Category Archives: Gold

Sleepwalking Toward A Crisis – Got Gold?

“By sticking to the new orthodoxy of monetary policy and pretending that we have made the banking system safe, we are sleepwalking towards that crisis.” – Mervyn King, former head of the Bank of England in a lecture at the IMF’s recent annual meeting

The market levitates higher on phony economic data from the Government, Trump tweets, Fed money printing and hedge fund algorithms chasing headline and twitter sound bites. Currently the stock market, dulled by money printing and official interventions, could care less about economic reality and rising global systemic geopolitical and financial risk. Corporate headline earnings “beats” are considered bullish even if the earnings declined YoY or sequentially.

But for those who don’t have their head in the sand, clinging desperately to the “hope” offered by the misdirecting Orwellian propaganda, it’s difficult to ignore the message signaled by the legendary levels of insider selling.

Someone is not telling the truth – The Fed once again last week increased the size of both the overnight and “term” repo operations. Starting Thursday (Oct 24th) the overnight repos were increased from $75 billion to “at least” $120 billion and the term repos (2 week term) of “at least” $35 billion were extended to the end of November, with two “at least $45 billion” term repos thrown in for good measure. The Fed is also outright printing helicopter money for the banks at a rate of $60 billion per month (via “T-bill POMOs).

At the height of the last QE/money printing cycle, the Fed was doing $75 billion per month. So whatever the problem is behind the curtain, it’s already as large or larger than the 2008 crisis.

That escalated quickly – When the repo operations started in September, the Fed attributed the need to “relieve funding pressures.” At the time the public was fed the fairytale that corporations were pulling funds from money market funds to pay quarter-end taxes. Well, we’re over five weeks past that event and the repo operations have escalated in size and duration three times. Someone is not telling the truth…

The rapid increase in Fed money printing in just five weeks reflects serious problems developing in the global financial system. Actually, the problem is easy to identify:   At every level – government, corporate and household – the level of debt has become unsustainable, with not insignificant portions of that debt in non-performing status (seriously delinquent or in default). Thus, the Central Banks have had to resort to money printing to help the banks manage the rising level of distress on their balance sheet and to monetize the escalating rate of Treasury debt issuance.

The quote at the beginning is from the former head of the Bank of England, Mervyn King. King is warning that the global financial system is headed toward a crisis and that money printing ultimately won’t save it.  While it’s pretty obvious that a disaster waits on the horizon, when the former head of a big Central Bank delivers a message like that instead of Orwellian gobbledygook, the world should pay heed.  I would suggest that the Fed’s money printing signals that the risk of a crisis intensifies weekly.  Got Gold?

With The Return Of QE, Mining Stocks Are Cheap

There’s a strong probability that the Fed’s “non-QE” QE operations will morph into a full-blown money printing program that will exceed the one implemented starting in late 2008. The same fundamentals variables that fueled a massive move in the the precious metals sector from late 2008 thru mid-2011 have resurfaced with a vengeance.

The pullback in gold, silver and the mining stocks that began in early September appears to have run its course. Currently the entire sector is technically and fundamentally set-up for a big run into the end of the year. The re-activation of Indian imports last week for the first time since June will give the coming bull move a powerful boost.

Bill Powers of MiningStockEducation.com invited me back onto his podcast to discuss some of the stocks that I believe will outperform the sector. These three ideas are among several that I cover in my Mining Stock Journal:

**************

The Mining Stock Journal  covers several mining stocks that I believe are extraordinarily undervalued relative to their upside potential. I also present opportunistic recommendations on select mid-tier and large-cap miners that should outperform their peers.  You can learn more about this newsletter here:   Mining Stock Journal information.

Subscriber feedback: “I am a professor of aerospace engineering. I have studied and invested in junior mining stocks for 25 years. I have learned much about this sector. The stocks that you have recommended since starting MSJ have outperformed the other junior investment services that I follow. Perhaps one reason is that, because your service has a smaller circulation, you can find and recommend smaller companies that have not been discovered and cannot be recommended by services with huge circulations.”

