Summary: Today, the German Constitutional Court ruled that the Eurozone’s permanent bailout fund, the ESM, and its ‘fiscal treaty’ on budget discipline do not violate the country’s ‘basic law’ and do not undermine Bundestag sovereignty over budget issues. However, the Court added a cap to the size of the ESM. It also reinforced the effective ‘veto’ of the German Bundestag over ESM activation, and therefore in effect also over a debtor country’s access to the ECB’s bond-buying programme (OMT), since the two are linked. However, the ruling was not unambiguous and in many ways an invitation to further court cases – over ECB bond-buying and others – and a lot more political wrangling.
Central bank demand internationally continues and demand for gold in the increasingly volatile Middle East remains robust as seen in data from the Istanbul Gold Exchange. It showed that Turkey’s gold imports were 11.3 metric tons last month alone. Silver imports were 6.7 tons, the data show. Much of these imports may be destined for Iran where imports have surged an astonishing 2,700% in just one year – from $21 million to $6.2 billion. In the first seven months of this year, Turkey's exports to Iran have also skyrocketed to $8 billion, up from $2 billion in the same period last year. And it is widely believed that the major portion of the increase, which is $6 billion, stems from the export of gold. There is speculation that the Iranian central bank is buying gold and that they may be accepting gold in payment for oil and gas in order to bypass western sanctions. Turkey is paying for the oil and natural gas it is importing from Iran in gold, Turkish opposition deputies have claimed, drawing attention to the enormous increase in Turkey's gold exports to Iran in 2012. “Gold is being used as an instrument for payment. Under the guise of exportation, gold is being sent to Iran in exchange for oil,” Sinan Aygün, a deputy from the Republican People's Party (CHP), has told Turkish daily Today's Zaman.
The key event overnight was the German constitutional court's announcement shortly after 8 am CET in which the Krimson Kardinals announced that, as largely expected by everyone except the EURUSD trading algos, there would be no delay in the September 12, 10 am CET injunction decision, as a result of the last minute bid by Peter Gauweiler. As Bloomberg reported, “It’s no surprise the court won’t change its plan,” said Christoph Ohler, a professor of European law at Jena University. “You cannot directly sue over the acts of European institutions in a German court, so it’s difficult to introduce these arguments in this case." The decision to press ahead with the ruling will probably bolster the German government’s faith that the bailout facility will get the court’s backing. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told students last week he was confident the ESM would be approved. “Europe won’t collapse on Sept. 12,” Franz Mayer, a law professor at Bielefeld University, said in an interview last week. “In the end, the court will allow Germany to ratify the ESM, but there will probably be some strings attached. The bigger issue than the actual ruling is what extra language the court will add to the reasoning on where the limits are in the future,” said Mayer. “The markets seem to be quite afraid the judges may spoil certain options for the future, like collectivization of debt within the euro zone." Which leads us to the quote of the morning when even Schauble it appears is channeling Clinton after he said that interpretations on the word "unlimited" can vary. No they can't, and this is precisely the issue that the judges will take offense with, if anything.
We will mince no words: Mr. Draghi has opened the door to hyperinflation. There will probably not be hyperinflation because Germany would leave the Euro zone first, but the door is open and we will explain why. To avoid this outcome, assuming that in this context the Eurozone will continue to show fiscal deficits, we will also show that it is critical that the Fed does not raise interest rates. This can only be extremely bullish of precious metals and commodities in the long run. In the short-run, we will have to face the usual manipulations in the precious metals markets and everyone will seek to front run the European Central Bank, playing the sovereign yield curve and being long banks’ stocks. If in the short-run, the ECB is the lender of last resort, in the long run, it may become the borrower of first resort!
Even in the face of worsening odds of re-election (no sitting government has been returned to power in EU elections since the start of the crisis) one would expect national governments to do what is necessary to maintain current stability. The ultimate arbiter of burden sharing capacity, or whether the Euro will continue on the steady incremental path to integration, is whether regular voters vote for it. Hence the importance of elections, like the Dutch election this week. The anti-austerity Socialist Party (SP) has gained significant ground on the incumbent VVD party - focusing the market's attention on the willingness of the Dutch to meet the 3% of GDP deficit targets in 2013. The two 'extreme' parties look set to gain considerably more seats, and either a very broad coalition would be required, including a tail of small parties, or all four mainstream parties will have to participate in the new government: either way, government stability might be questionable. The scenario troubling markets is the potential for a long government formation process coinciding with the euro area’s need to fight the crisis and progress communal policies - though in the last week or two, support for the SP has declined. With the 2013 budget an immediate test, a 'new' Dutch government faces decisions over Greece, Cyprus, EFSF bond buying, and a common-bank supervisory body - none of which have anything like majority support across the coalitions.
