of the big three cruise lines just extended its covid-related protocols in the United States until the end of September.

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One of the big three cruise lines just extended its covid-related protocols in the United States until the end of September.

The cruise industry got hit by a perfect storm when the covid pandemic hit. 

For an industry vulnerable to storms in general, it was a terrible combination of events that left the industry shuttered, while hotels, theme parks, arenas, and other venues all remained closed for much less time.

That's because the United States government only has limited control over how private industry operates. 

A local municipality may shutdown industries like the way New York closed Broadway or California shut down its theme parks — but the federal government only has limited power for certain things.

When it comes to cruise lines, however, the federal government has an incredible amount of power. 

That's because all the major cruise lines including Royal Caribbean (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) - Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report flag their ships outside the U.S. 

That allows the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to regulate how the cruise lines operate.

During the pandemic the CDC made an example of the cruise industry, It shut down cruising from North American between March 2020 and July 2021, ignoring the industry's extensive efforts to show it could operate safely. 

Eventually the CDC relented, allowing limited-capacity sailings with a lot of rules beginning in early July 2021.

Now, most of those protocols have gone away as the CDC has lost its leverage with the rest of the country returning to pre-pandemic operating standards. 

The cruise lines, however, still have certain rules in place and two key ones aren't going anywhere any time soon.

Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

What Are Cruise Covid Protocols Like Now?

Royal Caribbean recently told its booked passengers that it plans to keep its current covid protocols in place through the end of September. 

Currently, Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean all have similar Covid-19 rules

They require:

  • All passengers 12 and over must be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before sailing.
  • A vaccine card — not a digital copy — must be shown before boarding.
  • All passengers must present a negative Covid test (which must be a proctored test) taken no more than two days before their cruise. 

All three cruise lines have made masks optional while onboard. 

In addition, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian all operate with a fully-vaccinated crew and have procedures designed to handle when passengers or crew members show Covid symptoms during a sailing.

When Will Cruise Lines Drop Vaccine and Testing Requirements?

Many passengers and future passengers want to know how long these protocols will be in place. 

Some people who are not vaccinated want to return to cruising, while others who are vaccinated simply don't want the added hassle of proving it.

The cruise lines, of course, must balance people wanting a return to normal with other passengers who like sailing with fully-vaccinated passengers who have also recently tested negative.

Currently, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian all participate in a voluntary safe sailing program led by the CDC which sets testing and vaccination standards.

It's possible the CDC changes these requirements, but probably not any time soon, according to former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb, a physician who serves as chairman of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ SailSafe Council.

 “I think that it’s likely to be a requirement that is in place through this fall and winter,” Gottlieb said. 

“I’m talking more about CDC and the policy environment. I think that the public health officials, CDC, is going to want to see what the epidemiology of this disease is when it gets to a quote, unquote, ‘normal’ state."

Gottlieb said he does not expect the CDC to make any changes until it sees a period of time where no new variants flare up. 

He said he thinks the federal agency will wait until 2023 and not even first thing next year.

“The short answer to the question is: I think this is kind of a springtime thing from a CDC policy standpoint," he said. 

"They are going to want to make a decision around this after we get through another fall and winter with covid and see if we are truly in an endemic phase with this.”

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Spread & Containment

Let Them Eat Bugs… How Out-Of-Touch Elites Reveal Their Contempt, & What Comes Next

Let Them Eat Bugs… How Out-Of-Touch Elites Reveal Their Contempt, & What Comes Next

Authored by Nick Giambruno via InternationalMan.com,

Upon…

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Let Them Eat Bugs... How Out-Of-Touch Elites Reveal Their Contempt, & What Comes Next

Authored by Nick Giambruno via InternationalMan.com,

Upon being told that the people had no bread, Marie Antoinette reportedly responded, “let them eat cake.”

These infamous words were a stark illustration of the French elite’s careless indifference to the plight of ordinary people. Moreover, they likely fueled the anger that sparked a revolution that overturned the French ruling system.

