26 January 2012

Inconsistent nonsense

Worth reading this response by Victor the Cleaner in FOFOA comments to this question: "At the moment, in order to influence the Gold price downwards, all that needs to be done by the authorities in LBMA and COMEX, is to raise the margin requirements."

This is complete and utter nonsense.

LBMA is a trade association and not an exchange and as such does not set any 'margin requirement'. The LBMA member firms are typically those banks and other financial institutions that trade gold and silver OTC in London, but non-members around the world also trade OTC with these institutions.

When Newmont has some trucks on the road on the way to the refiner, they might want to sell that gold immediately to eliminate any further price volatility from their accounts, and so they might phone JPM and sell that stuff forward. None of the two counterparties is a speculator here. Newmont does have the real stuff, and JPM does have the cash. So even if they would require collateral, this would not influence the price.

Yes, there are probably some raw recruits who follow websites such as TF and who trade COMEX futures in under-capitalized accounts. Yes, CME occasionally raises the margin. Yes, they may just be checking who is the under-capitalized novice and who really has the cash in order to purchase the gold for the contracts they hold. Yes, they may just rip off the clueless novice for fun (and money). But to think this would set the spot price of gold is quite a hubris.

The OTC market is ten times bigger than COMEX, and so it pushes COMEX around in a way that most COMEX-fixated goldbugs don't understand.

If you want to keep gold cheap in the long run, you need to create a huge volume of gold loans, expand the 'money supply'. If you want to manage the price of gold intra-day (and yes, there is indeed statistical evidence for this), you need to sell a lot of gold at spot in a short period of time. But you can do this only if you are a credible financial institution and only as long as you can hand over the allocated whenever your counterparties request it. So you need to understand extremely well what you are doing and how much physical per paper you need to be able to show. Hiking the COMEX margin is a side show.

What I find rather disappointing is the extremely poor quality of the discussion that is presented on the typical precious metal websites. This is financial product pushing of the same quality as pre-1999 when they IPO'd the companies that sell dog-food online.

Here are FOFOA, people discuss a very good reason for owning gold. For some reason, the mainstream goldbug websites totally ignore the good reason and push gold with inconsistent nonsense instead.

Why is that? Want to scalp PSLV? Want to create a mania, sell them financial products (including GoldMoney which is no longer 'money' by the way) and then when the big blackout comes, grab the gold for cheap from those who sell in panic because they never understood why they owned it in the first place? Very sad. And when the Financial Times calls the goldbugs confused idiots, sadly, there is even some truth in this statement.

If Victor keeps this up I'll be out of a blogging job.

23 January 2012

Survivor Bias and TBTF Tyranny

London Banker "has been a central banker and securities markets regulator during a varied and interesting career in global financial markets" and is a very credible commentator IMO. From his latest:

"Perhaps gold is being used as collateral for margin and cash liquidity, sold by counterparties to bring the price lower, leading to margin calls for even more. A crisis arising from a major default (Greece, Portugal, a huge bank) would force the price lower still, when the collateral would be exercised on default. Following on, the price might rocket again to enable the conspirators to seize outsize profits. Just a scenario, mind you! (Although, I note that Lehman's counterparties reported record profits through much of 2009.)

What is left of the global markets becomes a game of engineered survivor bias. Only those operating outside the law and with unlimited regulatory forbearance can win while the rest of us lose."

Some may remember my comments on FOFOA blog about how "Bullion banks are like spiders in the center of a web. They can feel the twitching of the flies in the web and determine the mood of the market better than anyone else and often in advance of others."

London Banker again: "Their top down view of clients' trading and custody portfolios and cash positions and flows puts them in a position to exercise tyranny. They can game their clients, taking advantage of superior information, credit and liquidity to ramp or crash targeted markets as needed to precipitate a crisis."

In other words, it is not just about avoiding debt (or its variant, leverage/derivatives) but also avoiding having most of your positions and trading with one bank.

Reading this stuff makes me comfortable that the Perth Mint will be one of the few left standing after all this is over. We don't engage in speculative trading/risk taking and the AAA rating means we don't have to beg and put up collateral with banks to be able to do the covering trades and other transactions necessary to keep the business running.

In the coming flight from risk, it won't just be about moving to cash (and hopefully many moving to precious metals), but it will also be about a flight to riskless/conservative counterparties. The problem for those looking to store precious metals is that at that point the Perth Mint is likely to run out of capacity - both in physical storage and also insurance (as we fully insure - few others do). All that will be left then is personal storage, which won't be a problem for those with small holdings. But for those with multi-million dollar holdings it will be tough as there aren't many non-bank fully insured custodians.

