Gold & Silver Daily

Ed's Critical Reads

Mar 04, 2015

Why the ‘Smart Money’ Is Bailing Out of the Bull Market

Investors are feeling good right now. Really good. By some measures, bullishness has reached levels not seen in more than 10 years. But the positive vibes are at odds with some hard data that suggests we're on the threshold of a "come back to reality" moment.

What data? How about the fact that forward earnings are rolling over at a pace that's only been seen during recessions? Or that factory activity in the Chicago area slumped to a low not seen since July 2009? Or that overall U.S. economic data is disappointing in a way that it hasn't quite since 2012? Or the wipe out in commodity prices over the last few months, the kind typically seen during recessions? Or that consumer prices, on the headline measure, declined outright for the first time since Lehman Brothers imploded?

Moreover, the problem is global. So far this year, 20 central banks around the world have cut interest rates. And most other countries — except Singapore, Ireland and Japan — are also seeing earnings downgrades.

This article originally appeared on The Fiscal Times website, but it was picked up by the finance.yahoo.com Internet site on Monday at 6 a.m. EST---and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for today's first story.

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American Companies Are in Love With Themselves

Corporate America’s love affair with itself grows more passionate by the month.

Stock buybacks, which along with dividends eat up sums of money equal to almost all the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index’s earnings, vaulted to a record in February, with chief executive officers announcing $104.3 billion in planned repurchases. That’s the most since TrimTabs Investment Research began tracking the data in 1995 and almost twice the $55 billion bought a year earlier.

Even with 10-year Treasury yields holding below 2.1 percent, economic growth trailing forecasts and earnings estimates deteriorating, the stock market snapped back last month as companies announced an average of more than $5 billion in buybacks each day. That’s enough to cover about 2 percent of the value of shares traded on U.S. exchanges, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

This short article, filed from New York, appeared on their website at 10 p.m. Denver time on Monday evening---and it's the second contribution in a row from Elliot Simon.  It's worth reading.

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Yellen Turning from Friend to Foe for Dollar Bulls

Janet Yellen is turning from currency traders’ best friend to their biggest foe.

The most popular trade in the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign-exchange market has been betting on a stronger dollar, leaving investors exposed when the Federal Reserve chair damped speculation last month of an imminent increase to interest rates. As the dollar slowed its advance, an index of currency returns snapped a record winning streak, prompting traders to reassess how much higher the greenback can go.

“Currency managers had been doing well because they’ve been long dollars, and the dollar had been pretty much on a straight-line trajectory higher,” said Adam Cole, the global head of currency strategy at RBC Capital Markets in London. The dollar’s slowdown is “a major factor behind returns looking less positive,” he said.

While Bloomberg’s Dollar Spot Index climbed to a record on Tuesday, the measure is rising at the slowest pace since June and speculators including hedge funds are paring bets on how much the currency will strengthen. Yellen told Congress last week she won’t be locked into a timetable for boosting borrowing costs, just days after minutes of the Fed’s January meeting underlined the damage a stronger dollar can do to the economy.

This is the second Bloomberg article in a row from Elliot Simon---and it was filed from Edinburgh at 5:00 p.m. MST on Monday evening.

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Bill Gross Says Currency War Risks Slowing Global Growth

Bill Gross said a global race to devalue currencies in an “undeclared” war risks slowing growth instead of stimulating it.

Central bank policies have pushed interest rates below zero in Europe, and countries including China and Japan appear to be devaluing their currencies, he wrote in an investment outlook for Janus Capital Group Inc., where he runs the $1.5 billion Global Unconstrained Bond Fund. While such moves make debt burdens more tolerable and exports cheaper, they are bound to hurt the global economy as a whole, he wrote.

“Common sense would argue the global economy cannot devalue against itself,” Gross wrote. “Either the strong dollar weakens the world’s current growth locomotive (the U.S.) or else their near in unison devaluation effort fails to lead to the desired results.”

More importantly, Gross wrote, low to negative interest rates hamper the functioning of capital markets and prompt investors to take on higher risk to boost returns, making the financial system more vulnerable. That’s one reason why the U.S. Federal Reserve appears on course to start raising interest rates as early as June, he wrote.

This is another Bloomberg story.  This one was filed from New York at 5:52 a.m. MST on Monday morning---and this one is courtesy of Brad Robertson.

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Jim Rickards: A central banker's worst nightmare

Inflation and deflation are two sides of the same coin. Inflation is marked by generally rising prices. Deflation is marked by generally falling prices. Both are deviations from price stability, and both distort the decisions of consumers and investors. In inflation, consumers may accelerate purchases before the price goes up. In deflation, consumers may delay purchases in the expectation that prices are going down and things will be cheaper if they wait.

Both inflation and deflation are challenging to investors who have to guess future returns based on changes in price indexes in addition to navigating the normal business risks of any investment. Inflation favors the debtor because the real value of his debts goes down as money becomes worth less. Deflation favors the creditor because the real value of amounts owed to him goes up as money becomes worth more. In short, both inflation and deflation make economic decisions more difficult by adding a wild card to the deck.

To investors, inflation and deflation are bad in equal, if opposite, measure. But, from a central banker’s perspective, inflation and deflation are not equally bad. Inflation is something that central bankers consider to be a manageable problem and something that is occasionally desirable. Deflation is something central bankers consider unmanageable and potentially devastating. Understanding why central banks fear deflation more than inflation is the key to understanding future central bank monetary policy.

Jim's comments appeared on the darientimes.com Internet site yesterday---and I thank Harold Jacobsen for pointing it out.

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Could Oil Prices Plummet a Second Time?

Even with well completions being suspended, supplies continue to build. The latest EIA data shows that oil stocks in the United States climbed to 434 million barrels, the highest levels in storage in over 80 years. “My gut feeling is that the oil price could see a double bottom,” Jason Kenney, an analyst with Banco Santaander SA said in a Bloomberg interview. “We’ve got too much inventory.” Bloomberg noted that Kenney has a good track record of predicting price swings in the past. Even though rig counts have declined significantly, output has so far proved resilient.

Finally, there is some evidence that the ability to move excess oil into storage may run into trouble if production does not decline. Storage tanks are starting to fill, raising the possibility that a glut could worsen. There is a great deal of uncertainty around how quickly this might happen. The EIA sought to clarify, noting that the markets have confused some of its storage figures – some oil supplies in the EIA’s weekly inventory data is actually sitting in pipelines and at well sites, meaning there is more storage capacity available than many news outlets had originally thought. An EIA analyst recently told Bloomberg that overall storage capacity is only at about 60 percent, and “[w]e still have a way to go before we can consider ourselves to be full,” Rob Merriam, EIA’s head of petroleum statistics said. It would take a few months of strong inventory builds to fill up the remaining storage, perhaps an unlikely scenario, especially if production starts to take a hit. But if storage tanks did start to fill up, prices would dive once again and companies would have to shut in wells and cut back on production.

This short essay, courtesy of the OilPrice.com Internet site, found a home over at the Zero Hedge Internet site at 1:20 p.m. EST yesterday afternoon---and it's the first offering of the day from Dan Lazicki.  If you follow the oil market closely, then this is definitely worth reading.

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hdr22@clintonemail.com - How a Romanian Hacker Exposed Hillary Clinton's Secret E-mail Life

While the Hillary Clinton email fiasco is sure to be the talk of the town for the next few days, weeks, and months and may have seriously jeopardized the former Secretary of State's chances at becoming America's next president, an even more important story is how the revelation that Hillary exclusively used a private, unencrypted and unsupervised email for 4 years of state-level, official business communications, emerged in the first place.

The answer, shockingly, comes courtesy of a Romanian hacker who was known by the handle "Guccifer", and who is currently serving time in a Bucharest prison for his online attacks against countless public figures including the infamous leaks of George W. Bush personal paintings.

How is it possible that a Romanian convict may have helped accelerate the downfall of Warren Buffett's presidential hopeful? According to the Smoking Gun, which first reported on this topic back in March 2013, “Guccifer” illegally accessed the AOL e-mail account of Sidney Blumenthal, who then worked as a senior White House adviser to President Bill Clinton, and later became a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Hillary for president?  That's a very scary thought.  This very interesting Zero Hedge piece put in an appearance on their website at 6:08 p.m. EST on Tuesday evening---and I thank Dan Lazicki for sending it along.

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Poll gives France's far-right National Front party boost ahead of regional vote

More than a third of French voters believe the country’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen “embodies French republican values”, according to a shock poll for left-leaning newspaper Libération published just weeks before key regional elections.

The survey published on Monday nevertheless showed that a significant majority (57 percent) believe Le Pen would make a “bad” or “very bad” president.

But the high level of approval – being recognised for having “Republican values” is a prized political asset – suggests that the National Front’s (FN) strategy of rehabilitating the party’s negative image through relentless domination of the media appears to be enjoying some success.

The FN is riding high. Polls give the far-right anti-immigration and anti-Europe party up to 33 percent national support as France gears up for this month’s regional vote – well ahead of the ruling Socialists, the conservative opposition UMP and other parties which have been consistently trailing behind.

This france24.com story was posted on their website on Monday sometime---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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NSA spying inquiry: U.K.-German intelligence-sharing dispute deepens

Germany’s efforts to investigate National Security Agency (NSA) spying are being hampered by Britain’s refusal to co-operate amid threats to break off intelligence-sharing agreements, a German newspaper has reported.

The claims note a heightening of tensions between Downing Street and the German Chancellery over intelligence-sharing.

According to German newspaper reports, the Bundestag’s investigation into the NSA could be halted if any UK secrets are revealed.

This Russia Today article showed up on their Internet site at 4:47 p.m. Moscow time on their Tuesday afternoon, which was 8:47 a.m. in Washington.

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Greece taps public sector cash to help cover March needs: sources

Greece is tapping into the cash reserves of pension funds and public sector entities through repo transactions as it scrambles to cover its funding needs this month, debt officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

Shut out of debt markets and with aid from lenders frozen, Athens is in danger of running out of cash in the coming weeks as it faces a 1.5 billion euro loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund this month.

The government has sought to calm fears and says it will be able to make the IMF payment and others, but not said how.

At least part of the state's cash needs for the month will be met by repo transactions in which pension funds and other state entities sitting on cash lend the money to the country's debt agency through a short-term repurchase agreement for up to 15 days, debt agency officials told Reuters.

This Reuters article, filed from Athens, put in an appearance on their website at 11:25 a.m. EST yesterday morning---and my thanks go out to Roy Stephens for sending it our way.

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Ukraine agrees tough austerity package to gain $17.5bn IMF bailout

The Ukrainian parliament has approved amendments the 2015 budget that sees drastic pension cuts and energy bills tripling. The changes are needed to comply with the terms of the agreed $17.5 billion IMF bailout package.

The budget amendments were passed at an extraordinary meeting on Monday with a majority of 273 votes, well above the minimum 226 votes necessary to pass legislation.

According to the changes, Ukraine’s budget deficit increases from 3.7 percent to 4.1 percent of GDP. Amendments envisage the expenses increasing by about $1.3 billion (35 billion hryvnia), with a 21.7 hryvnia per dollar exchange rate. At the same the cabinet plans to cut government funding of Naftogaz in 2015 by 5.8 percent to 29.7 billion hryvnia.

The changes also see a cut in pensions for retired people by 15 percent. Moreover, pension payments for people working in the tax, customs and regulatory bodies, will be suspended. The job tenure for people working in hazardous and heavy industries will be gradually increased from 20 years to 25 years for men and from 15 years to 20 years for women.