Had Marie Antoinette not been so out of touch, she might have had a better choice of words.

Although history doesn’t repeat itself, it does rhyme.

I am bringing this up because recently, modern political, financial, and media elites have made numerous “let them eat cake” remarks.

They similarly reveal how oblivious they are to the average person’s problems as inflation spirals out of control, shortages spread, the stock market crashes, and economic prospects look dimmer by the day.

Let’s look at them and examine what they could mean for the social and political environment in the future… and what you can do about it.

Example #1: Inflation Is Good

First central bankers, the mainstream media, and academia tell you there is no inflation.

Then, when inflation becomes undeniable, they tell you not to worry because inflation is only “transitory.”

Then, when it becomes apparent that it’s not merely transitory, they tell you not to worry because inflation is actually a good thing.

It’s not uncommon to see ridiculous headlines like this:

Example #2: No More Turkey at Thanksgiving

After inflation broke through multi-decade highs, it’s no longer possible to maintain the farce that “inflation is good.”

So the elite’s messaging has pivoted to ways the plebs can cope with ever-decreasing living standards.

Last Thanksgiving, it was impossible for the Federal Reserve to ignore the soaring costs of turkey. So, instead, the St. Louis branch had a helpful suggestion for those struggling—substitute delicious turkey for cheaper heavily-processed industrial sludge.

Example #3: Let Your Pets Die

Recently, Bloomberg published an article titled “Inflation Stings Most If You Earn Less Than $300K. Here’s How to Deal.”

It recommended rethinking providing medical treatment to your pets:

“If you’re one of the many Americans who became a new pet owner during the pandemic, you might want to rethink those costly pet medical needs.”

Example #4: Gas Is Too Expensive? Buy a Tesla

As gas prices skyrocket, transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg suggests buying an electric vehicle. That way, the plebs can stop complaining and will “never have to worry about gas prices again.”

The thought of whether people could afford an expensive electric vehicle in the first place didn’t seem to cross his mind.

Example #5: Housing Is Too Expensive? Live in a Pod or Move Back In With Your Parents

With soaring prices making housing unaffordable in many big cities, living in pods is promoted.

For example, in California, a three-bedroom home that used to house a single family has been converted into a unit that includes pods for 13 people.

Similar stories are sprouting up across other cities. The media is celebrating this not as a significant downgrade but rather as an eco-friendly solution to rising housing costs.

They also recommend moving back in with your parents.

Example #6: Meat Is Too Expensive? Eat Bugs and Industrial Sludge

With inflation making meat unaffordable for many, the elite are looking to keep the plebs happy by guilting them into thinking that meat is bad for the environment.

That’s a big reason why there’s been a flurry of articles in the mainstream media condemning meat consumption and promoting cheap alternatives.

Their solution is to give the plebs fake meat made of heavily-processed industrial sludge and feed them bugs.

Bill Gates recently said: “I think all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef.”

“You can’t have cows anymore,” and governments can “use regulation to totally shift the demand.”

An article in The Economist notes: “We’re not going to convince Europeans and Americans to go out in big numbers and start eating insects… The trick might be to slip them into the food chain on the quiet.”

The Guardian tells us eating bugs can assuage your climate sins and that “if we want to save the planet, the future of food is insects.”

Here’s Bloomberg:

These are a couple of examples of a much broader push against meat.

Here’s the bottom line.

The elite have been informed that meat is becoming too expensive for the average person. Their answer: “Let them eat bugs.”

Conclusion

This overview is by no means a complete collection of recent “let them eat cake” statements. However, it is enough to understand what the elites think and their contempt for the average person.

These are the same people who engaged in—or closely benefited from—the rampant money printing and other policies responsible for the rising prices ravaging regular people in the first place.

And when the pain of inflation became apparent, their response has been… inflation is good… no more turkey at Thanksgiving… let your pets die… buy an expensive electric vehicle… live in a pod or move back in with your parents… and eat bugs.

