Ron 'I'm playing the long-game' Paul will not go quietly into the night - and rightly so, it would seem, given his truthiness. In a recent brief interview on CNBC's Futures Now, he managed to diss Romney, smash the 'belief' in a 'two-party' system, and undermine any hope for economic change from the farce of an election. Summed up simply: "There is essentially no difference between one administration and another, no matter what the platform."
While the discussions between these two legends varied from Phat Phong nightlife to Dow 30,000, and from China bullishness to AAPL bearishness, it was the conversation about the actions of Bernanke, and more importantly our political leaders that summed up perfectly the dreadful reality in which we find ourselves. The punchline: "It is very dangerous to have ignorant people believing that they know something."
Last summer, two researchers from the New England Complex Systems Institute published a short paper examining the correlation between rising food prices and civil unrest. It was a timely analysis, to say the least. A number of food riots were occurring throughout the world, not to mention waves of revolution sparked by the high cost of food. This is nothing new; throughout history whenever people have struggled to put food on the table for their families, social unrest has been a common consequence. If food prices continue to rise, agriculture will be one of the best investments of the decade. Even if all the world's food challenges are magically solved, it's hard to imagine being worse off for having your own food supply.
Gold prices languished from 1980 to 2000 and had declining correlations with debt levels because GDP growth was sufficient to mute fears about budget and deficit issues. The current economic recovery has been too weak to support a sustained rise in real rates above the 2% level that has acted an inflection point for gold prices. With energy and food inflation deepening and soon to affect consumer price indices, interest rates may have to rise significantly in order to restore real interest rates above 2%. This is with ex Federal Reserve Chairman Volcker did in the late 1970’s - when he increased interest rates to above 15% in order to protect the dollar and aggressively tackle inflation. It is unlikely that similar ‘hawkish’ monetary policy would be implemented by the Bernanke Fed today. It is unlikely that they would and even doubtful if they could – given the appalling fiscal situation and levels of debt in the US and global economy. A continuing succession of higher real gold prices above the inflation adjusted high, or real record high, of $2,500/oz is likely until we see interest return to more normal levels and zero percent interest policies are supplanted by positive real interest rates.
A new and important bullish indicator for the gold market is that gold calls are at highs not seen since the October 2008 low as option traders go long gold in the belief that it will go higher. It suggests that option traders believe that U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will hint at or announce additional money printing and monetary easing at the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, symposium. Alternatively, it suggests that they are bullish on gold due to the risks posed to the dollar and the risk of inflation taking off. The ratio of outstanding calls to buy the SPDR Gold Trust versus puts to sell jumped to 2.69 to 1 on August 24th and reached 2.76 earlier this month, the highest level since October 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Ownership of calls is up 26% since the July 20th options expiry. Ten of the most owned actively owned ETF option contracts are bullish. Option traders are regarded as savvier and tend to be more sophisticated then the more speculative futures traders.
We're doomed, doomed, I tell you.
Peak oil is a phenomenon many will be aware of – peak gold remains a foreign concept to most. Peak gold is the date at which the maximum rate of global gold extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. The term derives from the Hubbert peak of a resource. Unlike oil and silver, which is destroyed in use, gold can be reused and recycled. However, unlike oil gold is money, a store of value and a foreign exchange reserve and gold is slowly being remonetised in the global financial system and indeed may soon play a role in a new international monetary system. Ore grades have fallen from around 12 grams per tonne in 1950 to nearer 3 grams in the US, Canada, and Australia. South Africa's output has halved since peaking in 1970. Peak gold may not have happened in 2000. Nor may it have happened in 2011. However, the geological evidence suggests that it may happen in the near term due to the increasing difficulty large and small gold mining companies are having increasing their production. The fact that peak gold may take place at a time when the world is engaged in peak fiat paper and electronic money creation bodes very well for gold’s long term outlook.
Josh Barro of Bloomberg has an interesting theory. According to him, conservatives in modern day America have become so infatuated with the school of Austrian economics that they no longer listen to reason. It is because of this diehard obsession that they reject all empirical evidence and refuse to change their favorable views of laissez faire capitalism following the financial crisis. Basically, because the conservative movement is so smitten with the works of Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek, they see no need to pose any intellectual challenge to the idea that the economy desperately needs to be guided along by an “always knows best” government; much like a parent to a child. CNN and Newsweek contributor David Frum has jumped on board with Barro and levels the same critique of conservatives while complaining that not enough of them follow Milton Friedman anymore.
To put this as nicely as possible, Barro and Frum aren’t just incorrect; they have put their embarrassingly ignorant understandings of Austrian economics on full display for all to see.
Germany's Bundesbank confirmed yesterday that the German gold reserves are held overseas by the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Banque de France. The German parliament, the Bundestag, has been examining the accounting of German gold reserves at the Bundesbank. The parliament's Budget Committee, one of the most powerful committees in the German parliament, had requested a critical report by the Federal Audit Office. "The decision has been unanimous," the paper quoted the Christian Social Union budget expert Herbert Frankenhauser. The newspaper report alleged "account cheating" regarding the German gold reserves. According to a Bild report, the federal auditing office complained of "inadequate diligence of the accounting of the gold reserves, which are stored in some foreign countries. Repatriation of the gold reserves is encouraged.” The Bundesbank confirmed that it, like many central banks, keeps part of its reserves in vaults at foreign central banks and said some of its gold is held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Banque de France and the Bank of England. It declined to say how much gold in total is held overseas or how much gold is stored with the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and Banque de France. The Bundesbank statement said it had complete confidence in the integrity of the central banks where the gold is held. "From these central banks, the German Bundesbank annually gets confirmation of the gold holdings in troy ounces as a basis for its accounting," the Bundesbank’s statement said.
