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Here Is The FT’s Gold Price Manipulation Article That Was Removed | Zero Hedge

Here Is The FT’s Gold Price Manipulation Article That Was Removed | Zero Hedge.

Two days ago the FT released a clear, informative and fact-based article, titled simply enough “Gold price rigging fears put investors on alert” in which author Madison Marriage, citing a report by the Fideres consultancy, revealed that global gold prices may have been manipulated on 50 per cent of occasions between January 2010 and December 2013.

To those who hve been following the price action of gold in the past four years, gold manipulation is not only not surprising, but accepted and widely appreciated (because like the Chinese those who buy gold would rather do so at artificially low rather than artificially high fiat prices) and at this point, after every other product has been exposed to be blatantly and maliciously manipulated by the banking estate, it is taken for granted that the central banks’ primary fiat alternative, and biggest threat to the monetary status quo, has not avoided a comparable fate.

What is surprising is that where the FT article once was, readers can now find only this:

 

 

And since we can only assume the article has been lost to FT readers due to some server glitch, and not due to post-editorial consorship or certainly an angry phone call from the Bank of England or some comparable institution, we are happy to recreate it in its entirety. Just in case someone is curious why gold price rigging fears should put investors on alert.

Gold price rigging fears put investors on alert

By Madison Marriage

Global gold prices may have been manipulated on 50 per cent of occasions between January 2010 and December 2013, according to analysis by Fideres, a consultancy.

The findings come amid a probe by German and UK regulators into alleged manipulation of the gold price, which is set twice a day by Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, Bank of Nova Scotia and Société Générale in a process known as the “London gold fixing”.

Fideres’ research found the gold price frequently climbs (or falls) once a twice-daily conference call between the five banks begins, peaks (or troughs) almost exactly as the call ends and then experiences a sharp reversal, a pattern it alleged may be evidence of “collusive behaviour”.

“[This] is indicative of panel banks pushing the gold price upwards on the basis of a strategy that was likely predetermined before the start of the call in order to benefit their existing positions or pending orders,” Fideres concluded.

“The behaviour of the gold price is very suspicious in 50 per cent of cases. This is not something you would expect to see if you take into account normal market factors,“ said Alberto Thomas, a partner at Fideres.

Alasdair Macleod, head of research at GoldMoney, a dealer in physical gold, added: “When the banks fix the price, the advantage they have is that they know what orders they have in the pocket. There is a possibility that they are gaming the system.”

Pension funds, hedge funds, commodity trading advisers and futures traders are most likely to have suffered losses as a result, according to Mr Thomas, who said that many of these groups were “definitely ready” to file lawsuits.

Daniel Brockett, a partner at law firm Quinn Emanuel, also said he had spoken to several investors concerned about potential losses.

“It is fair to say that economic work suggests there are certain days when [the five banks] are not only tipping their clients off, but also colluding with one another,” he said.

Matt Johnson, head of distribution at ETF Securities, one of the largest providers of exchange traded products, said that if gold price collusion is proven, “investors in products with an expiry price based around the fixing could have been badly impacted”.

Gregory Asciolla, a partner at Labaton Sucharow, a US law firm, added: “There are certainly good reasons for investors to be concerned. They are paying close attention to this and if the investigations go somewhere, it would not surprise me if there were lawsuits filed around the world.”

All five banks declined to comment on the findings, which come amid growing regulatory scrutiny of gold and precious metal benchmarks.

BaFin, the German regulator, has launched an investigation into gold-price manipulation and demanded documents from Deutsche Bank. The bank last month decided to end its role in gold and silver pricing. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority is also examining how the price of gold and other precious metals is set as part of a wider probe into benchmark manipulation following findings of wrongdoing with respect to Libor and similar allegations with respect to the foreign exchange market.

The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission has reportedly held private meetings to discuss gold manipulation, but declined to confirm or deny that an investigation was ongoing.

h/t Noel

Marc Faber Warns “Insiders Are Selling Like Crazy… Short US Stocks, Buy Treasuries & Gold” | Zero Hedge

Marc Faber Warns “Insiders Are Selling Like Crazy… Short US Stocks, Buy Treasuries & Gold” | Zero Hedge.

Beginning by disavowing Mario Gabelli of any belief that rising stock prices help ‘most’ people (“Fed data suggests half the US population has seen a 40% drop in wealth since 2007“), Marc Faber discusses his increasingly imminent fears of the markets in this recent Barron’s interview.

Quoting Hussman as a caveat, “The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak. There’s no calling the top,” Faber warns there are a lot of questions about the quality of earnings (from buybacks to unfunded pensions) but “statistics show that company insiders are selling their shares like crazy.”

His first recommendation – short the Russell 2000, buy 10-year US Treasuries (“there will be no magnificent US recovery”), and miners and adds “own physical gold because the old system will implode. Those who own paper assets are doomed.”

