As violent protests persist across Turkey, and spread from Istanbul to the capital Ankara, and Izmir, here is a visual summary of what is going on courtesy of Reuters.
While most of the headlines this week have centered on Syria, Sweden (and Switzerland), Turkey has been cooking and today has broken into full-scale riots. As Reuters reports, Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon on Friday at demonstrators in central Istanbul, wounding scores of people and prompting rallies in other cities in the fiercest anti-government protests for years. The growing unrest centers on disquiet at the authoritarianism of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (who just visited Obama). "We do not have a government, we have Tayyip Erdogan ... Even AK Party supporters are saying they have lost their mind, they are not listening to us." The protests somewhat surprisingly were sparked by the uprooting of trees but rapidly escalated (as seen below) into riot police, water cannon, and tear gas battles as protesters exclaim, "we're fed up... we don't like the direction the country is heading."
First a big caveat: the following comes from CNN, the world's farce leader, so take it with a quarry of salt. That said, CNN's household access is pervasive and when it comes to setting the social mood based on a news report, be it completely fabricated or not, the news organization is second to none. Which may be precisely why it is CNN that is reporting that in Syria - a place just itching for the proverbial match to be struck on a mountain of geopolitical gunpowder involving all the key actors: from the US, to Russia, Europe, China, and of course Israel, said match may have just been lit. To wit: "Syrian state-run television reported Thursday that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed three Westerners, including an American woman and a British national, who they claim were fighting with the rebels and were found with weapons and maps of government military facilities."
Gold edged higher today supported by strong physical demand internationally and especially in Asia.
Demand in the physical market continued to hold prices near $1,400/oz as the recent drops in the spot market encourage buyers internationally to accumulate bullion.
Moments ago, the British foreign secretary William Hague tweeted that the arms embargo to the Syrian rebels has officially ended. The irony is that as has been known for a long time, and as the FT itself reported ten days ago, the Syrian "rebels" who actually have been Qatari mercenaries, have been receiving weapons shipments for years from the wealthy Persian Gulf country, with the implicit knowledge of both Europe and the US. So why the rush by France and Britain to allow weapons armaments to resume by official channels, even if it means even more weaponization of the Assad regime by Russia and China, more bloodshed, and more death?
Simple: natural gas.
Russia, Greece, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan expanded their gold reserves for a seventh straight month in April, buying bullion to diversify foreign exchange reserves due to concerns about the dollar and the euro. Russia’s steady increase in its gold reserves saw its holdings, the seventh-largest by country, climb another 8.4 metric tons to 990 tons, taking gains this year to 3.4% after expanding by 8.5% in 2012, International Monetary Fund data show. Kazakhstan’s reserves grew 2.6 tons to 125.5 tons, taking the increase to 8.9% this year after a 41% expansion in 2012, data on the website showed. Turkey’s holdings rose 18.2 tons to 427.1 tons in April, increasing for a 10th month as it accepted gold in its reserve requirements from commercial banks. Belarus’s holdings expanded for a seventh month as did Azerbaijan’s. Interestingly, Greece’s gold holdings climbed for a fourth month, according to the IMF data. This could be a sign of rising economic nationalism in Greece or that the Greek central bank realises that if Greece leaves the euro and is forced back onto the drachma that gold reserves will offer a modicum of protection. Only a modicum, because Greece’s gold reserves remain miniscule especially considering the scale of their debts.
Today’s AM fix was USD 1,386.00, EUR 1,074.92 and GBP 919.16 per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,385.25, EUR 1,071.43 and GBP 917.75 per ounce.
For all those whose lifelong ambition has been to work with the recently reappointed joint Chairman/CEO of JPMorgan in the firm's legendary and infamous gold 'clearing' operation (whose formerly classified New York, the largest in the world, and London vault locations were exposed here and here), today is your lucky day...
Silver’s recovery yesterday from being 10% lower at one stage to recouping these losses and then rising over 2% was very positive technically. The key reversal is leading some to postulate that we may have seen the bottom or are close to a bottom.