The Fed Cranks Up Its Printing Press

“Like gold, U.S. dollars have value only to the extent that they are strictly limited in supply. But the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.” Helicopter Ben Bernanke’s address to the National Economic Club, 2002

It took the Fed more than 4 1/2 years to remove from the banking system just $750 billion of the $4.5 trillion in money it printed. The Fed stopped the removal process (“Quantitative Tightening”) at the beginning of September. But just 13 days later the Fed began adding liquidity back into the banking system via its repo operations. 42 days later, the Fed’s balance sheet has spiked up by $253 billion and is back over $4 trillion:

41% of that $253 billion ($104 billion) was put into the banking system in the last three days of this past week.

Apparently the repo/term repo operations were not enough.  On October 11th, the Fed announced that it was going to purchase at least $60 billion T-bills per month through at least the 2nd quarter of 2020.  The rationale was “in light of recent and expected increases in the Federal Reserves non-reserve liabilities” (link).  “Non-reserve liabilities” refers specifically to “currency in circulation.” The only way to increase currency in circulation is to create it. Thus, the above rationale is a decorative phrase for “money printing.”

The problems in the banking system targeted by the Fed’s money printing are likely getting worse by the day.  The Fed has now conducted three outright money printing operations since October 11th. Each operations has been progressively more over-subscribed. Today’s operation of $7.5 billion had nearly $6 of demand for every $1 printed and offered.

As I have asserted since the Fed’s repo operations commenced, the problem is significantly more profound than the “quarter-end liquidity” needs of corporations and banks. I suggested that the liquidity injection program would quickly increase in size and duration, ultimately morphing into permanent QE/balance sheet growth/money printing.

While some of the money being printed will be used absorb the massive amount of new Treasury issuance, the nexus of the problem is seeded in the big bank balance sheets and business operations. The problems leading up to the 2008 crisis were never fixed – just papered over. Furthermore, the legislation that was promoted to prevent a repeat of 2008 and protect the taxpayers was nothing more than window dressing which enabled the banks to hide their massive fee-generating recklessness (Dodd-Frank, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau).

The “Too Big To Fail” bank balance sheets collectively are close to double their size in 2008. A frighteningly large portion of these assets are sub-prime or near-sub-prime loans plus OTC derivatives that have been well-hidden off-balance-sheet. One of the regulatory initiatives put into effect in 2010 enabled banks to hide their total derivatives holdings behind a nebulous concept called “net derivatives exposure.” The “net” metric supposedly measures a bank’s unhedged net economic risk exposure, netting out off-setting hedges with counterparties.

But counterparty defaults were one of the key detonators of the 2008 financial melt-down. Unfortunately, Congress and the Fed have enabled the banks, after monetizing their catastrophic business decisions in 2008, to create a financial Frankenstein that is now financially apocalyptic in scale. The rapid escalation of the repo operations is evidence that the fuses on the various financial bombs have been lit.

Repo Operations, Money Printing, Gold And Mining Stocks

The Fed is printing money again – this time disguised as “repo operations” instead of “QE.” The price of gold and silver rallied over the summer anticipating an easier monetary policy. The economic problems and financial system excesses are two to three times larger than in 2008. This will necessitate a money printing/QE/balance sheet expansion operation that dwarfs the $4.5 trillion printed the first time around. Plus most of the money printed from 2009 to late 2014 is still in the banking system.

The scale of the inevitable money printing policy will not stimulate economic activity but it will act as rocket fuel for the precious metals market – gold, silver and mining stocks. Ten years of Central Bank money printing has pushed debt issuance, malinvestment, moral hazard and fraud to levels that well-exceed the levels when Lehman collapsed.

Craig “Turd Ferguson” Hemke invited me back onto his “Thursday Conversation” podcast to discuss the the Fed cranking back up its money printing machine and the implications for gold, silver and mining stocks. Click on the link above or the graphic below to listen:

***************

In the latest issue of the Mining Stock Journal, I review several junior mining stocks plus I recommend a larger cap silver/gold/lead/zinc producer that has been sold off irrationally and which will report great earnings in Q3 and Q4 vs the same quarters in 2018.

