MACRO-US: The Math Does Not Lie

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Posted by Greg Weldon - Weldon's Money Monitor

on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 18:35

Unemployment, US Dollar, Palladium Aluminum & Gold:

We note commentary from President Obama's Chief Economic Advisor Alan Krueger, a wildly accomplished academic-economist, following Friday's release of the BLS Employment Situation Report for November ...

--- "Today's employment report provides further evidence that the US is continuing to heal. It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class. The types of programs that the President has been proposing to support the economy in the short-run, get us on a sustainable fiscal path in the long-run, and protect the middle class. We are going to continue to see progress in this economy."

Indeed, appearing on radio following the report, Krueger specifically singled out one data point, one which could have easily been gleaned from watching television, as a 'major positive'. Mister Krueger focused solely on the sizable single-month increase in hiring by the Retail sector posted in November. Alan even stated how this headline figure defined a resurrection in consumer confidence within the middle-class.

Confidence, linked to this labor report ???

Why, because the Unemployment Rate declined and retailers hired more people during their busiest season ???

Try selling that thought to the MILLIONS of CHRONICALLY UNEMPLOYED.

Try selling that thought, to those who once represented the middle-class.

Indeed, we would quickly point out that the rise in Retail Employees posted for November was NOT as large as the rise posted in November of 2007, during a period immediately preceding the biggest collapse in the US labor market in decades.

In fact, an even larger rise in Retail Employment, posted in November of 2007, marks what is still the all-time peak in Retail employment in the US. The simple fact is, that the total number of people employed in the Retail Industry fell to a new multi-decade low in December of 2009, and has only managed to climb back to the SECULAR LOW set in 2003.

This is a sign of building confidence ???

Moreover, we note that Retail Employment has regained ONLY 44.8% of the jobs lost during 2008-09 ... and ... despite the sizable single-month gain in November, hiring in this macro-sensitive sector continues to LAG the overall, still-feeble and sub-par, 'recovery' in total employment.

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 5.25.42 PM



Unusual: Gold Down Dollar Down

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Posted by Przemyslaw Radomski

on Wednesday, 05 December 2012 13:20

Both Gold & the US Dollar have declined in tandem since mid-November. That raises the question.....



Screen Shot 2012-12-05 at 12.22.55 PMScreen Shot 2012-12-05 at 12.23.28 PM








Today’s essay is the first one in our two-part commentary on U.S. debt and the dollar collapse.

On numerous occasions we have gone back in our commentaries to the year 1971 and U.S. President Richard Nixon’s decision to cut off the ties between the greenback and gold. Today, we revisit the topic once more and check what kind of implications it has for the price of the yellow metal.

Prior to 1971 the most prominent world currencies had been regulated by the Bretton Woods system. Under this agreement, the U.S. agreed to link the dollar to gold. This meant that any amount of dollars handed over by a foreign government or central bank would be exchanged for gold at $35 per ounce. Such an arrangement had a particularly important consequence for money creation. Namely, the U.S. government shouldn't issue more paper money than it had physical gold to back this money up. In practice, it was rather improbable that all the dollars would have to be exchanged for gold at once, so the U.S. government in fact issued more money than it could have paid for with gold, but the main restriction was in place: debt numbers couldn't be inflated to unsustainable levels.

In 1944 when the Bretton Woods system was introduced, the relation of U.S. debt to the official Treasury gold reserves stood at $319.90 per ounce of gold. This meant that there was $319.90 of borrowed money for every ounce of gold the U.S. had. With the price of gold at $35, a quick calculation shows that the U.S. gold reserves could have paid for about 10.9% of its debt. At first, it might seem that there was a lot of debt compared to gold assets. On the other hand, however, such a ratio was similar to reserves required from commercial banks by the regulator. In a way, the U.S. operated like a bank (with a lot of differences, of course).