Jim Rogers is hedging his gold (and silver) positions reflecting that this is normal, following such a tremendous run, and that this is good for the precious metal in the long-run. In his discussion with Maria Bartiromo this afternoon, he notes India's anti-gold 'protectionism' (and its potential balance of payments issues) that are trying to force the hoarding into risky 'productive' assets (as others might say). The immutable commodity maven suggests JPMorgan (and its peers) could be behind the drops in the overall commodity complex as the uncertainty of their positions (and liquidation potential to raise cash as bank examiners begin their forensics) becomes more important. He holds the USD, which he hates; has a number of equity shorts; and is most fearful of banks - specifically admitting he is a serial seller of calls on JPMorgan. His advice, and perhaps Maria should look into it given their ratings recently, is to become a farmer; own farmland; and speculate on agriculture. On the dismal 'ethical' state of our leaders and management, the thoughtful Rogers opines, "You can read world history for decades. There are always people doing things wrong. We have not changed our human nature and we will continue to have scandals and problems" and in a follow-up to CNBC's standard 'money-on-the-sidelines' argument he crushes the money-honey's dreams: "Finance had a great 30 years. That's finished. Now to advance, we have too many people, too many MBAs, too much leverage and too many governments that don't like us". A must-see rebuttal to the 'normal' CNBC hopium with more on China's slowdown, a US recession, Europe and a Greek exit, QE3, and 'tractors'.
'Gold Bullion or Cash' Shows Buffett, Roubini, Krugman Mistaken; Faber, Rogers, Bass, Einhorn, Gross CorrectSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/24/2012 08:33 -0400
Currency debasement of all major currencies is happening today on a scale never before seen in history. Yet there continues to be a complete lack of awareness amongst the majority in the western world as to the risks posed by our currency monetary and financial system. There continues to be a lack of knowledge and indeed often wilful ignorance regarding gold. Indeed, some comments on gold are so ignorant of the historical and academic record that they have all the hallmarks of crude anti-gold propaganda – and will be seen as such in time. Gold is a proven safe haven asset and currency. Despite much recent academic evidence and the historical record showing this and despite voluminous articles, research and evidence, (evidence succinctly summarised in the video 'Gold Bullion or Cash'), there continue to be frequent anti gold outbursts by some of the most respected and trusted people in the western financial and economic world. Such attacks on gold have come from men such as Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini and more recently Warren Buffett. Alan Greenspan correctly wrote in 1966 that "an almost hysterical antagonism toward the gold standard is one issue which unites statists of all persuasions”. Today, an almost hysterical antagonism towards gold bullion as a diversification and as a store of wealth alternative to fiat currencies unites beneficiaries of the current status quo – both intellectual beneficiaries and material beneficiaries. That status quo is a massively leveraged and insolvent monetary, financial and economic system.
While Marc Faber shares the usual stock of insightful market commentary, together with timing inflection points, and extended thoughts in the attached Bloomberg TV clip, it is the fact that he has officially joined Bill Gross, and so many others, in supporting the candidacy of Ron Paul as president. It is rather sad that only those who see beyond the surface of the current pyramid scheme facade, are bold enough to endorse the only man who is right for the White House. Fast forward to 15 minutes into the video to hear Marc Faber: "Ron Paul would be a very good president."
Mike Krieger submits: "I’ve always loved history. Even all the way back to grade school I remember it being my favorite subject. Very early on I noticed certain patterns in history and I wondered why they occurred. When I was first exposed to European history, I recall being absolutely floored by how certain countries could become so rich and powerful and then subsequently collapse so stunningly and rapidly. The one that really boggled my mind was Spain - the homeland of my maternal grandfather who I never met. Here was a country that conquered and viciously looted essentially all South America other than Brazil (thanks to the pope being magnanimous enough to grant that part of the world to Portugal in the Treaty of Tordesillas), Mexico, Central America and parts of the United States. The gold and especially silver that was taken back to Spain was the stuff of legend, yet almost at the same time they had defeated the native peoples overseas their kingdom at home was crumbling. Not to bore anyone with too much history, but by the mid 1500s the Spanish had essentially conquered the Aztecs (Mexico) and the Incas (Peru). At the time, the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan was estimated to be larger than any city in Europe. Despite these tremendous “successes” and the riches that came with them, the battle of Rocroi in Northern France in 1643 less than one hundred years later marked the end of Spanish dominance in Europe. What is so fascinating to me is that while the conquistadors were out raping and pillaging halfway around the world the domestic economy was experiencing economic crisis. There were episodes of major currency debasements in the homeland as the crown was forced to fight wars on their borders as well as fund the excursions abroad. It is important to note that the collapse came pretty quickly as it was only in 1627 when things were still looking pretty good for the empire that The Count-Duke Olivares famously stated: “God is Spanish and fights for our nation these days.” Does this story sound familiar?"
- Market talk of a French sovereign downgrade continues to do the rounds – Unconfirmed
- German Unemployment Change (000's) (Dec) M/M -22K vs. Exp. -10K (Prev. -20K, Rev. to -23K)
- EU says the commission and member states have submitted amendments for new EU treaty
Continuing our tradition of listing what according to Zero Hedge readers were the key news events of the year for the third year in a row (2009 and 2010 can be found here and here), we present, as is now customary, the most popular posts of the year as determined by the number of page views, or said otherwise - by the readers themselves. So without further ado, here are this year's top 20.