Via Barron’s,

Faber: This morning, I said most people don’t benefit from rising stock prices. This handsome young man on my left said I was incorrect. [Gabelli starts preening.] Yet, here are some statistics from Gallup’s annual economy and personal-finance survey on the percentage of U.S. adults invested in the market. The survey, whose results were published in May, asks whether respondents personally or jointly with a spouse have any money invested in the market, either in individual stock accounts, stock mutual funds, self-directed 401(k) retirement accounts, or individual retirement accounts.Only 52% responded positively.

Gabelli: They didn’t ask about company-sponsored 401(k)s, so it is a faulty question.

Faber: An analysis of Federal Reserve data suggests that half the U.S. population has seen a 40% decrease in wealth since 2007.

In Reminiscences of a Stock Operator [a fictionalized account of the trader Jesse Livermore that has become a Wall Street classic], Livermore said, “It never was my thinking that made the big money for me. It was always my sitting. Got that? My sitting tight.” Here’s another thought from John Hussmann of the Hussmann Funds: “The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak. There’s no calling the top, and most of the signals that have been most historically useful for that purpose have been blaring red since late 2011.”

I am negative about U.S. stocks, and the Russell 2000 in particular. Regarding Abby’s energy recommendation, this is one of the few sectors with insider buying. In other sectors, statistics show that company insiders are selling their shares like crazy, and companies are buying like crazy.

Zulauf: These are the same people.

Faber: Precisely. Looking at 10-year annualized returns for U.S. stocks, the Value Line arithmetic index has risen 11% a year. The Standard & Poor’s 600 and the Nasdaq 100 have each risen 9.4% a year. In other words, the market hasn’t done badly. Sentiment figures are extremely bullish, and valuations are on the high side.

But there are a lot of questions about earnings, both because of stock buybacks and unfunded pension liabilities. How can companies have rising earnings, yet not provision sufficiently for their pension funds?

Good question. Where are you leading us with your musings?

Faber: What I recommend to clients and what I do with my own portfolio aren’t always the same. That said, my first recommendation is to short the Russell 2000. You can use the iShares Russell 2000 exchange-traded fund [IWM]. Small stocks have outperformed large stocks significantly in the past few years.

Next, I would buy 10-year Treasury notes, because I don’t believe in this magnificent U.S. economic recovery. The U.S. is going to turn down, and bond yields are going to fall. Abby just gave me a good idea. She is long the iShares MSCI Mexico Capped ETF, so I will go short.

What are you doing with your own money?

Faber: I have a lot of cash, and I bought Treasury bonds.

Faber: I have no faith in paper money, period. Next, insider buying is also high in gold shares. Gold has massively underperformed relative to the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000. Maybe the price will go down some from here, but individual investors and my fellow panelists and Barron’s editors ought to own some gold. About 20% of my net worth is in gold. I don’t even value it in my portfolio. What goes down, I don’t value.

Which stocks are you recommending?

Faber: I recommend the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF [GDXJ], although I don’t own it. I own physical gold because the old system will implode. Those who own paper assets are doomed.

Zulauf: Can you put the time frame on the implosion?

Faber: Let’s enjoy dinner tonight. Maybe it will happen tomorrow.

There is a colossal bubble in assets. When central banks print money, all assets go up. When they pull back, we could see deflation in asset prices but a pickup in consumer prices and the cost of living. Still, you have to own some assets. Hutchison Port Holdings Trust yields about 7%. It owns several ports in Hong Kong and China, which isn’t a good business right now. When the economy slows, the dividend might be cut to 5% or so. Many Singapore real-estate investment trusts have corrected meaningfully, and now yield 5% to 6%. They aren’t terrific investments because property prices could fall. But if you have a negative view of the world, and you think trade will contract, property prices will fall, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury will drop, a REIT like Hutchison is a relatively attractive investment.

Faber: The outlook for property in Asia isn’t bad because a lot of Europeans realize they will need to leave Europe for tax reasons. They can live in Singapore and be taxed at a much lower rate. Even if China grows by only 3% or 4%, it is better than Europe. People are moving up the economic ladder in Asia and into the middle class.

Are you bullish on India?

Faber: I am on the board of the oldest India fund [the India Capital fund]. The macroeconomic outlook for India isn’t good, but an election is coming, and the market always rallies into elections.The leading candidate is pro-business. He is speaking before huge crowds.

In dollar terms, the Indian market is still down about 40% from the peak, because the currency has weakened. In the 1970s, stock market indexes performed poorly and stock-picking came to the fore. Asia could be like that now. It is a huge region, and you have to invest by company. Some Indian companies will do well, and others poorly. Some people made 40% on their investments in China last year, but the benchmark index did poorly.

I like Vietnam. The economy has had its troubles, and the market has seen a big decline. I want you to visualize Vietnam. [Stands up, walks to a nearby wall, and begins to draw a map of Vietnam with his hands.] Here’s Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, the border with China, and the Mekong River. And here in the middle, on the coast, is Da Nang.

Faber: I recommend shorting the Turkish lira. I had an experience in Turkey that led me to believe that some families are above the law. When I see that in an emerging economy, it makes me careful about investing.

