Gold & Silver Daily

¤ Yesterday In Gold & Silver

Monday's trading day in gold was very similar to the trading day it had the previous Monday---February 23---where gold prices rose sharply in Far East trading---and then ran into the usual suspects that turned the gold price lower starting a couple or hours before the London open.  This Monday's sell-off ended minutes before 4 p.m. EST in electronic trading---and after that, the price traded flat into the 5:15 p.m. close.

The high and low ticks were reported by the CME Group as $1,223.00 and $1,204.20 in the April contract.

Gold closed yesterday at $1,205.90 spot, down $7.80 from Friday's close.  Net volume was decent at around 119,000 contracts.

Here's the 5-minute gold chart courtesy of Brad Robertson.  It starts from around 2:30 a.m. EST yesterday morning and, unfortunately, doesn't include any of the big volume associated with the goings-on in the Far East trading session on their Monday.  As you can tell from the chart below, most of the volume occurred between 5 and 9 a.m. Denver time, which was between noon and the close of trading in London.  The 'click to enlarge' feature really helps here.

It was more or less the same chart pattern for silver and, like gold, there was a bit of a price bounce at the noon London silver fix, but that got dealt with at the COMEX open about fifty minutes later.  Silver's low also came minutes before 4 p.m. EST---and the price rallied about a nickel into the close.

The high and low ticks for silver were recorded as $16.79 and $16.35 in the May contract.

Silver finished the Monday session at $16.355 spot, down 21.5 cents from Friday's close.  Net volume wasn't overly heavy at 24,000 contracts.

Platinum traded five dollars either side of unchanged all Monday long---and closed at $1,184 spot, down a buck from Friday.

Palladium didn't do much of anything either up until the equity markets opened in New York at 9:30 a.m. EST yesterday---and within an hour or so, the price had popped by a bit more than ten bucks---and it closed at $826 spot, up 11 dollars from Friday.  The rally in palladium continues.

The dollar index closed at 95.26 late on Friday afternoon in New York.  It made it as high as 95.50 in early Far East trading, but then headed lower starting about fifteen minutes before London opened---and about the same time as gold and silver began to head in that direction as well.  The low came at 12:20 p.m. in London---and then rallied back to 95.51 by 1 p.m. EST.  From there it chopped sideways into the close, finishing at 95.49---up 23 basis points from Friday's close.

The gold stocks opened unchanged, but headed south fifteen minutes later.  They hit their low tick shortly before 3 p.m. EST---and closed just off their lows.  The HUI finished down 2.62 percent, giving up all its Thursday and Friday gains in one go.

The silver equities opened up---and then chopped around unchanged until finally giving up the ghost shortly after 11 a.m. EST.  Like the gold shares, they too hit their low ticks just minutes before 3 p.m. EST---and rallied a bit into the close.  Nick Laird's Intraday Silver Sentiment Index finished the day down 1.41 percent.

I forgot to mention this in my Saturday column, but for the month of February, the HUI was down 4.80 percent---and Nick Laird's Intraday Silver Sentiment Indexed finished lower by 5.68 percent.

Although I'm not happy to see these numbers, these loses have to be put in their proper perspective, especially in gold, as it declined by $85 during the month, so the drop in the shares wasn't all that bad.  Silver was down about 60 cents for the month.

The CME Daily Delivery Report for Day 3 of the March contract showed that 1 gold and 200 silver contracts were posted for delivery within the COMEX-approved depositories on Wednesday.   The largest short/issuer in silver was Citigroup out of its in-hours [proprietary] trading account and, once again, the tallest hog at the trough [in every sense of the word] was JPMorgan once again out of its in-house [proprietary] trading account.  Ted Butler has a few choice things to say about JPMorgan and March silver deliveries in the quote in The Wrap section---and it's a must read. The link to yesterday's Issuers and Stoppers Report is here.

The CME Preliminary Report for the Monday trading session showed that March open interest in gold declined by 39 contracts---and the current o.i. for March now sits at 163 contracts.  In silver, the open interest declined by 156 contracts, leaving 1,383 still open minus, of course, the 200 contracts mentioned in the previous paragraph.

There was pretty big withdrawal from GLD yesterday, as an authorized participant took out 249,582 troy ounces---about 8 tonnes.  And as of 7:24 p.m. EST yesterday evening, there were no reported changes in SLV.  But when I checked the Internet site at 10:57 p.m., they showed that 382,736 troy ounces were deposited by an authorized participant, which I thought a rather strange amount.

