As if Bernanke promising to print, print, print until such time as the Fed's flawed policy brings unemployment lower, which by definition will not happen when the US is now suffering not from a structural unemployment "part-time new normal" problem, was not sufficient to send gold and other hard assets higher, today we get the double whammy announcement that the situation in South Africa, already very bad, is about to get much worse. Earlier today, South Africa's striking miners, already set on belligerent courtesy with their employers and authorities, prepare to go on general strike on Sunday, in effect shutting down all precious metal production in a world that is about to demand hard asset more than ever. "On Sunday, we are starting with a general strike here in Rustenburg," demonstration leader Mametlwe Sebei told several thousand workers at a soccer stadium in the heart of the platinum belt near Rustenburg, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg. The action was designed to "bring the mining companies to their knees", he said, to mild applause from the crowd, which was armed with sticks and machetes."
Apparently the weapons were merely for optical, jawboning purposes: "Despite the weapons, the strikers insisted their push for a sharp hike in wages was peaceful - even after the August 16 police shooting of 34 protesters at Lonmin's nearby Marikana platinum mine." It remains to be determined just how "peaceful" the corporate response will be if and when they realize that dreams of surging profit margins are long gone. Probably not much. But in the meantime, miner EPS will suffer even more. And, as always, the ultimate beneficiary will be the actual metals, not those who extract it, as the third largest producer of gold in the world is about to go offline indefinitely.
"There should be no blood," one placard read.
The wave of labor unrest rocking Africa's biggest economy kicked off with a violent strike at rival Impala Platinum in January and has since spiraled beyond the control of the government and unions into a grass-roots rebellion by blacks who have seen little improvement in their lives since apartheid ended 18 years ago.
Most men at the soccer stadium said they worked for top producer Anglo American Platinum, commonly known as Amplats, which had to suspend operations its four Rustenburg mines on Wednesday after they were blockaded by chanting marchers.
They also insisted they would not return to work until top management - including Cynthia Carroll, chief executive of Amplats parent company Anglo American - came to listen to their gripes and introduced a basic pay hike to 12,500 rand ($1,500) a month, more than double their current salary.
Shares in Anglo American Platinum, fell as much 1.8 percent in early trade on top of a 4 percent decline the previous day. Platinum held steady near the 5-month high it hit following Wednesday's Amplats shut-downs.
We continue to expect the South African "example" to go airborne, and move east. If and when Indonesia, Peru, and or, heaven forbid, the world's largest producer of gold China, get a whiff of just how much leverage miners actually do have in the world, watch out.