The lesson is to prepare now, which I'm sure all my readers have, as it is going to get nasty.

20 January 2012

Gold Scams

I've got a post up on the corporate site you will like about gold scams - hat tip Kid Dynamite for the lead story. I've included three real life examples of scam emails that the Perth Mint has received. You will (or won't) be surprised that it is not just average people fooled by this stuff - we have been contacted by suburban accountants and lawyers trying to facilitate a $100 million deal without pausing to think why a legitimate buyer wouldn't just come to us directly and save themselves a 1% commission.

18 January 2012

Expert says: Money spent on gold is practically wasted

Regular readers of this blog know I watch reports from Vietnam as an indicator of how Governments deal with large flows of money out of fiat and into gold. Non-first world countries feel this more I think and thus they give us a view into the future as to how first world countries will respond when they get hit with a real loss of faith in the ability of fiat to hold value over time and/or a view that there are few productive investment opportunities in the economy.

This Mineweb article on India raising import taxes on gold and silver has some interesting quotes in this respect:

"...this hike will discourage imports ... that is what the government wants, since imports have made a huge dent in India's growth story and growth seems to be flagging"

"The shift away from financial savings to something which will just lie in lockers around the country could be a large contributing factor to lower growth..."

"Another expert with a nationalised bank pointed out that money locked up in the yellow metal effectively disappears from the economy to become jewellery or sits idle in cupboards and bank lockers."

"Money spent on gold is practically wasted and it is also excluded from the financial intermediation system. Imports needed to be curbed."

"The massive jump in gold imports has also led to an increase in current account deficit."

No surprise that most of this plays on the "gold is useless" meme. In actual fact I agree with that. One's savings are better invested in productive businesses and entrepreneurs rather than an inert metal.

However, what the financiers, technocrats and politicians don't get is that movements into gold are a clear signal or vote by savers that the economy is crap. The solution is not to block the signal, but to solve the underlying problem. Actually the way to solve it is to get out of the way and stop fiddling with the economy but that would put them out of a job I suppose.

What these guys are doing is taking painkillers so the pain in their chest won't bother them. Then they'll all be surprised when they get a heart attack. Indeed, money flowing into gold is painful. That's the point.

13 January 2012

Emotions, Premiums and Backwardation

Good interview between Jeff Lewis (silver-coin-investor.com) and Grant Williams (vulpesinvest.com). Grant makes a very good point on emotions influencing how events are interpreted (my emphasis):

" It’s important to try and keep a sense of balance because the way things trade, particularly in silver, it’s easy to get fixated upon an idea and to blame every move on that particular idea. In the case of silver, the big theory about silver is the manipulation of the COMEX futures. ... It’s a dangerous game to sort of ascribe every single move in an instrument to a construct that has yet to be proven beyond any doubt. While I suspect there is definitely something untoward going on the silver futures as Bart Chilton has intimated in his comments this past year. I think it’s a very dangerous game to not have a balance, to just simply look at the way markets behave, look at the extraneous events that may have an effect and cause the de-leveraging or liquidation and to try and get a more rounded picture of why something moves now."

Later he says what the extraneous event was:

"I think a lot of that downdraft we saw in both gold and silver going into year end, was just people who are having to raise cash and selling the thing that they had a little bit of profit built into. Now, once they start going down, the shorts are going to press that; and so these falls get a lot more vicious than perhaps they would be in just an orderly market where people were looking to sell a bit of precious metals to raise some cash for year end. But as I say, you have to try and take your emotions out of this thing."

Interesting here that Grant says that the initiator of the price drop was year end selling, which was further "pressed" by speculators. I made a similar point in this corporate post when talking about bullion banks being aware of falling Indian consumer demand. My point, and Grant's, is that not everything is a manipulation (as in being initiated by speculators) and sometimes speculators are just riding a physical market trend. Don't drink the Kool-Aid (or should that be "Silver-Aid") of the pumpers which blame every price drop on manipulation but who never question any price rise.

As Ted Butler says (my emphasis) "... when silver experienced two separate 35% price declines in a matter of days. Such a decline in a world commodity for no observable supply/demand reason is unprecedented and I would say impossible in a free market." Same applies when you have the London AM Silver Fix increasing 20.1% over 24 hours from $10.77 to $12.93 on 18 Sep 08 (note: I can't find two 35% price declines in London Fix data, Ted must be talking intra-day).