 

Scrambling Gold Mints Around The World Plead: ‘We Can’t Meet The Demand” | Zero Hedge

Scrambling Gold Mints Around The World Plead: ‘We Can’t Meet The Demand” | Zero Hedge.

One of the big disconnects over the past year has been the divergence between the price of paper gold and the seemingly inexhaustible demand for physical gold, from China all the way to the US mint. Today we get a hint on how this divergence has been maintained: it now appears the main culprit is the massive boost in supply by gold mints around the world working literally 24/7, desperate to provide enough supply to meet demand at depressed prices in order to avoid a surge in price as bottlenecked supply finally catches up with unprecedented physical demand.

Bloomberg reports that “global mints are manufacturing as fast as they can after a 28 percent drop in gold prices last year, the biggest slump since 1981, attracted buyers of physical metal. The demand gains helped bullion rally for five straight weeks, the longest streak since September 2012. That won’t be enough to stem the metal’s slump according to Morgan Stanley, while Goldman Sachs Group predicts bullion will “grind lower” over 2014.” Odd – one could make the precisely opposite conclusion – once mints run out of raw product, the supply will slow dramatically forcing prices much higher and finally letting true demand manifest itself in the clearing price.

More from Bloomberg:

“The long-term physical buyers see these price drops as opportunities to accumulate more assets,” said Michael Haynes, the chief executive officer of American Precious Metals Exchange, an online bullion dealer. “We have witnessed some top selling days in the past few weeks.”

The propaganda is well-known: “Prices are likely to drop further as global economic conditions are stabilizing and tapering worries continue,” said Rob Haworth, a senior investment strategist in Seattle at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, which oversees about $110 billion of assets. “There is no doubt that physical demand has improved, but it will not be enough to support prices.” Uhm, yeah. That makes no sense: what happens when global mints are hit by capacity bottlenecks from gold miners for whom it is becoming increasingly more economic to just halt production at sub-cost levels.

Meanwhile, here is a case study of how individual mints are working overtime to plug the unprecedented demand comes from Austria:

Austria’s mint is running 24 hours a day as global mints from the U.S. to Australia report climbing demand for gold coins even while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. says this year’s price rebound will end.

 

Austria’s Muenze Oesterreich AG mint hired extra employees and added a third eight-hour shift to the day in a bid to keep up with demand. Purchases of bullion coins at Australia’s Perth Mint rose 20 percent this year through Jan. 20 from a year earlier. Sales by the U.S. Mint are set for the best month since April, when the metal plunged into a bear market.

It’s not just Austria. Presenting the US Mint:

The U.S. Mint, the world’s largest, sold 89,500 ounces so far this month. The Austrian mint that makes Philharmonic coins, saw sales jump 36 percent last year and expects “good business” for the next couple of months, Andrea Lang, the marketing and sales director of Austria’s Muenze Oesterreich AG, said in an e-mail.

 

“The market is very busy,” Lang said. “We can’t meet the demand, even if we work overtime.”

 

The price for the Austrian mint’s 1-ounce Philharmonic gold coin slumped 27 percent last year, according to data from the Certified Coin Exchange.

 

“It’s been a very bad year for gold,” said Frank McGhee, the head dealer at Integrated Brokerage Services LLC in Chicago. “People who bought coins have lost value, but they are not looking at short-term gains, and hope springs eternal.”

Tell that to China.

That said, keep an eye on GLD ETF holdings – for now the biggest marginal setter of gold price remains the paper ETF, whose “physical” gold holdings have cratered in the past year. Once this resumes going higher, buy.

Is a Major Gold Scandal Going Mainstream? Washington’s Blog

Is a Major Gold Scandal Going Mainstream? Washington’s Blog.

Allegation that Central Banks Have Rehypothecated, Leased or Outright Sold the Gold They Claim to Have Is Gaining Momentum

We noted in 2012 that there are serious questions as to whether the Fed and other central banks really have the gold holdings which they claim.

This story is starting to go mainstream.

The Financial Times writes today (h/t Zero Hedge):

A year ago the Bundesbank announced that it intended to repatriate 700 tons of Germany’s gold from Paris and New York. Although a couple of jumbo jets could have managed the transatlantic removal, it made security sense to ship the load in smaller consignments. Just how small, and over how long, has only just become apparent.

Last month Jens Weidmann, Bundesbank president, admitted that just 37 tons had arrived in Frankfurt. The original timescale, to complete the transfer by 2020, was leisurely enough, but at this rate it would take 20 years for a simple operation. Well, perhaps not so simple. While he awaits delivery, Herr Weidmann is welcome to come and look through the bars in the Federal Reserve’s vaults, but the question is: whose bars are they?

In the “armchair farmer” fraud you are told: “Look, this is your pig, in the sty.” It works until everyone wants physical delivery of their pig, which is why Buba’s move last year caused such a stir. After all nobody knows whether there are really 260m ounces of gold in Fort Knox, because the US government won’t let auditors inside.

