Global Gold Demand in 2011 Rises 0.4% To $200 Billion - Central Banks, Asia and Europe Diversifying Into GoldSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/16/2012 - 08:25
Global demand for gold reached 4,067.1 tonnes last year, the highest tonnage since 1997, due in large part to a nearly 5% increase in investment demand, which hit a record 1,640.7 tonnes. Asian countries like China, India, Vietnam, Thailand and others see bullion as a store of value against the growing inflation and the ongoing debasement of their currencies. The fundamentals for gold in 2012 look good. Continuing low and often negative real interest rates will continue to support gold’s safe haven status. The Fed’s statement that it will continue to see rates remain very low until 2014 is very bullish for gold. Central banks were net buyers of gold and their demand surged nearly 6 fold (570%) to 439.7 tonnes in 2011 (compared with 77 tonnes in 2010), more metal than at any time since the end of the gold standard in 1971. The World Gold Council noted that, “The buyers are all ... in Latin America, Asia and the Far East and they are basically enjoying strong growth, fiscal surpluses and growing foreign exchange reserves."
It is only appropriate that in the days after Valentine's day, the theme of dumping is revisited. Specifically that of securities. As was pointed out yesterday following the latest TIC data, there was a lot of dumping of US Treasurys by foreign official authorities, with both China and Russia (but not only) proceeding to sell a demonstrative amount of US paper. However, that is not all. As the first chart below from today's Bloomberg Brief shows, foreign purchases of US corporate bonds has once again rolled over and remains quite week. As Bloomberg notes: "Foreign investors appear to have little faith in the U.S. economic recovery. They sold $20.7 billion of corporate bonds in December, leaving the one-year mean at minus $3.6 billion. That compares with a 12-month average of $47.3 billion in May 2007. Acquisitions of U.S. stocks were also weak. They totaled minus $11 billion versus a 12-month average of $2.1 billion." And in a stunning display of reciprocity, US residents, not content with selling of US stocks as retail outflows soared in December, also proceeded to dump the rest of the world en mass, as the net sale of foreign securities by US Residents soared to an all time high.
Busy day in the economic headlines arena, with Housing Start, Claims PPI and Philly Fed all on deck. Goldman summarizes the expectations and the upwardly biased consensus.
While these pages have been warning for about a month that a Greek default is precisely what Europe wants, a self-deluded market has been ignoring this reality. That is no longer the case as the default (pardon the pun) thought is now one of Greek default. As for the assumption that "it is all priced in"... that too is being scrapped as revisionist histories of Lehman come to mind. As a result the EURUSD is drifting ever lower, and has been trading with a 1.29 handle for the first time in weeks. Needless to say, Europe is on the verge of panic as the nearly 2-month impact of the LTRO is now truly gone, and with unmistakable stigma (sorry Jernej Omahen - read this) associated with LTRO banks, we shudder at the thought how many banks will voluntarily subject themselves to being seen as desperately needing European Discount Window access in two weeks. Moody's downgrade of key insurance companies and threat to cut most banks, has not helped. Finally, some unpleasant news out of China, where commerce ministry said that the trade outlook is "grim" while a research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that Chinese EFSF contribution should be capped at Spain's €92.6 billion, rounds out the rout. So while we wait patiently as reality in Europe truly seeps into risk prices, here is Bloomberg with a summary of overnight catalysts.
- Europe Demands More Greek Budget Controls in Bid to Forge Rescue (Bloomberg)
- Moody's Warns May Downgrade 17 Global Banks, Securities Firms (Reuters)
- Officials at Fed Split on More Bond Buys (Hilsenrath)
- Greek deal delays pressure periphery (Reuters)
- Talk, but No Action, to Break US Grip on World Bank Job (Reuters)
- Greek Rhetoric Turns Into Battle of Wills (FT)
- Greece Seeks Monday Bailout Deal, EU Questions Remain (Reuters)
- US Lawmakers Announce Payroll Tax-Cut Deal (Reuters)
- China Leader-In-Waiting Xi Woos and Warns US (Reuters)
- China's FDI falls 0.3% in Jan (Reuters)
Europe has moved into the “pound of flesh” stage of negotiations. Everyone just wants to make their point and the probability of a deal is dropping by the day. Europe is running out of time, and is just clueless. Yesterday has to confirm that even for the most optimistic person out there. They decided they should wait until the elections. Then they realized they had to deal with the March 20th bonds. Then they came up with a “bridge loan”. Clearly they didn’t bother to look up the definition of a bridge loan. A bridge loan is a loan that is meant to be temporary and has such punitive rates over time that the borrower is heavily encouraged to pay it back with new debt. This is just a “small” loan but one that is permanent and probably never getting paid back. I’m not sure if they asked the contributors whether they wanted to put up €16 billion which is somehow now “small”. Then noise came out that maybe Greece just shouldn’t have elections. The Troika and Greece have been negotiating all this time and no effort was spent on figuring out a plan in the event of default. They are scrambling to come up with one. I remain convinced that Greece could do well in default if it is managed properly, but the chances of them doing anything properly is low.
