Gold & Silver Daily
 

¤ Yesterday In Gold & Silver

The gold price had a positive price bias during the Far East trading session---and that lasted until the price got to the $1,175 spot price mark---and then it traded sideways until the 8:20 a.m. EST COMEX open---and that was that.  There was a bit of a bump at the London p.m. gold fix---and the low tick came at 4:15 p.m. in electronic trading.

The high and low ticks, such as they were, were reported by the CME Group as $1,174.40 and $1,164.80 in the April contract.

Gold closed yesterday at $1,166.90 spot, down $1.80 from Friday's close.  Net volume was pretty light at only 99,000 contracts.

I wasn't at all surprised to see silver get hammered in Far East trading on their Monday morning, with the low coming shortly after 11 a.m. Hong Kong time.  The subsequent rally made it back to unchanged shortly after London opened---and then traded pretty flat until around 11 a.m. GMT.  Then the price got rolled over, with silver setting a double bottom for the day moments before the 5:15 p.m. close of electronic trading.

The high and lows were recorded as $15.96 and $15.705 in the May contract.

Silver finished the Monday session in New York at $15.73 spot, down 19.5 cents from Friday's close.  Net volume was also pretty light at just over 20,000 contracts.

The platinum price got hit for seven bucks in early morning trading in Hong Kong on their Monday morning---and then it traded more or less flat until the COMEX opened.  From there the price developed a negative bias that lasted for the remainder of the COMEX and electronic sessions.  The metal was closed down another 12 bucks.

The palladium price chopped quietly higher until about 10:20 a.m. EST---and then got sold down into the close.  The metal finished up a dollar.

The dollar index closed late on Friday afternoon at 97.72---and stayed around that mark until about 1:30 p.m. Hong Kong time.  It rolled over from that point, hitting its 97.31 low tick shortly after 10 a.m. GMT, before rallying back to unchanged by noon in New York.  It shed a few basis points going into the close, finishing the Monday session at 97.66---down 6 basis points on the day.

The gold stocks opened in positive territory, but didn't stay there for long---and were more or less done to the downside shortly before the 1:30 p.m. COMEX close.  They chopped sideways from there---and the HUI got clocked for another 3.74 percent.

It was more or less the same price pattern for the silver equities, except they hit their low tick at 3 p.m. EST---and managed to finish off that low by a bit.  Not that it mattered, as Nick Laird's Intraday Silver Sentiment Index got hammered by another 4.45 percent.

The CME Daily Delivery Report showed that zero gold and 41 silver contracts were posted for delivery within the COMEX-approved depositories on Wednesday.  It was another case of JPMorgan screwing over its own clients once again, as 41 contracts were issued from JPMorgan's client account---and 27 of those were stopped by JPMorgan out of its in-house [proprietary] trading account.  The link to yesterday's Issuers and Stoppers Report is here.

The CME Preliminary Report for the Monday trading session showed that gold open interest for March fell by 31 contracts, leaving 117 contracts left.  In silver, o.i. fell by 17 contracts, leaving 934 still open, minus the 41 mentioned above.

There was another decent sized withdrawal from GLD yesterday, as an authorized participant took out 105,583 troy ounces---and as of 6:06 p.m. EST yesterday evening, there were no reported changes in SLV.

There was a decent sales report from the U.S. Mint yesterday, as they sold 6,000 troy ounces of gold eagles---1,500 one-ounce 24K gold buffaloes---and another 482,500 silver eagles.

And still no 2014 annual report from the Royal Canadian Mint.

There was a decent amount of gold movement at the COMEX-approved depositories on Friday.  Brink's, Inc. received 2,000 troy ounces---and Canada's Scotiabank shipped out 125,067 troy ounces.  The link to that activity is here.

In silver, nothing was reported received, but 550,818 troy ounces were shipped out the door.  The link to that action is here.

Despite my best editing efforts, I still have a whole lot of stories today, so I'll let you pick and choose.

 

¤ Critical Reads

Lew to Congress: U.S. hits debt limit on March 16, needs to be raised ASAP

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned Congress that the U.S. will hit its statutory debt limit on March 16, setting up another potential showdown between lawmakers and the White House over spending.

In a Friday morning letter to House Speaker John Boehner and other House and Senate leaders, Lew said that his office will be forced to suspend the issuance of State and Local Government Series securities on Mar. 13 unless the debt limit is raised.

The U.S.'s top finance official said the U.S. will hit its debt limit on Mar. 16, but would begin taking "extraordinary measures" to finance the government on a temporary basis, according to the U.S. Treasury.

"Accordingly, I respectfully ask Congress to raise the debt limit as soon as possible," Lew wrote in his letter.

Debt which will never be paid off in dollars that are worth anything close to what they are today.  This CNBC article showed up on their website at 9:11 a.m. EST on Saturday morning---and I thank reader N.W. for today's first story.

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Sharp Fall in McDonald’s Sales Blamed on Competition and Changing Tastes

A week after installing a new chief executive, McDonald’s announced on Monday that sales continued to fall in February.

The company said its sales in stores open at least a year fell by a startling 4 percent in the United States and by 1.7 percent globally.

“Consumer needs and preferences have changed, and McDonald’s current performance reflects the urgent need to evolve with today’s consumers, reset strategic priorities and restore business momentum,” the company said in a statement.

