Real Interest Rates
History is full of other examples of once proud nations that, facing problems for decades (or even centuries), completely unwound in a matter of years. The Ottoman Empire. The Ming Dynasty. Feudal France. The Soviet Union. Bottom line, when the real change comes, it comes very, very quickly. Think about the pace of change these days. It’s quickening. Europe is a great case study for this– when concerns about Greece first surfaced, European leaders were able to contain the damage. There was disquiet, but it soon dissipated. Fast forward to today. We can hardly go a single day without a major, market-rocking headline. And European politicians’ attempts to assuage the damage have a useful half life that can be measured in days… sometimes hours now. Like the Ottomans, the Soviets, the Romans before them, Western civilization is entering the phase where its rate of decline will start looking like that upside-down hockey stick.
It wasn't a fun week for gold. By the close on Friday, the metal was down 6.7% (based on London PM fix prices), the biggest weekly decline since September. It got downright irritating when the mainstream media seemingly rejoiced at gold's decline. Economist Nouriel Roubini poked fun at gold bugs in a Tweet. Über investor Dennis Gartman said he sold his holdings. CNBC ran an article proclaiming gold was no longer a safe-haven asset (talk about an overreaction). While the worry may have been real, let's focus on facts. Have the reasons for gold's bull market changed in any material way such that we should consider exiting? Instead of me providing an answer, ask yourself some basic questions: Is the current support for the US dollar an honest indication of its health? Are the sovereign debt problems in Europe solved? How will the US repay its $15 trillion debt load without some level of currency dilution? Is there likely to be more money printing in the future, or less? Are real interest rates positive yet? Has gold really lost its safe haven status as a result of one bad week? And one more: What is the mainstream media's record on forecasting precious metals prices?
Stock markets globally had a torrid year with the S&P500 down 1.3%, the FTSE down 8% and the CAC and DAX down 19% and 15% respectively. Asian stock markets also fell with the Nikkei down 17%, the Hang Seng 20% and the Shanghai SE down 22%. The MSCI World Index fell 9%. Thus, gold again acted as a safe haven and protected and preserved wealth over the long term. While gold reached record nominal highs at $1,915/oz in August, it is important to continually emphasize that gold remains well below the real high, adjusted for inflation, in 1980 of $2,500/oz. Gold today at $1,625/oz is 18% below the record nominal high of $1915/oz in August 2011. More importantly, gold remains 46% below its real high of $2,500/oz. Global money supply continued to rise in 2011 and helped push gold prices to all-time highs on the fear of currency debasement. If accommodative monetary policies continue as the dominant tool for central banks, precious metals will almost certainly continue to benefit. Were this trend to turn, responsible monetary policy actions could hinder returns. We see no prospect of this in the short term – and little prospect in the medium term.
Bullion banks remain positive on gold for 2012 with major banks predicting an average gold price of between 13% and 28% above today’s spot at $1,595/oz. It will be interesting to see if these forecasts get as much international media coverage as the poll of 20 hedge fund managers has. UBS have reiterated their bullish outlook for gold and believe gold will average $2,050/oz in 2012. This is 28% above today’s spot price of $1595/oz. Goldman Sachs said overnight that gold will average $1,810/oz in 2012 – which is 13% above today’s spot price. Barclays Capital have said this morning that gold will average $2,000/oz in 2012 – which is 25% above today’s spot price.
Eric Sprott Fights PM Manipulation Fire With Fire: Calls Silver Producers To Retain Silver Produced As "Cash"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/10/2011 03:14 -0400
In what is likely the most logical follow up to our post of the day, namely the news of the lawsuit between HSBC and MF Global over double-counted gold, or physical - not paper - that was "commingled" via rehypothecating or otherwise, we present readers with the monthly note by Eric Sprott titled "Silver Producers: A Call to Action" in which the Canadian commodities asset manager has had enough of what he perceives as subtle and/or not so subtle manipulation of the precious metal market, and in not so many words calls the silver miners of the world "to spring to action" and effectively establish supply controls to silver extraction to counteract paper market manipulation in the paper realm by treating their product as a currency and retaining it as "cash". To wit: "instead of selling all their silver for cash and depositing that cash in a levered bank, silver miners should seriously consider storing a portion of their reserves in physical silver OUTSIDE OF THE BANKING SYSTEM. Why take on all the risks of the bank when you can hold hard cash through the very metal that you mine? Given the current environment, we see much greater risk holding cash in a bank than we do in holding precious metals. And it serves to remember that thanks to 0% interest rates, banks don’t pay their customers to take on those risks today." And the math: "If silver miners were therefore to reinvest 25% of their 2011 earnings back into physical silver, they could potentially account for 21% of the approximate 300 million ounces (~$9 billion) available for investment in 2011. If they were to reinvest all their earnings back into silver, it would shrink available 2011 investment supply by 82%. This is a purely hypothetical exercise of course, but can you imagine the impact this practice would have on silver prices?" And there you go: Sprott 'reputable' entity to propose to fight manipulation with what is effectively collusion, which in the grand scheme of things is perfectly normal - after all, all is fair in love and war over a dying monetary model. Who could have thought that the jump from "proletariats" to "silver miners" would be so short.