You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a miniumum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

The Dutch Central Bank Endorses The Gold Standard

“De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) holds more than 600 tonnes of gold. A bar of gold always retains its value, crisis or no crisis. This creates a sense of security. A central bank’s gold stock is therefore regarded as a symbol of solidity Shares, bonds and other securities are not without risk, and prices can go down. But a bar of gold retains its value, even in times of crisis.” – DNB’s Gold Stock

The quote above is from the “Payments” section of the Dutch Central Bank’s website. Incredibly, it goes on to suggest the possibility of  a systemic collapse: “If the system collapses, the gold stock can serve as a basis to build it up again.”

It’s been 48 years since the U.S. Government unplugged the gold standard, thereby enabling the world’s Central Banks to plug in their fiat currency printing presses. This in turn gave rise to a series of asset bubbles and unfettered credit creation. Don’t forget that the junk bond bubble in the 1980’s led to an acceleration in the creation of paper money, which in turn fueled the internet/tech stock bubble, followed subprime debt/real estate bubble and  the current “everything” bubble.” Which may the last bubble…

The chart below,  shows M3/M2 vs the “real” GDP since 1971 and  illustrates the problem:

Note that the Fed discontinued publishing the M3 money supply data in 2006. The U.S. at the time was the only major industrialized country that refused to publicly disclose M3. Also note that “real” GDP is calculated using the Government’s highly muted measure of price inflation. A real real GDP line would be shifted down on the chart and project at a lower trajectory.

The difference between the two lines somewhat measures the degree to which the U.S. fiat currency has been devalued or has “lost its purchasing power.”  However, the graphic does not capture the creation of credit.  Debt issuance behaves exactly like money printing until the debt is repaid. Think about it.  A dollar borrowed and spent is no different than a dollar created by the Fed and put into the financial system.

But think about this:  since 1971, the U.S. Government has never repaid any of the debt it  issues. It has been increasing pretty much in perpetuity.  This means that $22 trillion+ issued and outstanding by the Treasury Department should be included in the money supply numbers – until the amount outstanding contracts – which it  never will…

Alasdair Macleod, in “Monetary Failure Is Becoming Inevitable,” summarizes the eventual consequence embedded in a morally hazardous currency system:

If history and reasoned economic theory is any guide, the demands for credit by the state will terminate in the destruction of government currencies. For the truth of the matter is inflation of money and credit has created the illusion we can all live beyond our income, our income being what we produce.

“Destruction of Government currencies” is really just a politically/socially polite phrase for “systemic collapse.”

Whether intentional or unintentional, the Dutch Central Bank has alluded to this possibility, which I see more as an inevitability, with just the issue of timing yet unresolved.  I would argue, however, that the financial system liquidity issues currently addressed by the reimplementation by the Fed of repo/extended repo operations – and the inclusion of foreign banks in the liquidity injections – reflects the growing instability of the global financial system.

Furthermore,  the suddenness of these systemic “tremors,” suggests that the Central Banks are losing control of a system dependent on fiat currency and credit creation that expands at an increasing rate in perpetuity.  Unfortunately for the paper money maestros running the Central Banks, the value of fiat currency approaches zero as the supply of currency and credit heads toward infinity.

In all likelihood, the recent rise in the price of gold, which has been driven by escalating demand for physical gold – notably by eastern hemisphere Central Banks – reflects the increasing visibility of an inevitable collapse in the global fiat currency system.  The Dutch Central Bank has made it clear that it sees gold as an ideal asset for wealth protection when the next crisis erupts.

Fed Balance Sheet Expansion, Unicorns, Unintended Consequences and Gold

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) – the Central Bank of Central Banks – released two reports on “unconventional policy tools” – e.g. QE/money printing and interest rate suppression. It concluded that the extreme Central Bank interference since 2008 has had a negative impact on the way in which financial markets function.

While Jerome Powell and his “Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” at the Fed prefer to use the term “balance sheet growth” in reference to money printing, the big-thinkers at the BIS call it UMPT (Unconventional Monetary Policy Tools).”

“Last month’s spike in short-term US borrowing costs was just the latest in a series of market shocks that have fueled investors’ suspicions that this radical monetary policy is having an impact on how financial markets function.” (Financial Times)

“Moral Hazard” is defined as the “lack of incentive to guard against risk where one is protected from its consequences.” In economics (real economics, not the Keynesian psycho-babble of the current era) this would refer to the egregious misallocation of investment capital caused by the unfettered creation of fiat currency injected into the global financial system.

