Gold & Silver Daily
"I'm not expecting a lot to happen as the March contract goes off the board"
 

¤ Yesterday In Gold & Silver

As I noted in The Wrap section of yesterday's column, there was a decent rally in gold in early Far East trading on their Wednesday.  But that all ended/got capped around 3 p.m. Hong Kong time---and an hour before the London open.  It was all quietly down hill for the remainder of the day, with the New York low coming shortly before the 1:30 pm. EST COMEX close.  From there, it rallied a few dollars into the close.

The high and low were reported by the CME Group as $1,211.70 and $1,200.70 in the April contract.

Gold closed yesterday at $1,284.20 spot, up $2.90 from Tuesday's close.  Net volume was very much on the lighter side at only 95,000 contracts, with a bit more than a third of that coming before the London a.m. gold fix at 10:30 a.m. GMT.

The rally in silver in morning trading in the Far East was much more substantial, with the high tick of the day coming shortly before 11 a.m. Hong Kong time---and from there it followed a very similar price path to gold.

The high and low ticks were recorded as $16.28 and $16.70 in the March contract.

Silver finished the Wednesday trading session in New York at $16.535 spot, up 22.5 cents on the day---and well of its high.  Gross volume was almost 100,000 contracts, but netted out to a tiny 1,600 contracts, as almost all of it was roll-overs out of the March contract.

Platinum also had a decent early morning rally in Far East trading but, like gold, a willing seller appeared at 3 p.m. Hong Kong time---and the low tick of the day came shortly before the COMEX close, just like gold and silver.  Platinum closed at $1,168 spot, up 5 bucks on the day.

Palladium inched higher through the entire Wednesday session---and broke through the $800 spot price mark for the final time shortly before lunch in New York.  It closed at $804 spot, up 12 dollars on the day.

The dollar index closed late on Tuesday afternoon in New York at 94.47---and then spent the entire Wednesday session chopping lower in a fairly wide range, much like it did on Tuesday.  The 91.16 low tick came about 9:20 a.m. in London---and it rallied back to about unchanged on the day at precisely 8 a.m. in New York.  From there it chopped lower into the close, finishing the Wednesday session at 94.20---which was down 27 basis points from Tuesday.

The gold stocks opened up---and stayed in positive territory all day.  The HUI closed up 1.77 percent.

After opening about unchanged, the silver equities rallied strongly until shortly before noon EST---and then chopped lower for the remainder of the Wednesday trading session.  Nick Laird's Intraday Silver Sentiment Index closed up 2.24 percent---and well off its high tick.

The CME Daily Delivery Report showed that 58 gold and 3 silver contracts were posted for delivery within the COMEX-approved depositories on Friday.  In gold, there were three different short/issuers but, once again, it was JPMorgan stopping them all for its client account.  The link to yesterday's Issuers and Stoppers Report is here.

The CME Preliminary Report for the Wednesday trading session showed that gold open interest for February fell by 267 contracts leaving 95 left to deliver.  But only 58 are posted for delivery tomorrow, so the balance will be on this CME's Daily Delivery Report this evening, along with the First Day Notice numbers for March.  In silver, the February open interest declined down to 3 contracts---and as you'll note in the previous paragraph, those are already posted for delivery on Friday, so silver is done for month.  Only gold has February contracts left to deliver.

There were no changes in GLD yesterday---and as of 9:24 p.m. EST yesterday evening there were no reported changes in SLV, either.

The good folks over at the shortsqueeze.com Internet site updated the short positions in both GLD and SLV as of the close of trading on February 15---and this is what they had to report.

It was no surprise to see that SLV's short position dropped by a very chunky 34.03 percent---from 20.72 million shares/troy ounces, all the way down to 13.67 million shares/troy ounces.  That would probably be JPMorgan buying all the SLV shares that fell off the table during the current price decline in silver that they engineered---paying down their SLV short position in the process.  On top of that, 5.41 million ounces of silver were deposited in SLV since the February 15 cut-off for this report, so it's a lead-pipe cinch that the short position in SLV is down even more---and probably significantly more.  But we won't know until about March 9 at the earliest.