This Russia Today news item appeared on their website at 2:37 p.m. EST Moscow time on their Tuesday afternoon---and once again it's courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Ukrainian Economic Reforms are Humiliation for Populace — Putin

The Ukrainian government's economic reforms, including the six-fold hike of natural gas prices for consumers, looks like the right thing to do, but amounts to a humiliation of Ukraine's citizens, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday.

"We talked about it, formally everything is correct, but in essence, it's humiliation," Putin said following a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

On Tuesday, Ukraine's energy regulator announced a six-fold increase in natural gas prices for the country's population starting on April 1, as part of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce energy subsidies. Between October 1 and April the price of natural gas used for heating homes will only be increased three-fold.

This news item was posted on the sputniknews.com Internet site at 9:59 p.m. Moscow time on their Tuesday evening, which was 1:59 p.m. in Washington.

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Ukraine’s fourth largest lender Delta Bank insolvent – central bank

The fourth biggest bank in Ukraine, Delta Bank, has gone bankrupt after months of non-compliance, according to the National Bank of Ukraine. Two smaller banks in the Delta Banking group have also gone belly-up.

“The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) adopted a resolution on the assignment of JSC Delta Bank to the category insolvent on March 2,” says the NBU website on Tuesday. The failure of Delta Bank owner's to take timely, efficient and sufficient measures to restore the bank's financial health and viability and bring its operations into compliance with Ukrainian laws was given as the main reason for the NBU’s decision.

“The principal shareholder and the management team of Delta Bank JSC have opted for a high-risk strategy of rapid growth through the acquisition of poor-quality assets,” the statement said.

Ukraine's monetary authorities have appeared desperate and nervous in their attempts to try to save the country's ailing economy.

This news item is another Russia Today offering.  It appeared on their website at 6:20 p.m. Moscow time last night---and I thank reader 'h c' for finding it for us.

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Exxon Russia Exposure Surges as Long View Outweighs Politics

Exxon Mobil Corp. shook off the chill of sanctions and continued to snap up drilling rights in Russia last year, giving it more exploration holdings in Vladimir Putin’s backyard than in the U.S.

Taking the long view, Exxon boosted its Russian holdings to 63.7 million acres in 2014 from 11.4 million at the end of 2013, according to data from U.S. regulatory filings. That dwarfs the 14.6 million acres of rights Exxon holds in the U.S., which until last year was its largest exploration prospect.

While U.S. and European Union sanctions against Russia forced Exxon to shut down an Arctic drilling project in October, there were no legal obstacles barring the company from staking claims to areas that could yield tens of billions of barrels in coming decades. The bet on Russia follows a string of drilling failures elsewhere and spending cuts that will likely be addressed in Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson’s investor meeting Wednesday.

This Bloomberg article, filed from Chicago, was posted on their Internet site at 5:00 p.m. Denver time on Monday afternoon---and it's the last offering of the day from Elliot Simon, for which I thank him.

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Obama Attacks China for Creating U.S.-Inspired Spying Apparatus

President Obama has harsh words for China’s proposed counter-terrorism law. This despite the fact that the new rules are modeled largely on the U.S. regulations, and more directly, on the precedent set by the NSA’s spying apparatus.

China released a few demands last week. If U.S. tech companies want to do business in China – and given the market size, yes, tech companies want to do business in China – then they’ll have to place servers in China. They’ll also have to provide encryption keys, and allow the Chinese government special surveillance access into their systems.

President Obama is, understandably, a little wary. Tech companies are weary. Giving a global superpower “backdoor” access to servers used by millions of people feels a bit like Big Brother. It’s uncomfortably dystopian.

But as the Snowden documents revealed, this is exactly the kind of unfettered access enjoyed by the United States.

Can you spell hypocrisy, boys and girls?  This article appeared on the sputniknews.com website at 11:46 p.m. last night Moscow time---and once again I thank Roy Stephens for sending it our way.

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What the BRICS plus Germany are really up to?

Winston Churchill once said, "I feel lonely without a war." He also badly missed the loss of empire. Churchill’s successor - the "Empire of Chaos’ - now faces the same quandary. Some wars - as in Ukraine, by proxy - are not going so well.

And the loss of empire increasingly manifests itself in myriad moves by selected players aiming towards a multi-polar world.

So no wonder U.S. "Think Tank land" is going bonkers, releasing wacky CIA-tinted "forecasts" where Russia is bound to disintegrate, and China is turning into a communist dictatorship. So much (imperial) wishful thinking, so little time to prolong hegemony.

This must read commentary by Pepe showed up on the Russia Today website last Friday---and it's the final offering of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Chile volcano sends spectacular pillar of fire into night sky

A spectacular Mordor-style eruption has hit the Villarrica volcano in southern Chile, spewing ash and lava up to 3 kilometers into the night sky and forcing the evacuation of nearby towns and villages.

Some 3,385 people have been moved from communities surrounding the volcano, according to the mayor of Pucon, a nearby town. Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said there were no reports of any injuries.

But although the fireworks display from the volcano was breathtaking, a major lava flow isn’t expected. Intermittent gas and steam continue to be erupted, although the situation remains volatile.

"After an eruptive pulse, which was pretty intense but very short at 3 am (0600 GMT), the volcanic system remains unstable and it is possible that something similar could occur again in the next few hours," the head of national geological service Sernageomin said on Tuesday morning.

This very interesting Russia Today article was posted on their Internet site at 7:28 p.m. Moscow time on their Tuesday evening---and it's courtesy of reader M.A.

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$3 Billion In Junior Companies Working Capital To Vanish – John Kaiser

While there is still hope within the junior resource sector, John Kaiser, founder of Kaiser Research, isn’t painting a pretty picture for some companies.

Speaking at a keynote program at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada’s 83rd convention in Toronto, Canada, Kaiser outlined how badly the junior resource sector is hurting.

He said, “717 companies have negative working capital, 291 have between $0 and $500,000, 554 still have between $500,000 and $20 million – those are the ones that are most likely to survive.”

“How bad is this situation? The companies that have negative working capital are trading below 30 cents, totaling almost $3 billion to service providers, to the executives’ salaries – this money will never be paid back in cash,” he said. “It will be settled for paper, which will then be rolled back and then it is just going to vanish. This is a huge hit to the system right now,” he added.

One wonders what commodity prices would be if JPMorgan et al weren't sitting on all four precious metals?  But Kaiser, the sensitive and caring man that I know him to be, will never go there.  This news item appeared on the kitco.com Internet site at 11:22 a.m. EST on Monday---and it's courtesy of Richard O'Mara.  There was another spin on this Kaiser commentary.  It was posted on thestar.com Internet site on Monday as well---and it's headlined "Mining sector “in worst bear market in decades”"---and I thank Brad Robertson for sending it our way.

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Koos Jansen: Where did the gold in Fort Knox come from?

The impression that most of the gold in the U.S. gold reserve stored at Fort Knox originated with coin melt following the U.S. government's confiscating of privately held monetary gold in 1933 is wrong, gold researcher and GATA consultant Koos Jansen writes.

His commentary is headlined "Where Did the Gold In Fort Knox Come From? Part I" and it was posted on the bullionstar.com Internet site yesterday.  I found this in a GATA dispatch yesterday.

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Back in 2012 Brodsky and Quaintance suspected worldwide gold redistribution

Recent assertions by fund manager and geopolitical analyst James G. Rickards that the United States and China are cooperating in suppressing the gold price so that China more easily may obtain enough metal to hedge its grotesque foreign exchange surplus in dollars are not necessarily the first ones along those lines.

As Rickards has held U.S. Defense Department security clearance and was the lawyer for Long-Term Capital Management during the rescue arranged by the Federal Reserve in 1998, he is always worth the closest attention and surely knows more than he can tell without breaching some confidence or even risking assassination.

But the first suggestion that central banks were working surreptitiously to redistribute the world's gold among governments as the transition to some sort of worldwide currency revaluation may have been made by our friends the economists and fund managers Paul Brodsky and Lee Quaintance, then of QB Asset Management, now of Kopernik Global Investors, whose dissertation on the issue was published in May 2012 and publicized by GATA.

Brodsky and Quaintance speculated that central banks actually want the gold price up -- way up -- at least in the long term.

This 8-page commentary from three years ago, along with the balance of Chris Powell's preamble, is definitely worth reading if you have the time, especially in the light of the ever-increased gold imports into China, along with Jim Rickards' assertions.  It was posted on the gata.org Internet site yesterday.

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Perth Mint's silver sales drop to 10-month low in February

The Perth Mint's sales of silver coins slumped to a 10-month low in February, while gold product sales rose from a near-three-year low.

The Perth Mint runs the only gold refinery in Australia, the world's second-biggest gold producer after China.

The mint's gold sales rose to 31,981 ounces in February from 23,174 ounces in January, which was the lowest monthly sales figures since April 2012, data on the mint's website showed.

Sales of silver coins fell to 392,114 ounces in February, from 585,953 ounces in the previous month. Gold and silver prices declined in February after posting sharp jumps in the previous month.

This short Reuters piece, filed from Singapore at 11:44 p.m. EST yesterday evening, was something I found over on the Sharps Pixley website in the wee hours of this morning.

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Mar 03, 2015

ISM Manufacturing Tumbles To 13-Month Lows, Employment Slumps, Construction Spending Plunges

Despite a collapse in U.S. macro data in February, Markit somehow managed to conjure a better than expected 55.1 print for US Manufacturing PMI. Under the covers employment creation was the slowest since July and inflationary pressures loom as selling prices rose notably. ISM Manufacturing printed 52.9 - a small miss vs 53.0 expectations - down for the 4th month in a row to 13-month lows, with employment at its weakest since June 2013.

Construction spending's modest rebound in (seemingly un-weather-affected) December (after dropping in November) has been destroyed with a 1.1% drop in January (against expectations of 0.3% rise) for the biggest drop in 8 months.

This Zero Hedge commentary, with lots of charts, showed up on their Internet site at 10:08 a.m. EST yesterday morning---and today's first story is courtesy of reader M.A.

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U.S. Savings Rate Surges to Highest Since 2012 as Consumers Save "Gas Tax Cut" Instead of Spending

Following December's worse than expected drop in personal spending (and slowing growth in incomes), analysts were expected the usual hockey-stick bounce... it did not happen.

Despite all the exuberance over low gas prices, US personal spending dropped 0.2% in January - twice as bad as the 0.1% drop expected and the 3rd miss in a row. The spending drop was driven in large part by a slide in non-durables.

Personal income also missed expectations, rising just 0.3% (against a +0.4% expectation) hovering at its lowest growth since September. The savings rates surged to 5.5% - its highest since Dec 2012.

This is another Zero Hedge piece.  This one was posted on their website at 8:41 a.m. EST on Monday morning.

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Chicago nears fiscal free fall with latest downgrade

Chicago drew closer to a fiscal free fall on Friday with a rating downgrade from Moody's Investors Service that could trigger the immediate termination of four interest-rate swap agreements, costing the city about $58 million and raising the prospect of more broken swaps contracts.

The downgrade to Baa2, just two steps above junk, and a warning the rating could fall further still, means the third-biggest U.S. city could face even higher costs in the future if banks choose to terminate other interest-rate hedges against fluctuations in interest rates. All told, Chicago holds swaps contracts covering $2.67 billion in debt, according to a disclosure late last year.

"This is an unfortunate wake-up call for anyone still asleep over the fiscal cliff facing the city of Chicago," said Laurence Msall, president of the Chicago-based government finance watchdog, The Civic Federation.

This Reuters article, filed from Chicago, appeared on their website at 6:16 p.m. EST on Friday evening---and I thank Norman Willis for sending it along.

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John Hussman: A Who's Who of Awful Times to Invest

Unless we observe a rather swift improvement in market internals and a further, material easing in credit spreads – neither which would relieve the present overvaluation of the market, but both which would defer our immediate concerns about downside risk – the present moment likely represents the best opportunity to reduce exposure to stock market risk that investors are likely to encounter in the coming 8 years.

