Currency wars are set to intensify as the US Senate is considering new sanctions against Iran that would prevent Iran getting paid for its natural resource exports in gold bullion. The new sanctions aimed at reducing global trade with Iran in the energy, shipping and precious metals sectors may soon be considered by the U.S. Senate as part of an annual defense policy bill, senators and aides said on Tuesday, according to Reuters. The sanctions would end "Turkey's game of gold for natural gas," Reuters reported a senior Senate aide as saying, referring to reports that Turkey has been paying for natural gas with gold due to sanctions rules. The legislation "would bring economic sanctions on Iran near de facto trade embargo levels with the hope of speeding up the date by which Iran's economy will collapse," the aide said. Last week Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan has revealed a critical detail about a widely discussed Turkey-Iran gold trade boom, disclosing that the Islamic republic was exporting gas to Turkey in exchange for payment in gold bullion. It is also reported that Iranians are buying Turkish gold with the Turkish Lira, which is deposited into their bank accounts in exchange for Turkey’s natural gas purchases, the deputy prime minister said at midnight Nov. 22 during a parliamentary session. Iran cannot transfer monetary payments to Iran in U.S. dollars due to U.S sanctions against the country’s alleged nuclear weapons program. Iran has been forced to shun the international financial system and the petrodollar as means of payment and turn to the international gold market to ensure it gets paid for its natural resources in order to prevent absolute economic collapse.
CME Group declared a force majeure at one of its New York precious metals depositories yesterday, run by bullion dealer and major coin dealer Manfra, Tordella and Brooks (MTB), due to “operational limitations” posed by Hurricane Sandy. MTB has “operational limitations” following Hurricane Sandy and can’t load gold bullion, platinum bullion or palladium bullion, CME Group Inc., the parent of the Comex and New York Mercantile Exchange, said today in a statement. MTB must provide holders with metal at Brinks Inc. in New York to meet current outstanding warrants in relevant delivery periods with compensation for costs, Chicago-based CME said. The CME said that MTB will not be able to deliver metal as the lower Manhattan company deals with "operational limitations" almost a month after the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. MTB is one of five depositories licensed to deliver gold against CME's benchmark 100-troy ounce gold contract, held 29,276 troy ounces of gold and 33,000 troy ounces of palladium as of Nov. 23, according to data from CME subsidiary Comex. In a notice to customers on Monday, CME declared force majeure for the facility, a contract clause that frees parties from liability due to an event outside of their control.
Gold edged down on a Monday as speculators took their profits as prices rallied on thin volumes on Friday to their highest in a month on technical buying. A strong fall in the greenback triggered rapid gains in commodities and options-related buying on Friday. Tonight US Congress will meet to attempt to devise a plan to avert the US fiscal cliff which will throw the US into a spiral of tax hikes and budgetary cuts that will lead the US economy deeper into a recession this January. Another short term ‘resolution’ will almost certainly be achieved which will allow the US to keep spending like a broke drunken sailor and which will again store up far greater fiscal and monetary problems. The scale of these deep rooted structural challenges is so great that they are likely to affect the US sooner rather than later. Global investment demand for gold remains robust with the amount in exchange-traded products backed by the metal rising 0.1% to 2,606.3 metric tons.
This objective one-stop-shop report concisely summarizes the important macro events over the past week.
