There continues to be difficulty in securing physical bullion in large volumes, particularly in the small coin and bar market and particularly in the silver market.
While the ECB's refinancing rate cut of 25 bps was very much expected, and just took place pushing the main refi rate to a record low 0.50% (because more liquidity is just what Europe's collapsing economy needs), what was unanticipated was that the Marginal Lending Facility (which last time we checked was used by pretty much nobody) was also cut, from 1.5% to 1.0%. The deposit rate, at 0.00%, was obviously left unchanged.
The overnight macroeconomic news started early with China where the second, HSBC Manufacturing PMI declined from 51.6 to 50.4, below estimates of 50.5, yet another signal of a slowdown in the country (where one can argue the collapse in copper prices is having a far greater impact), and where the Composite closed down 0.17% after its Mayday holiday. China wasn't the only one: India dropped to 51.0 from 52.0 in March, and Taiwan dipped to 50.7 from 51.2, offset however by the bounce in South Korean PMI from 52.0 to 52.6, the best in two years (a number set to tumble as Abenomics steal SK's export thunder). The focus then shifted to Europe, where virtually everyone was once again in contraction mode, as German Mfg PMI declined from 49.0 to 48.1, the lowest since December, if a slight beat to expectations (while VDMA industry body said March Machine orders dropped 15% Y/Y so little optimism on the horizon), France rose modestly to 44.4 from already depressed levels of 44.0, Spain PMI also rose from 44.2 to 44.7, Italy PMI at 45.5 from 44.5, Poland at 46.9 from 48.0, a 45-month low. At least Greece seems to be doing "better" with the Mfg PMI "rising" to 45.0 from 42.1. Across the reports, the biggest decline was in input prices following the recent clobbering in commodities, which in turn is translating into price deflation.
The Fed Engaging In Quantitative Easing Until Unemployment Falls Is Like a Medieval Doctor Bleeding a Patient with Leeches ...Submitted by George Washington on 05/01/2013 18:19 -0500
At the very crux of the financial crisis, former Fed governor Kevin Warsh notes, "experimental extreme monetary policy," had the "right risk-reward", but, he warns, in this excellent (and somewhat chilling) discussion at the Milken Institute, "we left a financial crisis more than for years ago." and since then the Fed has "over-promised and under-delivered." The Fed has "enabled" Washington to do nothing, since the politicians expect the same "rabbit out of the hat" rescue that occurred in the darkest days of the financial crisis. This means no growth strategies ("the mix of policies has to be right") will occur. Since the financial crisis, Washington has done its level best to focus on GDP in the next quarter, or perhaps the election, and precious little beyond that short-term horizon. Warsh concludes, "There Is No Plan B." The Fed has fewer degrees of freedom and the rest of Washington is not coming to the rescue; and furthermore "the ability of a central bank, exclusively, without the rest of Washington doing any bit of the task, to turn an economy from a modest recovery to a robust one is an experiment that is untested - and will not prove to be successful."
Just under a month ago we raised the prospect of a number of states following Utah (which authorized bullion for currency in 2011) down the path of gold and silver as legal tender. "The legislation is about signaling discontent with monetary policy and about what Ben Bernanke is doing," was how this shift was previously described and as Yahoo reports, the Arizona Senate on Tuesday approved a measure to make gold and silver legal currency in the state, in a response to what backers said was a lack of confidence in the international monetary system. The bill will make gold and silver coins legal tender as of mid-2014 and more than a dozen other states continue to mull the transition. Those against the bill argue somewhat ironically, "anybody who thinks gold or silver is a really safe place to put your money had better think again," anchored on the last two weeks, but as one supporter of the bill added, a "sound and honest money system such as gold and silver" is needed to bring stability.
We recently asked:"are there really unpredictable market shocks or are investors paid not to care? To us, all signs point towards the next currency reset. We think monetary authorities are compulsively destroying the current global monetary system; they simply have no choice if they are to keep it afloat in the short term." With Bernanke not attending Jackson Hole, we think the choice for next Fed Chair may have profound economic implications, and that it would not require expertise in econometric modeling, credit policy management, and maintaining the public perception of economic stability. We think the next Fed Chairman will oversee a conversion of the global monetary regime. Neither growth nor austerity nor gloom of night will stay these currencies from their appointed devaluations. Bank balance sheets must be preserved; ergo sufficient inflation must be manufactured. We think the dull but persistent economic malaise amid increasingly aggressive monetary intervention policies will soon engender fear among the not-so-great washed – net savers. We think all should question whether we are 100% wrong. If not, then prudence dictates some allocation to properly held precious metals. (Presently, it is less than 1% of all global pensions.)