Last week, the cyclically-adjusted P/E of the S&P 500 Index surpassed 27, versus a historical norm of just 15 prior to the late-1990’s market bubble. The S&P 500 price/revenue ratio surpassed 1.8, versus a pre-bubble norm of just 0.8. On a wide range of historically reliable measures (having a nearly 90% correlation with actual subsequent S&P 500 total returns), we estimate current valuations to be fully 118% above levels associated with historically normal subsequent returns in stocks. Advisory bullishness (Investors Intelligence) shot to 59.5%, compared with only 14.1% bears – one of the most lopsided sentiment extremes on record.

This worthwhile read appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 4:30 p.m. EST yesterday afternoon---and it's the first offering of the day from Dan Lazicki.

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The Next Empire

Throughout history, political, financial, and military leaders have sought to create empires. Westerners often think of ancient Rome as the first empire. Later, other empires formed for a time. Spain became an empire, courtesy of its Armada, its conquest of the New World, and the gold and silver extracted from the West. Great Britain owned the 19th century but lost its empire due largely to costly wars. The U.S. took over in the 20th century and, like Rome, rose as a republic, with minimal central control, but is now crumbling under its own governmental weight.

Invariably, the last people to understand the collapse of an empire are those who live within it. As a British subject, I remember my younger years, when, even though the British Empire was well and truly over, many of my fellow Brits were still behaving in a pompous manner as though British “superiority” still existed. Not so, today. (You can only pretend for so long.)

But this does suggest that those who live within the present empire—the U.S.—will be the last to truly understand that the game is all but over. Americans seem to be hopeful that the dramatic decline is a temporary setback from which they will rebound.

Not likely. Historically, once an empire has been shot from its perch, it’s replaced by a rising power—one that’s more productive and more forward thinking in every way. Yet the U.S. is hanging on tenaciously, and like any dying empire, its leaders are becoming increasingly ruthless, both at home and abroad, hoping to keep up appearances.

This right-on-the-money commentary was a guest post by Jeff Thomas over at the internationalman.com Internet site yesterday---and it falls squarely into the absolute must read category.

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How Billionaires in London Use Secret Luxury Homes to Hide Assets

On London’s Billionaires Row in Hampstead, the seven-bedroom Carlton House with its 50-foot ballroom, underground swimming pool and 10-person Turkish bath is for sale for 14 million pounds ($21.5 million).

It’s being sold to repay BTA Bank after British courts seized assets from the Kazakh lender’s one-time chairman, billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov. The lender accused him of embezzling about $6 billion from the bank, claims he says are false and politically motivated.

It took the U.K. High Court to establish that the home, with its marble bathrooms, crystal chandeliers and cherry-wood elevator, belongs to the 51-year-old, because the property was bought through a network of offshore companies that hid his identity. He argued it was his brother-in-law’s and he just rented it after his family moved to England in 2009.

This longish, but interesting Bloomberg article, showed up on their website at 3:00 a.m. Denver time yesterday---and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for sending it along.

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"Spectacular Developments" In Austria: Bail-In Arrives After €7.6 Billion Bad Bank Capital Hole "Discovered"

Slowly, all the lies of the "recovery", all the skeletons in the closet, and all the bodies swept under the rug are emerging.

Moments ago, Austrian ORF reported that there have been "spectacular developments" in the case of the Hypo Alpe Adria bad bank, also known as the Heta Asset Resolution, where an outside audit of Heta's balance sheet exposed a capital hole of up to 7.6 billion euros ($8.51 billion) which the government was not prepared to fill, the Austrian Financial Market Authority said.

As a result, according to Reuters, the bad bank that was created in the aftermath of the Hypo collapse, is itself about to be unwound, as the bad bank itself goes bad!

"Austria's Financial Market Authority stepped in on Sunday to wind down "bad bank" Heta Asset Resolution and imposed a moratorium on debt repayments by the vehicle set up last year from the remnants of defunct lender Hypo Alpe Adria."

This is another Zero Hedge offering.  This one showed up on their website at 7:59 p.m. on Sunday evening EST---and it's courtesy of David Caron.  It's definitely worth reading.  There was a follow-up ZH article on Monday headlined "Lehman Moment For Austrian "Bad Bank" Means Worse Coming"---and it's worth skimming as well.

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Spain's Catalonia prepares to set up own foreign missions, tax system amid independence drive

Catalonia is preparing its own tax system, and creating a network of foreign missions as it prepares for a snap regional vote on independence. Recently Spain’s top court ruled that the region’s symbolic referendum vote in November was unconstitutional.

Nationalist leaders in the northeastern region have urged a snap local vote on the issue of independence on September 27, AFP reported.

Catalan president Artur Mas and his government are reportedly working on tax, diplomacy, and social security restructuring in case Catalonia becomes an independent state.

This Russia Today article, courtesy of reader M.A., was posted on their Internet site at 2:41 p.m. Moscow time on their Sunday afternoon, which was 6:41 a.m. in Washington.

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Theater of the Absurd: Spain to Provide 14% of Funds For Third Greek Bailout

The ink is not even dry on the much fought extension of the Greek bailout, so hated in Greece because it perpetuates the "austerity" memorandum conditions and already Spain, which as a reminder is suddenly not on very good speaking terms with the Syriza government, is stoking the anti-austerity fire in Athens even more when moments ago Spain's Guindos revealed that not only is a third Greek bailout imminent, and will cost Europe's (and America's via the IMF) taxpayers between €30 and €50 billion, but that Spain, whose banks were completely insolvent as recently as 2 years ago and were only "saved" thanks to the ECB's direct and indirect (repo) bond monetization pathways will provide between 13% and 14% of the funding!

Yep, you couldn't make this stuff up!  This is yet another Zero Hedge article from yesterday morning EST.

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As Greek Default Fears Return, Government Considers "Borrowing" Pensions to Repay IMF

Greek short-term default risk jumped over 300bps today putting the odds of a restructuring at 50-50 within the next year as the warnings we issued last week with regard Greece's imminent default on its IMF loan loom. Seeking to reassure its lenders (and avoid yet more capital flight), Reuters reports the Greek government said it was "exploring solutions," including delaying payments to suppliers or try to raise up to 3 billion euros by borrowing from state entities such as pension funds

As Reuters reports, Athens is running out of options to fund itself despite striking a deal with the euro zone in February to extend its bailout by four months. Faced with a steep fall in revenues, it is expected to run out of cash by the end of March, possibly sooner.

This Zero Hedge article appeared on their Internet site 14:54 p.m. EST on Monday afternoon---and it's another contribution from Roy Stephens.  Roy also sent me this Ambrose Evans-Pritchard commentary on the same issue.  It's from 7:52 p.m. GMT yesterday evening---and it's headlined "Greece eyes last central bank funds to avert IMF default".

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ECB uncomfortable with leading role in Greek funding drama

European Central Bank policymakers decamp to Cyprus on Wednesday wrestling with the uncomfortable fact that they may hold the keys to Greece's continued membership of the euro.

With no political appetite for a 'transfer union' that could see wealthier countries subsidize Greece, the central bank figures prominently among the main options for staving off an impending funding crunch in Athens.

This is awkward for the ECB, an independent central bank desperate to stay out of the political debate over Greece's future but whose lender-of-last-resort function may leave it as the only institution able to stop an economic collapse there.

"The ECB is justified in being cautious because of the highly political exposure," said Richard Portes, professor of economics at London Business School, noting that the bank has just completed a sensitive, political debate over a sovereign bond-buying plan.

This Reuters piece, filed from Frankfurt, was posted on their website at 12:00 noon EST on Monday---and it's another contribution from Elliot Simon.

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Humiliated Greece eyes Byzantine pivot as crisis deepens

Greece's new currency designs are ready. The green 50 drachma note features Cornelius Castoriadis, the Marxisant philosopher and sworn enemy of privatisation.

The Nobel poet Odysseus Elytis - voice of Eastward-looking Hellenism - honours the 200 note. The bills rise to 10,000 drachma, a wise precaution lest there is a hyperinflationary shock as Greece breaks out of its debt-deflation trap at high velocity.

The amateur blueprints are a minor sensation in Greek artistic circles. They are only half in jest.

Greece's Syriza radicals have signed a fragile ceasefire with the eurozone's creditor powers. Few think this can last as escalating deadlines reach their kairotic moment in June.

This longish commentary by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard appeared on The Telegraph's website at 2:24 p.m. GMT on Saturday afternoon---and it's also courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Kerry meets with Russia’s Lavrov over Ukraine crisis

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held tense talks with his Russian counterpart in Geneva Monday to end fighting in Ukraine, where the U.N. says more than 6,000 have died in less than a year.

The meeting with Sergei Lavrov in an upscale Geneva hotel came less than a week after Kerry accused Moscow of lying to his face about its involvement in the conflict, which has triggered the worst post-Cold War crisis between the U.S. and its allies, and Russia.

Both were due to brief media on the substance of the meeting later in the day.

High-stakes talks between Kiev and Moscow were also set to get under way in Brussels to resolve a bitter gas dispute, which threatens deliveries to Europe, after Russia began direct supplies to parts of separatist-held eastern Ukraine.

This news item was posted on the france24.com Internet site yesterday sometime---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.

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Russian Jewish community blasts Ukraine and Baltics nations for glorifying Nazi collaborators

Russia’s largest Jewish organization has condemned the authorities of Ukraine, Baltic nations and Moldova over their official line of support to persons and groups known for close cooperation with Nazi Germany and crimes against humanity during WWII.

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR) approved the resolution ‘Against reviewing the result of the Second World War’ on Friday.

In this document, the leaders of the Russian Jewry again noted that the current regime in Kiev was portraying as heroes and liberators the OUN-UPA group (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists – Ukrainian Insurgents’ Army), regardless of the fact that its members had only gained notoriety by killing thousands of civilians over their ethnic roots, mostly Jews and Poles.

FJCR delegates drew attention to the actions of the authorities of the Baltic countries who "made heroes of former SS officers."

This very disturbing article appeared on the Russia Today Internet site at 12:27 p.m. Moscow time last Friday afternoon---and it's another contribution from Roy Stephens.

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U.S. Urges E.U. to Refrain From Business With Moscow Amid Russia-Cyprus Deals

The United States is urging its European partners to refrain from doing business with Russia over its alleged role in the Ukrainian crisis, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said, commenting on the bilateral agreements between Russia and Cyprus signed last week.

“We’ve been clear that this is not the time for business as usual with Russia,” Harf said during a press briefing on Monday. “We’ve stressed with our European allies and partners the importance of unity in pressing Russia to stop fueling conflict in eastern Ukraine. That’s certainly something we feel very strongly about.”

Russia and Cyprus signed nine documents on cooperation, including military, naval and anti-terrorism agreements during the visit of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades to Moscow.

I would guess that we're going to find out pretty quick if Europe intends to completely break with Washington on the Ukraine/Russia embroglio.  If they were smart, that's what they'd do---and this would be an easy place to start.  This article, filed from Washington, appeared on the sputniknews.com Internet site at 4:45 a.m. Moscow time on their Tuesday morning---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens once again.

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Germany Foreign Minister Warns against Speculation on Nemtsov Murder

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier cautioned on Sunday against speculation over the killing of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

"I don’t think we should speculate on the issue," Steinmeier told German public broadcaster ARD, noting that: "Nobody knows the perpetrator yet."

"We hope for a swift and transparent investigation into the case," he said.

This TASS article, filed from Berlin, was picked up by the russia-insider.com Internet site around 10 a.m. Moscow time this morning, which was 2 a.m. in Washington.  It's another offering from Roy Stephens.