Brazil’s aggressive efforts to weaken its currency by buying dollars – about $132 billion since the beginning of 2008 – have left the country with the sixth biggest international reserves in the world, about 80% of which is denominated in the US currency. However, recent turmoil in currency markets and concerns over the global financial crisis and fiat currencies in general has given Brazil’s authorities even more reason to diversify their holdings. It has frequently stated its intention to diversify assets and reduce its exposure to currency risk. Recent sharp weakness in Brazil’s real (see table) and systemic risks are leading central banks, including the BCB to diversify into gold. Brazil raised its gold holdings by 17.2 tonnes in October to 52.5 tonnes, the highest level since January 2001. The move comes on the back of Brazil’s 1.7 tonne increase in September, the country’s first significant gold purchase in a decade. However, there are concerns that the increase in the Brazilian central bank gold holdings' and tonnage are not all that they seem. It appears that the central bank in Brazil has not actually bought London Good Delivery bullion bars but rather fixed term gold deposits with bullion banks. Recently, the Brazilian central bank was asked about their gold reserves and about a section on gold on their website under 'Official Reserve Assets' lists gold as "gold (including gold deposit and, if appropriate, gold swapped)" with a footnote of "Includes available stock of financial gold plus time deposits."
Most recently, in "Elliott Management Vs Argentina Round 2: Now It's Personal" we laid out the story of how in the ongoing legal fight between Argentina's prominent distressed debt creditor, and exchange offer holdout, Elliott Management (and to a smaller degree Aurelius), and distressed debtor Argentina, the moving pieces continue in flux, even as various US legal institutions have demanded that Argentina proceed with paying the holdouts despite the Latin American country's vocal prior refusals to do so, and most importantly, the lack of a sovereign payment enforcement mechanism. Last night, the fight escalate one more, and perhaps final time, before the Rubicon is crossed and Argentina either pays Elliott, "or else" the country proves all those who furiously bought up Argentina CDS in the past two weeks correct, and the country redefaults on $24 billion of debt. Because as Reuters reports, late last night, US District Judge Griesa overseeing the Argentina case, ordered the Latin American country to make immediate payment with a deadline for escrow account funding of December 15.
At the beginning of World War II, the term "shell shock" was banned by the British Army, though the phrase "postconcussional syndrome" was used to describe similar traumatic conditions. Pick whichever words you like but lately it seems to me that the world’s investors are in this state of economic reaction; shell shocked. Yes, France is downgraded, no decision about Greece, no truce in Gaza, Spain joining Alice in the rabbit hole, recession in Europe, America fiddling about with no resolution in sight and “ho hum, ho hum pass the cookies if you please.” The world’s central banks have manufactured the money, we have enough sloshing about to invest it, corporate earnings are down, well, nevermind, we have to do something with the stuff so we may as well put it somewhere and the investment world lulled into lethargy by all of the shells that have flown overhead and landed nowhere. It is like the investment world is on Xanax where the sea is perceived as dead calm, regardless of the eight foot swells. It all seems very reminiscent of the blase attitude in Spring 2008 to no-doc loans and CDO-cubeds.
Austerity is coming our way, it's just a matter in what manner and by how much, and whether it becomes an orderly or disorderly process. The fiscal cliff is really a bit of a ruse in that respect, but the key here is that years of fiscal profligacy is coming to an end and the Fed at this point, having used its bazookas, is now down to firecrackers. The economic outlook as such is completely muddled and along with that the prospect for any turnaround in corporate earnings... Once we get past the Fiscal Cliff we will confront the inherent inability of the Democrats and the GOP to embark on any grand bargain to blaze the trail for true fiscal reforms. The U.S. has not had a rewrite of its tax code since 1986, which was the year Microsoft went public and a decade prior to Al Gore's invention of the Internet. The tax system is massively inefficient and leads to a gross misallocation of resources that impedes economic progress — rewarding conspicuous consumption at the expense of savings and investment. It is the lingering uncertainty over the road to meaningful fiscal reform that is really the mot cause of the angst — the fiscal cliff is really a side show because who doesn't know that we are going to have a Khrushchev moment?
With Thanksgiving this Thursday, trading desks will be empty on Wednesday afternoon and remain so until next Monday. So even though it is a holiday shortened week, here are the main things to expect in the next 5 days: Bank of Japan meeting, the European Council meeting and the Eurogroup meeting. Key data releases include European and Chinese Flash PMIs.