Gold traded higher after the ECB interest rate cut yesterday, prior to sharp selling that came into the market at 1335 GMT. This led to gold falling 2% on the day and it is now down 1.3% on the week – again outperforming many equity indices. Market News International (MNI) reported that market sources said that the Bank for International Settlements, the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve have been “good sellers of gold” after it had popped to a fresh session high of $1,755.90/oz. The MNI report has not been explored and there have not been any official denials of official selling. From a trading perspective there is at least a ring of truth to the MNI report as the sharp fall in the gold price was counterintuitive given there was no negative gold news and indeed the news was bullish with significant risk ahead of the EU summit and continued ultra loose monetary policies and negative real interest rates. Given the scale of the coordinated intervention in markets by central banks recently one would have to be completely naïve to dismiss the report out of hand. There is of course the historical precedent of the London Gold Pool which ended in failure. However, before jumping to conclusions it would be good if the MNI report was looked at and some questions asked - in the finest traditions of journalism.
Our framework centers on the idea that humanity is facing a set of predicaments quite unlike anything else in the history books. Because this time there are no borders to cross in search of safety; the entire world is involved. On a global basis, we've never experienced collective debt loads of this magnitude. Never before has an entire set of intertwined currency systems -- all debt-based money -- collectively been backed by nothing more than the hope of a larger future, and never before have this many people had to figure out how to move from more-concentrated to less-concentrated energy sources (from fossil fuels to sun- and wind-based alternatives). The convergence of exponential trends in population, energy depletion, debt accumulation, and an economic model that is hooked on growth will combine to produce quite an interesting, if not challenging and disruptive, future. The funny thing about complex systems is that they are unpredictable, and therefore preparing for what may come is a non-trivial (yet absolutely essential) task. The immediate question for most people is What should I do? We break down the intelligent responses into three big buckets: financial, physical, and emotional. In this report, I detail the financial steps that everyone should undertake right now to manage future risks using the framework that I use to assess and understand the financial world and markets. My approach is founded as faithfully as possible on facts and data. But my views on how the markets operate are formed from personal experience, observation, and connecting a few dots that rely on opinions and sometimes beliefs. Therefore, this financial and investing framework is something that you should only accept if it works for you -- and reject if it does not.
Japan will reward investors who buy reconstruction bonds with half an ounce of gold, an added incentive that could boost the return by nearly six times according to Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi. Individual investors who purchase more than 10 million yen ($129,000) in the debt with a 0.05 percent return and keep it for three years will receive a gold commemorative coin weighing 15.6 grams (0.55 ounces), the Finance Ministry said in Tokyo today, worth about $948 based on current prices for the precious metal. The offer suggests the return could be boosted to 89,000 yen should gold prices remain at current levels, more than the approximate 15,000 yen one would receive from the bond. The coupon on conventional three-year retail government debt to be sold on Jan. 16 is 0.18 percent. 10 year debt remains near multi record lows of 1%. Silver coins weighing 31.1 grams issued as 1,000 yen currency will be distributed to those who own more than 1 million yen of the bonds, the government said. The coins will be offered for debt going on sale in March. All investors receive a thank-you note from the minister, who showed his to reporters in Tokyo today as proof of his purchase. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura also bought the bonds, Azumi said, without saying how much. This is a sign that the Japanese government like governments internationally is very concerned that they will not be able to sell their government debt.
The Doves Resume Their Crying: Fed's Evans Sees More Easing As Necessary To Avoid "Debt Trap"; Fed Must Act NowSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/05/2011 13:23 -0400
While Italy's Mario Monti earlier said that the country with the still ridiculously high bond yields would be somehow able to avoid a debt trap on its own (for its second largest debt load in the entire Eurozone), the Chicago Fed's Evans just said that America, which has the lowest rates in the world (with the possible exception of Japan) just said that unlike Italy, the US apparently needs far more help, and "further monetary stimulus is needed" to avoid a relapse into the debt trap. This probably means that sooner or later Italy will follow through with statements that "Italy is not the US" - after all, they are perfectly ok as is.
Why do Banks remain such lousy investments?
- Is the revenue model fundamentally broken?
- Is the capital model fundamentally broken?
- Is the risk model fundamentally broken?
- Is the compensation model fundamentally broken?
- None of the above?
- All of the above?
Do I REALLY have to give you the answers to these questions?