GLD's short position declined by an even larger percentage, as it was down by 37.05 percent---from 1.49 million troy ounces to 935,000 troy ounces.  This is the lowest number I can remember seeing in a very long time.

These are the most aggressive short coverings I've seen in any one 2-week period---and it's got my "spidey senses" tingling.  But I think I'll take a blue pill and lie down until the feeling goes away.

Switzerland's Zürcher Kantonalbank updated their website with the activities in their gold and silver ETFs as of the close of trading on Friday, February 20---and this is what they had to report.  Both ETFs are continuing their respective declines, as their gold ETF shed another 10,015 troy ounces---and their silver ETF dropped by another 104,196 troy ounces.

There was no sales report from the U.S. Mint yesterday.

There was very decent in/out movement in gold at the COMEX-approved depositories on Tuesday.  80,375.000 troy ounces were reported received, which works out to precisely 2,500 kilobars---and 16,075 troy ounces [500 kilobars] were shipped out.  As you may have noticed recently, the in/out activity in the depositories is indicating that kilobars are a de facto "good delivery" bar for gold now---and will officially become so when gold sports its "new" price at some point in the future.  The link to that activity is here.

In silver, there was 584,789 troy ounces reported received---and 80,744 troy ounces shipped out.  Almost all the activity was at Canada's Scotiabank.  The link to that action is here.

Nick sent around some gold charts vs. some of the world's currencies to show that the precious metal is still a store of value---and here's gold vs. the local currencies in Argentina, the Ukraine---and "Mother Russia".

I started off with very few stories yesterday, but as the evening progressed, that all changed.  Now I have quite a few, so I'll happily leave the final edit up to you.

 

¤ Critical Reads

Morgan Stanley to Pay $2.6 billion to Settle Charges Over Mortgages

Morgan Stanley said Wednesday that it has agreed to pay $2.6 billion to settle with the federal government over its role in the mortgage bubble and subsequent financial crisis.

The settlement makes Morgan Stanley the latest Wall Street bank to reach a settlement with federal authorities, following the billions paid by JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup.

The $2.6 billion will go to "resolve certain claims" the Justice Department intended to bring against Morgan Stanley related to its mortgage division, the bank said in a regulatory filing.

The Justice Department declined to comment. In the regulatory filing, Morgan Stanley said the agreement is not been finalized and could fall though.

This AP story, filed from New York, appeared on the abcnews.go.com Internet site at 7:25 p.m. EST on Wednesday evening---and today's first news item is courtesy of West Virginia reader Elliot Simon.

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Lure of Wall Street Cash Said to Skew Credit Ratings

Michelle Choi, an analyst for Moody’s Investors Service, gave a credit rating to bonds issued by a New Jersey town in September. In October, she switched sides and started working for the town’s underwriter, Morgan Stanley.

Choi is one of hundreds of employees at Moody’s and other credit-rating companies, including Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, who’ve gone to work for Wall Street since the 2008 financial crisis exposed the conflicts at the heart of the ratings business.

While there’s no evidence that Choi’s job-hunting influenced the grade she gave Evesham Township’s debt, and the town chose Morgan Stanley after Choi rated its bond, the rising number of job changes in the industry raises a question: can credit analysts be impartial about grading bonds while looking for employment at banks that underwrite them?

No!  Really???  Who would have thought that???  I'm shocked---tee hee!  This Bloomberg news item appeared on their Internet site at 5:00 p.m. Denver time yesterday afternoon---and it's the second contribution in a row from Elliot Simon.

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Crude Oil Inventories Surge For 7th Week in a Row to Record Highs Amid Record Production

Oil prices dumped (last night's major 8.9 million barrel inventory build from API), pumped (the Saudi minister claiming "demand is growing" - which just seems like total fiction given economic backdrops and China's VLCC count plunge), and then this morning, dumped setting the scene for this morning's EIA inventory data. Against expectations of an 8 million barrel build, crude inventories saw a 8.43 million barrel build (5 times higher than the 5 year average). Record levels of production and record total inventory sent WTI plunging out of the gate but it is stabilizing for now...

U.S. oil production hit a new record high... (despite the declining rig count - perhaps finally putting a nail in that meme)...