The unremitting deterioration of the eurozone’s sovereign debt landscape continues to fuel uncertainties about the longevity of the euro as a hard currency. Such uncertainties are not only leading to capital flight from the EMU’s periphery to the core and destabilizing markets worldwide, but they are also beginning to frighten southern European savers into seeking refuge outside their 10-year-old currency. Such is the case of Spain – the latest tumbling economy to threaten the euro’s survival. As the crisis deepens, there is still a window of opportunity for Spaniards to turn to gold as a means to protect their wealth against the risks of increased foreign exchange volatility, forced re-denomination, or even a total currency collapse.
Gold has risen to new record highs in euro terms overnight in Asia when gold consolidated on last week’s 3% gains and rose above €1,360/oz for the first time. Significant consolidation has been seen in the last year between €1,200/oz and the previous record high at €1,359.01/oz. This record high was seen almost exactly a year ago on September 9th 2011. Gold is being supported by the unrest in South Africa which continues to destabilise the mining sector. Gold Fields said this morning that some 15,000 workers were still on strike at one of its gold mines outside of Johannesburg. The tally of workers on strike at the West Section of the KDC Gold Mine is about 3,000 higher than last week. All production at the mine has been brought to a standstill. With the US job growth contracting significantly in August, investors see that the Fed will be inclined to announce QE3 at this week’s policy meeting on the 12th & 13th. US gold futures and options climbed to 6-month high 144,775 contracts in the week ended September 4, according to data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Gold ETF’s grew to a record high of 72.125 million ounces on Friday. Also, Hong Kong's July gold shipments to China was almost double on the year and exports for the first 11 months were greater than 2011, suggesting China will overtake India as the world's top gold consumer.
Suddenly the delicate balancing of variables is once again an art and not a science, ahead of a week packed with binary outcomes in which the market is already priced in for absolute perfection. Per DB: We have another blockbuster week ahead of us so let's jump straight into previewing it. One of the main highlights is the German Constitutional Court's ruling on the ESM and fiscal compact on Wednesday. On the same day we will also see the Dutch go to the polls for the Lower House elections. Thursday then sees a big FOMC meeting where the probabilities of QE3 will have increased after the weak payrolls last Friday. The G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors will meet on Thursday in Mexico before the ECOFIN/Eurogroup meeting in Cyprus rounds out the week on Friday. These are also several other meetings/events taking place outside of these main ones. In Greece, PM Samaras is set to meet with representatives of the troika today, before flying to Frankfurt for a meeting with Draghi on Tuesday. The EC will also present proposals on a single banking supervision mechanism for the Euro area on Tuesday. If these weren't enough to look forward to, Apple is expected to release details of its new iPhone on Wednesday. In summary, it will be a good week to test the theory that algos buy stocks on any flashing red headlines, no longer even pretending to care about the content. Think of the cash savings on the algo "reading" software: in a fumes-driven market in which even the HFTs no longer can make money frontrunning and subpennyiong order flow, they need it.
A place incapable of supporting life as we know it – a good description of where ECB monetary policy is leading us. In its current form the euro is a busted flush and is being held together solely by political intransigence and ECB connivance. From the very beginning the rules of engagement were ignored because without political and fiscal centralisation they weren’t going to work anyway. We now have OMT to ponder upon - Outright Monetary Transactions - which is just another short term breathing space to allow the PIIGS to refinance their maturing debt at less penal rates, but does absolutely nothing to solve the longer term problems of creating growth in economies stifled by ECB "conditionality"; a very sterile landscape indeed. But cheer up! QE3 will be along any day now to help the banks remain solvent for a while longer. 'Can' exits stage right after another good kicking...