Financial contagion in Europe is pushing already fragile global economies towards recessions, and the risk of slipping into global recession are rising significantly. Indeed, as we have warned for many months, there is a real risk of a global Depression given the scale of the debt levels in most western countries and the massive imbalances globally. A senior Chinese official, Chinese Vice Premier Wang, said yesterday that a ‘chronic’ long term global recession is certain to happen and China must focus on domestic problems. While all the focus has been on Europe in recent weeks, markets may again focus on the not inconsequential matter of the appalling US fiscal position which could see further market volatility and the dollar come under pressure again. Washington's latest fractious effort to come to grips with its mounting debt looks set to end in failure today as negotiators look set to announce they have failed to reach a deal. The Congressional ‘supercommittee ‘charged with cutting the US government's crushing $15 trillion debt looks set to admit failure which should support gold. SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, reported a rise of 3.631 tons from a day earlier to 1,293.088 tons in its holdings, the highest in more than three months. The ETF witnessed an inflow of 24.422 tons last week, the biggest one-week rise in holdings since mid-August. Commerzbank say they expect to see gold trading at $1,800/oz by the end of the year. Barclays says it is sticking with a fairly bullish call for gold and says it sees the price at $1,875/oz in Q4, according to Reuters. Deutsche Bank say they expect periods of risk aversion to remain through 2012 and their strongest conviction trade remains long precious metals and specifically gold, according to Reuters.
For what it's worth, Goldman likes gold. "Consumers: We expect gold prices to continue to climb in 2011 given the current low level of US real interest rates. Further, with our US economics team now forecasting slower US economic growth in 2011 and 2012, we expect US real interest rates to remain lower for longer, supporting higher gold prices through 2012. Consequently, we recommend near-dated consumer hedges in gold through 2012. Producers: With gold prices expected to continue to climb through 2012, we find hedging opportunities less attractive for gold producers at this time." In other news, Goldman also likes Silver, Copper, Zinc, WTI and Brent. In other words: QE3 is coming.
Gold ETF data shows continuing safe haven flows and diversification into gold. Global holdings of gold rose last week, by nearly 897K oz, their largest weekly rise since the week ending Aug 5 2011, when holdings rose by a net 1.089M oz, according to Reuters. Total gold ETF holdings stand at around 68.854M oz, up a full 1.749M oz in the last month. November is shaping up to show the largest monthly inflow since July. So far this month, holdings have risen by 947K oz. Goldman Sachs today reaffirmed that it remains overweight in commodities. On gold it says it will roll over its Dec 11 long to Dec 12. "We expect gold prices to continue to climb in 2011 and 2012 given the current low level of US real interest rates, and as a result recommend a long gold position. Credit Suisse has said that gold may climb over $1,800 in the coming days with negative real interest rates as the ‘key driver’.
It is no secret that over the past two months, Goldman has commenced a full endorsement of Nominal GDP targetting as a method to stimulate the economy, not to mention Wall Street's bonus pool, after Ben Bernanke completely ignored Hatzius' advice to reduce the Interest on Overnight Excess Reserve rate as well as subsequent pleading for a start of MBS LSAP. Mathematics once again aside, and as we demonstrated, the math works out to an non-trivial incremental $10 trillion in debt through 2016 on top of what will be issued, to catch up with the GDP growth run rate and to eliminate the excess slack in the economy, the question is whether NGDP would achieve any tangible stimulus at all, or merely reduce the Fed's ever smaller arsenal of non-conventional means to boost the economy by one more approach. The attached rhetorical Q&A just released by Goldman seeks to answer that and any other left over questions one may have on NGDP as a policy measure, and further puts out the inverse strawman argument that it is not coming out any time soon. To wit: "We do not expect a move to an NGDP target anytime soon, although the probability would increase if growth and/or inflation slowed by more than we currently estimate." Then again, with the whole reverse psychology trademark inherent in every piece of Goldman public product, and considering the squid's previous advances to determine monetary policy have been snubbed, it may just mean that the next time the US economy implodes, this is precisely the method the Fed may use in early 2012 to guarantee another record year of Wall Street bonuses considering 2011 will be abysmal for so many Swiss and other offshore bank accounts.
Turd Ferguson is a funny guy. But there's one thing this irreverent, acerbically goofball forecaster is stone-cold serious about: the need to build personal exposure to the precious metals. For him, it's a straightforward mathematical certainty that the global economy must collapse under the weight of the excessive (and exponentially compounding) credit amassed over the past several decades. The debt is simply too large to be serviced. As a growing number of analysts (including Chris) are predicting, Turd sees the replacement of the world's current monetary regimes as the endgame to this story. And he believes we are watching that endgame unfold in real-time now. In this interview with Chris, Turd discusses his reasons why gold and silver offer the best prospect for preserving wealth through the coming devaluation of world currencies, despite his strong conviction that the markets for these metals are heavily price-manipulated.