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Frontrunning: March 20





  • BHP Billiton sees China iron ore demand flattening (Reuters)
  • Australia Passes 30% Tax on Iron-Ore, Coal Mining Profits (Bloomberg)
  • State Capitalism in China Will Fade: Zhang (Bloomberg)
  • Venizelos quits to start election campaign (FT)
  • Fed’s Dudley Says U.S. Isn’t ‘Out of the Woods’ (Bloomberg)
  • China Is Leading Foreign Investor in Germany (WSJ)
  • Fed undecided on more easing: Dudley (Reuters)
  • Martin Wolf: What is the real rate of interest telling us? (FT)
 
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South African Gold Production Dives Again To 90 Year Lows





South Africa's gold output fell again in January and was down a very large 11.3% in volume terms in January.  Annual gold production is set to be close to 220 tonnes which is a level of gold production not seen since 1922 (see chart below). The falls were seen only in the gold market with production of other minerals holding up with total mineral production down only 2.5% compared with the same month last year. South Africa as recently as two decades ago was the world's largest producer of gold by a huge margin. Only 40 years ago South Africa produced more than 1,000 tonnes of gold per annum but will only produce some 220 tonnes in 2012. Production peaked in 1970 and has been falling steadily and sharply since. The nearly 80% fall in South African gold production has led to it being recently overtaken by China, Australia and the U.S.  It is now even at risk of being overtaken by Russia. The massive 11.3% decline in South Africa was more than even that seen in December when gold output fell by 8.2%. The continuing output decline is due to many of the country's biggest gold mining operations having reached the ends of their lives and having closed down.

 
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Guest Post: Understanding The New Price Of Oil





In the Spring of 2011, when Libyan oil production -- over 1 million barrels a day (mpd) -- was suddenly taken offline, the world received its first real-time test of the global pricing system for oil since the crash lows of 2009. Oil prices, already at the $85 level for WTIC, bolted above $100, and eventually hit a high near $115 over the following two months. More importantly, however, is that -- save for a brief eight week period in the autumn -- oil prices have stubbornly remained over the $85 pre-Libya level ever since. Even as the debt crisis in Europe has flared. As usual, the mainstream view on the world’s ability to make up for the loss has been wrong. How could the removal of “only” 1.3% of total global production affect the oil price in any prolonged way?, was the universal view of “experts.” Answering that question requires that we modernize, effectively, our understanding of how oil's numerous price discovery mechanisms now operate. The past decade has seen a number of enormous shifts, not only in supply and demand, but in market perceptions about spare capacity. All these were very much at play last year. And, they are at play right now as oil prices rise once again as the global economy tries to strengthen.

 
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China Posts Biggest Trade Deficit Since 1989 As Crude Imports Surge: Is China Recycling Export Dollars Solely Into Oil?





In addition to all the US election year propaganda and delayed after effects of central banks injecting nearly $3 trillion in liquidity to juice up the US stock market, something far more notable yet underreported has happened in 2012: the world stopped exporting. Observe the following sequence of very recent headlines: "Japan trade deficit hits record", "Australia Records First Trade Deficit in 11 Months on 8% Plunge in Exports", "Brazil Posts First Monthly Trade Deficit in 12 Months " then of course this: "[US] Trade deficit hits 3-year record imbalance", and finally, as of late last night, we get the following stunning headline: "China Has Biggest Trade Shortfall Since 1989 on Europe Turmoil." Here we must apologize, but blaming the highest trade deficit in 23 years for a country that needs a trade surplus to exist, on the Chinese Lunar new year, which accidentally happens every year, is more than a little naive. Because as the charts below indicate, while exports did in fact tumble in a seasonal pattern as they do every February although more than expected, February imports of $146 billion not only did not drop, but posted a 19% increase compared to January, and soared 40% compared to a year prior. Why? Perhaps the second consecutive record high in monthly crude imports has something to do with it. Which in turn when considering the huge selloff of US Treasury paper by China in the last few months, indicates that the world's fastest growing economy no longer has an interest in taking its export dollars and using them to fund purchases of US paper, but is in fact converting US fiat into real, hard goods. Such as crude (for all those curious where the marginal demand is coming from that is). And most likely gold. But we will only learn about the gold hoarding well after the fact, when China is prepared to see the price of the metal soar as it did in 2009.

 
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Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: March 7





Markets appear to be tentatively recovering some of yesterday’s heavy losses, recording modest gains so far this morning. Comments made overnight by the German finance minister as well as senior officials from the Greek finance ministry may have mercifully given market participants some hope as they are confident the Greek PSI deal will be completed by the deadline tomorrow evening. The DAX index has underperformed the other European equity indices in recent trade following the release of some disappointing factory orders data for January, with markets expecting an expansion of 0.6%, however the reading came in at -2.7%, moving DAX stock futures into negative territory. WTI crude and Brent have also retraced some of their losses made earlier in the week following a drawdown in US gasoline inventories reported last night as well as a generally weak USD index in the FX markets today. Markets are awaiting US ADP employment change later in the session, as well as the weekly DOE oil inventories casting further light on the US energy stocks.