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Nemtsov Murder Fuels Suspicion, Fails to Spur Russia Sell Off

While the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov sparked international outrage, it won’t dissuade investors after the country’s assets rose the most worldwide last month, according to Prosperity Capital Management Ltd. and Landesbank Berlin Investment GmbH.

“Political markets have short legs, so I do not change my positioning in Russian assets,” Lutz Roehmeyer, who oversees $1.1 billion of assets as a money manager at Landesbank Berlin, said by e-mail Sunday. Investors “accepted that Russian democracy is not at western standards and the security situation or judicial system is far from perfect,” he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the killing on Friday of Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko said he was a “bridge” between the two countries. Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said the president would take the investigation under his “personal control” and believed the killing to be a provocation.

This Bloomberg news item, with at 2:33 minute video clip embedded, was filed from Moscow at 7:43 a.m. MST on Sunday afternoon---and I thank Elliot Simon for his third story of the day.

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Putin Predicted Washington Would Employ Assassination Tactic Against Russia — Paul Craig Roberts

The Washington-financed Russian opposition has not, as Washington hoped it would, joined the Western anti-Putin media campaign. Possibly the Washington-financed Russian NGOs have wised up from observing events in Ukraine. In place of “more democracy,” they got a Washington stooge government squandering Ukraine’s last cent on a losing war.

The most likely explanation of Nemtsov’s murder is that the CIA decided, as Nemtsov was completely marginalized as an opposition politician with 5% as against Putin’s 85%, that Nemtsov was worth more dead than alive. But the ploy, if that is what it is, has not worked inside Russia.

Part of the circumstantial evidence that Nemtsov’s murder was a CIA tactic to destabilize Russia is the orchestrated US media. The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, NPR, and the rest of the presstitutes were ready on cue with reports insinuating that Putin was responsible.

This short, but right-on-the-money commentary appeared on Paul's website on Sunday sometime---and I thank Roy Stephens for sliding it into my in-box very late last night.  It's definitely worth reading.

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U.S. government is authorized to rig all markets in secret, GATA secretary tells KWN

Western governments are legally authorized to rig all markets in secret and as a result investigations of market rigging by the investment houses central banks use as intermediaries are not likely to produce anything, GATA secretary/treasurer Chris Powell tells King World News in an interview last Thursday.

Elaborating, Chris recalls the single hearing given to GATA consultant Reginald Howe's gold market-rigging lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston in November 2001, at which an assistant U.S. attorney asserted that the U.S. government has the power under the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 to rig the gold market through intervention by the U.S. Treasury Department's Exchange Stabilization Fund.

This brief commentary by Chris, along with the 9:48 minute KWN audio interview, are definitely worth your while.  I thank Harold Jacobsen for pointing it out.

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What Top Hedge Fund Managers Really Think About Gold: Jeff Clark -- Casey Research

In the January issue of BIG GOLD, I interviewed a plethora of experts on their views about gold for this year. The issue was so popular that we decided to republish a portion of the edition here.

Given their level of success, these fund managers are worth listening to: James Rickards, Chris Martenson, Steve Henningsen, Grant Williams, and Brent Johnson. Some questions are the same, while others were tailored to their particular expertise.

I hope you find their comments as insightful and useful as I did…

This selection of interviews appeared in yesterday's edition of the Casey Daily Dispatch---and it's worth reading.

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Chris Martenson Interviews Grant Williams

This 54:20 minute youtube.com video/audio interview was posted on their Internet site on February 28---and it's definitely a must listen from beginning to end, especially the part about gold.  The discussion turns to gold at the 23:30 minute mark---and the gold commentary lasts for about 20 minutes.  I thank Roy Stephens once again for finding it for us.

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U.S. Mint American Eagle gold coin sales tumble in February

U.S. Mint American Eagle gold coin sales in February were the weakest for the second month of the year since 2007, and down 77 percent from January, according to data on Friday, as investors eyed the soaring stock markets.

The U.S. Mint sold 18,500 ounces of gold bullion coins this month, down from 31,000 ounces in February 2014 and the lowest for the second month of the year since 2007 when just 4,000 ounces were sold.

Just 81,000 ounces of gold coins were sold in January, the smallest amount for the first month of the year since 2008.

This follows weak full-year sales in 2014, which were the lowest since 2007.

No surprises here, as retail bullion sales continue to be disastrous.  Ted says that it's only JPMorgan buying silver eagles hand over fist that's keeping their sales elevated like they are.  This Reuters article, filed from New York, was posted on their website at 4:38 p.m. EST last Friday---and I thank Orlando, Florida reader Dennis Mong for sending it to me on Saturday.

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Treasure Hunt: North Carolina authorities search for $4M in missing gold

Thieves stole $4.8 million in gold bars from an armored car on Interstate-95 near Wilson Sunday in a brazen robbery that ranks as one of the richest in North Carolina history.

The armored vehicle was going from Miami to Massachusetts. But around 6:50 p.m. Sunday, Wilson County deputies responded to a report of an armed robbery on northbound I-95 near mile marker 114. 

Authorities said two armed TransValue Inc. security guards were transporting gold and silver to Attleboro, Massachusetts, which is a major hub of jewelry outlets.

When this robbery gets solved, it's a good bet that it will turn out to be an inside job.  This gold-related news item appeared on the wncn.com Internet site at 9:58 a.m. EST on Monday morning---and I thank Texas reader Roger DeReu for sending it our way.  The Zero Hedge spin on this is headlined "$4 Million in Gold Bars Stolen in 11th Largest Heist in History"---and that's courtesy of reader M.A.

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Ronan Manly: Bank of England traded gold in 1980s to control price and made a profit

The Bank of England was intimately involved with the daily London gold price fixings through the 1980s, long after the demise of the London Gold Pool price-control system, gold researcher and GATA consultant Ronan Manly reports today, adding that documents suggest that the bank was trading gold for its own account in order to help control the price and even boasted of making a profit doing so.

Manly also reports that the bank today evades questions about this activity. His commentary is headlined "The Bank of England and the London Gold Fixings in the 1980s" and it was posted on the bullionstar.com Internet site on Saturday.  I thank Ronan for passing it along---and Chris Powell for writing the above preamble.  It's on the longish side, but an absolute must read nonetheless.

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Greece revokes approval for Eldorado Gold’s Skouries project

Greece has revoked the approval required by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold to complete construction of the Skouries project processing plant.

The company on Monday announced that its subsidiary Hellas Gold on Friday received the notice from Greece's Ministry of Productive Reconstruction, Energy and Environment, which indicated that the ministry might, however, reverse its decision once it had completed an internal review process.

The ministry did not give a time frame within which it would complete its review process.

TSX- and NYSE-listed Eldorado said it believed the ministry’s decision had no legal basis and the company would, if necessary, act to protect its legal rights.

This miningweekly.com article, filed from Toronto, was posted on their Internet site yesterday sometime---and I thank South African reader B.V. for digging it up for us.

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Indian government moves to paperize gold and call it monetization

To curb gold imports and monetise large idle stocks of the precious metal, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today announced three schemes, including redeemable gold bonds which will carry a fixed rate of interest.

The minister proposes to introduce a gold monetisation scheme, which will replace both the present gold deposit and gold metal loan schemes.

"The new scheme will allow the depositors of gold to earn interest in their metal accounts and the jewellers to obtain loans in their metal account. Banks and other dealers would also be able to monetize this gold," Mr. Jaitley said in his budget speech.

India is one of the largest consumers of gold in the world and imports as much as 800-1,000 tonnes of gold each year.

Lots of luck with these "schemes".  The Indian government just never gives up, does it?  This article appeared on the hindu.com Internet site at 4:22 p.m. IST on their Saturday afternoon---and I found it in a GATA release.  It's certainly worth skimming---and the embedded photo makes it doubly worth the trip.

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Indian Gold import duty stays at 10%; industry worried

Jewellers and the bullion trade were disappointed with the Union Budget 2015 as the expected cut in import duty on gold from 10 per cent did not happen. The high rate has been responsible for elevated levels of gold smuggling, they say.

“For the gem and jewellery industry, the only reaction is disappointment,” Vipul Shah, chairman, Gem Jewellery Export Promotion Council, said. “The budget overlooked a significant area to curb black money and a long-pending demand from the industry to reduce the gold import duty.”

However, the Union Finance Minister announced steps for monetisation of gold in the budget.

This is another gold-related story from The Hindu website.  It appeared there just after midnight Sunday morning India Standard time---and I found it on the Sharps Pixley Internet site.

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Jim Rickards: Why the U.S. is Letting China Accumulate Gold

A lot of people think about gold as a percentage of a country’s total reserves. They are surprised to learn that the United States has 70 percent of its reserves in gold. Meanwhile, China only has about 1 percent of its reserves in gold. People look at that and think that’s an imbalance. But those are not very meaningful figures in my view.

The reason is that a country’s reserves are a mixture of gold and hard currencies, and the currencies can be in bonds or other assets. The United States doesn’t need other currencies. We print dollars, so why would we hold euros and yen?

The U.S. doesn’t need them, so it makes sense that the country would have a very large percentage of its reserves in gold. China, on the other hand, has greater need for other currencies.

A better metric, in my opinion, is to look at a country’s gold holdings as a percentage of GDP. GDP is a representation of how big a country’s economy is. It’s the gross value of all the goods and services.

This must read commentary by Jim put in an appearance on the dailyreckoning.com Internet site on Monday sometime---and I thank Dan Lazicki for the final story in today's column.

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Feb 28, 2015

Q4 GDP Revised Down to 2.2% From 5.0%: Full Breakdown

There was much hope that when Q3 GDP soared to 5%, primarily on the back of Obamacare spending recalendarization and a massive consumption/personal saving data revision, that the US economy would finally enter lift-off mode. Those hopes were reduced by about 60% when moments ago the BEA announced that Q4 GDP was revised from the original 2.64% print to only 2.18%, which while better than expected, was the lowest economic growth rate since the "polar vortex."

The main reason for the revision: a substantial drop in growth contribution from private inventories, which instead of adding 0.82% to the bottom GDP line, only contributed 0.12% in Q4 following the first revision. To be sure, this was perfectly expected, and is exactly what we said would happen last month after the first inventory number.

This short commentary, with a couple of excellent charts, appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 8:46 a.m. EST on Friday morning---and I thank Dan Lazicki for today's first story.

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Chicago PMI Crashes Most Since Lehman to Lowest Since July 2009

January's brief 'hope' bounce following 3 months of weakness is long forgotten as February's Chicago PMI crashes to 45.9 (missing expectations of 57.5) - its lowest since July 2009.

This is the biggest MoM drop since Lehman in Oct 2008. New Orders suffered the largest monthly decline on record.

Seems like it is time to blame the weather... PMI says it is "difficult to gauge magnitude of weather and port strike" but blames it nonetheless.

This is the second story in a row from the Zero Hedge website.  This one showed up there at 9:48 a.m. EST yesterday---and it's also the second in a row from reader Dan Lazicki.

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"Monetary Policy is Bankrupt" Dr. Lacy Hunt Warns "Bonds, Not Stocks, Are a Good Economic Indicator"

I think the S&P is disconnected from the fundamentals in the US economy. Growth last year was a quarter slower than it was in 2013. We’re on the cusp of either zero inflation or deflation. Corporate profits using the Bureau of Economic Analysis numbers, compiled using data from the Internal Revenue Service, showed year over declines in all the first three quarters of last year (4Q is not yet available). In the third quarter, the after-tax profits adjusted for inventory gains/losses and over/under depreciation were 7% below a year ago.

The standard of living declined again in 2014. And a lot of the growth we had in 2014 really was a massive building of inventories, which is often the case when stock prices are high and top line is decelerating.

