After another high-frequency trader-induced sell off in mid-morning trading in the Far East...both gold and silver hit new lows for this move down. And as I mentioned in 'The Wrap' in yesterday's column, it takes new price lows to get more technical fund selling, that is precisely what that engineered price decline was all about.
After that, the gold price moved unsteadily higher...and got sold down every time it appeared that it would get overly rambunctious to the upside once New York opened for the day. And as soon as the London close was in at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time, the price traded basically sideways into the 5:15 p.m. electronic close.
The high tick of the day came at the 1:30 p.m. close of Comex trading...and Kitco recorded that price as $1,660.80 spot. The low price tick came around 10:30 a.m. in Hong Kong...and that was approximately 1,634 spot.
The gold price closed the week at $1,657.00 spot...up $9.80 on the day. Net volume was around 144,000 contracts, with more than a quarter of that coming during the Far East trading session.
Silver printed a new low in Hong Kong trading the same time as gold...but by the 8:20 a.m. Comex open, the silver price had rallied to slightly above its Thursday close. After a tiny sell off, the silver price moved higher with the high tick of the day [$30.38 spot] coming about fifteen minutes before the London close...around 10:45 a.m. in New York. And it was all down hill from there.
Silver finished the Friday trading session at $29.96 spot...up a whole 4 cents from Thursday's close...and it should be obvious to anyone that it would have closed materially higher if a not-for-profit seller hadn't shown up when they did. But I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, am I?
The dollar index opened the Friday trading session at 79.25. It rallied to around 79.40 in very short order...and then stayed around that mark until about 10:30 a.m. in London. Then away it went to the upside, with the high tick of the day...about 79.66...coming shortly after 12 o'clock noon in New York. From there it sold off a bit...and the index closed at 79.53...up 28 basis points from it's Thursday close.
It was another day where there was little, if any, co-relation between the precious metal prices and the dollar index.
The gold shares started off in negative territory...but rallied to their high about an hour later. Once the gold price started to slide, the shares went with it...helped along by a sagging Dow. From there, the gold equities chopped around either side of unchanged for the balance of the Friday trading session...and the HUI closed unchanged on the day...0.00%.
The silver stocks finished mixed as well, but most of the stocks in Nick Laird's Silver Sentiment Index closed in positive territory...but it still closed down 0.40%.
(Click on image to enlarge)
Here's Nick's SSI chart on a long-term basis. Even though silver got crushed during the reporting week, the shares barely budged.
(Click on image to enlarge)
The CME's Daily Delivery Report showed that 54 gold and 96 silver contracts were posted for delivery on December 26th within the Comex-approved depositories. In both metals it was Jefferies, JPMorgan Chase...and the Bank of Nova Scotia. The link to yesterday's Issuers and Stoppers Report is worth a quick peek...and the link is here.
There was a small increase in GLD yesterday, as an authorized participant added 9,685 troy ounces of gold. But it was the activity in SLV that was the big surprise of the day, as an authorized participant...or more than one AP...added an absolutely eye-watering 4,838,030 troy ounces of silver. That's well over two days of world silver production. I would guess that this deposit was involved in covering part of the current obscene and grotesque short position [19.17 million shares/ounces] that currently exists in SLV as of the last report at shortsqueeze.com.
And while we're on that topic, it's a given that this bear raid in the Comex futures market was used by JPMorgan/Scotiabank et al to cover a huge chunk of those silver and gold ETF short positions. Ted Butler figures that it's the same banksters involved in the price management scheme on both the Comex...and in the SLV and GLD ETFs...and I agree totally.
It was a quiet day for sales over at the U.S. Mint on Friday. They reported selling only 2,500 ounce of gold eagles...and that was it. Month-to-date the mint has sold 67,000 ounce of gold eagles...8,000 one-ounce 24K gold buffaloes...and 1,635,000 silver eagles. Based on these sales, the silver gold ratio is now down to just under 22 to 1.