The U.S. Mint had a sales report to start off the new month.  They sold 1,500 troy ounces of gold eagles---500 one-ounce 24K gold buffaloes---and 320,000 silver eagles.

I'm still waiting for the 2014 annual report from The Royal Canadian Mint---and I'm still checking their Internet site every day, but so far, nothing.  I'm expecting that they will announce rather poor gold maple leaf sales year-over-year, but a "surprising" increase in silver maple leafs in the fourth quarter after "disappointing" third quarter sales---along with "record sales" for the calendar year.  This would be a mirror image of what was reported by the U.S. Mint last year.  If that indeed turns out to be the case, I would assume that JPMorgan has been a big buyer there as well.  We'll see.

There were no reported receipts in gold at the COMEX-approved depositories on Friday, but 16,107.650 troy ounces were reported shipped out.  That works out to 501 kilobars---and all but one of those came out of HSBC USA's vault.  The link to that activity is here.

It was another pretty decent day in silver, as 550,205 troy ounces were received---and 282,499 troy ounces were shipped out.  The link to that action is here.

Nick Laird provided the intraday moving averages for both gold and silver for the month of February---and they look very familiar---almost like their 5-year long-term average chart, which is also posted here.

Here's gold for February.

And here's silver for February.

And here's the 5-year intraday chart for gold.  The similarities between the 1-month and 5-year charts are too obvious to be a coincidence.

I have an essay coming out in the next few days about this---and will post it in this space when it shows up on the Internet.

Since this is my Tuesday column, I have more than the usual number of stories, so I you can find the time to wade through the ones you like.


¤ Critical Reads

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.


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.


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.


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.


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 Internet site yesterday---and it falls squarely into the absolute must read category.


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.


"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.


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.


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.


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".


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.


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.


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 Internet site yesterday sometime---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.


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.


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 Internet site at 4:45 a.m. Moscow time on their Tuesday morning---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens once again.


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 Internet site around 10 a.m. Moscow time this morning, which was 2 a.m. in Washington.  It's another offering from Roy Stephens.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Chris Martenson Interviews Grant Williams

This 54:20 minute 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.


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.


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 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.


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 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.


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 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.


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 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.


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.


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 Internet site on Monday sometime---and I thank Dan Lazicki for the final story in today's column.



¤ The Funnies

Here are the last three shots from the Grand Canyon area as I was driving off the South Rim plateau.  The first, which is cropped, was one that I took while standing in the middle of State Highway 64 on a rather steep hill looking more or less East.  The 'stuff' hanging from the cloud on the right hand side of the photo is called virga---precipitation that evaporates before it reaches the ground.  Don't forget the 'click to enlarge' feature.

The last two photos [uncropped] were taken at the bottom of the above-mentioned hill and around the bend.  The second of the two photos below was taken just to the right of the first photo shown below---and the virga you see in the second photo below is the same patch that appears in the cropped photo above.  The canyon in these two photos is of the Little Colorado River, which drains the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest, a couple of places we'd been just a few days prior.

Avrupa and Antofagasta intersect copper-rich VMS in Pyrite Belt, Portugal

•             First Greenfields discovery of massive sulfide mineralization in 20 years in the Iberian Pyrite Belt

•             10.85 meters of massive and semi-massive/stockwork sulfide mineralization grading 1.81% Cu, 2.57% Pb, 4.38% Zn, 0.13% Sn, and 75.27 ppm Ag

•             Including 7.95 meters @ 2.21% Cu, 3.05% Pb, 4.82% Zn, 0.15% Sn, 89.8 ppm Ag

•             Followed by 2.90 meters @ 0.71% Cu, 1.27% Pb, 3.17% Zn, 0.092% Sn, 35.4 ppm Ag

•             Avrupa and Antofagasta sign an amended Joint Venture Agreement

Please visit our website to learn more about the company and current exploration program.


¤ The Wrap

A few observations. First, in this day and age of almost non-stop findings and reports that the big banks have conspired to fix prices in almost all the markets they deal in, the COMEX March silver deliveries would seem to certify that they are certainly the kingpins of COMEX silver. I’m sure all these banks could come up with a litany of cockamamie stories as to why they must deal in silver for their own accounts away from the simple explanation that they are just speculating and controlling the market, but you would be hard-pressed to come up with clearer evidence to the contrary than in the March silver deliveries so far.