By 1970, partly due to the Vietnam War, the U.S. began running consistent deficits. The government printed more dollars to meet its obligations and the amount of debt per ounce of gold surged to $1,172.56. The coverage of debt in gold went down to 3.1%. The ability of the U.S. to keep up to the promise to exchange dollars for gold was put into question. Nixon, fearing a situation in which foreign central banks would make a collective bank run on Fort Knox, decided to cease to exchange the dollar for gold and directly break the Bretton Woods agreement.

From that moment on, the dollar has been a fiat currency, that is a currency not backed by a physical asset, just by a promise of the government to accept payments (taxes) in it. But, as we've just seen, promises can be broken and right now the ability of the U.S. to pay its debts off in the future is also being put into question. To see why, take a look at the chart below.

commentary free 2012 12 04 1

Since 1970 U.S. debt has gone up from $370.9 bln to $16,159.5 bln, which is a more than 41-fold increase (!). Since 2000 gold has appreciated along with the ever sharper increase in debt. A similar chart was discussed in our commentary on gold as insurance.

Our next chart shows the rates of change (ROC) of both the U.S. debt and the average annual price of gold between 1920 and 2012.

commentary free 2012 12 04 2

The annual ROC of U.S. debt was in a general downtrend in the 1983-2000 period which was accompanied by poor performance of gold. Since 2000, the ROC of U.S. debt has been increasing again, which means that debt has been growing increasingly rapidly. This coincided with gold’s extraordinary performance during the last 10 years.

The U.S. Federal Reserve, led by Ben Bernanke, initiated three substantial rounds of what it callsquantitative easing (QE). In short, QE is a process in which the Fed buys government bonds and other assets from secondary markets with newly created dollars. Its (official) purpose is not to finance government deficits but rather to bring the U.S. economy back on the growth trajectory. Nonetheless, the effects of QE can be compared to those of printing enormous amounts of money. Just to give you an idea of how much debt the consecutive rounds of QE have so far created (approximate amounts):

  • QE1 (Nov 2008 – Mar 2010): $1.65 trillion
  • QE2 (Nov 2010 – Jun 2011): $600 billion
  • QE3 (Sep 2012 – ?): $40 billion per month.


As a matter of fact, Fed’s quest to provide the economy with more incentives has not stopped. The direct effect of QE on debt is reflected on the chart below.

commentary free 2012 12 04 3

In the period between January 2012 and November 2012 U.S. debt grew by 7.2%. There’s more to it: QE3 is an open-ended operation. This means that there is no limit on the amount of money the Fed can create and inflate the debt with within QE3. The purchases in the amount of $40 billion per month will continue as long as the Fed deems necessary.

The points mentioned above add up to a picture which is not at all rosy for the U.S. But it’s not apocalyptic either. Particularly for precious metals investors. Let us explain why.

It belongs to common sense that you can’t borrow money forever. Economics has a lot of intricacies and can be quite complicated at times but the basic rules are very simple. You borrow, you have to pay back. So if the government borrows too much and can’t pay it back, it will have to go bankrupt. The more debt it has, the worse its reputation is. People are less willing to put their money into treasury bills of a government with excessive debt. If the economy is shaky and the government is printing money, it damages its reputation but also makes the currency worth less and less. Hyperinflation is not a default nor bankruptcy in technical terms, but it is in practical terms. For the USD bond holders it will make little difference if they are not paid or paid something that is worthless.

In such an environment investors, motivated psychologically, turn to gold and silver. As Warren Buffet correctly pointed out:

“[Gold] gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head.”

But there’s one side of precious metals that is not covered by that quote. Gold and silver may be just lumps of metal but what makes them extremely interesting is the psychological association people have with them. Gold and silver have been used as currencies throughout the centuries. And people, for whatever reason, perceive them as valuable, particularly in times of economic turbulence. This alone stipulates that gold and silver prices may rise along with the worsening of the economic situation. And in case of the unlikely collapse of paper currencies, gold and silver could quite naturally come in as the base of a new monetary system.