The delivery problem for the Fed is a different breed of pig. The gold market is far more than exchanging paper money for precious metal. Indeed the metal seems something of a sideshow. In June last year the average volume of gold cleared in London hit 29m ounces per day. The world’s mines are producing 90m ounces per year. The traded volume was many times the cleared volume.

The paper gold in the London Bullion Market takes the familiar forms that bankers have turned into profit machines: futures, options, leveraged trades, collateralised obligations, ETFs . . . a storm of exotic instruments, each of which is carefully logged, cross-checked and audited.

Or perhaps not. High-flying traders find such backroom work tedious, and prefer to let some drone do it, just as they did with those money-market instruments that fuelled the banking crisis. The drones will have full control of the paper trail, won’t they? There’s surely no chance that the Fed’s little delivery difficulty has anything to do with the cat’s-cradle of pledges based on the gold in its vaults?

John Hathaway suspects there is. He worries about all the paper (and pixels) linked to gold. He runs the Tocqueville gold fund (the clue is in the name) and doesn’t share the near-universal gloom of London’s gold analysts, who a year ago forecast an average $1700 for 2013. It is currently $1,260.

As has been remarked here before, forecasting the price is for mugs and bugs. But one day the ties that bind this pixelated gold may break, with potentially catastrophic results. So if you fancy gold at today’s depressed price, learn from Buba and demand delivery.

And last week, Glenn Beck – hate him or love him, he’s got the 594th most popular website in the world and many viewers on Dish network and various cable providers – did an entire 20-minute episode on the issue:

This story hasn’t yet made it to the New York Times, the Washington Post or network television … but it is gaining momentum.

Sprott: “Manipulation Of Gold By Central Banks Cannot Continue In 2014” | Zero Hedge

Sprott: “Manipulation Of Gold By Central Banks Cannot Continue In 2014” | Zero Hedge.

With Deutsche Bank quitting the price-setting panel for gold and Bafin bearing down on the manipulators, Eric Sprott provides some more color on where the manipulation in the precious metals markets is underway (and when it will end)…

Submitted by Eric Sprott of Sprott Global Resource Investments,

Introduction

As we very well know, 2013 was a difficult but also puzzling year for precious metals investors. The price of gold, silver and their related equities declined by a significant amount while demand for physical bullion from emerging markets and their Central Banks was exceptionally strong.

A common argument that has been made to explain the precipitous decline of the price of precious metals in 2013 is of investors’ disenchantment with precious metals, which had been piling up in exchange traded products as a way for investors to gain exposure to the metals. Proponents of this theory point to the large declines in the total holdings of those ETFs as evidence of investors fleeing the precious metal trade. As shown in Figure 1, the price of both gold and silver suffered very significant declines throughout 2013. Therefore, if this explanation is correct, one would expect the total ETF holdings of both metals to be lower as well.

However, this is not the case. As shown in Figure 2 gold ETFs suffered large redemptions whereas silver ETFs saw their holdings remain more or less constant throughout the year, and this without any observable change in trading patterns in the two largest ETFs; GLD and SLV (Figure 3 shows the ratio of the trading values in the ETFs over time). If redemptions are a symptom of investors’ disenchantment with precious metals as an investment, shouldn’t silver have suffered the same fate as gold? Indeed it should have, but we think the reason silver ETFs were not raided like gold was that Central Banks do not have a silver supply problem, they have a gold problem. As we have argued before, the raiding of gold ETFs is bullish for gold because it reflects an imbalance in the physical market.1

Figure 1: Gold and Silver prices declined significantly in 2013
maag-01-2014-1.gif
Source: Bloomberg

Figure 2: ETF Holdings – Troy oz (millions)
maag-01-2014-2.gif
Source: Bloomberg, tickers ETSITOTL & ETFGTOTL

In this article, we further argue that the April raid on gold and gold ETFs almost backfired by creating a tsunami of buying in India and increased demand to unsustainable levels. In May 2013 alone, Indians imported 162 tonnes2 of gold in a market where monthly global mine production is about 182 tonnes. A continuation of this trend, coupled with strong buying from other Emerging Markets and their Central Banks, would have been overwhelming. But, the response was swift. We suspect that, at the behest of Western Central Banks, the Reserve Bank of India reacted by enacting, in incremental steps, restrictive measures to prevent gold imports (See Figure 4 for a timeline of the major changes made by the Indian Government).3

Figure 3: Traded Value – Ratio of SLV to GLD
maag-01-2014-3.gif
Source: Bloomberg. Traded Value is calculated by taking the total trading volume for a quarter and multiplying it by the average price over that quarter. A ratio of 1 indicates that SLV traded as much, in $ terms, as GLD.

