In mid-December, the U.S. military will have only one aircraft carrier positioned in the Persian Gulf region for the first time in two years. At the same time, the Iranian navy said it was kicking off a 10-day exercise in the region. Oil prices spiked when Iran early this year threatened to close oil-shipping lanes in the region. If talks scheduled for December between Tehran and the IAEA turn sour, there exists for Iran the potential to exploit the security vacuum in the region and use its defensive position for geopolitical gain.
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.
For the entire 8 day duration of Operation Pillar of Defense, there was one major geopolitical player who had been largely quiet and certainly absent from the scene: the same player whose unflinching position over the Syria conflict has so far prevented any intervention in the civil war torn country: Russia. The same Russia which has a military base in the Syrian port city of Tarsus, and thus in its own eyes, a very substantial "national interest" role to play in the middle east, one that is certainly opposing that of the US and the pro-NATO forces, a tension that will surely boil to the surface now that war between Iran and Israel is always at most "hours away" depending on who is asked, and which one day will be more than just a war of words. Today, Russia decided that it had kept quiet for too long over the Gaza conflict, with Voice of Russia reporting, courtesy of Al Arabiya, that Russian warships anchored off the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea will be put on military alertness should the conflict in Gaza escalate and brought in proximity, according Russian Navy Command source on Friday.
When it comes to firmly established, currency-for-commodity, self reinforcing systems in the past century of human history, nothing comes close to the petrodollar: it is safe to say that few things have shaped the face of the modern world and defined the reserve currency as much as the $2.3 trillion/year energy exports denominated exclusively in US dollars (although recent confirmations of previously inconceivable exclusions such as Turkey's oil-for-gold trade with Iran are increasingly putting the petrodollar status quo under the microscope). But that is the past, and with rapid changes in modern technology and extraction efficiency, leading to such offshoots are renewable and shale, the days of the petrodollar "as defined" may be over. So what new trade regime may be the dominant one for the next several decades? According to some, for now mostly overheard whispering in the hallways, the primary commodity imbalance that will shape the face of global trade in the coming years is not that of energy, but that of food, driven by constantly rising food prices due to a fragmented supply-side unable to catch up with increasing demand, one in which China will play a dominant role but not due to its commodity extraction and/or processing supremacy, but the contrary: due to its soaring deficit for agricultural products, and in which such legacy trade deficit culprits as the US will suddenly enjoy a huge advantage in both trade and geopolitical terms. Coming soon: the agri-dollar.
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.
Israel v. Palestine: Yet Another Gas War?
[And now it’s time for Mr. Obama to start paying for all those votes by reaching deep into our pockets. If you intend to avoid paying your “fair share,” however, please take note: There will be few places to hide. For a gimlet-eyed view of what may lie in store for taxpayers and citizens of all political persuasions during the next four years, ponder the guest commentary below, from Wayne Siggard, a regular in the Rick’s Picks forum. RA]
Why Israel Is Escalating the Assault on Gaza In November
New intelligence indicates forces in Gaza may be manufacturing long-range rockets locally. If this is the case, a significant ground force offers the Israelis the best chance of finding and neutralizing the factories making these weapons. Meanwhile, Israel continues its airstrikes on Gaza, and Gaza continues its long-range rocket attacks on major Israeli population centers, though Israel claims its Iron Dome defense system has intercepted most of the rockets. While Hamas is preparing for an Israeli ground assault into Gaza, Hezbollah's movements on Israel's northern frontier bear close watching. Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi on Nov. 17 called on the Muslim world to retaliate against Israeli actions in Gaza. Naturally, many are looking in the direction of Lebanon, where Hezbollah, Iran's most capable militant proxy, could open a second front against Israel.
A ground invasion, and a reoccupation of Gaza by the IDF could be the first step toward engaging Iran. It would allow for Israel to dislodge Hamas, and create a buffer between Israel and Egypt, and the forces of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Morsi government in Egypt has pledged to support the Palestinians — but is this a bluff? Does Egypt have the capability or the desire to really oppose Israel? Does Iran really have the capability or the desire to oppose Israel in a more active way? Ultimately, Iran may have no choice, as Netanyahu is certain that they are on the nuclear threshold. The world is in motion. Israel is playing its cards. The intent? To create facts on the ground that cement Israel’s position as the dominant power in the middle east for the next century. Now, Iran’s move.
Election Politics ... Or Precursor to Iran War?
"War (escalation) is good" appears to have been the idiot algos immediate knee-jerk reaction to the post-Israel news jump in oil prices - as correlations rule the world. But once the reality of Gaza being 'the start' of an apparent escalation, and opened up the third Israeli front after Iran and Syria, risk was decidedly off and US equities reverted to their lows of yesterday...and back to early August levels (pre-Draghi).
Israel Assassinates Hamas Army's "Chief Of Staff" In Precision Airstrike, Hamas Vows "Infernal" ResponseSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/14/2012 11:08 -0400
Update: Israel CDS 145/155, +6 bps
In a move that is certain to aggravate the already frayed relations between Israel and the Palestine, not to mention send Brent spiking, moments ago the IAF, in a precision airstrike, assassinated Ahmed Jaabari, the head of Hamas' armed wing - a position that is equivalent to Chief of Staff - together with his son, who were travelling in a car at the moment of the strike. And, as expected, the furious Hamas response has already been logged and promises much more death and escalation in the near term.
The questions of who are the 1% and what level of income demarcates the fat cats from the rest of Americans are likely to become more and more polarizing in the coming weeks. What is perhaps the most intriguing is the apparent dichotomy between the demographics (youth - who face considerably worse employment trends) and state-wealth who voted for Obama. As ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, of all the U.S. states with an above-average incidence of their citizens earning over $200,000 (14 in total), all but one (Alaska) went for President Obama in last week’s election. At the other end of the income spectrum, only 2 states in the bottom 10 for +$200K earners (Maine and Iowa) had a majority of voters who sided with the President. The central irony of this straightforward math is that any increase in income taxes on the “Wealthy” will be disproportionately borne by the states which secured the President’s reelection. Perhaps, just an intriguing is the fact that - if you look at the GINI Index – a measure of income inequality – Republican leaning states enjoy more equality on these terms than the citizens of traditionally Democratic areas of the country.