However, since the mint is not selling any more 2012 silver eagles...and there were huge one-time gold eagle sales...this ratio is skewed out of proportion for the month of December. Normal silver eagle sales for a December would be at least double this amount...and I'm still curious as to why the mint suddenly announced that they were no longer selling silver eagles from the current year, as I don't remember them ever making such an announcement in the past.
Based on the above, it's my bet that January 2013 silver eagle sales will set a new monthly sales record.
Over at the Comex-approved depositories they reported receiving 891,371 troy ounces of silver on Thursday...and they shipped only 50,186 ounces out the door. The link to that activity is here.
Because I'm sort of in 'holiday mode' for the rest of the year, I forgot all about yesterday's Commitment of Traders Report until many hours after it had been posted on the CFTC's website...so I never got a chance to talk to Ted about it...so you're left with my comments only. I much prefer adding extra bits from Ted, as he's the number one authority on this report.
In silver, for positions held at the close of Comex trading on Tuesday, there was a small improvement in the Commercial net short position...2,584 contracts to be precise. The Commercial net short position now sits at 276.7 million ounces. The 'Big 4' traders are short 258.8 million ounces of that amount...and the '5 through 8' traders are short an additional 56.6 million ounces of silver. The 'Big 8' combined are short 315.4 million ounces of silver, or 114.0% of the Commercial net short position.
As far as concentration goes...once you remove as many spread trades as are reported from the total open interest...the 'Big 4' are short 50.7% of the entire Comex futures market in silver...and it's my guess that JPMorgan Chase [and most likely Scotiabank in #2 spot] are short about 90% of that amount on their own...and the other two traders in that category hold immaterial amounts. And don't forget for one minute that these are minimum concentrations. If all the market-neutral spread trades were removed...including the ones that aren't reported as a separate line item in the Disaggregated COT Report...the actual concentrated short positions would be noticeably more grotesque than they already are.
As of yesterday's COT Report, there were 40 traders on the short side in the Commercial category...and just two of them are short about 45% of the entire Comex futures market in silver. If you have any questions, please forward them to Bart Chilton at the CFTC.
In gold, the Commercial net short position improved by a more substantial 12,746 contracts...and as of the Tuesday cut-off, the Commercial net short position is now down to 20.21 million troy ounces.
The 'Big 4' traders are short 12.51 million ounces of gold...and the '5 through 8' traders are short an additional 5.31 million ounces of gold. The 'Big 8' are short 88.2% of the Commercial net short position in gold.
As far as concentration goes, the 'Big 4' are short 34.5% of the entire Comex futures market in gold...and the '5 through 8' traders are short an additional 14.7 percentage points. So the 'Big 8' are short 49.2% of the entire Comex futures market in gold on a net basis...and that's a minimum concentration number.
It almost goes without saying that these numbers posted above are all "yesterday's news" as Ted would say...as the price/volume action from Wednesday and Thursday are not included and, without doubt, the Commercial net short position fell precipitously on those days. What may not have changed is the concentration of the 'Big 2'...but 'none of the above' will be known for sure until the Commitment of Traders Report that comes out on December 28th.
Here's Nick Laird's chart of the Big 4 and Big 8 traders for all physical commodities traded on the Comex...and it's my guess that 90% of the red bar in silver is the combined short positions of JPMorgan Chase and Scotiabank. So you can see that the six other traders don't account for much in the grand scheme of things from a concentration point of view.
I don't have all that many stories for a Saturday column...but a fair number of them are big reads...so I hope you can find the time over the holidays to read the ones that interest you the most.
Jefferies' economist David Zervos is back in a new note, which takes stock of developments at the Fed and the Bank of Japan.
The Fed, of course, recently adopted [the] Evans Rule, which indicates that tightening won't occur until unemployment gets to around 6.5%, or inflation expectations are around 2.5%. The Bank of Japan is expected to see a new round of aggressive policy, thanks to the wishes of incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
While markets seem to be pretty happy about it all (especially in Japan) Zervos thinks it will end in uncontrollable inflation, like in other past Keynes-inspired experiments.