Instead of looking at these examples separately, take a step back and reflect on the Big Picture they paint. That will help us better understand the social and political situation, where things might be headed, and what we should do.

With that in mind, two things seem clear.

1) The current crop of political, financial, and media elites are ensconced in a bubble, carelessly indifferent to the problems of ordinary people—much like Marie Antoinette was.

2) Anger is building up as people feel increased economic pain.

Nobody knows how the situation will resolve itself, but I think it would be foolish not to prepare yourself—and your portfolio—for turbulence in the months ahead.

*  *  *

The economic trajectory is troubling. Unfortunately, there’s little any individual can practically do to change the course of these trends in motion. The best you can and should do is to stay informed so that you can protect yourself in the best way possible, and even profit from the situation. That’s precisely why bestselling author Doug Casey and his colleagues just released an urgent new PDF report that explains what could come next and what you can do about it. Click here to download it now.

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/21/2022 - 08:10

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Government

Conrad Black: The Swamp Must Be Drained

Conrad Black: The Swamp Must Be Drained

Op-Ed authored by Conrad Black via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The Democrats are increasingly…

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Conrad Black: The Swamp Must Be Drained

Op-Ed authored by Conrad Black via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The Democrats are increasingly desperate as the return of Donald Trump becomes more likely each week.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the American Freedom Tour at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, on May 14, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

They are muddling the sequence of events that got us to the present impasse: Trump ran against the corrupt back-scratching, log-rolling society of the OBushintons—the Clinton pay-to-play schemes, the Biden sales of influence and access, the semi-disguised socialist racism elitism of the Obamas, and the flabby sameness and ineffectuality of the Bush–McCain–Romney–McConnell–Ryan Republicans. Trump sensed the people were dissatisfied with the bipartisan Swamp, and he ran as strenuously against the Bushes and McCain and Romney in 2016 as he did against the Clintons and Obamas.

The anti-Trumpers of both parties, in the most legally questionable presidential election in U.S. history, eased Trump out in 2020 with the aid of 4.8 million harvested ballots, 95 percent of the national political media, and 70 percent of the campaign money, to bring in (unintentionally, one assumes, although there was plenty of warning) the most incompetent regime in the country’s history.

In 2020, the Washington establishment demonstrated the accuracy of Trump’s claims of how corrupt and unscrupulous it was, and Biden has demonstrated that it’s even more incompetent at government than Trump alleged.

The Swamp must be drained, and distasteful though he might be in some ways, probably no one less formidable in his egocentricity and demagogic talents than Trump could drain the Swamp. The Republicans between Reagan and Trump were all inducted into it themselves, and the Republican “Never-Trumpers” are as fierce in their animosity toward the former president as toward the Democrats, and as the Democrats are toward Trump. Only Trump can finish the job.

This is why the latest anti-Trump wheeze is to send Biden and Trump out to pasture together, as if it were an even trade: The Democrats get rid of their two biggest problems, and the Republicans return to being doormats, awarded the White House and the speaker’s chair at times as long as they don’t interrupt the majestic slide into the Democratic socialist paradise (with a permanent free tax-lunch for their rich friends in Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood).

Biden is irrelevant and Trump has the stamina of a 40-year-old; the call for joint retirement is bunk on all counts.

Pennsylvania illustrates the political polarization of the country and also provides the solution. The Democrats will nominate a Sandersite leftist for U.S. senator and the Republicans will almost certainly win with a Trumpite—a description that fits all four of their front-runners, and all four are more or less carpetbaggers. The Republican nominee will be another senator whose loyalty is to Trump, if he returns as president, and not to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

The walls are closing in on the Democrats, to use one of their favorite, completely dishonest phrases about Trump when they were trying to sell the gigantic fraud that he had colluded with the Russians in the 2016 election.