This short, but very interesting Zero Hedge story contains some excellent charts---and is definitely worth your time.  It was posted on their website at 10:37 a.m. EST yesterday---and I thank Dan Lazicki for sending it our way.

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Rent walkouts point to strains in U.S. farm economy

Across the U.S. Midwest, the plunge in grain prices to near four-year lows is pitting landowners determined to sustain rental incomes against farmer tenants worried about making rent payments because their revenues are squeezed.

Some grain farmers already see the burden as too big. They are taking an extreme step, one not widely seen since the 1980s: breaching lease contracts, reducing how much land they will sow this spring and risking years-long legal battles with landlords.

The tensions add to other signs the agricultural boom that the U.S. grain farming sector has enjoyed for a decade is over. On Friday, tractor maker John Deere cut its profit forecast citing falling sales caused by lower farm income and grain prices.

Many rent payments – which vary from a few thousand dollars for a tiny farm to millions for a major operation – are due on March 1, just weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated net farm income, which peaked at $129 billion in 2013, could slide by almost a third this year to $74 billion.

This Reuters article filed from Chicago, was posted on their Internet site at 5:45 a.m. EST on Monday morning---and it's another item I found in Wednesday's edition of the King Report.  It's a must read.

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The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden 'black site'

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “NATO Three”, was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid. Officers restrained Church for the better part of a day, denying him access to an attorney, before sending him to a nearby police station to be booked and charged.

This article showed up on theguardian.com Internet site at 9:43 p.m. GMT on Tuesday evening---and I found it embedded in a GATA release.

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Retire Abroad and Offshore Your IRA: International Man

Money represents your energy and your time: the days, the weeks, the months, the years it takes you to earn it, and all the things you hope to do with it.  In short, money is like stored life.

Taxation, inflation, and artificially low interest rates are therefore similar to a needle and syringe tapped directly into your vein, sucking the life right out of you.

Sure, you can diversify your investments and take actions to minimize your taxes, but that alone is insufficient if the after-tax returns on your portfolio don’t keep up with the real rate of inflation—which is always higher than the cooked “official” numbers—let alone your investment goals.

The problem will only be compounded as politicians the world over look for more ways to tax or otherwise extract stored purchasing power. Investment income and retirement savings will be a juicy target. Just look at how capital gains and dividend tax rates have increased in recent years.

This commentary by International Man's senior editor Nick Giambruno appeared on his website yesterday and, if you are an American citizen, it's certainly worth reading.

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Kicking another can: E.U. gives France until 2017 to fix deficit

The European Commission on Wednesday (25 February) gave France another two years to bring its budget within EU rules - the third extension in a row - saying that sanctions represent a "failure".

France has until 2017, having already missed a 2015 deadline, to reduce its budget from the projected 4.1 percent of GDP this year to below 3 percent.

"Sanctions are always a failure," said economic affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici adding that "if we can convince and encourage, it is better".

Valdis Dombrovskis, a commission vice-president dealing with euro issues, admitted that France is the "most complicated" case discussed on Wednesday.

What a farce this European Union has turned into!  This article appeared on the euobserver.com Internet site at 7:34 p.m. Europe time on Wednesday evening---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Greece to stop privatisations as Syriza faces backlash on deal

Greece's Left-wing Syriza government has vowed to block plans to privatise strategic assets and called for sweeping changes to past deals, risking a fresh clash with the eurozone's creditor powers just days after a tense deal in Brussels.

"We will cancel the privatisation of the Piraeus Port," said George Stathakis, the economy minister. "It will remain permanently under state majority holding. There is no good reason to turn it into a private monopoly, as we made clear from the first day.

"The deal for the sale of the Greek airports will have to be drastically revised. It all goes to one company. There is no way it will get through the Greek parliament."

The new energy minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis, warned that Syriza will not sell the Greek state's 51pc holding of the electricity utility PPC, power grid ADMIE or state gas company DEPA. "There will be no energy privatisations," he said.

This commentary by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard appeared on the telegraph.co.uk Internet site at 7:52 p.m. GMT on Wednesday evening---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it our way.  It's worth reading.