Today, people who believe that gold is money think that one should hoard gold. They seek to take possession personally. Or when they have it stored professionally, they look for a private vault outside the banking system where they can (hopefully) trust their warehouse receipt. And why shouldn’t they avoid the banking system? Its corruption was always inevitable. The advent of the central banks before World War I ensured it. The theft (in the US) of the gold of the people in 1933 cemented it, along with the dollar devaluation. The treaty at Bretton Woods in 1944, in which the world agreed to treat the US dollar as if it were gold nailed it in place. The default on the US government’s gold obligations in 1971 by President Nixon set it in stone. Today, we have a corrupt central bank that centrally plans money, credit, discount, and interest. The regime of irredeemable paper money is going to collapse. Anyone who understands it should want to get out of it, and not be a creditor to insolvent banks. This is a rational personal response to an irrational system. But it is not necessarily a vision for how the world ought to be run, or how a banking system should be designed. Today, it is necessary to hunker down, trust no one, hide one’s gold, and take no unavoidable or unnecessary risk. Today, one is concerned with one’s stocks of gold. One has what one has, one tries to get a little more while one can, and then one hopes that after “it” happens, one will have enough.
In his best Lewis Black impression, TrimTabs CEO Charles Biderman succinctly destroys the 'growth' myth behind Obama's budget plan as nothing but a handout and money-printing exercise in futility and drain-circling. Based on the $3.8tn budget plan, the TrimTabs truth-seeker notes that current government tax revenues are about $2.4tn, and growing at no more than $100bn each year, making the math surprisingly simple - we spend around $300bn per month and receive only $200bn with the missing $100bn to pay for the US government's largesse (income shortfall) coming from - 'printing money'. The spin is, of course, that revenues will somehow magically start to grow faster than spending and shrink the budget deficit. With take home pay at $6.3tn for everyone who pays taxes, up $300-400bn from the 2009 low, but still well below the $7.1tn rate from early 2008; Biderman's consternation at the self-hypnosis that a $200bn tax increase in an economy where take-home pay has been growing by only $100bn per year will somehow create anything other than slow-growth at best (or more likely contraction) is palpable. This slow- or no-growth will mean less tax revenue and more spending on safety-nets and thus the Sausalito-savant factually points out that most people do not realize that government spending is simply giving people money whether they do anything useful with it or not and still the governments of the US, Japan, and Europe want us to believe that our economies will grow faster if we keep taking more money from the workers and give that money to the government.
A&G's AIG Moment Approaching: Moody's Downgrades Generali, Cuts Megainsurer Allianz Outlook To NegativeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/15/2012 - 19:58
For a while now we have said that the very weakest link in Europe is not the banks, not the ECB, not triggered CDS, and not even the shadow banking system (well, infinitely rehypothecated Greek bonds within a daisychain of broker-dealers, which ultimately ends up at the ECB at a negligible repo discount, that could well be the weakest link - we will have more to say about this over the weekend) but two very specific insurers: Italy's mega insurer Assecurazioni Generali, which at last check had more Greek bonds as a % of TSF than anyone else, and Europe's biggest insurer and Pimco parent, Allianz, which is filled to the gills with pretty much everything (for more on Generali, or as we like to call it by its CDS ticker ASSGEN read here, here, here, and here). Well, Moody's just gave them, and the entire European space, the evil eye, and soon the layering of margin calls upon margin calls, especially if and when Greece defaults and a third of ASSGEN's balance sheet is found to be insolvent, will make anyone who still is long CDS those two names rich. Assuming of course the Fed steps in and bails out the counterparty the CDS was purchased from.
