Led by countries such as Russia and China, central banks have recently become net buyers of gold. Meanwhile, ETF gold outflows have been a temporary source of supply this year, but obviously this cannot persist. It’s also unreasonable to assume that recycling will make up a significantly greater piece of supply without the price of gold increasing substantially. With the grade of current producing gold mines being 32.6% higher than undeveloped deposits, it makes the supply scenario even more clear. Not only is the current yearly mine supply difficult to sustain, but future mines coming online will be challenged by grade and margins to be economical at today’s prices. Mathematically, unless we have high-grade, high ounce deposits that are being fast tracked online, it will be very difficult to find a way to get supply to match demand. Have we reached peak gold?
From consumer and retailer surveys to quantitative data such as household spending and private jet bookings, ConvergEx's Nick Colas has amassed a collection of 10 clues about this year's holiday shopping season. On the plus side, disposable personal income and consumer spending on discretionary items are rising, and travel to Palm Beach via private jet is quite popular this Christmas season. However, consumer confidence surveys are particularly weak, and consumer debt has ballooned to a 5-year high. Roughly equal parts good and bad, Colas' collection of holiday spending indicators points to a mediocre (at best) 2013 shopping season (as we noted earlier).
One is a dystopian society of haves and have-nots (favored or disfavored) controlled from The Capitol by a totalitarian 'big' government and entertained by reality TV shows... the other is a fictional movie entitled "The Hunger Games"...
It has been over a year since we listed the three "pillars" of the latest dead cat bounce in the housing market. Recall: "the REO-to-Rental subsidized investment program, which led to an epic surge in demand for multi-family housing, i.e., rental, units was, together with offshore investors parking their cash in the US for safekeeping (taking advantage of the NAR's anti-money laundering check exemptions) and the big banks Foreclosure Stuffing, the key reason for the recent, stimulus-fueled and quite transitory bounce in house prices in assorted markets." In other words, the latest artificial move higher in the housing market had nothing to do with an "improving" economy (and implicitly, everything to do with the epic injection of liquidity by all global central banks and chinese loan creation). Today we got confirmation that once again we were correct: to wit: "Douglas Elliman rep: 70% of Brooklyn home sales going to hedge funds, investors and international buyers."
Energized by a lower crude oil price - and collapsing JPY - equity markets hit their highs shortly after 8pmET on Sunday night, trod water thorugh the Asian and European markets and started more aggressive selling once US cash markets opened. Coincidentally (or not) when Obama started speaking around 1445ET, US equities took a dramatic dive - catching down to an already weaker signaling VIX rally. EURJPY stayed in sync through all of this priming ignition pumps right into the close as NASDAQ 4,000 close was desperately needed (but the dot-com darlings were all hit). Gold and Silver's early monkey-hammering was met with buyers which lifted then up 0.5% and 0.8% respectively on the day (and 2% off their lows). WTI crude recovered more than half of its losses (-0.6% on the day) but Brent not so much as the spread broke to new 8 month highs. VIX closed higher and Treasury yields trended lower all day from the overnight open to close practically unchanged as the USD lost half its early gains to end +0.25%.
After a year of talks over the post-2014 US military presence in Afghanistan, the US administration announced last week that a new agreement had finally been reached. Under the deal worked out with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the US would keep thousands of troops on nine military bases for at least the next ten years. In fact, much of the US government’s desire for an ongoing military presence in Afghanistan has to do with keeping money flowing to the military industrial complex. Addressing Afghan tribal elders last week, Karzai is reported to have expressed disappointment with US assistance thus far: “I demand tanks from them, and they give us pickup trucks, which I can get myself from Japan… I don’t trust the U.S., and the U.S. doesn’t trust me.” Let us hope that Karzai sticks to his game with Washington. Let the Obama administration have no choice but to walk away from this twelve-year nightmare. Then we can finally just march out.
Perhaps this should have been a "Humor" post but in possibly the most ironic news story of the day, New York-based SEC employee Steven Gilchrist was charged with three counts of making false statements regarding the nature of his personal financial holdings. As WSJ reports, the 48-year-old compliance examiner at the agency, allegedly certified that his stock holdings were in compliance with the agency's ethics rules, when in reality he had held shares of six companies that agency staffers are barred from holding. The SEC is "very disappointed that an employee allegedly made false statements to conceal prohibited holdings after being told by our ethics office to divest." Gilchrist, unlike Cohen, faces a maximum 15 year sentence!