Figure 4: Efforts to Curb Indian Gold Imports
maag-01-2014-4.gif
Source: Bloomberg, Economic Times

 

Supply and Demand Imbalances: The Indian Effect 

We have already discussed at length the supply and demand imbalance in an Open Letter to the World Gold Council, asking them to revise their methodology because it grossly understates the amount of demand coming from emerging markets.4 Our gold supply and demand table (Table 1) reflects the latest available data (2013 Q3 in most cases). World mine production, excluding Chinese and Russian production still stands at about 2,100 tonnes a year. Chinese net imports most likely exceeded 1,700 tonnes for 2013 (81% of world mine production) and demand from the rest of the world is rather stable.5

The overall picture has not changed much since our last article, with the exception of Indian imports. As of the second quarter of 2013, India had cumulative net gold imports of 551 tonnes, which annualizes to 1,102 tonnes.6 However, Q3 data shows net imports of only 31 tonnes (for a total of 582 tonnes YTD), which annualizes to 776 tonnes.

This incredible loss of momentum for “official” gold imports was the result of concerted actions by the Reserve Bank of India and the Indian Government. While the “official” justification for those restrictions is the large Indian current account deficit, this argument makes little sense. According to government officials, Indian’s taste for gold and the corresponding imports worsens the country’s trade balance, worsens its current account deficit and puts downward pressure on their currency, the Rupee.

But, without going into too many details, the classification of gold as a “good” in the trade balance is at best misleading. Since gold is more of an investment vehicle and is not “consumable” per se, it should instead be accounted for in the capital account of the balance of payments instead of the current account. Indeed, Switzerland, which is a large net importer of gold, reports its trade balance “without precious metals, precious stones and gems as well as art and antiques” to reflect fact that those are “investments” rather than consumption goods.9 In this case, why should India be any different and report their trade data excluding gold? To us, all the fuss about gold imports by the Indian Government is a red herring.

So, without the intervention in the Indian gold market, the shortage of gold would have wreaked havoc in the market, a situation that Western Central Banks could not tolerate.

Table 1: World Gold Supply and Demand 2013, in Tonnes
maag-01-2014-5.gif
Sources: GFMS data comes from the WGC’s “Gold Demand Trends” publications for 2013 Q1, Q2 & Q3. Chinese mine supply comes from the China Gold Association and is up to October 2013, the annualized number is a Sprott estimate.8 Russian mine supply comes from the Union of Gold Producers and is up to 2013 Q3. Chinese data is taken from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department and covers the period Jan.-Nov. 2013 and is annualized to account for the missing month. Changes in Central Bank gold reserves are taken from the IMF’s International Financial Statistics, as published on the World Gold Council’s website for 2013 Q1, Q2 & Q3 and include all international organizations as well as all central banks. Net imports for Thailand, Turkey and India come from the UN Comtrade database and include gold coins, scrap, powder, jewellery and other items made of gold. The data is for 2013 Q1, Q2 & Q3. ETFs data comes from GFMS as well.

 

Conclusion and Outlook for 2014

As demonstrated in our Open Letter to the World Gold Council, there was a large supply-demand imbalance in 2013. The evidence presented here suggests that the decline in the price of gold in mid-2013 and the subsequent raid of gold ETFs (but not silver ETFs) was engineered by Western Central Banks to help solve their physical gold supply problem. However, the resulting increase in Indian gold demand exacerbated the problem. The solution was to restrict Indians from importing gold by all means possible in order to help the Western Central Banks regain control of the gold market.

However, the rate of drain in gold ETFs cannot continue forever; at the current pace of 930 tonnes/year, there are less than two years of gold left in ETFs. Moreover, Indians have proved highly creative at finding ways around import restrictions.10 Smuggling is on the rise and will most likely increase as smugglers become more sophisticated. Overall, we believe that interest in physical gold from emerging markets will remain a driving force.

Besides, mine production is unlikely to grow, as reflected by the significant decrease in capital expenditures expected for the major gold producers (Figure 5).

Accordingly, we believe that the manipulation of gold prices by central banks, as demonstrated by the above analysis, cannot continue in 2014. Therefore, we expect substantial increases in the price of precious metals as the true shortages become obvious.

Figure 5: Capital Expenditures ($mm) – XAU Index Members
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Source: Bloomberg. Consensus analyst estimates are used for years 2013-2015.

 

P.S. Due to recent developments, we would also like to highlight some related media stories

Jan. 17, 2014: Germany’s top financial regulator said possible manipulation of currency rates and prices for precious metals is worse than the Libor-rigging scandal

Jan. 17, 2014: Deutsche quits gold price-setting as regulators investigate fix (Did the regulators ask them to?)

Dec. 13, 2013: Bafin Said to Interview Deutsche Bank Staff in Gold Probe

Nov. 26, 2013: U.K., German Regulators Scrutinize Gold, Silver Pricing

Sept. 9, 2013: Sprott Thoughts: A Leaky Fix

 