The Democrats hid their innocuous candidate in 2020 in his basement on grounds of COVID-19, while using the same justification for drastic changes in key states of voting and vote-counting rules, changes that were often effected illegally, and the judiciary abdicated and refused to judge any of the serious complaints on their merits. It was the most dangerously illegal assault on the integrity of the election process and on the constitutional balance of powers in the country’s history.

The problem is not that both 2020 candidates are now too elderly. The problem is that 2020 and the run-up to it demonstrated that the Swamp is as venal and self-interested and corrupt as Trump said in 2016, and they are back. If we go back to business as usual—a stronger Democrat than Biden and a compliant consensus Republican—the rot of 2016 accelerates.

When the congressional Republicans, though most of them weren’t really supporters of his, appreciated his program, and between the Republican majority in Congress in the first two years and the prerogatives of executive action, Trump got much of his program through, despite unprecedented harassment. The authors of the perfidious fraud of the 2020 election were rescued by Trump’s inept response and the abdication of the judiciary.

Trump inadvertently collaborated with his enemies by bungling the daily COVID-19 briefings, bungling the first debate by his belligerency, and warning about ballot harvesting but not challenging it legally from the outset, comprehensively, and only sending poor Rudy Giuliani out on a trick or treat show when the battle was over.

These were the circumstances that caused Trump to call 250,000 of his supporters to the Ellipse adjacent to the White House on Jan. 6, 2021. He enumerated his grievances against the electoral process and the courts’ failure to try the important cases, and having unsuccessfully urged the mayor of Washington and the speaker of the House of Representatives to provide enhanced security for the Capitol on that day, he urged the crowd to demonstrate at the Capitol but to do so “peacefully and patriotically.” This provoked the second asinine stab at impeachment, now ostensibly to remove Trump from an office that he had already vacated.

Trump thus provoked in four years a 100 percent increase in the number of presidential impeachments that had occurred in the previous 228 years of its history—the march of the criminalization of policy differences. (None of the four was justified.)

The House of Representatives committee to investigate Jan. 6, stuffed with pathological Trump-haters of both parties and from which Nancy Pelosi barred a couple of Trump’s more prominent defenders, will excavate a new low in malicious partisanship and will televise its hearings in June. No one believes them and no one cares; Jan. 6 isn’t the point and wasn’t an insurrection.

There were many months of arrests and interrogations in which it must be assumed that prosecutors resorted extensively to their widespread practice of grossly abusing the plea-bargain rules to suborn and extort perjured inculpatory evidence against their real target, Trump and his organization, with promises of minimal sentences and immunity from prosecution for perjury. This has not turned up anything, and the last thing Trump wanted was anything that could be imputed to him as an attack on constitutional government. That charge is a bit rich coming from this gang of Democrats.

The Democrats have tried to distract the country with the abortion question, but it isn’t working any more than the country believes that Russian leader Vladimir Putin and the oil companies are responsible for the highest gasoline price in American history. Their latest gambit is to try to whip up hysteria one more time on COVID-19, but that won’t fly either. The only person who had anything right about COVID-19 was Trump with his imaginative and determined pursuit of a vaccine.

The Trump-haters of both parties who rattled the windows of Washington when they heaved a sigh of relief at Trump’s departure are only now emerging from denial that he’s about to run over them with a steamroller much larger and more fueled by righteousness than the one they drove over him.

Woke, 1619 revisionism, racist disinformation, and violent protest: All have to be torn up, root and branch. But if Trump does return, he must give less ammunition to his enemies. American history and public policy are not all about him, and the presidency of the United States is such a great office it requires its occupants to behave with a higher level of civility and dignity than Donald Trump often did when he was president.

He will return to that office and do better in it if he’s less needlessly abrasive and self-obsessed.

The country can start again in 2028 with new leaders, a fully house-trained post-Trump Republican Party, and a rebuilt Democratic Party over the Ozymandian wreckage of Biden–Sanders–Harris–Schumer–Pelosi.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times or Zero Hedge

Tyler Durden Fri, 05/20/2022 - 23:40

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