Same-store sales have declined more than Wall Street has predicted for more than a year in the United States, the company’s largest market, and it blamed “aggressive competitive activity” for the latest sharp shortfall.

This news item appeared on The New York Times website yesterday sometime---and it's courtesy of reader M.A.

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Apple will join the Dow: Why it doesn’t matter

The Dow Jones Industrial Average just became a little more hip.  However, it did not become more relevant.

In ditching the old flip phone (AT&T Inc.) for the iPhone (Apple Inc.), the index both modernizes its components and shows off why it is an outmoded, anachronistic measure of the stock market all at once.

In fact, you could argue that the news proves the point, as many investors would have assumed that a company as important as Apple must already have been in such an important measure of the market, while others will now be shocked to learn that a stock as venerable as AT&T is now on the outs.

I have ripped on the Dow before, but this latest move pretty much confirms that the Dow is like People Magazine’s list of the most beautiful people compared to the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

The Dow today is not the Dow of ten or twenty years ago---and why people use it as a proxy for the economy in the U.S. is beyond me.  This marketwatch.com article appeared on their Internet site at 8:44 a.m. EDT on Sunday morning---and I thank Brad Robertson for finding it for us.

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Lewitt: U.S. Economy is Weakening as Crushing Debt Loads Hinder Growth

U.S. economic growth is weakening and there’s not much the Federal Reserve can do about it as Americans cope with massive debt loads, said investment strategist Michael E. Lewitt.

“After trillions of dollars of stimulus, U.S. GDP growth is still only 2 percent,” Lewitt said in the March 1 edition of his Credit Strategist newsletter. “People can point to the weather, lower oil prices and the strong dollar for why the economy cannot achieve escape velocity, but the primary reason is the suffocating weight of public and private sector debt.”

U.S. gross domestic product, a measure of the country’s total economic output, grew 2.2 percent to $17.4 trillion in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, compared with average growth of 3.27 percent in the post-War period from 1947 to 2014.

Federal debt has risen 52 percent to $18.1 trillion from $11.9 trillion in 2009, when the recession ended, while household income has declined, making it harder for consumers to cope with total debt of $11.7 trillion as of Sept. 30.

This commentary was posted on the newsmax.com website at 11:00 a.m. EST last Friday---and my thanks go out to West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for sending it our way.

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"There Are Huge Gaps" in Clinton's E-mail Release, Benghazi Probe Chief Blasts

"There are gaps of months and months and months," exclaims Rep. Trey Gowdy (who leads the committee investigating Hillary Clinton's handling of the Benghazi attack in September 2012) as the 'transparent' release of Clinton's email includes no emails at all from a seemingly critical Tripoli visit (where she has been photographed using her Blackberry). Gowdy ranted on CBS "Face the Nation" yesterday that "it strains credibility to believe if you’re on your way to Libya to discuss Libyan policy that there is not a single document to turn over to Congress." Clinton, for now, is staying very quiet on this matter...

As Reuters reports, Huge gaps exist in the emails former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has provided to a congressional committee investigating the 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the panel's chairman said on Sunday.

Republican Representative Trey Gowdy said his committee lacked documentation from Clinton's trip to Libya after the attack despite a popular photo image of her using a handheld device during a flight to that country.

Let's face it, she's as bad, if not worse than her hubby.  This Zero Hedge piece put in an appearance on their Internet site at 5:37 p.m. EDT Monday afternoon---and it's the first offering of the day from Dan Lazicki.

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At the Fed in 2009, Rolling Dice in a Crisis -- Gretchen Morgenson

Ben Bernanke and his colleagues at the Federal Reserve Board have earned accolades from all corners for the extraordinary actions they took to rescue the financial system in 2009. While 2008 was the Fed’s annus horribilis, exposing how unaware the central bank had been of the risks building in the financial system, 2009 was its year of redemption.

So it was interesting, last week, to read the newly released transcripts from Federal Reserve Board meetings in 2009, which include some of the darkest days of the mess.

With the economy now on a sound footing and the stock market near a record high, the decisions made by the Fed to shore up credit markets in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis look even better.

But the transcripts also reveal for the first time what critics within the Fed were saying about some of the trillion-dollar programs. And even though the critics’ worst fears did not come to pass, their concerns are worth exploring. For this reason alone, the transcripts make for fascinating reading.

This article by Gretchen, which is on the longish side, is worth reading if you have the time.  It appeared on The New York Times website on Saturday---and I thank Washington state reader S.A. for bringing it to my attention.

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The Global Dollar Funding Shortage is Back With a Vengeance and "This Time It's Different"

The last time the world was sliding into a U.S. dollar shortage as rapidly as it is right now, was following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The response by the Fed: the issuance of an unprecedented amount of FX liquidity lines in the form of swaps to foreign Central Banks. The "swapped" amount went from practically zero to a peak of $582 billion on December 10, 2008.

The USD shortage back, and the Fed's subsequent response, was the topic of one of our most read articles of mid-2009, "How The Federal Reserve Bailed Out The World."