The economy enters 2015 in very weak shape. None of the big ticket sectors are doing well. Capital spending is declining, being paced by extreme weakness in oil & gas drilling, which has really been the driving force in manufacturing over the last four years. The best you can say about the housing sector is that it is flat. Not a very important sector.

Vehicle sales are below the best levels of last year and the trade sector is deteriorating. It is very difficult to move the US economy forward by selling things over the counter and through the shopping cart. The US economy is very fragile. And the fragility is highlighted by the fact that firms simply do not have pricing power.

This rather longish interview with Lacy appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 6:15 p.m. EST Friday evening---and it's also courtesy of Dan Lazicki, for which I thank him. It's worth reading if you have the time.

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How Much Will You Pay to Park Cash as Central Banks Go Negative?

Central banks are stooping to new lows to conquer weak inflation.

The monetary guardians of the euro area, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark are now imposing negative interest rates on bank deposits or on funding operations that feed through to the real economy. Analysts at Commonwealth Bank of Australia reckon almost a quarter of worldwide central-bank reserves now carry a negative yield.

By confounding the onetime idea that they had to stop cutting borrowing costs at zero, monetary-policy makers are seeking to spur spending over saving. They also expect their currencies to weaken as capital inflows are discouraged.

The risk is that negative rates backfire and result in even less demand. That could happen if people begin stuffing their cash under mattresses, or if rates below zero eat into the profit margins of banks or distort financial markets.

This very interesting Bloomberg article, filed from London, appeared on their Internet site at 3:27 a.m. Denver time yesterday morning---and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for sending it our way.  There was another Bloomberg story about this by Mohamed A. El-Erian early Friday morning as well---and it's headlined "10 Things to Know About Negative Bond Yields".  I thank Dan Lazicki for this one as well.

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Doug Noland: Periphery Fragility List

The Chinese Credit Bubble has been historic, dwarfing the fateful Japanese Bubble from the eighties. Arguably, China’ Bubble today even exceeds its mirror image U.S. Bubble. I have also referred to the Chinese renminbi link to the dollar as the King of All Currency Pegs. The bullish consensus scoffs at notions of Chinese fragility. With an international reserve position of $3.8 TN (and shrinking), the belief is that China has more than sufficient “money” to stimulate the economy, recapitalize the banking system and support the renminbi. Yet with anecdotes suggesting mounting outflows and heightened nervousness, a destabilizing dislocation in renminbi trading becomes a real possibility.

How long will the PBOC be willing to use the nation’s reserves to allow speculators, fraudsters and Chinese elite to cash out of China at top dollar? Chinese officials confront great challenges that will require difficult decisions. So far, bullish sentiment remains impervious to the major uncertainties enveloping China’s economy, financial system and policy making. The perception that Chinese officials have everything well under control could soon be challenged.

Meanwhile, signs of Bubble excess become increasingly conspicuous in the U.S. – Silicon Valley, Manhattan, upper-end real estate around the country, subprime auto loans, jumbo mortgages, record corporate debt issuance, etc. Record stock and bond prices – record prices for anything that provides a yield. Record hedge fund assets, in the face of ongoing performance issues. Record ETF assets. Resurgent derivative markets.

The list goes on and on.  Doug's weekly commentary appeared on his creditbubblebulletin.ca website yesterday evening---and I thank reader U.D. for sending it my way.

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Here’s how the clash between the NSA Director and a senior Yahoo executive went down

In an unusual public exchange, the director of the National Security Agency and a senior Yahoo executive clashed over cyber-spying Monday, illustrating the growing chasm between Washington and Silicon Valley over whether intelligence officials should have broad access to the products being developed by the nation's top technology firms.

For a normally staid Washington cyber-security conference, this one hosted by New America, the tense back-and-forth had the packed audience of executives, senior policy makers, bureaucrats and journalists buzzing.

Speaking at the signature event of the conference, NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers called for a "legal framework" that would enable law enforcement and anti-terrorism officials to tap into encrypted data flowing between ordinary consumers -- echoing a stance laid out by other administration officials, including FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Eric J. Holder. But technology executives as well as many cybersecurity experts argue there is no way to build in such "back doors" without fundamentally undermining the security that protects online communications around the world. In response to recent revelations about government snooping, firms such as Apple and Google have designed their latest mobile software to make it impossible for the companies to turn over data from smartphones and tablet computers to police -- even when authorities have a search warrant.

This extremely interesting article showed up on The Washington Post website on Monday---and I thank reader P.F. for sharing it with us.

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Foreign governments gave millions to foundation while Clinton was at State Department

The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday.

Most of the contributions were possible because of exceptions written into the foundation’s 2008 agreement, which included limits on foreign-government donations.

The agreement, reached before Clinton’s nomination amid concerns that countries could use foundation donations to gain favor with a Clinton-led State Department, allowed governments that had previously donated money to continue making contributions at similar levels.

The new disclosures, provided in response to questions from The Washington Post, make clear that the 2008 agreement did not prohibit foreign countries with interests before the U.S. government from giving money to the charity closely linked to the secretary of state.

This is the second story in a row from The Washington Post---and this one is courtesy of Norman Willis.  It was posted on their Internet site on Wednesday sometime.

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Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher

For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.

One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

No surprises here.  Another so-called climate change "expert" caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar.  This long essay appeared on The New York Times website last Saturday---and for obvious reasons had to wait for today's column.  It's the second offering of the day from reader P.F.

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The Neoconservative Threat to World Order — Paul Craig Roberts

This week I was invited to address an important conference of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Scholars from Russia and from around the world, Russian government officials, and the Russian people seek an answer as to why Washington destroyed during the past year the friendly relations between America and Russia that President Reagan and President Gorbachev succeeded in establishing. All of Russia is distressed that Washington alone has destroyed the trust between the two major nuclear powers that had been created during the Reagan-Gorbachev era, trust that had removed the threat of nuclear Armageddon. Russians at every level are astonished at the virulent propaganda and lies constantly issuing from Washington and the Western media. Washington’s gratuitous demonization of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has rallied the Russian people behind him. Putin has the highest approval rating ever achieved by any leader in my lifetime.

Washington’s reckless and irresponsible destruction of the trust achieved by Reagan and Gorbachev has resurrected the possibility of nuclear war from the grave in which Reagan and Gorbachev buried it. Again, as during the Cold War the specter of nuclear Armageddon stalks the earth.

Why did Washington revive the threat of world annihilation? Why is this threat to all of humanity supported by the majority of the US Congress, by the entirety of the presstitute media, and by academics and think-tank inhabitants in the US, such as Motyl and Weiss, about whom I wrote recently?

This commentary by Paul is one of today's stories that falls into the absolute must read category.  It appeared on this website on Thursday---and had to wait for a spot in today's column.  By the way, did I mention that this an absolute must read---because it certainly is.  Do it now!  I thank Roy Stephens for sending it to me.

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The Real American Exceptionalism: From Torture to Drone Assassination, How Washington Gave Itself a Global Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card

"The sovereign is he who decides on the exception,” said conservative thinker Carl Schmitt in 1922, meaning that a nation’s leader can defy the law to serve the greater good. Though Schmitt’s service as Nazi Germany’s chief jurist and his unwavering support for Hitler from the night of the long knives to Kristallnacht and beyond damaged his reputation for decades, today his ideas have achieved unimagined influence. They have, in fact, shaped the neo-conservative view of presidential power that has become broadly bipartisan since 9/11. Indeed, Schmitt has influenced American politics directly through his intellectual protégé Leo Strauss who, as an émigré professor at the University of Chicago, trained Bush administration architects of the Iraq war Paul Wolfowitz and Abram Shulsky.

All that should be impressive enough for a discredited, long dead authoritarian thinker. But Schmitt’s dictum also became a philosophical foundation for the exercise of American global power in the quarter century that followed the end of the Cold War. Washington, more than any other power, created the modern international community of laws and treaties, yet it now reserves the right to defy those same laws with impunity. A sovereign ruler should, said Schmitt, discard laws in times of national emergency. So the United States, as the planet’s last superpower or, in Schmitt’s terms, its global sovereign, has in these years repeatedly ignored international law, following instead its own unwritten rules of the road for the exercise of world power.

This longish essay by Alfred W. McCoy is your second absolute must read story in a row.  It was posted on the tomdispatch.com Internet site via the Asia Times on Tuesday---and for length and content reasons, had to wait for today's column.  It is, like the Paul Craig Roberts commentary that preceded it, a very disturbing read.  But no matter how ugly, it is the truth.  Not surprisingly, it's courtesy of Roy Stephens once again.

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Leonard Nimoy, world famous as Mr. Spock on 'Star Trek' TV series and films, dies at 83

In 1975, Leonard Nimoy published an autobiography with the defiant title, "I Am Not Spock" — an attempt to show the world he had many more facets than the pointy-eared character that had come to define him.

Yet two decades later, after proving that with a career that became a rich blend of roles beyond "Star Trek" along with directing, writing and photography, he bowed to fate with "I Am Spock," a revisionist sequel.

Nimoy had come to appreciate Mr. Spock's enduring legacy and the inspiration the man of logic provided the actor and his fans alike.

"He's a part of me," he wrote in his second memoir. "Not a day passes that I don't hear that cool, rational voice commenting on some irrational aspect of the human condition."

I remember watching Star Trek on TV in Toronto back in the summer of 1967---and I've been a 'trekkie' ever since.  It makes me sad [and old] to post this story.  This AP article, filed from Los Angeles, appeared on the canada.com Internet site yesterday---and I thank reader M.A. for bringing it to my attention---and now to yours.

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Foreign Real Estate Is the New Swiss Bank Account

Financial privacy is essentially dead.

I think it’s only prudent to assume that sooner or later all the details of your financial life will come to rest in a government computer—if they haven’t done so already—and to plan accordingly.

We live in a world where pretty much every penny you earn, save, and spend is stored in a permanent record somewhere and can be retrieved for scrutiny one day if needed.

It’s not a comfortable or happy thing. But no matter how unpleasant it is, I believe it’s a reality we have to face.

This most excellent commentary was written by International Man's senior editor, Nick Giambruno---and it's worth your while, especially if you're an American citizen.

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How Real Is the European Deflation Threat?

Oppenheimer Funds’ Alessio de Longis and Principal Global Investors CEO Jim McCaughan discuss the impact of the threat of deflation on banking and the economy. They speak on “Bloomberg Surveillance.”

This 5:58 minute Bloomberg video clip was posted on their website at 5:05 a.m. MST on Friday---and it's another offering from Dan Lazicki.

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Alasdair Macleod: The euro may be riskier than you think

GoldMoney research director Alasdair Macleod writes that Greece and the European Union are both in terribly weak positions relative to the other and that this may bear more heavily than expected on the euro, which has no long history and thus less credibility than other currencies.

Macleod's commentary is headlined "The Euro May Be Riskier Than You Think" and it was posted on the goldmoney.com Internet site on Friday.  I found it embedded in a GATA release.

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You will get nothing unless you honour our deal, Germany warns Greece

Germany is expected to approve the new eurozone bail-out deal for Greece in a parliamentary vote on Friday but has warned that Athens will receive nothing unless it honours its commitments under the deal.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, said he was “stunned” after his Greek counterpart, Yanis Varoufakis, spoke again of a debt restructuring on Greek radio, and the Athens government indicated it would block plans to privatise strategic assets.

“If the Greeks violate the agreements, then they have become obsolete," a visibly angry Mr Schaeuble said at a meeting to persuade German MPs to support the deal in today’s vote. The meeting in Berlin came after Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper launched a campaign against the Greece deal, printing “NEIN!” across an entire inside page, and encouraging readers to take selfies holding the page up and send them in for publication.