Second, the fact that JPMorgan, in its proprietary trading account, was the largest stopper of 735 deliveries (3.7 million oz) would seem to coincide with my speculation that the bank has been accumulating physical silver in a serious manner, even as a number of its own customers issued deliveries this month – an apparent conflict of interest.

But the biggest concern is this – JPMorgan has been the biggest short in COMEX silver futures since taking over Bear Stearns and the bank’s taking of physical silver deliveries this month has occurred while it is still the biggest short with 18,000 contracts (90 million oz) still held net short. In order for JPMorgan to have taken delivery of 735 contracts this month for their own account and benefit means it had to be long those futures contracts while at the same time being short many more futures contracts. This is permitted by the CFTC and the CME, as commercials can hold open long and short positions in the same month (not allowed for non-commercials)

Please step back and consider what I just said.

By being the largest COMEX silver short, JPMorgan has exerted the largest negative price influence on silver while, at the same time, has stepped up as the largest taker of physical silver on the COMEX in the first two [now three - Ed] delivery days of the March contract. Is this not, on its face, the most egregious and crooked circumstance that one can imagine? Manipulate the price lower and then scoop up the metal at bargain prices with the blessing of the regulators.  With such blessings, it’s no wonder JPMorgan is considered the U.S.’s most politically connected bank. - Silver analyst Ted Butler: 28 February 2015

I'd like to think that the three charts posted before the Critical Reads section pretty much sums up Monday's price action in both gold and silver.  There was nothing free market about what happened to those two metals.  Only platinum and palladium appeared to be trading outside the pervue of the JPMorgan et al.  Of course what the dollar index was doing was irrelevant once again.

Here are the 6-month charts for both gold and silver as of the close of trading yesterday.

I started on this column mid-afternoon yesterday---and so as of midnight EST last night, I was basically finished.  Needless to say, I'd been watching the goings-on in gold and silver during Far East trading on their Tuesday morning starting with a grim resignation, followed a few hours later by astonishment.

After rallying about three bucks or so, the HFT traders and their algorithms put in an appearance shortly after 9 a.m. Hong Kong time---and an hour later had gold down about 15 bucks and silver by around 40 cents.  Then a surprise buyer showed up at that point and by noon had their respective prices back to where they were before the engineered price decline.

One wonders what that was all about.

There were similar, but somewhat smaller price moves in platinum and palladium.

And as I type this paragraph, the London open is thirty minutes away.  Gold and silver prices are up a bit, platinum is trading unchanged---and palladium is down a few bucks.  All is relatively quiet at the moment---as are current volume levels.  That wasn't true earlier, of course, as net gold volume has already blown out to just over 42,000 contracts---and silver's net volume is around the 11,700 contract mark.  The dollar index is down 17 basis points.

Since today is Tuesday, it's the cut-off for this Friday's Commitment of Traders Report.  We also get the companion Bank Participation Report for March--and this will allow Ted to recalculate JPMorgan's short-side corner in the COMEX silver market.  It will also give us our monthly peek at what the world's banks are up to in the precious metal markets---and as you already know, they're up to quite a bit.

And as I hit the 'send' button on today's column at 5:10 a.m. EST, I see that not much has happened since the big down/up moves in Tuesday morning trading in the Far East.  Prices and volumes are very quiet in all four precious metals at the moment.  Gold is up a couple of bucks---silver and platinum are down a hair---and palladium is now down 5 dollars.  Net gold volume is just under 50,000 contracts---and silver's net volume is just over 13,000 contracts.  The gold and silver markets have barely been able to fog the proverbial mirror since the big price/volume action earlier in the day.  The calm before another storm, perhaps.

Once again the dollar index is in rally mode.  It was as low as 95.21 less than an hour before the London open---and is now at 95.45---up 24 basis points off that low---and virtually back to unchanged from Monday's close in New York.

Like I said further up, I have no idea what to make of the early morning price action in the Far East on their Tuesday morning.  Maybe it's something, but they again, it may turn out to be nothing.  As I've said before on countless occasions---and I'll say it again now---unless JPMorgan et al decide to, or are instructed to, gold and silver prices are not going to rally a meaningful amount.

We're still miles away from a bullish configuration in the Commitment of Traders Report but, having said that, we could still have decent rallies off these current lows in both silver and gold regardless.  However, if JPMorgan et al resume going short against all comers in this theoretical rally, it's a given that at some point, it will end in the same old way.

That's more than enough for one day---and I'll see you here tomorrow.

Ed Steer