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Kiev introduces rationing, as falling hryvnia causes shopping binge

Ukrainian supermarkets have imposed rationing of basic products after the drastic fall in the value of the hryvnia. The currency has lost 70 percent of its value causing people to stockpile food and buy electronics as a hedge.

Restrictions apply for goods such as cooking oil, flour and sugar, Ukraine’s news agency UNN reports Wednesday. Retailers may sell no more than two bottles of sunflower oil, and two packs of buckwheat per customer and, depending on the store, from 3 to 5 kilograms of flour and sugar.

Bread, rice, potatoes, meat and milk are not yet rationed, but are not so plentiful on supermarket shelves.

Stores have also see higher demand for household appliances, as people consider consumer electronics an investment as prices increase on a daily basis, RIA reports. Inflation in Ukraine is expected to reach 27 percent by the end of 2015.

This must read Russia Today news item showed up on their Internet site at 2:12 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon Moscow time, which was 6:12 a.m. in Washington.  I thank Roy Stephens for digging it up for us.

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This is What Happens to Gold in a Hyperinflationary Currency Crisis: Ukraine Edition

As Ukraine's socio-economic situation goes from worse to worst-er, today's announcement by President Poroshenko that the government will take actions to stabilize the currency (which as we previously noted, appears to be heading for hyperinflation) has Ukrainians rushing for the exits into precious metals... with only one goal in mind - wealth preservation.

This is what gold does in a fiat-currency crisis. Now if only Ukraine actually still had some gold...

Furthermore, according to RIA, on Tuesday, Ukrainian television channel Ukraina announced that with the new exchange rate, the minimum wage in Ukraine stands at around $42.90 per month, which according to the channel, is lower than in Ghana or Zambia.

Although this is a gold-related story, I thought it fit best in this spot.  The embedded hryvnia/gold chart is one you know well.  This brief article appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 1:22 p.m. EST on Wednesday afternoon---and I thank Dan Lazicki for sending it.

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Inside the Ukraine: John Batchelor interviews Stephen F. Cohen

The astounding military events along with the political fallout are far more dramatic under Minsk2 than at anytime during the active Ukraine Civil War.

The danger for continued war in Ukraine will depend on whether Kiev gets outside help.  Whether NATO is involved in the fighting will likely depend on the dove side of the E.U., Merkel and Hollande and others, deciding to go along with Washington. That has not changed, but for Cohen, this is less likely.  However Kiev's fortunes have declined even more since Poroshenko refused a surrender of his forces in the Debaltseve Caldron.  Cohen does a wonderful job of describing those final moments in the Cauldron. As it stands now there is no military of any usefulness for Kiev in the west of Ukraine, and as been stated several times, arming an army actually requires an army to arm---and Kiev simply does not have a military left.

The U.S. (who significantly was not invited to the recent Minsk talks) now has been making even more belligerent war talk. And Moscow is silent; the critical time is at hand. Putin knows. This is a deciding moment for the West, the United States, NATO, Europe, Russia and Ukraine. If Washington continues to push the war option we are looking at boots on the ground and serious political problems in Europe and for NATO.

Ordinarily I'd post this on Saturday, but here it is now, as it's very timely.  This 39:47 minute audio interview from Tuesday is certainly a must listen if you have the interest, which you should.  I thank Larry Galearis for bringing it to our attention.

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Kiev trying to invalidate weapons withdraw plan, undermine Minsk deal – militia officials

Kiev is trying to invalidate the plan of heavy weaponry withdrawal from the demarcation line in eastern Ukraine, thus undermining the Minsk peace deal, Donbass officials claim. An OSCE top official says Kiev is not pulling away its artillery.

According to the peace deal, heavy weapons must be withdrawn from the agreed demarcation line starting February 22. But Donetsk representative Denis Pushilin and Lugansk representative Vladislav Deynego have claimed in a joint statement that Kiev is “attempting to invalidate the plan.”

The Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which has a monitoring mission in the conflict area, said Kiev has so far failed to begin moving its weapons from the demarcation line.

“Ukrainian military forces keep silent for the moment being. They don’t pull out their heavy weaponry and say that a pause is needed. That is what really triggers certain concern of the OSCE, as this pause may last indefinitely,” said the Russian ambassador to the organization, Andrey Kelin.