The possibility we would like to highlight now is the default of the U.S. on its obligations and the demise of the dollar. In this scenario, a new currency system based on the gold standard is introduced. The financial collapse is usually perceived as Armageddon but doesn't necessarily have to be one. Just imagine, even in case of the U.S. government defaulting on its obligations, the assets that the country has would remain in place. The buildings, cars and infrastructure would still be there, they wouldn't melt down in the possible financial crisis.

A lot of property would change hands and there definitely would be turmoil, but it wouldn't need to amount to a civil war. Take a look at Latvia, a country where the GDP between 2007 and 2009 shrank by 24%, where unemployment shot up to 30% in 2010. Where the government laid off 30% of the civil servants and cut payrolls by 40%. Latvia didn't disintegrate.

So what implications for gold would a collapse of the U.S. dollar have? The next chart will aid us to analyze such an occurrence.

commentary free 2012 12 04 4

This chart presents the already mentioned relation of U.S. debt to Treasury gold reserves – the amount of debt per one ounce of gold – up to 2012. The red line represents U.S. Treasury gold reserves in metric tonnes, while the yellow line denotes the amount of U.S. debt in dollars per ounce of gold. The debt per ounce has visibly increased since 1971, accelerating around 2000 and even more around 2008. In 2012, there were $61,796.11 of debt per one ounce of gold owned by the U.S. government.

Now, if a new gold standard is introduced and the agreement works like the Bretton Woods system, the dollar (or whatever other currency) would be tied to gold. As noted earlier in this essay, at the introduction of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1944 the debt coverage for the U.S. stood at 10.9% (or $319.90 of debt per one troy ounce of gold). If the new system were based on similar assumptions with debt coverage at 10%, this would imply a fixed price of $6,179.61 per ounce of gold ($6,179.61 per ounce of gold divided by $61,796.11 of debt per one ounce of gold gives us coverage of 10%).

But is the dollar collapse all that likely? Or let us restate the question: if the dollar doesn't collapse, does it still make sense to be invested in gold and silver? Bear with us until next week when we publish the second part of this commentary. Until then you can gain some more insight into why holding on to precious metals might keep you on the safe side by reading our essays on gold and silver as insurance and on gold and silver portfolio structure.

Thank you for reading.

Przemyslaw Radomski, CFA

Don’t fight the emotionality on the market – take advantage of it! - Przemyslaw Radomski, CFA

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GOLD: What's Behind the Massive Selloff?

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Posted by Mark O'Byrne via Wealth Wire

on Thursday, 29 November 2012 17:35

gold marketsAfter a 3.5 Million Ounce Selloff, Gold recovered somewhat overnight in Asia and again today in Europe despite the sharp selling seen on the COMEX yesterday.

As ever, it is very difficult to pinpoint exactly why gold and all precious metals fell in price. Interestingly, oil fell by even more - NYMEX crude was down by 1% and was down by more than 1.7% at one stage.

The CME Group, which operates the U.S. COMEX gold futures market, said Wednesday's plunge in gold was not the consequence of a "fat finger" or a human error. The trading wasn’t even fast enough to trigger a pause on Globex, said CME.   

One thing that we can say for certain was that there was massive, concentrated selling as the New York stock markets opened with some 35,000 lots sold which is equivalent to 3.5 million ounces and saw the price fall from $1,735/oz to $1,711/oz between 0825 and 0830 EST.

One sell order alone was believed to be 24 tonnes or 770,000 troy ounces.  Incredibly there was 35% daily volume in just 60 seconds. 

The selling, like all peculiar, counter intuitive, sharp sell offs in recent months, was COMEX driven with COMEX contracts slammed leading to further stop loss selling.

The selling may have been by speculative players on the COMEX. It may have been algo or computer trading driven or tech selling – although this is less likely.

It would be naive to completely discount the possibility that a bullion bank, short the gold and silver markets, may have been trying to protect their large concentrated short positions. The CFTC data shows some bullion banks continue to have massive concentrated short positions - which are still being investigated.