Ken Burns and Alfred Hitchcock are movie makers. 'The Ken Burns Effect' - panning and zooming to focus attention on a certain isolated piece of the full picture; and the 'Hitchcock Zoom' - a 'shocking' dramatic change in perspective; keep the viewer occupied and entertained by material that would otherwise look a little staid and to ensure that attention is paid to the precise piece of the picture that the director wishes to be the center of focus. As Grant Williams ruminates on the Draghi Scheme (The Dreme), the devices of Burns and Hitchcock came to mind as central bankers attempt to either unsettle the viewers or make them focus on a specific part of the whole, rather than the big picture. For the last eighteen months, we, the viewers, have been manipulated by a seemingly never-ending procession of Eurocrats, bureaucrats, technocrats and who-said-thats to look at a very precise part of the economic picture rather than be allowed to step back and try to take in the wider situation. Accordingly, we thought this week we would take a step back, ignore where the Ken Burns Effect of Draghi’s words were pointing our attention, turn a blind eye to the conflicting rhetoric emanating from the various actors in the Theater of the Absurd and concentrate on the big picture - to try and make sense of the broader reality in Greece, Spain, TARGET2, and The Dreme. It damned near gave us vertigo.
While there is still some debate whether the proper alternative nomenclature of the Greek ultranationalist party Golden Dawn is "neo-nazi", there is no debate that the party, which is a manifestation of every broken Greek hope and dream, after posting a shocking result in the recent Greek parliamentary election which saw it coming in fifth and entering parliament after, continues to soar in popularity and is now the third most popular party in Greece with 12% of the vote. Above it are only two other parties: the conservative New Democracy which won the June elections with 29.6% of the vote, which is now down to 28%, and on top, in an ominous development for EUR-bulls, is the anti-bailout and anti-memorandum leftist coalition Syriza, which has threatened to end the bailout, and effectively to take Greece out of the Eurozone, setting off the much dreaded dominoes.
Lock Up Your Sacred Cows Before We Find and Slaughter Them!
The last time we looked at monthly Chinese imports of gold from Hong Kong in 2012, the comparable country in question was Portugal (whose citizens, if not central bank, incidentally have run out of gold to sell), because that is whose total gold holdings (at 382.5 tons) Chinese imports had just surpassed. Fast forward a month later, and the update is even more disturbing. In July, Chinese gold imports from HK, after two months of declines, have picked up once more and hit a 3-month high of 75.8 tons. While it is notable that this number is double the 38.1 tons imported a year prior, and that year-to-date imports are now a record 458.6 tons, well over four times greater than the seven month total in 2011 which was 103.9 tons, what is far more important is that in the first seven months of 2012 alone China has imported nearly as much gold as the total holdings of the hedge fund at the heart of the Eurozone, elsewhere known simply as the European Central Bank, and just as importantly considering the import run-rate has hardly slowed down in August, which data we will have in a few weeks, it is now safe to say that in 2012 alone China has imported more gold than the ECB's entire official 502.1 tons of holdings.
Draghi floods the Eurozone with new money. The Bundesbank says it's like printing banknotes and won't solve the problem. Who is getting sterilized?
Now that oil’s price revolution – a process that took ten years to complete – is self-evident, it is possible once again to start anew and ask: When will the next re-pricing phase begin? Most of the structural changes that carried oil from the old equilibrium price of $25 to the new equilibrium price of $100 (average of Brent and WTIC) unfolded in the 2002-2008 period. During that time, both the difficult realities of geology and a paradigm shift in awareness worked their way into the market, as a new tranche of oil resources, entirely different in cost and structure than the old oil resources, came online. The mismatch between the old price and the emergent price was resolved incrementally at first, and finally by a super-spike in 2008. However, once the dust settled on the ensuing global recession and financial crisis, oil then found its way to its new range between $90 and $110. Here, supply from a new set of resources and the continuance of less-elastic demand from the developing world have created moderate price stability. Prices above $90 are enough to bring on new supply, thus keeping production levels slightly flat. And yet those same prices roughly balance the continued decline of oil consumption in the OECD, which offsets the continued advance of consumption in the non-OECD. If oil prices can’t fall that much because of the cost of marginal supply and overall flat global production, and if oil prices can’t rise that much because of restrained Western economies, what set of factors will take the oil price outside of its current envelope?