This story was posted on the businessinsider.com Internet site early Friday afternoon...and I thank Roy Stephens for today's first story. The link is here.
Forget the fiscal crisis and the automatic budget cuts. Come Jan. 1, there is a threat that milk prices could rise to $6 to $8 a gallon if Congress does not pass a new farm bill that amends farm policy dating back to the Truman presidency.
Lost in the political standoff between the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans over the budget is a virtually forgotten impasse over a farm bill that covers billions of dollars in agriculture programs. Without last-minute Congressional action, the government would have to follow an antiquated 1949 farm law that would force Washington to buy milk at wildly inflated prices, creating higher prices in the dairy case. Milk now costs an average of $3.65 a gallon.
Higher prices would be based on what dairy farm production costs were in 1949, when milk production was almost all done by hand. Because of adjustments for inflation and other technical formulas, the government would be forced by law to buy milk at roughly twice the current market prices to maintain a stable milk market.
This news items showed up on The New York Times Internet site on Thursday sometime...and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for his first of two stories in a row. The link is here.
After getting burned in 2011 by betting against Treasuries, Bill Gross learned a time-honored lesson: Don't fight the Fed.
"Of course there is" a bubble in the bond market, PIMCO's founder and co-CIO tells The Daily Ticker. "[But] I don't think rates are going to go much higher...the Fed is blowing lots of air -- some say hot -- and constantly inflating the bubble."
As announced at its most recent FOMC meeting, the Fed plans to buy $45 billion of Treasury securities per month starting in January, in addition to the $40 billion of mortgage-backed-securities it has been buying.
The $80 billion to $90 billion of checks per month will "keep that balloon inflated," says Gross.
This CNBC article, with a 6:21 minute embedded video clip, was posted on their website just minutes after the markets closed on Friday afternoon...and I thank Elliot Simon once again for sending it along. The link is here.
On a good day, 27-year-old Bobby Timberlake at CME Group Inc. in Chicago rounds up $2.5 billion from the world’s biggest traders and banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. to cover their losses in the $639 trillion derivatives markets.
What happens on a bad day will test new rules in the Dodd-Frank Act designed to prevent a repeat of 2008’s credit crisis. Starting in March, as much as 79 percent of derivatives trades known as swaps must be backed by collateral and go through clearinghouses such as CME Group. Traders may have to post $927 billion with Timberlake and his peers at LCH.Clearnet Group Ltd. and IntercontinentalExchange Inc., whose role as middlemen is to ensure participants get paid.
This arrangement can withstand almost any shock, including defaults by four of the biggest lenders, according to the clearinghouses. Some bankers and researchers aren’t convinced. They warn unprecedented amounts of risk will be concentrated in a handful of clearinghouses -- some newly eligible for emergency Federal Reserve loans. If they fail, taxpayers who financed $1.2 trillion of bailouts last time could be on the hook again.
This long article showed up on the Bloomberg website early Friday morning Mountain Time...and I thank Washington state reader S.A. for bringing it to our attention. The link is here.
“There are good reasons to think that the nature of money is not yet rightly understood.” John Law, 1720 (with the collapse of the Mississippi Bubble)
“Irredeemable paper money has almost invariably proved a curse to the country employing it.” Irving Fisher, 1911
“There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.” John Maynard Keynes, 1920
"It’s difficult not to be pessimistic on how this will all play out. I assume they’ll figure out some stopgap measure to dodge around the “cliff.” I have faith in our democracy, although I worry about post-boom misunderstandings, animosities and deep divides. At the same time, I have lost all confidence in our central bank. Their flawed doctrine is my biggest worry, as they operate unchecked and outside the democratic process. Our nation – and the world – is in this state of instability, uncertainty and confusion because contemporary money and Credit is so unsound and poorly managed. Admittedly, this sounds archaic. The root of the problem is not well understood. And, regrettably, the Bernanke Federal Reserve is in the process of only making the problem worse. Markets cheer."