1 See, for example, “Redemptions in the GLD are, oddly enough, Bullish for Gold”.
2 http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/06/03/gold-india-imports-idINDEE95207H20130603
3 See “Do the Western Central Banks have any gold left?”. Sprott Asset Management LP, Markets at a Glance May 2013.
4 See the full article at: http://www.sprott.com/markets-at-a-glance/open-letter-to-the-world-gold-council/
5 As a reminder, because of our methodology which uses net imports as a proxy for total demand in countries that do not re-export gold, we exclude the “total industrial demand” estimate from the GFMS to avoid double counting. Thus, we underestimate total gold demand because we do not include industrial demand from the countries other than China, India, Turkey and Thailand.
6 As reported by the UN Comtrade Statistics. We use the total dollar amount reported and average quarterly prices to infer the total amount of gold imported and exported.
7 This is calculated by taking the total consumer demand for jewellery, coins and bars for 2013 Q1 & Q2 from table 10 of the WGC’s “Gold Demand Trends” and subtracting from it demand from the individual countries we have listed in the table (China/Hong Kong, India, Turkey, Russia and Thailand).
8 http://translate.google.ca/translate?hl=en&sl=zh-CN&u=http://www.cngold.org/&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dcngold.%26client%3Dsafari%26rls%3Den
9 See the Swiss Customs Administration website: http://www.ezv.admin.ch/themen/04096/04101/index.html?lang=en
10 See, for example: http://www.thestar.com/business/economy/2013/12/27/insatiable_appetite_for_gold_fuels_indias_smuggling_industry.html http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/12/03/india-gold-smuggling-idINDEE9B20HY20131203 http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-12-29/chennai/45674552_1_airline-staff-gold-smuggling-flight-attendant

Fed’s Economic Projections – Myth Vs. Reality (Dec 2013) – STA WEALTH

Fed’s Economic Projections – Myth Vs. Reality (Dec 2013) – STA WEALTH.

Each quarter the Fed releases their assessment of the economy along with their forward looking projections for three years into the future. (See Fed Projections Myth Vs. Reality for the September analysis)  I started tracking these projections beginning in early 2011 and comparing the Fed’s forecasts with what eventually became reality.  The problem has, and continues to be, is that their track record for forecasting has been left wanting.  The reality is, however, is that the Federal Reserve simply cannot verbally state what they really see during each highly publicized meeting as it would roil the markets.   Instead, they use their communications to guide the markets expectations toward reality in the hopes of reducing the risks of market dislocations.

The most recent release of the Fed’s economic projections on the economy, inflation and unemployment continue to follow the same previous trends of weaker growth, lower inflation and a complete misunderstanding of the real labor market.

Economy

When it comes to the economy, the Fed has consistently overstated economic strength. Take a look at the chart and table. In January of 2011, the Fed was predicting GDP growth for 2013 at 4.0%. Actual real GDP (inflation adjusted) is currently estimated at 2.0% for the year or a negative 50% difference. The estimates at that time for long run economic growth was 2.7% which has now fallen to 2.15% and was guided down from 2.3% in September and 2.5% in June.

Fed-Revisions-GDP-121813

We have been stating repeatedly over the last 2 years that we are in for a low growth economy due to the debt deleveraging, deficits and continued fiscal and monetary policies that are retardants for economic prosperity. The simple fact is that when an economy requires more than $5 of debt to provide $1 of economic growth – the engine of growth is broken.

As of the latest Fed meeting the forecast for 2014 and 2015 economic growth has been revised down to just 2.9% and 2.8% respectively as the realization of a slow-growth economy is recognized. However, the current annualized trend of GDP suggests growth rates in the next two years could likely be lower than that.

With more than 48 months of economic expansion behind us; this current expansion is longer than the historical average.  Economic data continues to show signs of weakness, despite intermittent pops of activity, and the global economy remains drag on domestic exports.  With higher taxes, government spending cuts and the debt ceiling debate looming the fiscal drag on the economy could be larger than expected.

What is very important is the long run outlook of 2.15% economic growth. That rate of growth is not strong enough to achieve the “escape velocity” required to substantially improve the level of incomes and employment that were enjoyed in previous decades.

Unemployment

The Fed’s new goal of targeting a specific unemployment level to monetary policy could potentially put the Fed into a box. Currently, the Fed sees 2014 unemployment falling to 6.45% and ultimately returning to a 5.6% “full employment” rate in the long run.  That long run rate was adjusted higher from the June meeting.  The issue with this “full employment”prediction really becomes what the definition of “reality” is.

Fed-Revisions-Employment-121713

Today, average Americans have begun to question the credibility of the BLS employment reports. Even Congress has made an inquiry into the data collection and analysis methods used to determine employment reports. Since the end of the last recession employment has improved modestly. However, that improvement, as shown in full-time employment to population ratio chart below, has primarily due to increases in temporary and lower wage paying positions. More importantly, where the Fed is concerned, the drop in the unemployment rate has been due to a shrinkage of the labor pool rather than an increase in employment.

Employment-fulltime-joblessclaims-103113

While the unemployment “rate” is declining, it is a very poor measure from which to benchmark the health of the economy. The drop in unemployment is primarily due totemporary hires, labor hoarding and falling labor participation rates.  Real full-time employment as a percentage of the working population shows that employment has only marginally increased since the financial crisis. The drop in jobless claims does not necessarily represent an increasing employment picture but rather labor hoarding by companies after deep levels of employment reductions over the past 4 years.

