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.
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.
We are in “The Lull” which has been caused by the injection of capital by the Fed and by the ECB. This is exactly, exactly, what took place I remind you during the weeks after the subprime mess exploded. Massive injections of capital, run-ups in equities, compression in bonds, higher prices for commodities and then the reversal of course took place. When easing ends then the course back tracks and I predict a re-do of this in the coming months. It will not take some trigger event, though there may well be one, to cause this; just the easy money being placed and no more manufactured money to follow.
“As the well runs dry the throat parches and dehydration begins.”
Gold and Silver Plunge – Called “Intervention”, “Window Dressing”, “Temporary Smash”, “Paper Fiasco”Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/01/2012 09:11 -0400
The positive PMI data would ordinarily result in some price weakness as would the testimony from Bernanke which suggested that the Federal Reserve's ultra loose monetary policies may not continue much longer. However, the scale of the selling and size of the price falls was unusual. Respected analysts such as legendary Jim Sinclair, John Embry and Jean-Marie Eveillard suggested that the sell off was due to manipulation by bullion banks. Sinclair said it was an “intervention” and was “window dressing” that long term bullion investors should not be concerned about as inflation was coming due to “QE to Infinity.” Embry said that it was a “smash down” and a “paper fiasco.” Jean-Marie Eveillard suggested that central banks may have intervened, as they are doing in fx and bond markets, and sold gold in volume into the market. It is of course very difficult to ascertain what caused the sharp falls in the precious metals yesterday however it would be naive to completely discount what Sinclair, Embry and Eveillard believe may have happened.
European bourses are trading in positive territory ahead of the North American following a relatively quiet morning in Europe. Markets are led by the financials sector, currently trading up around 1.10%. This follows yesterday’s ECB LTRO. As such, the 3-month Euribor fix has fallen to 0.967%, a significant fall in inter-bank lending costs. PMI Manufacturing data released earlier today came in roughly in line with preliminary estimates. The Eurozone unemployment rate for February has also been released, showing the highest jobless rate since October 1997. There has been little in the way of currency moves so far in the session; however there may be fluctuations in USD pairs following the release of ISM Manufacturing data and weekly jobless claims later today.
As good news appears to be bad news for now and the hopes of imminent dovish QE3-gasms gets pushed off a week or two, we thought it useful to dig into the mysterious central bank go-to play in a little more detail. Morgan Stanley's European Economics Team asks and answers five of the most frequently discussed questions with regard quantitative easing. From whether QE has worked to inflation fears and concerns over policy normalization and what happens if the public lose confidence in central bank liabilities, we suspect these questions, rather dovishly answered by the MS team, will reappear sooner rather than later, and as they interestingly note, the deployment of central bank balance sheets is, in essence, a confidence trick.
With the second version of the ECB's enhanced LTRO (back-door QE) starting tomorrow, there has been a great deal of speculation on what the take-up will be, what banks will do with the funds they receive, and more importantly how will this effect global asset markets. SocGen provides a comprehensive top-down analysis of the drivers of LTRO demand, the likely uses of those funds, and estimates how much of this will be used to finance the carry trade (placebo or no placebo). Italian (25%) and Spanish (20%) banks are unsurprisingly at the forefront in their take-up of ECB liquidity (likely undertaking the M.A.D. reach-around carry trade ) and have been since long before the first LTRO. On the other side, German banks have dramatically reduced their collective share of ECB liquidity from 30% to only 6%. SocGen skews their detailed forecast to EUR300-400bn, disappointing relative to the near EUR500bn consensus - and so likely modestly bad news for risk assets. Furthermore, they expect around EUR116bn of this to be used for carry trade 'revenue' production which will however lead to only a 0.6% improvement in sectoral equity levels (though some banks will benefit more than others), as they discuss the misunderstanding of LTRO-to-ECB-deposit facility rotation. We, however, remind readers that collateralized (and self-subordinating) debt is not a substitute for capital and if the ECB adamantly defines this as the last enhanced LTRO (until the next one of course) then European banks face an uphill battle without that crutch - whether or not they even have collateral to post. Its further important to note that LTRO 2 cannot be wholly disentangled from the March 1-2 EU Summit event risk and we fear expectations, priced into markets, are a little excessive. We suspect this will not be a Goldilocks 'just right' moment.
Yes, the Federal government can cover up the damage by borrowing 10% of GDP each and every year ($1.5 trillion, and don't forget to add in the off-budget "supplementary appropriations"), and the Federal Reserve can add trillions in quantitative easing stimulus, but even adding $8 trillion of borrowed/printed money to the economy over the past four years has had remarkably little effect on the private-sector economy. That does not bode well for the "recovery."
The better tone in risk markets is largely being driven by encouraging economic data from the US and Europe, which as a result saw Bunds trade in negative territory. Of note, ECB’s Liikanen has said that inflation is not a particular concern in Europe, adding that the ECB has never said that there is an interest rate floor. On the other hand, Gilts are being supported by comments from BoE’s Fisher, as well as less than impressive GDP report. Nevertheless, EUR/USD took out touted barrier at the 1.3400 level earlier in the session, while USD/JPY is trading in close proximity to an intraday option expiry at 80.60.
2012 is proving to be the 'Year of the Central Bank'. It is an exciting celebration of all the wonderful maneuvers central banks can employ to keep the system from falling apart. Western central banks have gone into complete overdrive since last November, convening, colluding and printing their way out of the mess that is the Eurozone. The scale and frequency of their maneuvering seems to increase with every passing week, and speaks to the desperate fragility that continues to define much of the financial system today.... All of this pervasive intervention most likely explains more than 90 percent of the market's positive performance this past January. Had the G6 NOT convened on swaps, had the ECB NOT launched the LTRO programs, and had Bernanke NOT expressed a continuation of zero interest rates, one wonders where the equity indices would trade today. One also wonders if the European banking system would have made it through December. Thank goodness for "coordinated action". It does work in the short-term.... But what about the long-term? What are the unintended consequences of repeatedly juicing the system? What are the repercussions of all this money printing? We can think of a few.
A lesson to be learnt from the individuals who continue to buy European Debt
When the prospect of a nation being unable to roll over a paltry few Euros of maturing debt is enough to galvanise the entire financial world into monetary excess exceeding anything imaginable as recently as late 2007, one must conclude that the markets are skating on the thinnest ice in their entire existence. But skate they are.
Today, Rand’s fictional world has seemingly become a reality – endless bailouts and economic stimulus for the unproductive at the expense of the most productive, and calls for additional taxation on capital investment. The shrug of Rand’s heroic entrepreneurs is to be found today within the tangled ciphers of corporate and government balance sheets. The US Federal Reserve has added more than $2 trillion to the base money supply since 2008 – an incredible and unprecedented number that is basically a gift to banks intended to cover their deep losses and spur lending and investment. Instead, as banks continue their enormous deleveraging, almost all of their new money remains at the Fed in the form of excess reserves. Corporations, moreover, are holding the largest amounts of cash, relative to assets and net worth, ever recorded. And yet, despite what pundits claim about strong balance sheets, firms’ debt levels, relative to assets and net worth, also remain near record-high levels. Hoarded cash is king. The velocity of money (the frequency at which money is spent, or GDP relative to base money) continues to plunge to historic lows. No wonder monetary policy has had so little impact. Capital, the engine of economic growth, sits idle – shrugging everywhere.
Are we really in an economic recovery or is it a figment of the Fed's quantitative easing? This will be the biggest factor in the 2012 elections.