Another excellent read from Doug Noland over at the prudentbear.com Internet site. It was posted there yesterday evening...and I thank reader U.D. for sharing it with us. The link is here.
This one hour video presentation from Kyle was taken at the AmerCatalyst 2012 conference on October 1, 2012...and was posted on the youtube.com Internet site a week ago. It's on my must watch list for this weekend...and I might humbly suggest that it should be on your must watch list as well. I have the feeling that I may have posted this already...several months ago...but I can't be sure. But if I did, here it is again. I thank reader E.W.F. for bringing it to my attention yesterday...and now to yours. The link is here.
David sent me his lengthy 'Year in Review' commentary yesterday...and it's a really big read. He also sent along his interview on Russia Today's "Capital Account" program with Lauren Lyster. That interview was done yesterday...and was posted on the youtube.com Internet site late yesterday afternoon. Both are worth your time.
The New Mexico desert gets blistering hot, but inside the small windowless container where Brandon Bryant worked as a drone operator for the U.S. Air Force it stays a cool 63 degrees all year long.
Nicola Abé at der Spiegel spoke with Bryant, no longer in the Air Force, who relays a disturbing and tragic scene from his time inside that isolated container in the American desert.
Sixty-three finger numbing degrees and Bryant describes sitting with a group of other pilots looking at more than a dozen computer monitors. The crew are directing drones over Afghanistan 6,250 miles away and the screens jump with a two to five second delay, as infrared video sent from the UAVs whips through the air to New Mexico.
When the order to fire on a target arrives, Bryant paints the roof of a hut with the laser that will guide in a Hellfire missile released by the pilot beside him.
This amazing, but very disturbing 3-part story, is an absolute must read. It was originally posted on the spiegel.de Internet site last Friday, but it was picked up by the businessinsider.com Internet site on Monday...and because of its content and length, it had to wait for Saturday. It is, of course, courtesy of Roy Stephens...and the link is here.
The passing year was the People's Republic of China's (PRC) first opportunity to get up close and personal with the United States' pivot back to Asia, the strategic rebalancing that looks a lot like containment.
The PRC spent a lot of 2012 wrestling with contentious neighbors emboldened by the US policy, like Vietnam and the Philippines; combating American efforts to nibble away at the corners of China's spheres of influence on the Korean peninsula and Southeast Asia; and engaging in a test of strength and will with the primary US proxy in the region, Japan.
This state affairs was misleadingly if predictably spun in the Western press as "assertive China exacerbates regional tensions", while a more accurate reading was probably "China's rivals exacerbate regional tensions in order to stoke fears of assertive China."
Whatever the framing, this was the year that the world - and in particular Japan - discovered that the PRC can and could kick back against the pivot.
This is a must read essay for all students of the "New Great Game". It was posted on the Asia Times website early yesterday morning...and it's Roy Stephens final contribution to today's column. The link is here.
Out of an estimated 1,500 active volcanoes around the world, 50 or so erupt every year, spewing steam, ash, toxic gases, and lava. In 2012, active volcanoes included Guatemala's Volcan de Fuego, New Zealand's Tongariro, Russia's Plosky Tolbachik, Chile's Puyehue, Italy's Etna, and a new island appearing in the Red Sea. In Hawaii, Kilauea continues to send lava flowing toward the sea, and locals living near Mexico's Popocatepetl continued to deal with ashfalls. Collected in this photo essay are 39 scenes from the wide variety of volcanic activity on Earth over the past year.
Being a student of the earth sciences, I thought this essay, which was posted on The Atlantic's website on December 14th, was well worth adding to this column. I thank reader Michael Cheverton for sharing it with us...and the link is here.
The first is with Andrew Maguire...and it's headlined "Shocking $2.89 Premium for Physical Silver in China". The second blog is with Egon von Greyerz. It's entitled "US Debt & Liabilities Set to Increase a Staggering $70 Trillion".