InflationWhen it comes to inflation, and the Fed’s outlook, the debate comes down to what type of inflation you are actually talking about. The table and chart below show the actual versus projected levels of inflation.

Fed-Revisions-Inflation-121713

The Fed significantly underestimated official rates of inflation in 2011. However, in 2012 and 2013 their projections and reality became much more aligned.   Unfortunately, inflation has fallen well below target levels of 2% which is weighing on economic growth.  The Fed’s greatest economic fear is deflation and the current drop in annual rates of inflation will keep pressure on the Fed to continue to accommodative policy active for longer than most expect.

However, for the average American the inflation story is entirely different. Reported inflation has little meaning to the consumer as the real cost of living has risen sharply in recent years. Whether it has been the cost of health insurance, school tuition, food, gas or energy – these everyday costs have continued to rise substantially faster than their incomes. This is why personal savings rates continue to fall, and consumer credit has risen, as incomes remain stagnant or weaken. It is the rising “cost of living” that is weighing on the American psyche, and ultimately, on economic growth.

Wishful Thinking

While the FOMC is vastly hopeful that the current economic improvement will be sustained; rising deflationary pressures, weak global growth rates and stagnant wages pose major headwinds.  The problem is that the current proposed policy is an exercise in wishful thinking.  While the Fed blames fiscal policy out of Washington; the reality is that monetary policy does not work in reducing real unemployment or interest rates. However, what monetary policy does do is promote asset bubbles that are dangerous; particularly when they are concentrated in the riskiest of assets from stocks to junk bonds.

The problem that the Fed will eventually face, with respect to their monetary policy decisions, is that effectively the economy could be running at “full rates” of employment but with a very large pool of individuals excluded from the labor force.  Of course, this also explains the continued rise in the number of individuals claiming disability and participating in the nutritional assistance programs.   While the Fed could very well achieve its goal of fostering a “full employment” rate of 6.5%, it certainly does not mean that 93.5% of working age Americans will be gainfully employed.  It could well just be a victory in name only

With the Fed committed to continuing its Large Scale Asset Purchase program (Quantitative Easing or Q.E.), and deploying specific performance targets, the question of effectiveness looms large. Bernanke has been quite vocal in his testimonies over the last year that monetary stimulus is not a panacea. In his most recently statement, Bernanke specifically stated that “fiscal policy is restraining economic growth.”

However, the recent improvements in employment and economic activity allowed the FOMC to begin “tapering” their current rate of asset purchases from $85 to $75 billion per month.

“…the Committee sees the improvement in economic activity and labor market conditions over that period as consistent with growing underlying strength in the broader economy. In light of the cumulative progress toward maximum employment and the improvement in the outlook for labor market conditions, the Committee decided to modestly reduce the pace of its asset purchases.”

The problem for the Federal Reserve currently is that there are very few policy tools left, and the economic effectiveness of continued artificial stimulation is clearly waning.  Lower mortgages rates, interest rates and excess liquidity served well in priming the pumps of the real estate and financial markets when valuations were extremely depressed. However, four years later, stock valuations are no longer low, earnings are no longer depressed and the majority of real estate related activity has likely been completed.  More importantly, the recent surge in leverage and asset prices smacks of an asset bubble in the making.

Reminiscent of the choices of Goldilocks – the reality is that the Fed’s estimates for economic growth in 2013 was too hot, employment was too cold and inflation estimates were just about right. The real unspoken concern should be the continued threat of deflation and what actions will be available when the next recession eventually comes.

 

Economies Don’t Die – Monty Pelerin’s World : Monty Pelerin’s World

Economies Don’t Die – Monty Pelerin’s World : Monty Pelerin’s World.

economicdeath

This country will die. History will record the cause as due to an event worse than the Great Depression. That diagnosis will be wrong.

Economies do not die except when they are murdered. Free markets are self-equilibrating, healing themselves unless they are prevented from doing so.

The very purpose of government intervention is to produce outcomes that otherwise would not occur. Intervention is always an attempt to overcome the natural equilibrium at which an economy would settle. Its very purpose is to thwart the intentions of individuals who make up the economy. Intervention is intended to alter the natural healing process.

Every so-called “economic” problem can be traced back to prior political intervention(s). Political actions deemed necessary today result from damages inflicted by prior government interventions.

Damages and distortions are cumulative. Once begun, politicians are unable/unwilling to stop intervening as the pain of allowing the economy to return to equilibrium increases with each intervention. Eventually an economy’s ability to grow and recuperate is impaired:

  • Prices become inflated and distorted by liquidity and regulatory interventions. They no longer reflect true supply and demand.
  • Capital is mis-allocated as a result of false interest rate signals. Eventually this capital is seen as unprofitable and is abandoned.
  • Cheap lending and low lending standards encourage imprudent and eventually unsustainable levels of debt.

These distortions decrease an economy’s efficiency. General economic metrics like GDP eventually grow more slowly as a result, prompting calls for more political intervention. Eventually the distortions and disincentives grow to a point where standards of living and economies stagnate and then retrogress.