As we discussed back then, this systemic dollar shortage was primarily the result of imbalanced FX funding at the global commercial banks, arising from first Japanese, and then European banks' abuse of a USD-denominated asset-liability mismatch, in which the dollar being the funding currency of choice, resulted in a massive matched synthetic "Dollar short" on the books of commercial bank desks around the globe: a shortage which in the aftermath of the Lehman failure manifested itself in what was the largest global USD margin call in history. This is how the BIS described first the mechanics of the shortage:

The accumulation of U.S. dollar assets saddled banks with significant funding requirements, which they scrambled to meet during the crisis, particularly in the weeks following the Lehman bankruptcy. To better understand these financing needs, we break down banks’ assets and liabilities by currency to examine cross-currency funding, or the extent to which banks fund in one currency and invest in another. We find that, since 2000, the Japanese and the major European banking systems took on increasingly large net (assets minus liabilities) on-balance sheet positions in foreign currencies, particularly in U.S. dollars. While the associated currency exposures were presumably hedged off-balance sheet, the build-up of net foreign currency positions exposed these banks to foreign currency funding risk, or the risk that their funding positions (FX swaps) could not be rolled over.

This long, but very worthwhile read appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 10:46 p.m. EDT Sunday night in New York.  I sent it off to Jim Rickards---and this is what he had to say in his reply to me:

"This works like any short squeeze, in gold, silver or any other commodity."

"Foreign corporate borrowers have borrowed over $9 trillion in U.S. dollar denominated debt. But neither they nor their central banks print dollars. When you are foreign and your borrow in dollars, you are effectively "short" the dollar because you have to acquire them to pay back your debt. As with any short position, if the price goes up, you lose your shirt. So, as the dollar gets stronger, these borrowers are losing their shirts because they have to acquire more expensive dollars to pay back their loans. If banks want more collateral on these loans, that works like a margin call on the losing short position. If the distress gets worse, a panic could emerge and a full-blown liquidity crisis will happen. That's what the article's about."

"Big difference between now and 2008 is that in 2008 and 2009 the central banks bailed out everyone. But central bank balance sheets are still bloated, so the question now is who will bail out the central banks? Answer: the IMF"

I would guess, dear reader, that this means a gold-backed SDR is in our future---but how far in our future remains to be seen.  I thank reader M.A. for digging up this story for us.

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Obama declares Venezuela a national security threat

U.S. President Barack Obama has issued an executive order declaring Venezuela a national security threat, and slapped sanctions on seven officials.

According to a White House statement issued on Monday, the new set of targeted sanctions excludes the Venezuelan people and any trade relations with the oil-rich nation and are instead specifically aimed at government officials the US accuses of violating human rights.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro responded by saying the U.S. measures were intended to topple his socialist government.

This news story appeared on the aljazeera.com Internet site at 5:29 a.m. GMT this morning---and I thank Roy Stephens for sliding it into my in-box just after midnight Denver time.

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Monthly Salary of $20 Shows Why Venezuelans Wait in Food Lines

Venezuela, the country known for long food lines and shortages of toilet paper and deodorant, can be a paradox at times.

Specialty food stores in Caracas are well stocked with delicacies including imported lamb chops, smoked salmon and caviar. For those with U.S. dollars, those luxuries are relatively cheap, too. Yet most Venezuelans can't afford the greenback. Residents depend on local salaries paid in bolivars, the national currency which has declined 97 percent in the past three years. At the current black market exchange rate, 100 bolivars, the country's biggest bill, is only worth 36 U.S. cents.

Venezuela has maintained strict currency controls since 2003 and currently has three legal exchange rates. The government sells dollars for 6.3, 12 and 177 bolivars. The first two rates are used for imports of government-authorized priority goods including food, medicine and car parts. The third rate, introduced on Feb. 12, can be used by anyone who doesn't receive authorization to buy dollars at the first two preferential rates.

Venezuela's minimum wage, which many workers receive, has tripled in local currency in the past three years to about 5,600 bolivars today. That hasn't kept up with a dramatic slump in the bolivar's value against the U.S. dollar in the same period. The government has devalued its primary exchange rate once and introduced three weaker alternative rates. Using the weakest legal exchange rate, the minimum wage has tumbled from about $360 a month in 2012 to $31 a month today.

This Bloomberg article showed up on their Internet site at 9:19 a.m. Denver time last Thursday---and I thank reader N.W. for his second story in today's column.

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Europe, The Morally Bankrupt Union

The European Union is busy accomplishing something truly extraordinary: it is fast becoming such a spectacular failure that people don’t even recognize it as one. People have no idea, they just think: this can’t possibly be true, and they continue with their day. They should think again. Because the Grand European Failure is bound to lead to real life consequences soon, and they’ll be devastating. The union that was supposed to put an end to all fighting across the continent, is about to be the fuse that sets off a range of battles.

To its east, the E.U. is involved in a brain dead attempt at further expansion – it has only one idea when it comes to size: bigger is always better -, an attempt that is proving to be such a disaster that heads will roll in the Brussels corridors no matter what. Europe has joined the U.S. and NATO very enthusiastically in creating not just a failed state, but a veritable imitation of Hiroshima, in Ukraine, right on its own borders. The consequences of this will haunt the E.U. (or if it doesn’t last, which is highly plausible, its former members) not just for weeks or months or years, but for many decades.

The carefully re-crafted relationship with Russia, which took 25 years to build, was destroyed again in hardly over a year, something for which Angela Merkel deserves so much blame it may well end up being her main political legacy. Vladimir Putin, and Russia as a nation, will not easily forget the humiliation the west has thrown at them, the accusations, the innuendo, the attempts to draw them into a war they never wanted and in which they see no advantage for any party involved.

