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South African Gold Production Dives Again To 90 Year Lows

South Africa's gold output fell again in January and was down a very large 11.3% in volume terms in January.  Annual gold production is set to be close to 220 tonnes which is a level of gold production not seen since 1922 (see chart below). The falls were seen only in the gold market with production of other minerals holding up with total mineral production down only 2.5% compared with the same month last year. South Africa as recently as two decades ago was the world's largest producer of gold by a huge margin. Only 40 years ago South Africa produced more than 1,000 tonnes of gold per annum but will only produce some 220 tonnes in 2012. Production peaked in 1970 and has been falling steadily and sharply since. The nearly 80% fall in South African gold production has led to it being recently overtaken by China, Australia and the U.S.  It is now even at risk of being overtaken by Russia. The massive 11.3% decline in South Africa was more than even that seen in December when gold output fell by 8.2%. The continuing output decline is due to many of the country's biggest gold mining operations having reached the ends of their lives and having closed down.

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Today's Full Economic Data Dump: Claims, Empire Manufacturing And PPI, Where Prices Paid Literally Explodes

Here is today's full data dump, presented in summary form

  • Initial claims: 351K vs 356K Expected, Previous revised higher of course from 362K to 365K, just as we predicted last week.
  • Empire Fed: 20.21, Exp. 17.50, up from 19.53 previously
    • New Orders 6.8 vs 9.7
    • Prices Paid explodes to 50.62, 25.88 previous. One of the highest rises on record
  • PPI: 0.4% vs 0.5% Exp, 0.1% Previous
    • PPI ex food and energy: 0.2%, Exp 0.2%
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Investment Grade Bonds And The Retail Love Affair

Without a doubt, retail has fallen in love with corporate bonds.  Fund flows were originally into mutual funds, and have shifted more and more into the ETF’s.  The ETF’s are gaining a greater institutional following as well – their daily trading volumes cannot be ignored, and for the high yield space, many hedgers believe it mimics their portfolio far better than the CDS indices. The investment grade market looks extremely dangerous right now as the rationale for investing in corporate bonds – spreads are cheap – and the investment vehicles – yield based products. With corporate bonds spreads (investment grade and high yield) already reflecting a lot of the move in equities, it will be critical to see how well they can withstand the pressure from the treasury markets.

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Guest Post: Time To Revisit An Old Friend

I have suggested for weeks, I suggested in my piece yesterday, that you take some money off the table, sell some of your bullets, and re-deploy. Quantitative Easing is coming to an end and there will be ramifications for the bond markets and, eventually, for the equity markets. The days of free money, newly printed money, are coming to a close as America begins to right itself and as our banking system is mostly out of the woods. The longer end of the curve, hit hard yesterday, is heading to higher yields in my opinion. We will also begin to see inflation creep in for a variety of reasons and I point specifically to the price of gas at the pump which, while no one was looking, has hit its all-time highs this week as each penny of increase adds $1 billion to household spending and gasoline has risen thirty cents in the last month.

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Full Schedule Of Today's Economic Data

Busy day with the usual Thursday fare of Initial claims, as well as Empire Manufcaturing survey, PPI, and the Philly Fed, which will reflect just two things - the reflation in global capital markets courtesy of non-Fed balance sheet expansion, and soaring gas prices courtesy of the same. Average regular is now $3.821, an all time high for this day in history.

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Here Is Why The Fed Will Have To Do At Least Another $3.6 Trillion In Quantitative Easing

As we have repeatedly said in the past, the quarterly Flow of Funds (or Z.1) statement is most interesting not for the already public household net worth and leverage data which serves to make pretty charts and largely irrelevant articles, but due to its insight into the stock and flow of both the traditional financial system but far more importantly - into shadow banking. And this is where things get hairy. Because while equities may have returned to 2008 valuations, the credit shortfall across combined US liabilities - traditional and shadow - still has a $3.6 trillion hole to plug to get to the level from March 2008 (see first chart). It is this hole that is giving equities, which have already surpassed 2008 levels, nightmares. Because while the Fed is pumping traditional commercial banks balance sheets via reserve expansion (read: fungible money that manifests itself most directly in $5 gas at the pump) resulting in a $2.3 trillion rise in traditional liabilities from Q3 2008 through Q4 2011, what it is not accounting for is the now 15 consecutive quarters of shadow banking system contraction, which peaked at $21 trillion in Q1 2008, and in Q4 2011 declined to $15.1 trillion... and dropping. It is this differential that will be the source of the needed "Outside" money, discussed yesterday, and that is only to get equity valuations to a fair level! But considering the Fed's propensity to print at any downtick, this is very much a given, much to the horror of Dick Fisher. Any additional increase in stock prices will require not only the already priced in $3.6 trillion, but far more direct Outside money injections.