“No more billions for greedy Greeks,” the newspaper added, in only slightly smaller print. The page was printed in the blue and white of the Greek flag, instead of Bild’s more usual red and white.

This story appeared on the telegraph.co.uk Internet site at 9:29 p.m. GMT on Thursday evening---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Greek PM says 'forget about third bailout'

Greece won’t be seeking a third international bailout after the four-month extension of its current program expires, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.

In a televised speech to his government, Tsipras also said the country has requested a reduction of its debt, despite European creditors demanding that Greece pay it in full.

"Some have bet on a third bailout, on the possibility of a third bailout in June. I'm very sorry but once again we will disappoint them," the PM declared, adding that “the Greek people put an end to bailouts with their vote."

Well, dear reader, it sounds like he's put a stake in the ground on this issue, so we'll see how things progress over the next four months, if it gets that far.  This news item appeared on the Russia Today website at 9:28 p.m. Moscow time on their Friday evening---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Ukraine pays Gazprom $15 million for 24 hours worth of gas

Ukraine’s Naftogaz has paid Gazprom $15 million for gas delivery. At current levels, the prepayment covers one day's gas consumption and will be spent by Tuesday, Gazprom spokesperson Sergey Kupriyanov said.

“Today at 9:20am MSK Gazprom received a payment from Ukraine’s Naftogaz in the amount of $15 million. At the current level of supply this sum will be enough roughly for one day,” he said.

"If Naftogaz paid for another 24 hours, it means the resources would last through Monday till Tuesday," he said.

The relatively small prepayment suggests Kiev is buying time before trilateral talks in Brussels on march 2nd. Russian energy minister Alexander Novak had warned Kiev’s failure to pre-pay would mean a cut-off.

This news item showed up on the Russia Today website at 7:10 a.m. Moscow time on their Friday morning---and once again it's another contribution from Roy Stephens.

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Dubai’s deal with Kiev includes no weapons supplies – UAE Foreign Ministry

The United Arab Emirates is not selling military equipment to Ukraine, despite earlier statements by Kiev officials, the UAE Foreign Ministry said.

“An agreement on cooperation in defense technologies the UAE and Ukraine signed recently does not stipulate any contracts for deliveries of weaponry to the Ukrainian side,” said Faraj Faris al-Mazrouei, adviser to UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The deal was only one element in a future system of cooperation between the two countries in the field of defense technologies, RIA Novosti reported al-Mazrouei as saying, citing the Emarat Al-Yawm news portal.

The UAE and Ukraine signed a memorandum of understanding on military-technical cooperation during the IDEX-2015 defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi earlier this week.

This Russia Today story appeared on their website at 7:28 p.m. Moscow time on their Friday evening---and it's also courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Boris Nemtsov, Russian opposition leader, shot dead in Moscow

Boris Nemtsov, a Russian opposition leader and sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down Saturday near the Kremlin, officials said. Nemtsov was killed just a day before a protest planned against Putin's rule.

The death of Nemtsov, a 55-year-old former deputy prime minister, ignited a fury among opposition figures who assailed the Kremlin for creating an atmosphere of intolerance of any dissent. Putin quickly offered his condolences and called the murder a provocation.

Putin ordered Russia's law enforcement chiefs to oversee the probe. "Putin noted that this cruel murder has all the makings of a contract hit and is extremely provocative," presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

Nemtsov assailed the government's inefficiency, rampant corruption and the Kremlin's Ukraine policy, which has strained relations between Russia and the West to a degree unseen since Cold War times.

This news story was posted on the cbc.ca Internet site at 5:14 p.m. EST yesterday afternoon---and I thank reader David Caron for bringing it to our attention.  There was a story about this on the Russia Today website as well---and it's headlined "Opposition politician Boris Nemtsov killed in the center of Moscow".  I thank Juli Placek for that one.

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Nemtsov was no threat to Russian government - presidential spokesperson

Boris Nemtsov did not pose a threat to the Russian government, according to presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov. The murder of the Russian opposition figure has been called a "provocation" by a number of politicians and public figures.

“With all due respect to the memory of Boris Nemtsov, in political terms he did not pose any threat to the current Russian leadership or Vladimir Putin. If we compare popularity levels, Putin’s and the government’s ratings and so on, in general Boris Nemtsov was just a little bit more than an average citizen,” Peskov said on Saturday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned the assassination and expressed his condolences to the family, Peskov added. “Putin has stressed that this brutal murder has all [the] signs of a contract murder and is extremely provocative.”

Irina Khakamada, an opposition figure who was Nemtsov's ally in the SPS party (Union of Right Forces), called the murder a "provocation" aimed at destabilizing Russia.

This is Russia Today news item appeared on their Internet site at 3:18 a.m. Moscow time on their Saturday morning, which was 7:18 p.m. in Washington on their Friday evening.  I thank Roy Stephens once again---and it's definitely worth reading.

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Breaking news: FALSE FLAG IN MOSCOW!

There is no doubt in my mind at all that either this is a fantastically unlikely but always possible case of really bad luck for Putin---and Nemtsov was shot by some nutcase or mugged, or this was a absolutely prototypical western false flag: you take a spent politician who has no credibility left with anyone with an IQ over 70, and you turn him into an instant "martyr for freedom, democracy, human right and civilization".

By the way if, as I believe, this is a false flag, I expect it to be a stunning success in the West and a total flop in Russia: by now, Russians already can smell that kind of setup a mile away and after MH-17 everybody was expecting a false flag.  So, if anything, it will only increase the hostility of Russians towards the West and rally them around Putin.  In the Empire, however, this will be huge, better than Politkovskaya or Litvinenko combined.  A "Nemtsov" prize will be created, a Nemtov statue will be place somewhere (in Warsaw?), the U.S. Congress will pass a "Nemtsov law" and the usual combo package of "democratic hagiography" will be whipped-up.

What worries me most is that the Russian security services did not see this one coming and let it happen.  This is a major failure for the FSB which will now have a lot at stake to find out who did it.  I expect them to find a fall-guy, a patsy, who will have no provable contacts with any western services and who, ideally, might even have some contacts with the Russian services (like Andrei Lugovoi).

As for the "liberal" or "democratic" "non-system" - it will probably re-brand the upcoming protests as a "tribute to Nemtsov" thereby getting more people into the streets.

There are folks in Langley tonight who got a promotion.

This very interesting commentary/speculation was posted on the vineyardsaker.com Internet site on Friday evening sometime---and it is, once again, courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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No, Obama, Russia's Economy Isn't 'in Tatters'

Bashing the Russian economy has lately become a popular pastime. In his state of the nation address last month, U.S. President Barack Obama said it was "in tatters." And yesterday, Anders Aslund of the Peterson Institute for International Economics published an article predicting a 10 percent drop in gross domestic product this year -- more or less in line with the apocalyptic predictions that prevailed when the oil price reached its nadir late last year and the ruble was in free fall.

Aslund's forecast focuses on Russia's shrinking currency reserves, some of which have been earmarked for supporting government spending in difficult times. At $364.6 billion, they are down 26 percent from a year ago and $21.6 billion from the beginning of this year. Aslund expects $166 billion to be spent on infrastructure investments and bailing out companies, and another $100 billion to exit via capital flight and other currency outflows. As a result, given foreign debts of almost $600 billion, "Russia's reserve situation is approaching a critical limit," he says.

What this argument ignores is that Russia's foreign debts are declining along with its reserves -- that's what happens when the money is used to pay down state companies' obligations. Last year, for example, the combined foreign liabilities of the Russian government and companies dropped by $129.4 billion, compared with a $124.3 billion decline in foreign reserves. Beyond that, a large portion of Russian companies' remaining foreign debt is really part of a tax-evasion scheme: By lending themselves money from abroad, the companies transfer profits to lower-tax jurisdictions. Such loans can easily be extended if sanctions prevent the Russian side from paying.

This opinion piece put in an appearance on the bloombergview.com Internet site at 2:51 p.m. EST on Thursday afternoon---and I thank South African reader B.V. for digging it up for us.

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China Just Sided With Russia Over the Ukraine Conflict

When it comes to the Ukraine proxy war, which started in earnest just about one year ago with the violent coup that overthrew then president Yanukovich and replaced him with a local pro-U.S. oligarch, there has been no ambiguity who the key actors were: on the left, we had the west, personified by the US, the European Union, and NATO in general; while on the right we had Russia. In fact, if there was any confusion, it was about the role of that other "elephant in the room" - China.

To be sure, a question few asked throughout the Ukraine civil war is just whose side is China leaning toward. After all the precarious balance of power between NATO and Russia had resulted in a stalemate in which neither side has an obvious advantage (even as the Ukraine economy died, and its currency hyperinflated, waiting for a clear winner), and the explicit or implicit support of China to either camp would make all the difference in the world, not to mention the world's most formidable axis.

We finally got the answer.

Xinhua reported that late on Thursday Qu Xing, China's ambassador to Belgium, was quoted as blaming competition between Russia and the West for the Ukraine crisis, urging Western powers to "abandon the zero-sum mentality" with Russia.  Cited by Reuters, Xing said that Western powers should take into consideration Russia's legitimate security concerns over Ukraine.

Reuters' assessment of Xing speech: "an unusually frank and open display of support for Moscow's position in the crisis."

This is another Zero Hedge news story---and it showed up on their website at 2:25 p.m. EST on Friday afternoon---and once again I thank Dan Lazicki for sharing it with us.

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Collapse of Russia will prove major test for U.S. – Stratfor

American think-tank Stratfor has issued a new 'Decade Forecast,' which says the E.U. will decay, China will end up in "a communist dictatorship," and Russia will disintegrate...though it hasn't done so yet, despite such predictions taking place in the past.

“It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form,” the forecast’s chapter dedicated to Russia begins. The research maintains that Moscow’s “failure to transform energy revenues into self-sustaining economy” will eventually lead to a “repeat of the Soviet Union's experience in the 1980s and Russia's in the 1990s,” with the process accompanied by a demographic decline that is set to “really hit” Russia.

However, the forecaster's founder and CEO, George Friedman, recently said that Russia has the ability to emerge from U.S.-led sanctions and the recent drop in the ruble due to falling oil prices. "Russians' strength is that they can endure things that would break other nations," Friedman said, suggesting that the country "has military and political power that could begin to impinge on Europe."

This article, which certainly falls into the absolute must read category, was posted on the Russia Today website on Tuesday evening Moscow time---and for content reasons, had to wait for today's column.  I thank Norman Willis for bringing it to my attention---and now to yours.

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The rise of fascism is again the issue -- John Pilger

The recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness.

Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism.

"To initiate a war of aggression…," said the Nuremberg Tribunal judges in 1946, "is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

Had the Nazis not invaded Europe, Auschwitz and the Holocaust would not have happened. Had the United States and its satellites not initiated their war of aggression in Iraq in 2003, almost a million people would be alive today; and Islamic State, or ISIS, would not have us in thrall to its savagery. They are the progeny of modern fascism, weaned by the bombs, bloodbaths and lies that are the surreal theatre known as news.

Like the fascism of the 1930s and 1940s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome: thanks to an omnipresent, repetitive media and its virulent censorship by omission. 

This is your fourth and last absolute must read of the day.  It, too, is on the longish side.  It appeared on the Asia Times website on Thursday---and once again I thank Roy Stephens for bringing it to our attention.

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Moscow confirms India considering free trade zone with Eurasian Economic Union

India has proposed creating a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia, said Alexey Pushkov, head of the International Committee of Russian State Duma.

"The question was raised by India, which is now considering a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union. This is a new level in our relationship. The possibility is being discussed," he told reporters Friday during an official visit to New Delhi.