Those looking for fundamental newsflow and/or facts to justify the latest bout of overnight risk exuberance will not find it. To be sure, among the few economic indicators reported overnight in the Thanksgiving shortened week, European construction output for September tumbled -1.4% from August, after rising 0.6% previously. How long until Europe copycats the latest US foreclosure sequestration, "demand pull" gimmick and gives hedge funds risk free loans to buy up housing (aka REO-to-Rent)? More importantly, and confirming that Spain is far, far from a positive inflection point, Spanish bad loans rose to a new record high of 10.7%. This was the the highest level since the records began in 1962. The total value of these loans was €182.2 billion ($233 billion) in September, according to the Bank of Spain (more on this shortly). The relentless rise indicates that the Spanish bad bank rescue fund will be woefully insufficient and will need to be raised again and again. So while there was nothing in the facts to make investors happy, traders looked to hope and prayer, instead pushing risk higher on the much overplayed Friday "news" that politicians are willing to compromise in the cliff (which as we reported was merely a market ramping publicity stunt by Nancy Pelosi et al), and that Greece may be saved at tomorrow's Eurogroup meeting, for the third time. That this will be difficult is an understatement, with the Dutch finance minister saying no final decisions on Greece should be expected, and his German counterpart adding that a Greek debt writeoff is "inconceivable." In other words, even hoping for hope is a stretch, but the market is doing it nonetheless.
Earlier today, the Financial Stability Board (FSB), one of the few transnational financial "supervisors" which is about as relevant in the grand scheme of things as the BIS, whose Basel III capitalization requirements will never be adopted for the simple reason that banks can not afford, now or ever, to delever and dispose of assets to the degree required for them to regain "stability" (nearly $4 trillion in Europe alone as we explained months ago), issued a report on Shadow Banking. The report is about 3 years late (Zero Hedge has been following this topic since 2010), and is largely meaningless, coming to the same conclusion as all other historical regulatory observations into shadow banking have done in the recent past, namely that it is too big, too unwieldy, and too risky, but that little if anything can be done about it. Specifically, the FSB finds that the size of the US shadow banking system is estimated to amount to $23 trillion (higher than our internal estimate of about $15 trillion due to the inclusion of various equity-linked products such as ETFs, which hardly fit the narrow definition of a "bank" with its three compulsory transformation vectors), is the largest in the world, followed by the Euro area with a $22 trillion shadow bank system (or 111% of total Euro GDP in 2011, down from 128% at its peak in 2007), and the UK in third, with $9 trillion. Combined total shadow banking, not to be confused with derivatives, which at least from a theoretical level can be said to offset each other (good luck with that when there is even one counterparty failure), is now $67 trillion, $6 trillion higher than previously thought, and virtually the same as global GDP of $70 trillion at the end of 2011.
When we reported yesterday that following "recurring" "provocations" by the Syrian military, which is so very confused who it wants to declare war on first - NATO member Turkey, or best US friend Israel, it is pressing on both fronts, even as it continues to be torn by CIA funded, and Al Qaeda stoked civil war, which saw Israel launch a missile into Syrian territory for the first time since 1973,we said, "It goes without saying that this is merely the first proverbial shot across the bow, or in this case the DMZ. Much more to follow, until finally the UN rules, and the fair and objective media backs it, that the time to invade liberate Syria has come." Sure enough, less than 24 hours later...
ISRAELI MILITARY REPORTS `DIRECT HITS' ON SYRIA TARGETS: AP
The upcoming week comes less loaded with policy events. The only major one is the Eurogroup meeting on Monday, however EU officials have already confirmed that no decision on the next Greek aid tranche will be made before the Troika’s next report on Greece’s adherence to the bailout conditions. Greece has scheduled an auction for Tuesday in order to roll over €3.1 bn in T-bills expiring by the end of the week. Additionally, in the US, the President has invited leadership of both parties for a first round of talks on the fiscal cliff. The data calendars also look lighter, with the publication of the FOMC minutes on Wednesday, and US Philly Fed on Thursday.