This blunt, pithy, but right-on-the-money commentary appeared on theautomaticearth.com website on Sunday---and is definitely worth reading if you have the interest.  I thank Dan Lazicki for sharing it with us.

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Eurozone not viable, says top fund boss Neil Woodford

The eurozone is not viable in its current form, one of the U.K.'s most successful fund managers has warned.

Neil Woodford, who set up his own investment firm last year, said the concept was "fundamentally flawed" and he expected the "stresses and strains" in the area to continue to increase.

"In a very simple sense pretending that Greece was Germany is a fundamental error," he told BBC World News.

He also said uncertainty over Britain's E.U. membership could hit the U.K. economy.

This article appeared on the bbc.com Internet site at 8:03 p.m. EDT on Sunday evening---and it's the first story of the day from South African reader B.V.

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NATO's Not Enough! President Juncker Calls For Creation Of European Army To "React Credibly" To Russia

No lessor official than European Commission President (and liar-when-it's-serious) Jean-Claude Juncker has called for the creation of an E.U. army... in order to show Russia "that [The E.U. is] serious about defending European values." Juncker explained an EU army would "help us fulfill Europe's responsibilities in the world," arguing that NATO was not enough since not all E.U. members are part of the alliance. As one stunned euro-skeptic exclaimed, "we have all seen the utter mess the E.U. has made of the economy, so how can we even think of trusting them with its defence."

The E.U. is divided on how to deal with an increasingly forthright Russia, but as the Financial Times reports,  "The president of the European Commission has called for the creation of an E.U. army in order to show Russia “that we are serious about defending European values”."

In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, Jean-Claude Juncker, who leads the EU’s executive arm, said an EU army would let the continent “react credibly to threats to peace in a member state or a neighbour of the E.U.”

This news story showed up on the Zero Hedge website at 9:40 p.m. on Sunday evening EDT---and it's another contribution from Dan Lazicki.

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E.U. won’t be pushed into confrontation over Ukraine – foreign policy chief

The EU is resisting calls from hotheads to supply arms to Ukraine, saying it won’t be pulled into a confrontation with Russia. Europeans cite the progress in implementing a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine between Kiev and local rebels.

The idea of providing lethal aid to Kiev is popular among many NATO officials and American politicians. US House Speaker John Boehner and a bipartisan group of top lawmakers called on President Barack Obama to deliver the weapons. But Europeans are opposing the move, which would likely escalate tensions with Russia.

“The European Union today is extremely realistic about developments in Russia. But we will never be trapped or forced or pushed or pulled into a confrontative [sic] attitude,” the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini told the media on Friday, following an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Riga, Latvia.

“We still believe that around our continent – not only in but around – cooperation is far better than confrontation. We still argue for that,” she added.

This Russia Today story appeared on their Internet site at 1:04 p.m. Moscow time on their Saturday afternoon, which was 5:04 a.m. EST in Washington.  I thank Jim Skinner for sending it along.

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German trade surplus contracts on falling exports

A drop in German exports caused the country's trade surplus to contract in January, official data showed on Monday.

Exports declined by 2.1 percent in January, driving down the trade surplus, the balance between imports and exports, the federal statistics office Destatis said in a statement.

In seasonally adjusted terms, Germany exported goods worth a total of 96.3 billion euros ($104 billion) in January, down from 98.4 billion euros in December, Destatis said.

Imports, on the other hand, slipped by just 0.3 percent to 76.6 billion euros.

This short AFP story appeared on the france24.com Internet site at 10:45 a.m. Europe time yesterday morning---and it's the second offering of the day from reader B.V.

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SPIEGEL Interview with Greek Prime Minister Tsipras: 'We Don't Want to Go on Borrowing Forever'

SPIEGEL: Mr. Prime Minister, most of your European partners are indignant. They accuse you of saying one thing in Brussels and then saying something completely different back home in Athens. Do you understand where such accusations come from?

Tsipras: We say the same things in Germany as we do in Greece. But sometimes, problems can be viewed differently, depending on the perspective. (He points to his water glass.) This glass here can be described as being half full or half empty. The reality is that it is a glass filled half-way with water.

SPIEGEL: In Brussels, you have given up your demands for a debt haircut. But back home in Athens, you continue talking about a haircut. What does that have to do with perspective?

Tsipras: At the summit meeting, I used the language of reality. I said: Prior to the bailout program, Greece had a sovereign debt that was 129 percent of its economic output. Now, it is 176 percent. No matter how you look at that, it's not possible to service that debt. But there are different ways to solve this problem: via a debt cut, debt restructuring or bonds whose payback is tied to growth. The most important thing, though, is solving the true problem: the austerity which has driven debt way up.

This interview was posted on the German website spiegel.de at 10:21 a.m. Europe time last Friday---and it's the first contribution of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Creditors Reject Greece's Reform Proposals

Greece’s provisional agreement with creditors to avert a default started to crack as European officials said the country’s latest proposals fell far short of what was put forward two weeks ago and Greek ministers floated the prospect of a referendum if their reforms are rejected.

The measures Greece’s government sent to euro-region finance ministers last Friday, including the idea of hiring non-professional tax collectors, is “far” from complete and the country probably won’t receive an aid disbursement this month, Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Sunday.