On Thursday TASS reported that India will start negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement with the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan within the next six months.

The Eurasian Economic Union of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia started functioning in January 2015.

This news item showed up on the Russia Today Internet sit at 2:38 p.m. Moscow time on their Friday---and it's the final offering of the day from Roy Stephens, and I thank him on your behalf.

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Sprott Money Weekly Wrap Up

Listen to Eric Sprott share his views on new U.S. economic data, the chaos in the foreign exchange market, the scam in precious metals on the COMEX, the options expiry, and possibility of changes to India’s gold import taxes.

This 8:17 minute audio interview conducted by sprottmoney.com's Geoff Rutherford, appeared on their website yesterday.

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Gold Prices Need To Move Higher, Reserves Aren’t Being Replaced

Kitco News speaks with Bear Creek Mining chairman Catherine McLeod-Seltzer to see how she sees the industry set up for 2015. “A lot of write-offs were taken in the industry,” she says. “But I think people are ready for a fresh start. They see reasons why metals prices have bottomed and may start to move up,” she adds.

According to McLeod-Seltzer, the industry is just in a cycle and she thinks it has bottomed. “The price has been within a range quite stable, so I think that’s part of the bottoming process. And I do know that we consume 90 million ounces a year of our reserves as an industry, and we’re not replacing them,” she says, adding that prices need to move higher in order to support the struggling mining companies.

It's obvious that its not only the male members of the precious metal mining industry that are clueless.  Prices will rise when they're allowed to rise---and not a moment sooner.  This 5:06 minute video interview was posted on the kitco.com Internet site yesterday---and it's courtesy of Dan Lazicki.

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Switzerland accounts for 60% of India’s gold imports

As much as three-fifths of India's total gold imports last year came from Switzerland, reflecting a significant jump in just a couple of years.

India imported 471.9 tonnes of gold from Switzerland in 2014, according to precious metals consultancy GFMS Thomson Reuters that quoted a country-by-country breakdown of gold imports and exports released by the Alpine country for the first time since 1980. This represents 61% of India's total gold imports of 769 tonnes last year as per World World Gold Council data.

Industry sources say that the quantum of gold imports from Switzerland has increased to around 60% in 2013 and 2014 from an average 45%-50% in the decade through 2012.

This very interesting gold-related news item from India, which was filed from Mumbai, appeared on the indiatimes.com Internet site at 7:02 p.m. IST on their Thursday evening---and I found it on the Sharps Pixley website in the wee hours of this morning.

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China plans yuan-denominated gold fix this year, sources tell Reuters

China plans to launch a yuan-denominated gold fix this year to be set through trading on an exchange, sources familiar with the matter said, as the world's second-biggest bullion consumer seeks to gain more say over the pricing of the precious metal.

The Chinese benchmark would be derived from a new 1-kilogram contract to be launched on the state-run Shanghai Gold Exchange, a senior source directly involved in the process told Reuters.

China, also the top producer of gold, feels that its market weight should entitle it to be a price-setter for bullion and it is asserting itself at a time when the established benchmark, the century-old London fix, is under scrutiny because of alleged price-manipulation.

This Reuters article, filed from Singapore, put in an appearance on their Internet site at 3:07 a.m. EST on Friday morning---and I found this gold-related story on the gata.org Internet site.

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Hong Kong January gold exports to China confirm strong demand

The latest figures for net gold exports from Hong Kong into China confirm the latter nation’s strong demand in the run up to the Chinese New Year holiday. The figure for January was 76 tonnes, up from 71 tonnes in December, but it should be realised that this Hong Kong figure relates specifically to Chinese gold imports – not total demand – and then only to a diminishing proportion of the Asian dragon’s total gold imports.

If one views known export levels from the U.S. and Switzerland, where official statistics differentiate between gold going to Hong Kong and to mainland China direct, then the percentage moving in via Hong Kong is perhaps only 60% of total Chinese gold imports – still significant, but well below earlier years when Hong Kong will have accounted for perhaps 90% or more of total Chinese gold imports and was thus used as a proxy by Western analysts for the total figure – a pattern which continues today in much mainstream media coverage of Chinese gold import figures.

Last year China relaxed import controls to allow far more direct shipments via other ports of entry – notably Shanghai and Beijing which has reduced the amounts routed through Hong Kong.

I reported on the Chinese gold imports through Hong Kong the other day, but just gave the number---and didn't elaborate on it.  Lawrie has done the heavy lifting for me/us---and it was posted on the mineweb.com Internet site at 2:45 p.m. GMT yesterday.  It's certainly worth reading.

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Apple buying a third of world’s gold to meet demand for iWatch

Technology giant Apple may soon buy up one third of the world’s gold in order to meet the demands of its highly anticipated Apple Watch, according to reports.

Interest in the high-end model, featuring 18-karat gold casing, is picking up and the firm is already taking the necessary steps to have enough of them in stock. According to WSJ.com, Apple plans to start producing more than one million units per month in the second quarter of the year, anticipating high demand from Asian markets, mainly China.

Josh Centers, from TidBits, estimates that each gold watch will contain 2 troy ounces (62.2 grams) of gold. So, based on the estimated sales figure, he concludes that Apple will need 746 tons of gold a year, or about 30% of the world’s annual production.

I'm sure the watch will do well initially, but its novelty value won't last forever.  Of course if it is successful, they may get a phone call from the powers-that-be saying that this is not the best idea in the world. This tiny story appeared on the mining.com Internet site on Thursday sometime---and I thank James Ackers for sharing it with us.

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Feb 27, 2015

U.S. Posts First Negative Inflation Print Since Lehman on Gas Price Plunge

As previewed earlier today, January CPI data was historic in that, 6 years after Lehman, the US just reported its first negative headline CPI print, with overall inflation, or rather deflation, in January coming at -0.1%, in line with expectations, and down from the 0.8% in December. On a monthly basis, CPI tumbled by 0.7% from December, driven almost entirely by collapsing energy prices. Excluding the Great financial crisis, one has to go back a few years to find the last time the US posted annual headline deflation.... all the way back to August 1955, or just about the time Mary McFly was trying not to dance with his mother.

Here is the culprit for the plunge: "The energy index fell 9.7 percent as the gasoline index fell 18.7 percent in January, the sharpest in a series of seven consecutive declines. The gasoline decrease was overwhelmingly the cause of the decline in the all items index, which would have risen 0.1 percent had the gasoline index been  unchanged. The fuel oil index also fell sharply, and the index for natural gas turned down, although the electricity index rose."

Today's first news item was posted on the Zero Hedge website at 8:52 a.m. EST on Thursday morning---and it's courtesy of Dan Lazicki.  Elliot Simon sent a similar story from the marketwatch.com Internet site yesterday morning---and it's headlined "Inflation trend turns negative for first time since 2009".

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Goldman Workers Reaped $2 Billion From 2008 Awards Last Year

While Goldman Sachs Group Inc. employees may get less compensation than in the past, many cashed in last year for a payday they’ve been awaiting since the depths of the financial crisis.

Employees exercised options worth $2.03 billion in 2014. More than 96 percent of the contracts were granted as part of 2008 compensation. Last year marked the first time bankers were able to take advantage of those awards.

Goldman Sachs’s stock has more than doubled since it granted 36 million options in December 2008 to give top performers incentive to stay. The bank had been forced to slash compensation costs that year, as a global credit crisis endangered the firm and pushed its shares down 61 percent.

The more-than $2 billion total disclosed in a regulatory filing this week is the pretax gain from exercising the options. Recipients -- who can choose to keep the stock or convert it to cash -- may include former employees who left the New York-based company after receiving the options.

This Bloomberg offering appeared on their Internet site at 3:00 a.m. Denver time yesterday morning---and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for sharing it with us.

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Greenspan: "The Stock Market is Great", But the Economy Feels Like Its in "The Late Stages of the Great Depression"

While conflicting economic data leaves hope for both bulls and bears, Alan Greenspan warns that, unlike Yellen, "U.S. economic growth is not strong." He then slays another pillar - suggesting the exuberant job growth is anything but (as he focuses on weak productivity as he pinpoints entitlements as "crowding out capital investment" in America.

The maestro then breaks the golden rule of central bankers and explains how The Fed was, in fact, the main driver of the P/E multiple expansion in stocks; and when asked if this ends as badly as last time? He concludes "It depends...When real interest rates start to move up, that's when the crisis could hit."

The interview is somewhat stunning in its honesty (for a central banker) as he warns global "effective demand is extraordinarily weak - tantamount to the late stages of the great depression."

How about being in the early stages of a depression, Alan?  This story, along with an embedded 9:29 minute CNBC video clip, showed up on the Zero Hedge website at 5:50 p.m. EST yesterday afternoon---and it's worth your while.  I thank Dan Lazicki for his second offering in today's column.

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Grand Central: That Didn’t Go Well, Madame Chair

The Wall Street Journal’s Daily Report on Global Central Banks for Thursday, February 26, 2015

Federal Reserve officials might have felt comfortable after the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010 that the central bank had escaped the rewrite of the nation’s financial regulatory laws with most of its powers intact. After Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s testimony before the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday, they might not be so confident anymore.

“Fed reforms are needed and I for one believe Fed reforms are coming,” Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) said in a statement before Ms. Yellen’s second day of semi-annual testimony before Congress.

That was the nice part.

Ms. Yellen was skewered by House Republicans — some observers felt rudely – who accused the Fed chief of politicizing the institution by meeting regularly with Obama Administration officials and congressional Democrats and speaking out on the problem of inequality, an issue Democrats hold as their own. Their broader point was that the Fed shouldn’t claim its independence is sacred when it pushes back against legislative proposals from the right that would open it to more scrutiny from the legislative branch of government.

Jon Hilsenrath, the author of this piece, is widely known to be the unofficial mouthpiece for the Fed at The Wall Street Journal---and the story should be read with that in mind---and it is worth reading.  I found it in today's edition of the King Report.

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Reforming the Fed: Who’s Right; Who’s Wrong?

Democrats on the other hand, despite overwhelming proof that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has actually allowed Wall Street to grow systemically more dangerous and more corrupt since its passage, is irrationally wedded to this legislation.

No amount of evidence will change the Democrats’ position on Dodd-Frank. JPMorgan gambling with hundreds of billions of bank depositors’ money in the London Whale fiasco where $6.2 billion got flushed down the toilet will not change their mind. Cartel activity among the big banks in the interest rate market, precious metals market, foreign currency market will not change their mind. Bank chat rooms called “The Bandits Club,” “The Mafia” and “The Cartel,” where brazen market rigging is alleged to have occurred will not change their mind. Endless criminal investigations and multi-billion dollar settlements will not change their mind. Scandal after scandal destroying public trust in Wall Street and its regulators will not change their mind.

Then there is the New York Fed – the least appropriate body in all the world to be simultaneously carrying out monetary policy via instructions from the Federal Open Market Committee with the involvement of the biggest Wall Street banks while simultaneously attempting to engage in regulatory oversight of the same banks.

This short, but worthwhile commentary put in an appearance on the wallstreetonparade.com Internet site on Thursday sometime---and I thank Richard O'Mara for bringing it to our attention.

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For propaganda & "democracy promotion": State Dept seeks budget to counter Russia Today

Citing Russia Today’s influence, Secretary of State John Kerry asked U.S. lawmakers for more money for propaganda and “democracy promotion” programs around the world.

“Russia Today (sic) can be heard in English, do we have an equivalent that can be heard in Russian? It’s a pretty expensive proposition. They are spending huge amounts of money,” Kerry told the House Appropriations Subcommittee, apparently forgetting that Voice of America had been broadcasting in Russian since 1947.