Harmony Gold Mining Company says about 1 700 mineworkers‚ representing Thursday’s day shift at its Kusasalethu mine near Carletonville‚ remain underground and they are refusing to return to surface.
Demands from the underground mineworkers‚ led by Amcu union representatives‚ include the withdrawal of the suspension of the 578 employees including contractors which were suspended on Wednesday December 19‚ the company said in a statement.
Talks with the employees and Amcu representatives are ongoing in order to resolve the situation.
This story was filed from Johannesburg yesterday...and was posted on the fin24.com Internet site...and I thank Manitoba reader Ulrike Marx for digging it up on our behalf. The link is here.
South African platinum producers are already enduring significant production drops caused by the massive strike activities among mining workers. Now that the situation is somewhat back to normal, the government led by the African National Congress (ANC) is upsetting companies and markets with its plans to introduce legal changes.
As if the sector wasn't already burdened enough by the striking activities - which carried on throughout the first half of this year and almost all through the summer - Jacob Zuma's ANC government is planning important legal changes which could especially weigh on the platinum sector. South Africa should for once and for all become aware that with such richness in natural resources the country has enormous advantages when it comes to competing with other regions of the world. Instead of just focusing on the export of gold, platinum or palladium, South Africa should use its resources to stimulate its own industry. Ultimately, and starting next week, the ANC leaders plan to lower the South African platinum export quota. On one hand this will probably boost the platinum price - provided demand doesn't drop drastically in the face of a faltering world economy. On the other hand this will sour local mining companies' business.
Investing in mining shares is probably not very lucrative considering the unpredictable character of governments in important producing countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and other African states. Although earlier plans to nationalise the mining industry have been removed from the South African agenda once Julius Malema, president of the ANC Youth League, was dismissed, now the ANC will force local platinum producers to sell part of their yearly production to the local industry at discount prices.
Reader Marshall Angeles found this story posted over at the goldmoney.com Internet site yesterday...and he sent it our way. The link is here.
Intuition was telling me something was going on these past few days in the gold market. Our investment team was watching gold and gold stocks take a tumble for no obvious reason. It wasn’t only us who felt this way: many analysts were caught off-guard. One comment from Barclays Research indicated that the week was unusually “brutal … with quite a few confused participants with some seemingly positive aspects of the market not having an impact.”
My hunch was realized only days later when Zero Hedge posted that Morgan Stanley Wealth Management recommended that its clients dump two of John Paulson’s funds. As MS clients redeemed their shares, the hedge fund giant became a forced seller of gold and gold stocks.
What complicates the gold market is the fact that Paulson is such a big fan of the yellow metal that he offers a “gold share class” to investors, meaning shares are denominated in physical gold. The drawback is when an investor redeems shares, his firm has to convert from gold back to dollars, which forces him to sell his hedged position in the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (GLD). The unfortunate consequence of his actions is a short-term decline in the gold price as the market adjusts.
Of course I'm in total disagreement with Frank on the reason that gold got clocked this week...but other than that, his weekly "Investor Alert" regarding gold is worth running through. It was posted on the usfunds.com Internet site on Friday...and I thank Elliot Simon for his last offering in today's column. The link is here.
Private investors in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany are lining up to buy gold bars the size of a credit card that can easily be broken into 1-gram pieces and used as payment in an emergency.
Now Swiss refinery Valcambi, a unit of U.S. mining giant Newmont, wants to bring its "CombiBar" to market in the United States and build up its sales presence India, the world's largest consumer of gold, where the precious metal has long served as a parallel currency.
Investors worried that inflation and financial market turmoil will wipe out the value of their cash have poured money into gold over the past decade. Prices have gained almost 500 percent since 2001 compared to a 12 percent increase in MSCI's world equity index.
Being as intimately involved in the retail side of the bullion market as I am, I'm sure curious to know what the premium is on this new gold product...then I'll know whether the buyers are getting hosed on it or not.