“We definitely still have an immense path ahead of us,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a televised news conference in Tokyo. “We obviously have the political goal to keep Greece in the euro area. But at the same time, there always are two sides to the coin: the solidarity of European partners on the one hand and the readiness to carry out reforms and commitments in one’s own country on the other.”

This Bloomberg article, filed from Athens, appeared on their Internet site at 4:00 p.m. MDT on Sunday afternoon---and it's the second offering of the day from Elliot Simon.

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NATO Commander for Europe Refuses to Confirm Heavy Arms Pullout From Donbas

Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR), has announced that he cannot confirm the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the line of contact between Kiev forces and independence fighters in southeastern Ukraine (Donbas).

Breedlove said in an interview with the Ukrainian "1+1" TV channel that heavy artillery moving from both sides of the contact line can indeed be observed, but it is not known what happens to the weaponry after that, because observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) do not have sufficient access to the area.

According to NATO's top military commander, it could well be that the weaponry is returned to the previous locations afterward or could just be getting moved in preparation for future fighting.

This news item, filed from Kiev, appeared on the sputniknews.com Internet site at 3:27 a.m. Moscow time on their Monday morning, which was 8:27 p.m. EDT in Washington.  I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.

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Kiev military open fire 25 times in past 24 hours — Donetsk Republic’s defence ministry

Kiev’s military 25 times opened fire at positions of militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the self-proclaimed republic’s defence ministry reported on Sunday.

"Within last 24 hours, we registered about 25 times of opened fire, where nine were made at night," the Donetsk news agency quoted the ministry’s report.

The military say, the Ukrainian forces used tank artillery and 122mm mortars.

On Saturday, the republic’s head Alexander Zakharchenko said: "We have withdrawn fully our weapons from the line of engagement."

"Ukraine has not done its part," the Donetsk news agency quoted him. The republic’s head added if Kiev continued failing the Minsk agreements, he would make a special statement, and the DPR will return the weapons to their earlier locations.

The above four paragraphs are all there is to this short news item that appeared on the tass.ru Internet site at 12:05 p.m. Moscow time on their Sunday afternoon.  It's also courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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It’s NATO that’s empire-building, not Putin

Just for once, let us try this argument with an open mind, employing arithmetic and geography and going easy on the adjectives. Two great land powers face each other. One of these powers, Russia, has given up control over 700,000 square miles of valuable territory. The other, the European Union, has gained control over 400,000 of those square miles. Which of these powers is expanding?

There remain 300,000 neutral square miles between the two, mostly in Ukraine. From Moscow’s point of view, this is already a grievous, irretrievable loss. As Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the canniest of the old Cold Warriors, wrote back in 1997, ‘Ukraine… is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.’

This diminished Russia feels the spread of the EU and its armed wing, NATO, like a blow on an unhealed bruise. In February 2007, for instance, Vladimir Putin asked sulkily, ‘Against whom is this expansion intended?’

I have never heard a clear answer to that question. The USSR, which NATO was founded to fight, expired in August 1991. So what is NATO's purpose now? Why does it even still exist?

Excellent questions!  This short, but first rate essay by columnist Peter Hitchens appeared on the spectator.co.uk Internet site on Saturday sometime---and it's definitely worth reading.  I thank reader B.V. for passing it along on Sunday.

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Important developments in the Nemtsov murder case

It took the combined efforts of the FSB/SKR/MVD one week to make the first arrests in the case of the murder of Nemtsov: a group of 7 men, all from the North Caucasus were arrested.  A sixth man killed himself with a hand grenade  in Grozny when he was about to be arrested.

The Russians used the combination of the “Potok” HD camera monitoring network and intercepts of all the cellular phone network calls made from the city center that evening to zero in the car used by the killer to escape which soon lead to the entire group.

The authorities seem pretty confident that they got the right men.

According to breaking news from Moscow, the main suspect, Zaur Dadaev, has now confessed that he is the person who killed Nemtsov.

This commentary showed up on thesaker.is website on Sunday sometime---and it's another contribution from Roy Stephens.

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Putin signs law on ratification of $100 billion BRICS New Development Bank deal

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law ratifying the deal establishing the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), according to a document published on Monday on Russia's official website for legal information.

The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) was set up to challenge two major Western-led giants – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. NDB's key role will be to serve as a pool of currency for infrastructure projects within a group of five countries with major emerging national economies - Russia, Brazil, India, China and South Africa.

According to the Russian Finance Ministry, the New Development Bank is expected to start functioning fully by the end of the year, with the headquarters slated for opening in Shanghai. The chairmanship, with a term of five years, will rotate among the members.

This news item put in an appearance on the Russia Today website at 2:30 p.m. Moscow time on their Monday afternoon---and it's courtesy of reader M.A.

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Anti-American sentiment in Russia now eclipses Soviet era’s

Thought the Soviet Union was anti-American? Try today’s Russia.

After a year in which furious rhetoric has been pumped across Russian airwaves, anger toward the United States is at its worst since opinion polls began tracking it. From ordinary street vendors all the way up to the Kremlin, a wave of anti-U.S. bile has swept the country, surpassing any time since the Stalin era, observers say.

The indignation peaked after the assassination of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, as conspiracy theories started to swirl — just a few hours after he was killed — that his death was a CIA plot to discredit Russia. (On Sunday, Russia charged two men from Chechnya, and detained three others, in connection with Nemtsov’s killing.)