Previously we presented some alternative thoughts to the mainstream misperception of the Iranian "isolation" by some of its biggest oil trading partners. Unlike others, we simply believe that the gulf nation, together with the new axis of anti-USD (as confirmed once again earlier today) is simply preparing itself for a barter based economy, or alternatively, one with commoditized intermediates. However, this ignores the likelihood of geopolitical instability caused by intervening US and Israeli interest in the region. Below are some thoughts from Doug Casey of Casey Research on the likelihood of another full blown shooting war erupting in the Persian Gulf, as well as his thoughts on how one may prepare for such a contingency.
As AAPL dominates the headlines for its dramatic 5% reversal intraday and biggest drop in over two months, perhaps it is worth pointing out that the lacking volumes have returned with a flourish. ES (the e-mini S&P futures contract) saw its heaviest volume since this mid-December rally began (30% above average) as our recent pontification on the messages from the credit market (along with the rhythmic periodicity of the rally's size and length) may be starting to wear on investors' risk appetites. After European credit markets accelerated to the downside today, US investment grade and high-yield credit was not buying any of the overnight rally in stock futures and moved wide of yesterday's pre-Samaras rally out of the gate. Stocks surged upwards, tracking uber-stock AAPL but as chatter of a NASDAQ rebalance sent game-theorists scrambling to migrate, AAPL's slump dragged everything down (sadly) with ES stalling at the pre-China rumor level before falling to pre-Samaras levels from yesterday's lows. A lack of rumors and no QE mention from FOMC minutes along with lackluster news from the Eurogroup did nothing to rescue the situation as EURUSD ended on its lows (-1% on the week now) and USD Strength saw carry trades dragging stocks down. Interestingly, post-FOMC Treasuries came off their best levels in the afternoon (even as stocks were tanking) but we saw Gold rallying (in the face of a stronger USD) - does make one wonder on where the safety trade is now. WTI closed near its highs of the day (over $102) and as we noted earlier Brent in EUR closed at record highs as Copper is -1.3% on the week and Silver is tracking USD -0.75% or so on the week.
Greek President (And Nazi Resistance Fighter) Lashes Out At "German Boot" For Pushing Country To The BrinkSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/15/2012 - 16:28
The following extract from a Bloomberg article suggests that the German mission of getting Greece to file for bankruptcy on its own, thus removing the perception that Europe has given up on the first (of many) terminal patient, own has almost succeeded. "Greek President Karolos Papoulias slammed Germany’s finance minister for recent comments about his country as stalled bailout talks stoked tensions between Greece and the northern European countries funding its rescue. “I don’t accept insults to my country by Mr. Schaeuble,” Papoulias, who fought in the resistance against the Nazis during World War II, said in a speech today. “I don’t accept it as a Greek. Who is Mr. Schaeuble to ridicule Greece? Who are the Dutch? Who are the Finns? We always had the pride to defend not just our own freedom, not just our own country, but the freedom of all of Europe."
What is better than a one-front European war on insolvency? Why two-fronts of course. But not before many "soothing" words are uttered (no really). From Reuters: "Portugal's international lenders arrived in Lisbon on Wednesday to review the country's bailout, with soothing words of support likely to dominate as Europe gropes for success stories to counteract its interminable Greek headache. As the euro zone's second weakest link, Portugal's ability to ride out its debt crisis will be key to Europe's claim that Greece is a unique case. Despite a groundswell of concerns that Portugal - like Greece - may eventually have to restructure its aid programme, the third inspection of Lisbon's economic performance in the context of its ongoing 78-billion-euro rescue should make that contention clear. "The review will be all about peace and harmony," said Filipe Garcia, head of Informacao de Mercados Financeiros consultants. "The important thing for Europe is to isolate Portugal from Greece, to put it out of Greece's way in case of a default or even an exit from the euro." That makes sense - after all even Venizelos just told Greece that the country is not Italy. And if that fails, the Don of bailouts, Dr Strangeschauble will just give the country will blessing to use a few billion in cash. Oh but wait. It can't. Because as as we pointed out in late January, and as the market has so conveniently chosen to forget, Portugal, unlike Greece, has simple, clean and efficient negative pledge language in its non-local law bonds. Which means "no can do" to any additional bailouts under its current capitalization. Which may very well mean that Portugal is stuck with its existing balance sheet unless the country succeeds in doing an exchange offer which takes out all UK- and other strong-protection bonds. All of them. And as Greece has shown, that is just not going to happen.