This news story put in an appearance on the Russia Today website at 1:54 a.m. Moscow time on their Thursday morning---and it's another contribution from Roy Stephens.

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Seven Russian banks downgraded by Moody's

Ratings agency Moody's lowered its assessment of seven Russian financial institutions, including the banking arm of Gazprom, because of recessionary threats.

The downgrade for Sberbank, Bank VTB, Gazprombank, Russian Agricultural Bank, Agency for Housing Mortgage Lending, Vnesheconombank and Alfa-Bank follows a lowering by Moody's of the government debt rating to Baa3, the lowest investment grade rating, last week.

Moody's said it also lowered the financial strength ratings of Sberbank, Bank VTB, JSC , Gazprombank and Alfa bank.

"This is due to Moody's expectation that the prolonged recessionary environment in Russia will produce a very challenging operating environment for the country's leading banks and thereby impact their financial fundamentals," the ratings agency said in a Tuesday profile.

Without doubt this move is politically motivated.  This UPI article, filed from London, showed up on their Internet site at 5:59 a.m.---but doesn't give the time zone, but I would assume EST.  I thank Roy Stephens for sharing it with us.

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Putin: Gas supplies to Europe could suffer in 3-4 days if Kiev doesn't pay

Russia will cut off gas supplies to Ukraine if Kiev fails to pay in “three or four days,” President Vladimir Putin said, adding that this "will create a problem" for gas transit to Europe.

“Gazprom has been fully complying with its obligations under the Ukraine gas supply contract and will continue doing that,” Putin told reporters after talks with the president of Cyprus on Wednesday. “The advance payment for gas supply made by the Ukrainian side will be in place for another three to four days. If there is no further prepayment, Gazprom will suspend supplies under the contract and its supplement. Of course, this could create a certain problem for [gas] transit to Europe to our European partners.”

However, Putin expressed the hope that it would not come to that, stressing that “it depends on the financial discipline of our Ukrainian partners.”

This news item was posted on the Russia Today Internet site at 2:07 p.m. Moscow time on their Wednesday afternoon---and it's another offering from Roy Stephens.

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Bad for Business: After NSA Hack China Stops Buying Major U.S. Tech Brands

China has been axing major U.S. technology companies from its government purchasing list in favor of local brands. Some analysts believe fears over NSA spy technology could be to blame.

The list of products for the Central Government Procurement Center (CGPC), which is approved by the Chinese Ministry of Finance, includes over 5,000 products, 2,000 of which were added in the last two years, and almost entirely from domestic companies. Among those products, foreign brands have fallen by a third, and among security-related products, by a half. As of two years ago, Cisco Systems had 60 items on the list, but now has none. Among other companies, whose products were excluded from the list are Intel’s security brand McAfee, Apple, and Citrix. 

Though there are non-espionage-related reasons why China might be preferring local brands, the decline in foreign products does seem to coincide with the leaks made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 about massive US spying programs. 

This article showed up on the sputniknews.com Internet site at 1:33 a.m. Moscow time this morning---and has been updated since.  I thank Roy Stephens for his final contribution to today's column.

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Dollar Vigilante cites GATA in review of complaints about gold market rigging

In a review of complaints of manipulation of the monetary metals markets, Justin O'Connell of the Dollar Vigilante cites GATA Chairman Bill Murphy's "groundbreaking" testimony to a hearing held by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 2010.

O'Connell's commentary is headlined "A Brief Recent History of Precious Metals Manipulation Investigations" and it was posted on the dollarvigilante.com Internet site yesterday---and it's something I found on the gata.org Internet site yesterday.

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Koos Jansen: Austrian audit agency faults central bank over gold at Bank of England

Austria's government audit office has criticized the nation's central bank for depositing a disproportionate amount of the nation's gold reserves with the Bank of England, Bullion Star market analyst and GATA consultant Koos Jansen reports today. Jansen adds that the Austrian central bank has been steadily converting its foreign-vaulted gold from "unallocated" to "allocated" status -- that is, from being a mere credit against the depository to being ownership of particular metal.

This very interesting commentary by Koos showed up on the Singapore website bullionstar.com on their Wednesday sometime---and I found this story in a GATA release as well.