Additionally, unprecedented permissiveness by the regulators, who are charged with enforcing laws originally established to prevent or at least contain the escalating financial fraud that accompanies asset bubbles, further enables and accelerates the formation and inflation of investment bubbles.

The BIS report of course neglected to discuss the extreme moral hazard engendered by the trillions in money printing. The “unicorn” IPOs are the direct evidence of this. The extreme  overvaluation of the equity in the ones that have sold stock into the public markets reflects the complete disregard of historically accepted tools and guidelines used for business model appraisal and financial valuation analysis. “But it’s different this time.”

The losses racked up by these companies, the ones with public equity plus the ones yet to be IPO’d, will aggregate well into the $100’s billions, possibly trillions before this era dies. A journalist from The Atlantic, in an article titled “WeWork and The Great Unicorn Delusion,” correctly asserted that “most [of these companies] have never announced, and may never achieve, a profit.” But he lost me when he asserts that these companies are “extraordinary businesses with billions of dollars in annual revenue and hundreds of thousands, even tens of millions, of satisfied global customers.”

Quite frankly, the business model of almost every Silicon Valley unicorn is predicated on building revenues and gaining market share by selling products and services for a significant discount to the all-in cost of production and fulfillment.

Every single unicorn IPO’d over the last several years that I have evaluated is not only highly unprofitable, but also burns legendary amounts of cash. Of course there are “millions of satisfied customers” globally – the unicorn business model functions in a way that is the equivalent of selling $1 bills for 75 cents.

The more relevant proposition is that, in all probability, many of these companies would have never  spawned if the Central Banks had not inflated the global money supply well in excess of real economic growth generated by the global economy.

I find it difficult, if not impossible, to refer to these appallingly unsustainable businesses models as “extraordinary” when in fact most if not all of them are nothing more than the product of the extreme moral hazard created by the Central Banks’ printing presses running overtime.

The economic losses incurred by the Silicon Valley unicorns are funded by the “private equity” funds which have managed to harness a significant share of the cash flowing from Central Bank money-spigots and transmitted through the primary dealer banks into the financial system. Little noticed is the fact that since 2014, roughly $1.3 trillion has drained out of the banks’ excess reserve account at the Fed and disappeared into the financial system’s “black hole.”

The 2008 Great Financial Crisis – which was a de facto financial system collapse until money printing bailed out banks and reckless investors – was fueled by the easy monetary and credit policies of Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke. Those policies stimulated huge mortgage, housing and general stock market bubbles. The unintended consequences bankrupted a large swathe of households and banks.

But that decade’s reckless Central Bank policies pale in comparison to the current era of unfettered money printing cranked up by Ben Bernanke (recall that he was affectionately called “Helicopter Ben”). The ensuing widespread asset bubbles have fomented into a financial Frankenstein that has broken free from its chains as evidenced by the sudden implementation of the Fed’s repo program, which has yet to be accompanied by a credible explanation.

Jerome Powell yesterday (October 8th) asserted in a speech that “balance sheet expansion is not Quantitative Easing.”  But make no mistake, the repo operations function as emergency room triage until the Fed and the Treasury Department formalize another round of money printing, or QE or whatever you want to call it. At this point it is nothing more than a game of Orwellian semantics.

If you’re curious as why the price of gold has risen 37% since the end of May, look to the events unfolding at the Fed and in the banking system. Just like in late October 2008, the price-action in gold is sending a loud alarm that is no longer containable with manipulative efforts in the paper derivative gold market. Eventually the Government’s Working Group on Financial Markets will be helpless in coaxing the hedge fund trading robots to help hold up the stock market.

***********

The commentary above is an excerpt from the next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal (Sunday). I’ll be reviewing several unicorn short ideas over the next several issues. To learn more about this short-sell focused newsletter, click here:  Short Seller’s Journal info

Fed Delivers More QE “Light” And Gold Responds

On October 4th, as I expected would happen, the Fed announced that it was extending its overnight and term repo operations out to November 26th (the November 12th two-week term repo matures on the 26th).

The Fed added 7 more 2-week  “term repos, ” plus a 6-day “term repo,” with the next three operations upped to $45 billion. It extended the overnight repos until at least November 4th.  Well then, I guess the “end of quarter” temporary liquidity issue with corporate tax payments was not the problem.