Informed commentators questioned the nature of the selling as a large institutional COMEX trading entity would normally gradually sell a position of this size in order to maximise profit.

Other speculation was that because of the wholesale liquidation of all precious metals and some other commodities, the selling may have come from a fund forced to sell a range of speculative positions after the SAC Wells notice. 

Futures and options expiration may have also played a role, according to some analysts.

The robustness of gold overnight and recovery this morning is encouraging as normally one would expect to see follow through selling after such a sharp move lower.

The gold mining stocks indices were also higher yesterday which suggests that some precious metal market participants see the move as another mere blip in the precious metal bull markets.

The fundamentals driving the gold market remain very sound with broad based demand - store of wealth, investor, institutional and central bank - continuing to be seen globally.

There have not been very significant increases in open interest on the COMEX and there is no mania on trading floors and universal bullishness.  

Indeed, this is far from the case today. There continues to be little or no positive coverage of the precious metals in the non specialist financial media. 

While ETF holdings are at record highs - the increase in holdings has been tentative and gradual with no huge jump in demand which would be associated by a market top.

The shoeshine girls and boys have been selling large amounts of gold jewellery in the international phenomenon that is 'cash for gold.'

Meanwhile figures for mints, refiners and bullion dealers in last quarter show retail investor interest is tepid at best.   

*Post courtesy of Mark O'Byrne at GoldCore. His daily ‘Market Updates’ are quoted and reported on in the international financial press on a daily basis. Read more at Gold Core.

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Hyperinflation and Complete Collapse

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Posted by Nick Barisheff

on Thursday, 22 November 2012 09:21

“There’s never been a fiat currency in history that didn’t end in hyperinflation and complete collapse” says Asset manager Nick Barisheff .   Barisheff thinks that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s most recent call to have an “unlimited debt ceiling” for the U.S. was“just telling the truth.”  That’s essentially what we have now with“open-ended” money printing by the Fed.  Barisheff adds, “All it’s doing is postponing a problem . . . it makes it bigger and eventually it blows up.”  Forget about remedies for the economy, it’s too late.  Barisheff says, “We’ve passed the point of this getting fixed.”  Barisheff thinks if the Fed’s gold holdings are ever audited, there will be a “gigantic short-covering rally . . . multiple bankruptcies . . . and a massive loss of confidence” in the dollar because much of the gold is gone or leased out.  Barisheff thinks the gold price could be “easily double” right now.  That’s because Barisheff believes, “What’s kept the price down is the artificial leased gold going onto the markets.”  Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with Nick Barisheff, CEO of the $650 million Bullion Management Group.  

Ed Note: Look at these staggering statistics that define the problem: The Joint Committee on Taxation found that raising the tax on millionaires  to 30% federal (the so-called Buffet Rule) would raise a mere $5 billion a year.

Worse, if the Democrats passed all of their tax increase wish list - Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation concluded the best case scenario (if no one changes their behaviour) - would raise $82 billion.....or just 7% of the current deficit!!!!




The Stunning Dow / Gold Ratio

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Posted by Chart of the Day

on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 04:22

For some perspective on the long-term performance of the stock market, today's chart presents the Dow priced in another global currency -- gold (i.e. the Dow / gold ratio). For example, it currently takes less than a mere 7.5 ounces of gold to 'buy the Dow' which is considerably less than the 44.8 ounces it took back in 1999. Priced in gold, the Dow has been in a massive 12-year bear market. The current downtrend channel is the third of this bear market. While this latest channel is the least steep of the three, the Dow priced in gold has just failed to punch through resistance for the fourth time.


Quote of the Day
"Gold was not selected arbitrarily by governments to be the monetary standard. Gold had developed for many centuries on the free market as the best money; as the commodity providing the most stable and desirable monetary medium." - Murray N. Rothbard

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November 22, 2012 - Thanksgiving Day

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Where's the Dow headed? The answer may surprise you. Find out right now with the exclusive & Barron's recommended charts of Chart of the Day Plus.



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