There are drives to exchange Western-branded clothing for Russia’s red, blue and white. Efforts to replace Coke with Russian-made soft drinks. Fury over U.S. sanctions. And a passionate, conspiracy-laden fascination with the methods that Washington is supposedly using to foment unrest in Ukraine and Russia.

The Russian people sure know what's being done to them---and by whom.  This must read article appeared in The Washington Post late on Sunday evening---and I thank reader Bill Moomau for finding it for us.

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China-Russia partnership mature and stable, not targeting ‘third parties’ – FM Wang Yi

The strategic ties between China and Russia are mutually beneficial and based on trust and a tradition of supporting one another, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, emphasizing that the cooperation is mature and not targeted at third parties.

Describing China-Russia bilateral relations as stable and mature, the Chinese Foreign Minister has stated that Western political and economic pressure on Moscow will not affect mutual cooperation.

“The China-Russia relationship is not dictated by international vicissitudes and does not target any third party,” Wang Yi said at a press conference Sunday, in response to a question from Russia’s Sputnik News agency.

“The practical cooperation between China and Russia is based on mutual need, it seeks win-win results and has enormous internal impetus and room for expansion,” Yi said, adding that as “comprehensive strategic partners of coordination, China and Russia have a good tradition of supporting each other.”

This article was posted on the Russia Today Internet site at 1:03 a.m. Moscow time on their Monday morning, which was 6:03 p.m. EDT Sunday evening in Washington.  Once again I thank Roy Stephens for sending it our way.

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New Zealand Prime Minister Retracts Vow to Resign Over Mass Surveillance

In August 2013, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key vowed to resign if it was ever proven that his country’s government spies on its own citizens. After top-secret documents revealed that New Zealanders indeed were targeted by a mass surveillance program, Key reneged on that pledge.

Key made his promise after evidence emerged showing that New Zealand was actively participating in the “Five Eyes” mass surveillance program exposed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The above story appeared on the sputniknews.com Internet site at 8:10 a.m. Moscow time on their Tuesday morning---and I thank Roy Stephens for that one.  But the "top-secret documents" mentioned in this story appeared in The New Zealand Herald last Thursday local time, but for length and content reasons, I was going to save it for this coming Saturday.  But since I'm posting the above story, the link is here to that big read---and it's courtesy of reader N.W.

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Lawrence Williams: Knives are out for gold and silver – again

The gold price daily trading pattern has been interesting of late. Up until late last week virtually every day saw the gold price driven up by Asia and then taken back down on European open to levels broadly maintained through the remainder of the Western day – and then perhaps trending down a little in the U.S. late in the day, for the same pattern to repeat the next day. Then on Friday, following the latest, and we have to say statistically dubious (as ever) U.S. non-farm payroll figures – which seem to have conveniently totally ignored the big January and February layoffs in the oil and gas sector – the gold price plunged, and silver along with it. This morning Asia has again taken prices up a little but it remains to be seen how far this rebound will go given the seemingly concerted campaign against precious metals prices.

Already the knives are out for gold with bank analysts beginning to fall over themselves to downgrade their near-term gold price forecasts. And where gold goes silver will follow. The latest to do so is ANZ Bank which is looking for gold to test the $1,100 level by July. As we have so often noted here before many of the bank analysts are highly reactive to spot prices in their forecasts which can thus move up and down like a yo-yo.

This commentary by Lawrie, which also includes an intensive discussion of China's gold demand so far this year, showed up on the mineweb.com Internet site at 2:38 p.m. GMT yesterday afternoon---and I thank Dan Lazicki for sending it.  It's certainly worth reading.

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Koos Jansen: How the world is being fooled about Chinese gold demand

The World Gold Council is knowingly under reporting gold demand in China, apparently to facilitate redistribution of the world's gold in anticipation of a resetting of the international currency system, Bullion Star market analyst and GATA consultant Koos Jansen wrote on Sunday.

Koos sent me this story on Sunday, but for obvious reasons, had to wait for today's column.  I borrowed the above paragraph of introduction from Chris Powell's efforts in the GATA release.  This is a must read, if you haven't already read it from the link in the previous article by Lawrie Williams.

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Mike Kosares: Will the Shanghai fix fix the gold market?

China's new involvement in the London gold market and its opening of a physical gold exchange in Shanghai may be meant less to bust the Western paper gold racket than to facilitate the flow of Western gold to Asia that is already underway, USAGold proprietor Michael Kosares writes today.

"I see China's latest forays in the international gold market as an attempt to fuse with and influence the current market structure rather than circumvent or supersede it," Kosares writes. "China, in my view, seeks synthesis, not antithesis, and though some might be disappointed in the strategy, I see it as bracing for gold's future and even more bullish for gold in the long run than a policy of confrontation. By taking its seat at the gold-pricing table, China inadvertently will act as a proxy for gold coin and bullion owners all over the world."

Kosares' commentary is headlined "Will the Shanghai Fix Fix the Gold Market?" and it was posted on the usagold.com Internet site yesterday.

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Back in 1968 a British Commie also understood gold price suppression's imperial purpose

Our friend D.H., who last week called attention to a magazine article written in 1968 by a former Chase Manhattan Bank economist, Michael Hudson, amid the collapse of the London Gold Pool, showing how control of the gold price was the primary mechanism of imperialism, has located another magazine article from that time, an article possibly of even more interest because of its direct connection to international political rivalry.