Some who has been drinking the Silver-Aid is Tyler Durden with the silly headline Physical Silver Surges To Record 30% Premium Over Spot, In Backwardation. Regrettably, it was picked up by Money Morning Australia (from whom I'd expect better), to which I left this comment:

"What that chart tells us is that PSLV is a closed end fund with some possible tax advantages with good marketing, hence the premium. In the real physical wholesale silver market which is not constrained by a limited number of shares, Perth Mint is not having any problem acquiring, or selling, silver at spot."

Tyler must be drinking a lot of Silver-Aid or desperate to alleviate the cognitive dissonance of a circa 25% increase in COMEX silver warehouse stocks since mid-2011 to claim that a stock exchange listed trust is as good as and representative of cold hard physical in your hand.

Further proof that Tyler is suffering is his conclusion that the backwardation discussed in Keith Weiner's appended article "means, although for those who like the punchline here it is, as above: shortage" when, if you read Keith's good article, he says at the bottom that (my emphasis) "In a normal commodity, backwardation means shortage. ... But in gold and silver it means something else entirely. People have the metal. But for whatever reason(s), they choose not to take this free money. In the silver market right now, trust is in short supply."

Why everyone thinks that Zero Hedge is a credible source when in this example (and I have others) he can't even understand that Keith is saying there isn't a shortage of metal, there is a shortage of trust. I covered this idea in the Gold Standard Institute's 2009 Canberra seminar - see this post on Degrees of Distrust.

I've left this comment on ZH, let's see what comes of it:

"Perth Mint does not incur any premium when it pulls physical out of London. Whoever is feeding you that is making a fool out of you. If you really are independent and after the truth, more than happy to chat with you anytime - you have access to my email in my profile."

There are plenty of good reasons to hold precious metals I don't know why people resort to this shortage and premiums meme - maybe it is just a simple idea easily understood and communicated compared to some more intellectually dense analysis of the market's supply/demand/stocks.

Anyway, to finish on a more upbeat tone, here is Grant again:

"... we are left with an awful lot of strong hands holding silver now. I’m here in Asia, the futures price is really more of an irrelevancy. Over here it’s all about physical metal both in gold and silver and so we see a lot of buying of physical metals here in Asia when the price comes down on the COMEX and we see premiums expand because it’s very tough to get delivery."

I focus on the base trend for precious metals and see it driven by increasing numbers of strong hands. The day-to-day volatility (down AND up) is driven by leveraged money of speculators and hedge funds and bullion bank prop desks. I'd suggest ignoring that volatility, otherwise you waste too much emotional energy stressing about it. Just buy your PMs (or dollar cost average in) and forget about it and relax. That's what insurance is for.

10 January 2012

Reasons For Gold’s Weakness

I've got a post up on corporate site riffing of a recent Jeff Clark article on the same issue, adding in some comments on declining Indian demand and how the bullion banks would have played it. Click here to download the pdf article.

I'll be posting a bit more stuff on the corporate site from now on as I'm off a project I've been working on, so more time to focus on the commentary. You'll see from the pdf format I'll be writing under the Treasury department name. We are looking to beef up the commentary and analysis, maybe with a dedicated subsite under perthmint.com.au. More info to follow and will be interested in feedback and suggestions.

04 January 2012

Gold The Most Explored Mineral Commodity

Got a post up on the corporate blog on how 50% of all money spent on non-fuel mineral exploration during the last 15 years was spent on gold exploration.

And from the "who can make the most dramatic price forecast" department comes The Possibility of $1,000 Silver before Hyperinflation. Has anyone made a higher call?

To save you reading the whole article, here is the key logic behind the headline:

"...with gold at this relatively conservative top of $10,000 - if silver is at its historic 16:1 average in relation to gold - silver will be $625 per ounce. We have also explained above how it is entirely possible for silver to overshoot this 16:1 average, which is normally what happens when a trend has been misaligned for such a long period of time. If silver does reach a 10 to 1 ratio as it has done before at different times throughout history, then we would be seeing a price of $1000 per ounce..."

I suppose when you start off with the assumption that $10,000 gold is "relatively conservative" then $1000 silver is not far behind.

The key "gotcha" is in the headline: "before Hyperinflation". That is not a situation in which you want to trade your silver for $1000 of soon to be worthless fiat.