In the past months and right after implementing Quantitative Easing Unlimited Edition, the Fed began surfacing the idea that an exit strategy is at the door. With the latest releases of weak activity data worldwide, the idea was put back in the closet. However, a few analysts have already discussed the implications of the smoothest of all exit strategies: An exit without asset sales; a buy & hold exit. We have no doubt that as soon as allowed, the idea will resurface again. Underlying all official discussions is the notion that an exit strategy is a “stock”, rather than a flow problem, that the Fed can make decisions independently of the fiscal situation of the US and that international coordination can be ignored. This is logically inconsistent as we address below...
The week ahead will be driven by the heavy end-of-month data schedule. In addition to the usual key releases like ISM and payrolls and ECB meeting, this week we also get an FOMC meeting - though it will hardly see much more than a nod to the weaker activity data of late. For the ECB meeting a full refi but not a deposit rate cut are priced now. Outside the FOMC and the ECB meeting there will be focus on the RBI meeting in India, with a 25bp cut priced in response to lower inflation numbers recently.
Macro perspective of this week's events. Hint: the ECB meeting may be the most interesting.
There have been five developments over the weekend. Which is noise and which the signal ?
The worst miss for US GDP since September 2011 was greeted by financial markets around the world in a variety of ways. Gold surged; the USD weakened (with JPY surging in an anti-Abe way); and Treasury yields plunged (amid increasing growth concerns. But the one market that anyone in power cares about, the US equity market, did nothing, absolutely nothing. We have two words for what the monetary policy heroine has done to our once useful 'markets', comfortably numb. It seems the bad-is-good, moar-QE trade is on in every asset class except stocks (for now).
We are a long way from really resolving the argument between the Keynesian and Austrian economic theories, despite some so-called experts proclaiming Krugman's victory this week. The discovery of the calculation error in the Reinhart/Rogoff study does little to change the overall premise that excessive debt levels impede economic growth and have, historically, led to the fall of economic empires. All one really has to do is pick up a history book and read of the Greeks, Romans, British, French, Russians and many others. Does fiscal responsibility lead to short term economic pain? Absolutely. Why would anyone ever imagine that cutting spending and reducing budgets would be pain free? However, what we do know is that the path of fiscal irresponsibility has long term negative consequences for the economy. In the meantime we can continue to ignore the long term conseqences in exchange for short term bliss.
The crypto-currency Bitcoin is still merely a speck on the global monetary landscape. It is young, experimental, and for all we know, it may ultimately fail to break into the monetary mainstream. However, on a conceptual level some are willing to call it a work of genius and arguably the most exciting development in the field of money for more than 130 years. The outcome is probably binary: Either Bitcoin ultimately fails and the individual Bitcoins end up worthless. Or Bitcoin takes off and Bitcoins are worth hundreds of thousands of paper dollars, paper yen, paper euros, or paper pounds. Maybe more. Those who buy Bitcoin as a speculative investment should consider it an option on the future success of the crypto-currency. We still consider gold to be the essential self-defense asset in the ongoing paper money crisis. The brand-new crypto-currency Bitcoin has to first earn its stripes as a monetary asset by proving itself as a ‘common’ medium of exchange. That is why we view Bitcoin very differently from gold, although the attraction of both has its origin in the demise of entirely elastic, politicized state fiat money. In the meantime, the debasement of paper money continues.
Yesterday’s quarterly bank lending survey capped off a series of indicators with a bleak message for the Eurozone economy. Almost all signs suggest that Europe continues to spiral downwards. The lending survey, compiled by the European Central Bank (ECB), is one of the best leading indicators of all because it tells us about the critical credit link in the economy. In the Eurozone today, tight credit is part of a vicious circle that includes business retrenchment, weakening demand, job cuts and falling incomes. And the scariest thing about the circle is that it feeds on itself – each part reinforces the other parts. It won’t go on forever, but we need to see some improvement in the leading edge of the economy before we can expect it to end. As far as the most telling leading indicators, those that can be directly manipulated through monetary policy are the only ones pointing to a possible end to the vicious circle. In other words: interest rates and equity markets. Until we signs of strength in at least one or two of the leading indicators discussed below, bet on the recession to continue.