At the bullion store there's a 40% mark-up on individual one gram wafers because of their size...or lack thereof. But because this product is all in one piece when struck, I expect the mark-up to be somewhat more reasonable. I'll let you know if and when I find out.
This Reuters story is worth reading...and was posted on their Internet site at 9:32 a.m. Eastern time yesterday. Ulrike Marx was the first person through the door with this story...and the link is here.
Brazil boosted gold reserves for a third month in November to double the country's holdings since August as central banks from Russia to Belarus and South Korea add the metal to diversify their assets.
Brazilian holdings expanded 14.7 metric tons in November to 67.2 tons, the most since November 2000, according to data on the International Monetary Fund's website. The country bought 17.2 tons in October after adding 1.7 tons in September, the first increase since 2008. Russia's holdings increased 2.9 tons last month and Belarus' reserves expanded 1.4 tons, the data show. Turkey pared holdings 5.9 tons and Mexico sold 0.1 ton.
Central banks have been expanding reserves as the metal heads for a 12th annual gain and investors hold a record amount in bullion-backed exchange-traded products. Nations bought 373.9 tons in the first nine months of the year and full-year additions will probably be at the bottom end of a range from 450 to 500 tons, the London-based World Gold Council estimates.
The big questions associated with all of these purchases is whether or not the central banks in question are taking physical delivery...and if not, where is it stored...and is it in allocated or unallocated form?
I found this must read Bloomberg story embedded in a GATA release yesterday...and the link is here.
A battle for survival…
The New Cold War
The combatants are fighting over the very lifeblood of their economies. Whoever wins will be have massive advantages over the rest of the world, while the loser will suffer a steep drop in living standards. And those who take action now can position themselves for incredible gains… no matter who wins.
The only difference between the government and the mafia is the cost of their suits. - Author unknown
Since this is my last column before Christmas, I thought it appropriate that I post something in the way of a musical selection that reflected the true meaning of the season. I've had this baroque piece saved since August, just for this day...a Sacred Oratorio by George Frideric Handel...Messiah. It was recorded at Westminister Abbey in London back in the very early 1980s. The baroque orchestra is the world renowned Academy of Ancient Music with Christopher Hogwood conducting. I note that Simon Preston is the organist...someone whom I've had the pleasure of listening to in concert here in Edmonton many years ago.
I also note that Emma Kirkby is one of the sopranos...and I posted a piece of hers in this space last week...and it was an excerpt from this very performance. This is the only version of this work that I own...and I've had the CD since the moment it became available in that format, so it's almost as old as this performance itself...and it gets regular airtime in our house every Christmas. I consider this recording to be definitive. The performance runs for 2:16 hours...and the link is here.
I wouldn't read much into yesterday's precious metal price action...or the price action of their associated equities. My main concern is whether or not JPMorgan Chase et al are done with this clean-out to the downside on the Comex.
Nothing has changed in the physical world, as you can tell from the amounts going into...and coming out of...the Comex-approved depositories and the various precious metal ETFs. This was all paper on the Comex...and had nothing to do with the Fed, interest rates, the dollar index, the Dow...or the price of tea in China. It's a routine that Ted Butler points out ad nauseam that we've seen hundreds of times in the past.
And as I pointed out at the top of this column, this smack-down gave "da boyz" the opportunity to cover as many short positions in both GLD and SLV as they could...and I'm sure they put it to good use.
I'm hoping that this is the last clean out for quite some time...but there's no way of knowing for sure. However, if I had to bet ten bucks on it, that's the way I would bet it going forward...and nothing has changed with me personally, as I'm still "all in".
I note from Kitco that the gold market will be open until 12:30 p.m. in New York on Monday. There will be an a.m. London gold fix...and a noon GMT silver fix as well...but no London p.m. gold fix. Then it's back to normal operations on December 26th...so I'll probably [but not guaranteed] have a column on the 27th...but it will be as short as I can possibly make it...and it may or may not be posted at its usual time on the Casey Research website.
I wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season.