A renewed confidence in the administration must be carried forward. We can't wait to hear how immigration reform will single-handedly fix the economy, joblessness, education, and healthcare... and if it's not passed, the failure of all those things is due to the Republican's unwillingness to negotiate... perhaps it is time for the Republicans to don their best Rouhani costumes?
We are used to hedge fund managers blindly making up "facts" to hide the reality that nothing else matters (most definitely not fundamentals) except the Fed's balance sheet (in order to defend his 2-and-20 sapping performance). So it is ironic that Pershing Square's Bill Ackman has added to his previous 342-slide PowerPoint presentation with the following 61 pages of his reality in the hope that market technicals (i.e. the weight of activist longs and shrinking float) and momentum will give way to his view that 'these' Herbalife's fundamentals will eventually win. Good luck with that...
Most people – certainly most governments and economists – define inflation as a general rise in prices. But this is wrong. Inflation is an increase in the money supply, of which a rising general price level is just one possible result – and not the most common one. More often, excessive money creation shows up as asset bubbles, where the new money, instead of flowing equally to all the products that are for sale at a given time, flow disproportionately into the ‘hottest’ asset classes. In each case, mainstream economists and government officials pointed to modest consumer price inflation as a sign that things were fine. And in each case they were simply looking in the wrong place and completely missing the destabilizing effects of an inflating money supply. Now we’re at it again, with economists, legislators and central bankers using low consumer price inflation as a rationale for even easier money, while ignoring epic bubbles in sovereign bonds, equities, high-end real estate and collectibles around the world. A chart tracking the tangible asset classes of the super-rich would show all lines going parabolic - except one, gold - for now.
Valuations still matter. Assuming that one is 'investing' as opposed to 'speculating', initial valuation (i.e. the price you pay for the investment) remains the single most important characteristic of whatever one elects to buy. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, “initial valuation” in the US stock market is at a level consistent with very disappointing subsequent returns, if the history of the last 130 years is any guide. Without fail, every time the US market has traded on a cyclically-adjusted P/E (CAPE) ratio of 24 or higher over the past 130 years, it has been followed by a roughly 20 year bear market... but there are plenty of other fish to fry...
Medallions – the yellow metal plates that essentially represent the right to operate a for-hail taxi in New York City – now trade for over $1.3 million, an all-time record. Part of this dynamic is fixed supply – there are just 13,336 medallions available for a city of 8.3 million people. There is also a macroeconomic point, with a stronger NYC economy for those inhabitants who can afford the service... is this the real impact of trickle-down economics? Or yet another distortion?
If one of the biggest concerns in early 2013 was the progressively declining Bids To Cover in US Treasury auctions, the past few months have seen a halt in this trend, while today's auction of $32 billion in 2 Year paper marked a substantial return to the high-flying BTC day of yore when the just completed 2 Year auction not only priced strongly through the 0.303% high yield, pricing at 0.300, but more importantly, at a 3.54 Bid to Cover, a jump from October's 3.09, and the second highest since February excluding only April's 3.63. Curiously, the drop in the overall Bid To Cover (as can be sen on the chart below) correlates closely to the drop off in Direct take downs in the first half of the year. This too has reversed in recent months with Directs getting 27.28%, Indirects holding 22.47% and Dealers left holding just over half, or 50.25%. Over the next few days it will be revealed if the same rising BTC trend is sustained in the other near-term vintages, the 5 and 7 year auctions also due out later week.
In China, 9 out of 10 billionaires are self-made, the highest percentage of any country (and by self-made we are unsure whether BusinessWeek's Christina Larson means via entrepreurial spirits or government connected handout) but there is another fact that makes the Chinese billionaire different from the rest of the average run-of-the-mill billionaires we discussed here. The average age of the country’s 157 billionaires is 53 years old - nine years younger than the world average. But perhaps the most shocking statistic among the luxury buyer is that the average Ferrari buyer in the U.S. is 47 years old; in China, he is 32.