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Lawrence Williams: Can platinum regain its premium over gold in Q2-Q3?

Since writing my article on what I saw as the likely reasons behind platinum’s poor performance of late despite the metal being in an apparent substantial supply deficit, a couple more things on the metal have come to my attention – one perhaps marginally positive and the other negative.

On the positive side, precious metals consultancy, Metals Focus, in its latest Precious Metals Weekly, reckons that there’s a good chance that platinum will regain its premium over gold, perhaps as soon as in Q2 this year and possibly get back to a premium level during the year averaging as much as $100 over the gold price (which is pretty much the normal situation). However there’s little in their opinion on the fundamentals side to support this argument, the key factor, being in their view, that when the U.S. Fed eventually ceases shilly-shallying and starts to raise interest rates, it will be the gold price which bears the bulk of any adverse reaction in the markets and platinum less affected. To an extent this is perhaps fair comment, but one suspects that the gold price is already taking into account a modest interest rate increase later this year and while there may be a knee-jerk reaction when the announcement is made, one suspects any price downturn will be short lived.  And anyway, the way the markets behave a fall in the gold price will likely also see a platinum price downturn too.

This commentary by Lawrie is definitely worth reading---and he was kind enough to post my comments that I made on his previous article on platinum that he posted on Tuesday.  This article appeared on the mineweb.com Internet site at 12:21 p.m. GMT yesterday afternoon.

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Lawrence Williams: Have the big banks been manipulating gold and silver prices?

For many years most of the perennially bullish precious metals commentators, led in terms of continuing vehemency on the matter by the Gold Anti Trust Action Committee (GATA), have been claiming that precious metals prices are being heavily manipulated by the big commercial banks in collusion with the U.S. Fed and other central banks. And they cite as evidence various documentation, mostly quite old, obtained under freedom of information requests, together with some seemingly very strange volume and price movements on the COMEX markets at potentially key inflection points for precious metals prices, as well as the huge short positions held in all four major precious metals by a small group of major banks in particular. It has always been the gold bulls’ gripe that the evidence they have come up with has been totally ignored by the mainstream media, but is this all changing?

In a key article published on Monday this week, perhaps arguably the most prestigious global mainstream financial newspaper of all, The Wall Street Journal, reported that at least 10 major global banks are being investigated for precious metals market rigging by the U.S. authorities. The paper notes specifically that it has received reliable information that prosecutors in the Justice Department’s antitrust division are scrutinizing the benchmark price-setting process for gold, silver, platinum and palladium in London, while the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has opened a civil investigation, presumably into activities on the major commodities markets.

This commentary by Lawrie appeared on the mineweb.com Internet site at 3:44 p.m. London time yesterday afternoon---and it's certainly worth your while.

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China gold imports from Hong Kong rebound in January

China's gold imports from Hong Kong rose in January from the previous month, data showed on Thursday, reflecting increased demand ahead of the Lunar New Year.

Net gold imports from main conduit Hong Kong climbed to 76.118 tonnes last month from a three-month low of 71.381 tonnes in December, according to data e-mailed to Reuters by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department.

Jewellery demand typically rises ahead of the Chinese New Year, which fell in February this year. Analysts say import demand from the world's second biggest gold consumer after India is likely to recover this year.

This short Reuters article, filed from Singapore, appeared on their Internet site at 3:05 p.m. India Standard Time on their Thursday afternoon---and I found it on the Sharps Pixley website at 5:30 a.m. EST this morning.  Most of what else is written about China's imports in this piece is pure bulls hit, so just read around it.

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¤ The Funnies

Here are four more Grand Canyon shots from Day 2.  The three predominant tree species as this altitude are the ponderosa pine, the Pinyon pine---and the Utah juniper.  The fantastic trunks of the Utah juniper are on display in photo three---and in photo 4---plus I used their foliage to frame shots of the canyon in the first two photos, plus every other canyon photo I took as well.  Very handy these trees!  Note the two tiny figures in photo #2---almost lost in the grandeur.  Don't forget about the 'click to enlarge' feature.

