QE Halt Would Be 'Too Violent' for Market: Fed's Fisher
Those hoping for a slew of negative news to push stocks much higher today will be disappointed in this largely catalyst-free day. So far today we have gotten only the ECB's weekly 3y LTRO announcement whereby seven banks will repay a total of €1.1 billion from both LTRO issues, as repayments slow to a trickle because the last thing the ECB, which was rumored to be inquiring banks if they can handle negative deposit rates earlier in the session, needs is even more balance sheet contraction. The biggest economic European economic data point was the EU construction output which contracted for a fifth consecutive month, dropping -1.7% compared to -0.3% previously, and tumbled 7.9% from a year before. Elsewhere, Spain announced trade data for March, which printed at yet another surplus of €0.63 billion, prompted not so much by soaring exports which rose a tiny 2% from a year ago to €20.3 billion but due to a collapse in imports of 15% to €19.7 billion - a further sign that the Spanish economy is truly contracting even if the ultimate accounting entry will be GDP positive. More importantly for Spain, the country reported a March bad loan ratio - which has been persistently underreproted - at 10.5% up from 10.4% in February. We will have more to say on why this is the latest and greatest ticking timebomb for the Eurozone shortly.
Previously, when looking at the real underlying national interests responsible for the deteriorating situation in Syria, which eventually may and/or will devolve into all out war with hundreds of thousands killed, we made it very clear that it was always and only about the gas, or gas pipelines to be exact, and specifically those involving the tiny but uber-wealthy state of Qatar. Needless to say, the official spin on events has no mention of this ulterior motive, and the popular, propaganda machine, especially from those powers supporting the Syrian "rebels" which include Israel, the US and the Arabian states tries to generate public and democratic support by portraying Assad as a brutal, chemical weapons-using dictator, in line with the tried and true script used once already in Iraq.On the other hand, there is Russia (and to a lesser extent China: for China's strategic interests in mid-east pipelines, read here), which has been portrayed as the main supporter of the "evil" Assad regime, and thus eager to preserve the status quo without a military intervention. Such attempts may be for naught especially with the earlier noted arrival of US marines in Israel, and the imminent arrival of the Russian Pacific fleet in Cyprus (which is a stone throw away from Syria) which may catalyze a military outcome sooner than we had expected. However, one question that has so far remained unanswered, and a very sensitive one now that the US is on the verge of voting to arm the Syrian rebels, is who was arming said group of Al-Qaeda supported militants up until now. Now, finally, courtesy of the FT we have the (less than surprising) answer, which goes back to our original thesis, and proves that, as so often happens in the middle east, it is once again all about the natural resources.
The US is moving to broaden its 'blockade' efforts of Iran to the movement of pure gold into the Islamic Republic. The US-led embargo of Iranian crude succeeded in slowing the flow of petrodollars into the nation but as Foreign Affairs committee chairman Edward Cohen remarked, there is "no question that there is gold going from Turkey to Iran." While the official line from US elite such as Bernanke remains that 'gold is not money' it appears that increasingly other nations would disagree, as Cohen admitted, "in large measure what we're seeing is private Iranian citizens buying gold as a protection against the falling value of Iran's currency." It would seem somewhat self-evident that the US is admitting, by attempting to embargo this gold flow, that outside the US, the Dollar is becoming increasingly irrelevant (see China's gold demand); and that for many countries the petrodollar no longer exists, having been replaced by 'Petrogold'.
In the US, retail sales are expected to continue to slow in the headline, while retail sales ex autos, building materials, and gas should turn positive in April according to Wall Street analysts. Goldman remains below consensus for Thursday's Philadelphia Fed survey, forecasting a slight improvement on the previous month. The firm also expects the flash reading for Euro area Q1 GDP to come in slightly below consensus, consistent with a shallow contraction. We forecast German GDP will turn positive in Q1 after Q4 2012's negative reading. In Japan, GS sees Q1 GDP at 2.8% qoq ann., slightly above consensus, with stronger consumer spending the main driver. Among the central bank meetings this week, Russia, Chile, and Indonesia are expected to remain on hold, in line with consensus.