These relationships are as old as civilization itself. Politicians know, but they find it politically advantageous to ignore. The political class believes itself to be superior and entitled. They consider themselves to be above the law. For them, citizens are sources of plunder, to be exploited so that they may hold onto power and wealth.

The economic crisis is coming. It will occur because feckless, venal “leaders” consider the personal cost of stopping their actions to be greater than continuing. That may be true for them, but it is not true for the country.plunder

Sadly, much of the electorate is as corrupt as the political class as Angelo M. Codevilladiscusses below. The economic collapse is inevitable. It may also be deserved.

Democracy has no cure for a corrupt demos. Politicians’ misdeeds taint them alone, so long as their supporters do not embrace them. But when substantial constituencies continue to support their leaders despite their having broken faith, they turn democracy’s process of mutual persuasion into partisan war.

Consider: In 1974 President Richard Nixon lied publicly and officially to cover up his subordinates’ misdeeds. His own party forced him to resign. In 1998 President Bill Clinton lied under oath in an unsuccessful attempt to cover up his own. But his party rallied around him and accused his accusers. In 2013 President Barack Obama lied publicly and officially to secure passage of his most signature legislation. But when the lies became undeniable, his party joined him in maintaining that they had not been lies at all.

The point is that Nixon’s misdeeds harmed no one but himself because no one excused them. But Clinton’s and Obama’s misdeeds contributed to the corruption of American democracy because a substantial part of the American people chose to be partners in them.

OcareThe difference between the mentalities of Republicans circa 1974 and of Democrats twenty-five and forty years later is the difference between a society before and after democratic corruption. Forty years ago, just as in our time, the President of the United States headed a coalition of groups with material and ideological interest in his Administration. But, back then, the beneficiaries of power were willing enough to subordinate their interests to the greater good of maintaining the bounds of democratic partisanship. In our time, however, the constituents of Democratic Administrations so identify their own status and benefits with “the greater good” that the very notion of bounds to their own partisanship makes no sense.

Today’s Democrats argue that, some deceptive language aside, President Obama had every right to implement his view of medical care for America, as well as other things, because he was elected twice having promised something of the sort. But, in 1974, Republicans could have argued that Nixon had been elected twice, the second time by the largest margin in US history, specifically to undo the 1960s. In fact, Nixon’s lies about what he knew of his subordinates’ misdeeds were entirely irrelevant to the purpose for which he had been elected. Why should the Republican constituencies who had worked so hard have given up on the Nixon Administration? Why did Barry Goldwater, Mr. conservative himself, go to the White House to tell Nixon he had to resign?

Quite simply because he knew – everyone seemed to know, then – that respect for the truth is what enables a democratic society that resolves its differences by mutual persuasion, and that absent that respect society devolves into civil war. Nixon’s lie had not imperiled the workings of American government. But it had transgressed the essential principle. Thenceforth, no one could take him at his word. All would have to regard him as acting for himself or his party, alien to the rest. And if his party stuck with him, the rest of America would have to regard that party as alien.

Bill Clinton’s 1998 lie under oath, and then on national television proved so by DNA analysis of his own sperm, placed him precisely in Nixon’s position. But his party, by sticking with him, reversed the essential principle to which the Republicans of 1974 had adhered. Its constituencies had worked hard to reverse Ronald Reagan’s 1980s. They had raised taxes, institutionalized abortion, and vastly expanded government. By this time, they had convinced themselves that the rest of America is composed of inferior people. Why should they have jeopardized their position just because their man had fellatio in the Oval Office and lied about it?

Thus by placing their own material and ideological interests above the truth, the Democrats took upon themselves a license to lie – not just about personal matters, which was their argument at the time – but about whatever might serve their purpose.

Obama’s premeditated, repeated, nationally televised lies about the “Affordable Care Act” are integral, indeed essential, to his presidency and to the workings of the US government. The outcome of two national elections depended on it.

Even more significant is his contention that he never said what he said, and that what he said was true anyhow. In interpersonal relations, such a contention is an insult that makes civility impossible; because to continue to treat with someone who makes such affronts is self-degradation of which few are capable. In political life, such an insult is a declaration of war.

The deadly problem is that Barack Obama is not just an individual, nor even the head of the US government’s executive branch. He is the head of the party to which most government officials belong, the party of the media, of the educational establishment, of big corporations – in short of the ruling class. That class, it seems, has so taken ownership of Obama’s lies that it pretends that those who are suffering from the “Affordable Care Act” don’t really know what is good for them, or that they are perversely refusing to suffer for the greater good.

This class, in short, has placed itself as far beyond persuasion as Obama himself. Democracy by persuasion having become impossible, we are left with democracy as war.

 

The Coming Shortage Of Physical Gold That Will Change Everything

The Coming Shortage Of Physical Gold That Will Change Everything.

 

500 Years Of (Mostly Rising) Energy Prices | Zero Hedge

500 Years Of (Mostly Rising) Energy Prices | Zero Hedge.

 

Peak Gold | Zero Hedge

Peak Gold | Zero Hedge.

 

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