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¤ The Wrap

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my speculation that JPMorgan has amassed upwards of 300 million oz of physical silver over the past four years in the big buyer discussion. JPM is the most powerful and, in many ways, the most sophisticated trader in the world. I would also add most connected and crooked. This bank, in my opinion, controls the silver market. How they accumulated as much silver as I claim they’ve acquired is a testimony to their skill, power and treachery. But not even JPMorgan was able to buy 100 million ounces of physical silver in a short time (aside from the first big price take down in 2011).

If JPM did buy as much physical silver as I allege, that tightens the physical market even further and makes the price impact of the next big buyer that comes along more potent. It also validates the big buyer premise because JPMorgan wouldn’t buy that much silver if it wasn’t looking to score big.  And while it does create the possibility that JPMorgan could then sell the physical silver it acquired to the next big buyer which comes along at discounted prices, in reality that would only occur if JPMorgan sold the silver it accumulated at a loss and, in effect, subsidized the next big buyer’s purchase. That would not be in keeping with JPMorgan’s reason for existence. - Silver analyst Ted Butler: 25 February 2015

Except for the early price action in Far East trading on their Wednesday morning, it was very quiet yesterday---and most of the early gains were bled away as trading in London and New York progressed.  Of course yesterday was the day when all the big boys had to be out of the March  COMEX silver contract---and the over-the-top gross volume I spoke of at the top of this column, indicated that this was precisely what they did.  Everybody else has to be out today.

Here are the 6-month charts for all four precious metals updated with yesterday's data.

And as I write this paragraph, the London open is about thirty minutes away.  Once again there were smallish rallies in all four precious metals in morning trading in the Far East on their Thursday.  However, it does appear that these rallies ran into selling in early afternoon trading Hong Kong time for the second day in a row.

Gold's net volume at the moment is barely over 15,000 contracts---and silver's net volume checks in around 2,600 contracts---and most of silver's volume is now in the new front month which is May.  It's very quiet out there.  The dollar index is virtually comatose---and only down about 3 basis points at the moment.

I must admit that I'm not expecting a lot to happen as the March contract goes off the board.  As I said, all the small traders have to be out by the COMEX close at 1:30 p.m. EST this afternoon---and first day notice numbers come out this evening EST.

So where to from here you ask?  Beats me.  I still don't think we've seen the bottom of this engineered price decline, although I reserve the right to be wrong.  I'll have a much better feel for things once I've seen tomorrow's Commitment of Traders Report.  I've been commenting on it off and on all week---and this is what Ted Butler had to say about it to his paying subscribers yesterday.

"Finally, there was likely some further improvement in the COT market structure thru Tuesday’s cutoff for the reporting week, in that there was further speculative and technical fund selling and commercial buying on the series of new price lows in gold and silver to be reported in Friday’s release. However, the overall decline in price this week was muted---and COMEX trading volumes were not large, suggesting the reduction in the total commercial net short position was not as large as the two previous reports, at least in gold. One wild card is that there was a significant price decline on high volume on the cutoff day of the previous COT report, raising the possibility that not all of the speculative selling and commercial buying in that report was recorded in a timely manner and may show up this week. That’s a cute way of saying I’m not sure of how much commercial buying occurred this week."

And as I send this out the door to Stowe, Vermont at 4:50 a.m. EST, I note that prices have  continued to chop higher in all four precious metals since I wrote my prior comments about two hours and change ago.  Once again silver is leading the charge but, having said that, they're all doing very well for themselves at the moment.  Net gold volume is around 26,000 contracts, which isn't overly heavy considering the price action---and silver's net volume is only 5,100 contracts.  I find this lack of volume rather surprising---and it appears on the face of it that JPMorgan et al aren't really resisting these rallies too much.  Let's see if that continues. The dollar index still isn't doing much---but is now up 2 whole basis points.

The whole world now seems to know what the bullion banks have been up to in the precious metal markets for the last couple of decades---and even though not a lot appears to be going on out in the open, it's a sure bet that under the surface there's plenty happening---and it can't blow up quick enough to suit me.

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

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.

This FREE VIDEO will air on March 10 at 2:00 p.m. EST.  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.

That's it for another day---and based on what's happening at the moment, the rest of the Thursday trading session may prove to be far more exciting than I was expecting.

See you tomorrow.

Ed Steer