 
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Dallas Fed's Fisher "Perplexed" By Wall Street "Fetish" With QE3 And Disgusted With The Addiction To "Monetary Morphine"





And now for some pure irony, we have a member of the Fed, granted a gold bug, but a Fed member nonetheless, one of the same people who not only enacted ZIRP, but encourage easy money every time there is a downtick in the market, complaining about, get this, Wall Street's "continued preoccupation, bordering upon fetish" with QE3. The irony continues: "Trillions of dollars are lying fallow, not being employed in the real economy. Yet financial market operators keep looking and hoping for more. Why? I think it may be because they have become hooked on the monetary morphine we provided when we performed massive reconstructive surgery, rescuing the economy from the Financial Panic of 2008–09, and then kept the medication in the financial bloodstream to ensure recovery....I believe adding to the accommodative doses we have applied rather than beginning to wean the patient might be the equivalent of medical malpractice." So let's get this straight: these academic titans, who for one reason or another, are given free rein to determine the fate of the once free world with their secret decisions every two or three months, are completely unaware of classical conditioning, discovered by Pavlov nearly 90 years ago, also known as a salivation response. The same Fed is shocked, shocked, that every time the market dips, the red light goes off, and the "balls to the wall" crowd scream for more, more, more free money. Really Fisher? Really? Oh, and let us guess what happens the next time the S&P slides into the tripple digits: will the Fed a) do nothing, thereby letting the market slide to its fair value in the 400 point range, or b) print. Our money, in the form of hard yellow metal, is on the latter, just like we predicted, correctly, back in March 2009 in " Bailoutspotting (Or The Search For The Great Financial Methadone Clinic" that nothing will ever change vis-a-vis the great market junkie until it all comes crashing down.

 
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Guest Post: Enjoy The Central Bank Party While It Lasts





Central banks are printing money all over the world. New names have been given to what is really an age old phenomenon. Desperate governments have traditionally debased their currencies when they have no other way of financing their deficits. So far the world’s central banks have been “lucky”. Thanks to the prior global bubble ending in 2008 and the realization that the so-called advanced countries are reaching the end of their borrowing capacity, the world is in a massive deleveraging mode which tends to be deflationary. For the moment the central banks can get away with printing all the money they want without massive increases in consumer price indexes. The public doesn’t connect increases in prices of commodities like gold or oil with the current bout of money printing. But if history is any guide, this money printing will matter and the age of deflation and deleveraging will be followed by an age of inflation.The coming battles over solving the problems of the bankrupt American government will not be pretty. It will be a bit more difficult for an American president to preach patriotism to the affluent in these circumstances. Although, if there is a war with Iran, he might try.

 
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Citigroup Predict Gold At $2,400/oz In 2012 And $3,400/oz "In Coming Years"





Citigroup have said that they believe that gold will rise to $2,400/oz in 2012 and by $3,400/oz in “the coming years”. However, Citi’s Tom Fitzpatrick warned of price weakness in the short term and said there is a “real danger” that there may be a correction to $1,600/oz which would provide an even better buying opportunity. Citi are also cautious near term on oil and silver. Production of gold in Australia slid again last year, despite gold fetching higher nominal prices than ever before. According to gold experts, Surbiton Associates, 264 tonnes of gold were produced last year, two tonnes less than in 2010. The 264 tonnes equated to about 8.5 million ounces and ensures that Australia remains a major player in gold, with only China producing more last year. The United States was the world's third-biggest producer with 240 tonnes. Australia's gold production was well below the nation's production peak in the late 1990s.  This further suggests the possibility of peak gold production. Of the world’s four biggest gold producers (China, Australia, the U.S. and South Africa), only China has managed to increase gold production in recent years and this Chinese gold is used in China to meet the rapidly growing demand for gold jewellery and coins and bars as stores of value in China.

 
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Erik Townsend: Expect a US Price Shock as Black Swans Come Home to Roost





American investor (and longtime CM.com member) Erik Townsend has spent the past several years living internationally, with an eye to which countries may be good alternatives if economic crisis and/or Peak Oil start to materially impact life in the US.  His main observation as an expat? Through its misguided policies, the US has been exporting inflation to the rest of the world, raising prices all over the globe (as an example, he cites a $57 chicken pot pie from the menu at a 'working class' restaurant in Australia).  This inflation is affecting the rest of the world harshly, but is not yet being felt in the US due to our ability to export it as the issuer of the world's reserve currency. Our immunity will not last forever though, and when it ends, a massive upwards spike in prices is going to hit US markets.

 
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Mike Krieger Asks Whether September 11, 2001 Is Our Big Lie





While 9/11 was far more traumatic for many Americans than for myself, it really messed me up emotionally for a while. I thought about joining the armed forces or the newly created Department of Homeland Security. I almost quit my job to get a graduate degree in something I could do to help fight the “war on terror.” The city of my birth was attacked and two great symbols I had seen repeatedly growing up had suddenly vanished. I never once questioned anything about 9/11 for many, many years. I was emotionally reprogrammed. I now realize that was the intent and I am not happy about it. Look, I will be the first to say I have no idea what really happened on that day, but I can tell you one thing. I am 100% convinced that it wasn’t 19 cave dwelling Al Qaeda members who hate us for our “freedoms.” I can also tell you that two planes didn’t take down three buildings. The real reason I am writing this piece today is because of a very, very important article from the NY Times, parts of which I have quoted at the top. The article shows how two former Senators have said in sworn statements that they believe the government of Saudi Arabia was directly involved in the attacks. Now, such speculation is not new; however, let’s not forget the very close relationships that many of the elite in the U.S. have with the Saudi government. Furthermore, let’s analyze some of the passages in the article in a little more detail.

 
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