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Frontrunning: March 15

  • Obama, Cameron discussed tapping oil reserves (Reuters)
  • Greek Bonds Signal $2.6 Billion Payout on Credit-Default Swaps (Bloomberg)
  • China leader's ouster roils succession plans (Reuters)
  • China’s Foreign Direct Investment Falls for Fourth Month (Bloomberg)
  • Greek Restructuring Delay Helps Banks as Risks Shift (Bloomberg)
  • Concerns Rise Over Eurozone Fiscal Treaty (FT)
  • Home default notices rise in February: RealtyTrac (Reuters)
  • China PBOC Drains Net CNY57 Bln (WSJ)
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Market Sentiment: Mixed

Relatively quiet overnight session in the markets, where Europe has seen several bond auctions, most notably in France and Spain, whose good results has in turn sent the German 30 Year Bund yield to the highest since December 12, all courtesy of the recently printed (and collateralized with second and third-hand Trojans) $1.3 trillion. Per BBG, Spain sold 976 million euros of 3.25 percent notes due April 2016 at an average yield of 3.37 percent. The bid-to-cover ratio was 4.13, compared with 2.21 when the notes were sold in January, the Bank of Spain said in Madrid today. It also auctioned 2015 and 2018 securities. France sold 3.26 billion euros of benchmark five-year debt at an average yield of 1.78 percent. The borrowing cost for the 1.75 percent note due in February 2017 was less than the yield of 1.93 percent at the previous sale of the securities on Feb. 16. Elsewhere, we got confirmation of the collapse in Greece, where Q4 unemployment rose to 20.7%, up from 17.7% in the prior quarter. China weighed on Asian market action again following ongoing concerns about domestic property curbs, and a slide in the Chinese Foreign Direct Investment of -0.9% on Exp of +14.6%. ECB deposit facility usage, primarily by German banks, was flattish at €686.4 billion, while in Keynesian news, Italian debt rose to a new record in January of €1.936 trillion. Watch this space, once inflection point occurs and vigilantes realize that not only has nothing been fixed in Italy, but the current account situation in Italy, and Spain, is getting progressively worse as shown yesterday, all at the expense of Germany.

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Is This The Chart That Has Bernanke So Worried?

Earlier we described why it is clear that the Fed will need to print exponentially to fill the void of the crunch in consolidated credit money but why does Bernanke remain so hedged and guarded in his optimism when the market is tearing bears' arms-and-legs off and every talking head from here to Tokyo is claiming we have reached the nirvana of self-sustaining recovery (with, we note one such reconstituted deal-maker claiming "we don't need the Fed's help anyway" after the FOMC meeting). It's the data stupid. Simply put, as the chart below shows, the strength of trend of key US data over the past three months has been disappointing in aggregate (of course one can cherry pick BLS prints or sub-indices of ISM) and the worrying similarities between 2011 (when the same overshoot of optimism occurred) is only too real a problem for Ben and his buddies if they take away the Kool-Aid too early once again and let us drink our own stale sugar-free water. So the next time you hear some long-only asset manager or octogenarian wealth adviser say the 'data has been very strong' so buy-and-hold big-tech or dividend-payers, do them a favor and remind them of this chart and what happened last year.

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Fed's Twitter Arrival uZIRPed By Hecklers, And Real Time Fed Twitter Tracker

If the Fed thought it could boldly go where hundreds of millions have gone before (in a vain attempt to be cool, hip and relevant - Twitter of course - with the @FederalReserve handle naturally), all in a quest for faux transparency and openness, which nobody who is even remotely familiar with the Fed's actions is buying, without getting a few heckles in the process, it was wrong. Unfortunately, as the currency debasement race has simply taken a short breather ahead of a presidential election and a possible regional war with wide-ranging commodity price implications, before it resumes into the frantic final lap, the below sample is merely a modest appetizer of what is yet to come.

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Nostalgia’s Not What It Used to Be

Nic Colas, of ConvergEx, waxes nostalgic at the dreadful deja-vu he sees in his monthly review of the Street’s revenue expectations for the companies of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Finding that while markets may be in rally mode, analysts are still fretful about near term sales momentum at these large multinationals. Currently, they expect the average Dow company to post only a 3.6% sales “Comp” in Q1 2012 versus last year, or 5.0% for the non-financial companies in the index.  That is the lowest expected growth rate for the current quarter since we started keeping tabs on what the analysts had in their models a year ago. They don’t have to bump numbers to pound the table on their favorite names.  The current rally has been more about valuation than revenue and earnings momentum – our revenue expectation data is all the proof you need on that score.  So why raise numbers if your “Buy” rated names are rallying without the need to put yourself on that limb? All of this sets up market psychology on a razor’s edge for Q1 earnings reports. And what about ‘Sell in May and go away?'  Only 31 trading days left until May 1st. 

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Is Syria Near The Tipping Point?

The encroachment of yet another troubled nation into global geopolitical (read US implicitly) strife, this time Syria, appears to be intensifying further. As Sabah notes today, the CIA Director David Petraeus paid a surprise visit to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan yesterday. The topics of discussion were 'regional issues' but it was evident from concerns voiced about the instability in Syria and Iraq giving the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) terrorist organization a stronger foothold (a group which has been a source of tension between USA, Syria, Iraq, and obviously Turkey before - whose 'undeclared war' with Syria was a direct response to the countries assistance to the PKK). Seemingly stuck in the middle, Erdogan warned of "the potential crisis that could develop in the region due to the sectarian strife in Iraq" and underlined his concerns of events in Syria. One can only wonder at the strategic positioning that the CIA Director's surprise visit achieved, since the published agenda seemed so calmly diplomatic, and for what reason the ninety minute visit was so spontaneous.

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Elijah Cummings Is First Political Muppet To Issue Goldman Op-Ed Response

It was literally a matter of hours following the release of the now historic Greg Smith "Muppets" Op-Ed, before the true criminals enabling the slow motion trainwreck of the Keynesian klepto-fascist experiment became heard. Sure enough, here is Elijah Cumming indicating he has the most to gain by scapegoating a firm that between Vampire Squids and Muppets is slowly being mocked into the same relevancy as an HR Giger petting zoo.

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Dear Germans: Bring Out Ze Checkbooks

Something funny happened on the road to a "fixed" Europe....

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