He had also raised the topic earlier in the day, before the House Foreign Affairs committee, where Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), opened the hearing with the allegation that “Russia’s military aggression is matched only by its propaganda.” To Kerry’s approval, Royce went on to claim that “Russia is spending more than $500 million annually to mislead audiences, sow divisions, and push conspiracy out over RT television.”

Royce’s remarks echo the claim made by Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) chief Andrew Lack last month, when he listed “Russia Today” (sic) in the same breath as ISIS and Boko Haram as one of the challenges facing his agency.

Well, dear reader, here's the issue as I see it---and I can't believe that I'm actually saying this at my age, but RT has been the only credible news voice out there---and has been for years.  All one has to do is compare the coverage of the Ukraine/Crimea/Flight MH17 situation from RT and similar Russian sources, alongside the 'coverage' by the rest of the Western media, which includes---sadly---Canada's media.   The thoughtful public that's looking for hard news has its eyes and ears open on the Internet---and they have delivered their verdict---and the correct one I might add.  How did it come to this?  This Russia Today news item put in an appearance on their website at four minutes past midnight on their Thursday morning, which was 4:04 p.m. in Washington.  I thank reader P.F. for sending it our way---and it's certainly worth reading.

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‘U.S. spends millions on overseas propaganda, but no one is buying it’

Despite the U.S.’ bottomless PR budget to influence overseas, people are not attracted by what’s on offer as they are tired of U.S. interventionism, exceptionalism, and the bombing of their countries, Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute told RT.

U.S. Secretary of the State, John Kerry, said he is concerned the U.S. is falling behind when it comes to putting out information. He stressed that RT’s influence is growing worldwide and the U.S. doesn’t have“an equivalent that can be heard in Russian.” Claiming that RT has huge costs he asked for money to be provided for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) in the U.S. RT’s budget for 2015 is $220 million while the budget of the BBG is $721 million. Kerry also heaped praise on the appointment of Andrew Lack as a head of BBG who recently put RT into the same context as ISIS and Boko Haram.

RT: John Kerry insinuated the U.S. is losing the public relations war with Russia. What do you make of that?

Daniel McAdams: The numbers speak louder than words: $700 and some million versus $200 and some, maybe up to $300 million for RT. I think the problem the U.S. has is they have an unlimited advertising budget, but the product they’re selling is not very attractive overseas. People are tired of U.S. interventionism; they’re tired of U.S. exceptionalism; they’re tired of the U.S. bombing their country – if you’re a Somali, you don’t care about listening to a radio broadcast from the U.S., you just wish the U.S. would stop bombing you.

This Russia Today news item showed up in my in-box courtesy of Roy Stephens long after I'd written the comments at the bottom of the previous story.  This RT piece appeared on their Internet site at 12:24 p.m. on their Thursday afternoon---and it's worth reading as well.

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Bailed-out RBS offers staff ‘outrageous’ bonuses despite £3.5 bn losses in 2014

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) chief Ross McEwan has conceded the 80 percent state-owned bank will pay staff lucrative bonuses from a pool of £421 million, despite the fact it faced losses of £3.5 billion in 2014.

McEwan took control of the scandal-ridden bank in 2012 after it became insolvent and received a £45 billion bailout at UK taxpayers’ expense.

The RBS chief told BBC Radio 4 he would not be taking a £1 million bonus this year. 2015 marks the second year he has declined to accept the annual financial reward.

Commenting on bonuses awarded to other RBS staff, McEwan admitted people are “quite right” to view them as “outrageous.”

He would be right about that, dear reader.  This Russia Today news item, courtesy of Roy Stephens, put in an appearance on their Internet site at 4:26 p.m. Moscow time on their Thursday afternoon.

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Cyprus praises Russia, lets in warships

The Cypriot president has, on a visit to Moscow, showcased his country’s economic dependence on Russia and the emergence of an increasing threat to E.U. and U.S. unity on sanctions.

Nicos Anastasiades used the trip, on Wednesday (25 February), to formalise an accord for Russian warships to use Cypriot military bases, and to speak out against EU policy on Ukraine.

Referring to Russia as a “great country”, the 68-year old politician said: “I think it’s increasingly felt by our European counterparts that action against such a great country as Russia leads to countermeasures on the part of Russia which have negative results, not only for Cyprus, but also for a number of other European Union countries”.

This interesting news item, filed from Brussels, appeared on the euobserver.com Internet site at 8:35 a.m. EST Europe time on their Thursday morning---and I thank South African reader B.V. for sending it our way.

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Insight: West's offer to rebuild Ukraine faces reality check

Western powers are preparing what they say may be their most potent weapon against Moscow's interference in Ukraine - a multi billion dollar aid package to rebuild a near-bankrupt state and realize the European dream cherished by many Ukrainians.

There is just one problem: foreign governments and international financing institutions are not willing to pour money into a dysfunctional state. Only this week the businessman brought in by the new authorities to clean up the tax service was himself suspended pending a corruption inquiry.

Donors say the former Soviet republic, crippled by war and corruption, is unable or unwilling even to identify how many roads, power plants and schools its 45 million people need, let alone meet new European standards for farms and factories.

"There's strong resistance because many people in various ways benefited from the old, inefficient and largely corrupt system," said Kalman Mizsei, the head of the E.U.'s advisory mission to Ukraine.

This Reuters article, co-filed from Brussels and Washington, showed up on their website at 11:42 a.m. EST Thursday morning---and it's worth skimming.  My thanks go out to Jim Skinner for passing it along.

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The world's top 10 gold producers

In 2014, preliminary estimated gold production by the top publicly-traded and non state-owned gold mining companies amounted to 30M oz, in line with the 2013 totals.

Three out of the 10 miners suffered a decline in their attributable gold output while six of them achieved growth.

With 6.25M oz of gold produced in 2014, Canada's Barrick Gold Corp. holds first place in global ranking, well ahead of its competitors.

Compared to 2013's 7.17M oz, Barrick’s gold output declined by 13%, mainly because of significant drop in output at its Cortez Mine (-33%), as well as a number of gold mines in Australia and USA which Barrick sold during the year.

This interesting gold-related article appeared on the mining.com Internet site yesterday some time---and my thanks go out to Dan Lazicki for finding it for us.

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Gold 'Absolutely' a Safe Haven - BMO Analyst

Kitco News speaks with BMO’s Jessica Fung to see how she sees gold and silver set up for the coming year.

Based on her research, Fung says she expects U.S. dollar strength, which has hindered upside potential for metals prices, to continue. “In this environment, where we expect the U.S. dollar to continue to strengthen, I think we’re going to maintain a very high gold-to-silver ratio,” she says, adding that this increasing ratio hasn’t allowed silver to keep up with any gold price upswings.

Looking to global uncertainty, Fung says gold is ‘absolutely’ a safe-haven. “It always will be and that is what it will take to drive prices higher,” she adds.

It's scarey when they use the word 'analyst' to describe people like this.  She's just another mouthpiece spouting  things about precious metals that she has no real understanding of.  This 4:08 minute video clip appeared on the kitco.com Internet site yesterday---and it's another contribution from Dan L.

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Mark O'Byrne: 12 reasons why Ritholtz and many experts are mistaken on gold

GoldCore's Mark O'Byrne has replied conscientiously to fund manager and financial writer Barry Ritholtz's ridicule of gold investment and gold investors, "12 Rules of Goldbuggery," which can be found at Rithotlz's Internet site.

O'Byrne's reply is headlined "12 Reasons Why Ritholtz and Many Experts Are Mistaken On Gold" and it was posted on the goldcore.com Internet site yesterday.

I'm grateful to Mark for riding to the defence of us "gold enthusiasts"---but I personally wouldn't have dignified Ritholz's commentary with a rebuttal of any kind.  No feedback at all is worse punishment that the reasoned and learned response of Mr O'Byrne.  But I salute him, thank him---and owe him a beer if we ever meet.  The links to both are embedded in this GATA release.

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Koos Jansen: 1973 EU Central Bank’s Traded Gold in Secret at Free Market Price

The more I read about it the more clear it becomes that the euro, at first a monetary block in Europe, was spawned right after the U.S. abandoned gold in 1971. The European Community (EC) block was the biggest threat for the US hegemony in the seventies, if Europe would unite it could break the U.S. dollar. Europe’s aggregated gold reserves were (and still are) greater than U.S. holdings, a crucial reserve asset when fully utilized.

Soon after the inception of the Bretton Woods system in 1944 the U.S. needed to suppress the price of gold because they printed far more dollars than they had gold to back it up, finally the suppression failed in 1968 when the London Gold Pool collapsed. What followed was a two-tier system; monetary gold was valued at a fixed price far below the free market price of gold.

The two-tier system created by the American monetary wizards was anything but sustainable; foreign central banks could buy gold at the U.S. Treasury for dollars at a discount, subsequently selling the gold on the free market for a higher price, though the agreement was central banks would not trade with the private market.

Because the dollar was overvalued (against gold) European central banks exchanged billions of dollars for thousands of tonnes of gold, draining U.S. gold reserves.

This excellent commentary by Koos appeared on the Singapore website bullionstar.com yesterday---and the first reader through the door with it was Dan Lazicki.  It's certainly worth reading.

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Frank Homes: China’s Love for Gold: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

The Chinese New Year, which [kicked off last week], 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.

Imagine 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.

There's nothing really new in this piece that you haven't already heard about in this column, or elsewhere---and Frank is just putting his spin on mostly old news.  But, having said that, his 'spin' is worth reading---and it was posted on the dailyreckoning.com Internet site yesterday---and I thank Dan Lazicki for his final contribution to today's column.

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Lawrence Williams: Russia cools gold reserve additions in January

The latest announcement from the Russian Central Bank shows, that after several months of continuing high levels of additions to its gold reserves last year, it made no new gold purchases in January, although it did offload a substantial volume of U.S. Treasuries from its foreign reserves in December.

There had been speculation late last year that Russia would, in fact, sell some of the gold it had been accumulating (171 tonnes last year) to help protect its currency in light of U.S. and E.U. sanctions and the sharp drop in energy prices which had adversely impacted the nation’s exports.

However, this proved not to be the case and it looks as though any transactions to help mitigate the decline in the ruble was accomplished through the sale of U.S. Treasuries. Altogether, over the whole of 2014, Russia appears to have disposed of more than $50 billion in its holdings of U.S. Treasuries to support the ruble and to buy gold. Some $22 billion of these sales was undertaken in December when the Central Bank bought 18.7 tonnes of gold worth around $7.5 billion.

I neglected to post this story when Lawrie first put it up on the mineweb.com Internet site four days ago, as I had my own piece on it.  But, having read it for a second time, it's worth your while if you have the time.

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Brien Lundin: Don't expect much from Justice probe of gold market rigging

The good news is that manipulation of the gold market has finally come under investigation by the authorities, with the U.S. Justice Department opening up an investigation into 10 major banks.

The bad news is that the investigation is centering around potential rigging of the daily price fixings for gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. I know that a number of my colleagues in the hard-money industry may disagree, but I don't think this amounts to a hill of beans in the big picture.

My greater concern is the level of longer-term price manipulation, being accomplished by either the central banks or deep-pocketed institutions, acting either in concert or simply with the same motivations. So while you'll see a lot of outrage in the blogosphere over this investigation, unless it turns up documentation of a broader strategy of manipulation, there'll be nothing to see here. Move on.

I couldn't agree more.  The price management scheme is COMEX-centric---and has to do with position limits, high-frequency trading and the like---something Ted Butler has been going on about for a couple of decades.  The CFTC's ex-chairman Gary Gensler wanted to put a fork in all this, but was told in no uncertain terms to butt out. The fixes themselves are mostly irrelevant.  This part of Brian's monthly news letter is posted in the clear in this GATA release from yesterday---and the rest of it is worth reading as well.

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