The second article was published in the April 1968 edition of The Labour Monthly, the de-facto organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and written by the monthly's editor, the international Communist agent Rajani Palme Dutt.

Dutt recognized what the central banks and foreign offices of the Western powers themselves recognized, though the latter certainly didn't want to acknowledge it in public, that the maintenance of the imperial currency, the U.S. dollar, required suppressing the price of its main potential competitor, gold, and pushing it out of the world financial system.

This story, along with the longish preamble by Chris Powell, certainly falls into the must read category.

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Because of HFT, markets are more easily manipulated now, Chilton tells Martenson

Bart Chilton, the former member of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission who complained about commodity market manipulation, including manipulation of the monetary metals markets, is still complaining, this time in an interview with Peak Prosperity's Chris Martenson.

Position limits for traders remain Chilton's big objective, though he notes that with high-frequency trading, markets now can be manipulated much more easily by smaller traders as well.

As for manipulation of the monetary metals markets, Chilton sounds as if he knows something he can't talk about. Is it intervention in those markets by central banks using intermediaries that thereby can claim exemption from market-rigging law?

The interview runs for 27 minutes, but the "juice" of the interview starts at the 13:25 minute mark---and you can safely ignore everything that come before that.  Chilton is such a bought and paid for establishment whore, it's hard to take anything he says seriously, except for the fact that he saw the price rigging in the precious metal markets while he was at the CFTC---and wouldn't do a thing about it.  I suppose that was the reason he was picked for the job in the first place.  I thank Chris Powell for the headline and preamble---but I thank "Teresa in the U.K." for being the first reader through the door with it.

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Ed Steer --- Gold Manipulation: The "London Bias" -- 1970 to 2014

GATA board member Ed Steer, editor of Casey Research's Gold and Silver Daily letter, published a detailed report yesterday on the suppression of gold prices in the London market for most years from 1970 through last year even as world gold prices were rising generally.

After presenting a chart of the price suppression, Steer writes:

"The overt market price suppression of the 1960s during the days of the London Gold Pool turned into the covert price-suppression scheme you see here. For those looking for the proverbial smoking gun of the gold price management scheme, it's staring them in the face in this one chart."

"And without doubt, it was -- and still is -- being carried out by the covert and collusive actions of organizations such as the Bank for International Settlements, the Federal Reserve, the Exchange Stabilization Fund, and the U.S. Treasury Department. I'm sure it would be safe to include, at times, the central banks of England, France, Germany, and perhaps Switzerland. In recent years it may also have come to include the People's Bank of China."

Well, dear reader, if I wrote it, then it has to be an absolute must read---right?  I feel that it is, but you be the judge.

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Miners pray the commodities collapse has hit rock-bottom

At the height of the mining boom, lorry drivers working in Western Australia’s Pilbara iron ore belt would have expected to take home something in the region of £100,000 a year in basic salary as China’s demand for commodities continued unabated.

Nowadays, mining companies Down Under have even cut steak sauce off the menu and cancelled the free staff barbecues to cut costs. The days of mineworkers earning salaries and bonuses comparable to a fully qualified doctor are long gone.

Capital expenditure among the world’s top 10 mining companies is expected to fall to around $64bn (£42bn) this year, down from almost $80.1bn two years ago when the industry really started to wake up to the scale of the slowdown in commodities demand, especially in Asia.

This story was posted on the telegraph.co.uk Internet site at 4:30 p.m. GMT on their Saturday afternoon---and it's the third and final offering of the day from South African reader B.V.  And if you don't want to read the story, you should at least look at the four embedded photos.

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Rare U.S. Coin Market Hits Records: This is the only gold central banks will let go up

A rare five-dollar gold piece and a prized silver dollar each could fetch $10 million or more in upcoming auctions, making the American rare coin market as attractive, though not nearly as glamorous, as fine art.

Sales of rare U.S. coins reached a record of nearly $536 million last year, and now collectors are turning to the D. Brent Pogue Collection, which could boost it higher.

Gathered over more than 30 years by Texas property developer A. Mack Pogue and his son, D. Brent, it is considered the most valuable collection of federal American coins dating from the 1790s to the late 1830s in private hands.

An 1822 Half Eagle five-dollar gold piece, one of only three known to exist, and an 1804 Silver Dollar dubbed the "King of American Coins" are expected to be among the top lots when the collection is sold in a series of auctions in New York beginning in May and continuing into 2017.

This very interesting Reuters story, filed from New York, showed up on their website at 10:27 a.m. EDT on Sunday morning---and it's another article I found on the gata.org Internet site.

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Lucky Aussie prospector finds massive 2 kilogram gold nugget

Australian prospector Mick Brown, 42, still can’t believe his luck after he found a 87-ounce hunk of gold weighing more than 2kg in central Victoria, near Wedderburn.

According to The Age, he named it the "fair dinkum nugget" because when people feel its weight they say "fair dinkum this is huge.”

While Brown chose to keep the place where he found the buried treasure as a secret, he disclosed he thought others had already searched in the same area.

This tiny story was posted on the mining.com website yesterday sometime---and I thank reader M.A. for today's last gold-related news item.  The photo makes it worth the trip.

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¤ The Funnies

Before continuing with the photos of my Arizona trip, I thought that it time that I feature these osprey pictures that reader Mark O'Brien sent my way back on February 24.  I met Mark at the Casey Conference in San Antonio last September---and I've been more than happy to post some of his  work in this column before---and these four shots of ospreys on their nest I thought well worth sharing.  He was obviously working from an elevated blind when he took them.

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¤ The Wrap

I’d call the explanation most widely given for Friday’s price smash, a reaction to the monthly employment report, comical---except there is nothing funny about price manipulation. I say that because there is no economic report that I can think of that should have less bearing on the price of gold and silver than this report. Yes, I know the employment report impacts many markets, including currencies, and that in turn can be said to effect gold and silver.

But that’s absurd when you realize the main movers of the gold and silver prices, certainly on Friday, were the technical funds on the COMEX and they rely exclusively on mechanical price signals and not on published economic data for trading decisions. What the reaction to the employment report does do is provide a cover story and explanation for those who refuse to acknowledge that gold and silver prices are set by positioning on the COMEX. The good news is that the changes in positioning indicated in the new COT report and extrapolating for the prospective changes since the Tuesday cutoff are now flashing bullish signals. - Silver analyst Ted Butler: 07 March 2015

Whatever positive price action that developed in any of the precious metals on Monday, certainly wasn't allowed to get past the New York trading session without them being closed down on the day after posting earlier and decent gains.  Palladium was the only exception, as it closed up a buck, but well of its high tick.  "Da boyz" are still there.

Despite the dollar index and the engineered price declines, it's obvious that precious metals are attempting to rise, but aren't being allowed to.

Here are the 6-month charts for all four precious metals as of the close of Monday's trading session.

It's also obvious from yesterday's price action in silver in early Far East trading on their Monday morning, that JPMorgan et al were still able to coax more of the technical funds onto the short side, because if they weren't able to do that, prices wouldn't have declined the way they did.

We're certainly within spitting distance of the bottom---and I would guess that virtually all the damage will be done by the end of the week.  A reader asked me on the weekend if it was a good idea to buy at the moment---and I told her that it might be wise.   I'll certainly be buying more physical silver this week---and probably today, although this U.S. dollar is making life difficult here in Canada, as it is in every country on Planet Earth right now.

And as I type this paragraph, the London open is about thirty minutes away.  Gold attempted a rally in mid-morning in Far East trading, but got sold down almost immediately---and the gold price is currently at a new low for this move down.  Ditto for silver.  Platinum and palladium also set new lows for this move down.

Net gold volume is already huge at a bit over 25,000 contracts, with most of it in the current front month, so it's certainly of the HFT variety.  Silver's net volume is around 4,400 contracts.  The short squeeze in the dollar continues, as the dollar index is currently up another 45 basis points.  If you didn't read the story in the Critical Reads section headlined "The Global Dollar Funding Shortage is Back With a Vengeance and "This Time It's Different""---along with Jim Rickards' comments on it---it might be a good idea to do so when you can find the time.

Despite the huge rally in the dollar index, precious metal prices certainly want to rise, but are just as obviously not being allowed to.  When will this all end, you ask?  Beats me, but there is a limit to how low precious metal prices can go regardless of what the dollar does, so we just have to wait it out.

And as I hit the send button on today's epistle at 5:20 a.m. EDT, I see that all four precious metals are still under selling pressure by JPMorgan et al.  The low ticks were printed just before 9 a.m. GMT in London this morning---and prices are a bit off these lows at the moment.  Gold is currently down 9 bucks, silver is only down a dime---and platinum and palladium are down 15 and 12 dollars respectively.  Net gold volume is north of 43,000 contracts, with virtually all of it in the current front month---and silver's net volume is around 7,500 contracts.  The dollar index has now blasted through the 98.00 mark---and is up 75 basis points at the moment.  A panic short covering rally appears to be underway, although the dollar index is now back in hugely overbought territory once again.

Here's the 3-year U.S. Dollar Index chart courtesy of stockcharts.com, so you can see the insanity for yourself.  Don't forget to add about 75 basis points to what you see here.

Before heading off to bed, I'd like to point out that Casey Research is hosting its FREE on-line video event entitled "Going Vertical: Deep-Value Stocks to Own in a Rising Gold Market".

That event is occurring today at 2:00 p.m. EDT.

It will also be available for viewing after the initial stream for those who have schedule conflicts.  You can find out all about it, plus you can sign up as well, by clicking here.

Eight investing and junior exploration experts talk about their experiences in previous bear markets---and what you need to do now to prepare your portfolio for maximum gains when the market turns bull. Including one MUST-OWN stock pick from Louis James.

Guests include Pierre Lassonde, co-founder and chairman, Franco-Nevada, Bob Quartermain, president, CEO, and director, Pretium Resources, Doug Casey, Rick Rule, founder and chairman, Sprott Global Resource Investments, Ron Netolitzky, chairman and director, Aben Resources, Frank Holmes, CEO and CIO, U.S. Global Investors---plus Jeff Clark and Louis James.

That's all I have for today, which is more than enough.  Today is the cut-off for Friday's Commitment of Traders Report---and I'll be more than interested in how the precious metals are being dealt with by the powers-that-be when I roll out of bed later this morning.  And I don't doubt that "King Dollar" will be up some more as well.

See you tomorrow.

Ed Steer