Follow the money -The Fed’s repo operation extension further validates the analysis in my last post in which I made the case that an escalation in the non-performance of bank assets (loan delinquencies and defaults and derivatives), caused by contracting economic activity, has created a liquidity void in the banking system that is being “plugged” by the Fed. The Fed’s balance sheet has increased $186 billion since August 28th.

Not only did the Fed end “QT” (balance sheet reduction) two months earlier than originally planned in January, the Fed has effectively reversed in the last 5 weeks all of the QT that occurred since March 28th.

The evolution of Orwellian propaganda terminology for “money printing” has been quite amusing. It seems that the Fed has subtly inserted the phrase “balance sheet growth” into its lexicon. While Jerome Powell referenced “organic balance sheet growth” in his press circus after the last FOMC meeting,  expect that it will be considered politically/socially incorrect to use “QE” or “money printing” instead of “balance sheet growth” in reference to this de facto banking system bailout.

Meanwhile,  thank the Fed for providing the amount of money printing/currency devaluation needed to offset China’s absence from the physical gold market for the last week:

Given the technical set-up in gold plus the enormity of the Comex bank/commercial short position in paper gold, many gold market participants, including me, expected a much bigger price-attack on gold during Golden Week than has occurred. In fact, gold has held up well, with the December future testing and holding $1500 three times in the last week. Business activity in China, including gold and silver trading, resumes tonight.

The Fed’s QE Light program will likely transition into outright permanent money printing before the end of 2019. The November meeting is scheduled for the end of this month (Oct 29-30). But I doubt the Fed will turn its repo money printing into permanent money printing – aka “POMO” or “balance sheet growth” – until the December FOMC meeting (Dec 10-11).

Repo Madness – An Enormous “Margin Call”

“Central Banks are panicking…the whole system is on the verge of disappearing into a black hole.” – Egon Von Greyerz on USAWatchdog.com

On Wednesday, after Wednesday’s overnight Repo operation had $92 billion in demand for the $75 billion operations, announced that it was increasing overnight Repos to $100 billion and doubling the two-week term Repo operations to $60 billion. Well, that escalated quickly.

The rationalization is “end of quarter liquidity needs” by the banks who have to increase reserves against assets (loans) or face taking earnings write-downs. But this dynamic occurs every quarter and Repo operations have not been required to keep the banking system from seizing up since QE was initiated.

Note that overnight repo operations were not necessary when the Fed flooded the banking system with QE funds.  The banking system requires immediate liquidity for the first time since QE commenced.  Why?  Recall how you go bankrupt: gradually then suddenly.

Typically the repo rate should correlate tightly with the Fed Funds Rate. But last Tuesday it spiked up briefly to 10%. The media and Wall Street analysts did a good job reporting that there was an obvious liquidity squeeze in the banking system but they did nothing to explain the underlying causes. Moreover, there’s still $1.3 trillion remaining from QE sitting in the Fed’s Excess Reserve Account,  which means banks with cash have plenty of cash to lend overnight to banks which need money.

But the banks with cash were unwilling to lend that cash even on an overnight basis.  So why did the Fed have to inject, by last Wednesday, $75 billion in liquidity into the banking system?

Think about what happened as the start of a giant “margin call” on a global financial system that is likely reaching its limit on credit creation. The enormous increase in derivatives magnifies the problem.  One immediate contributing factor may been losses connected with the cliff-dive in the price of the 10yr Treasury bond.  Hedge funds loaded up on Treasuries chasing the momentum higher using margin provided by the banks (prime brokerage loan agreements). The 10yr Treasury price dropped $4 in eight trading days – i.e. the 10yr benchmark yield jumped 55 basis points.

This may not sound like a lot in stock price terms, but losses on speculative Treasury bond and Treasury bond futures positions likely ran into the  billions. Several entities lost a lot of money during that rate rise, which means there had to have been some margin calls and derivatives blow-ups which required cash collateral or faced liquidation.  Banks themselves carry large Treasury positions which fell $10s of millions in value over that 8-day period.

In addition to losses on Treasury bonds, I’m certain there’s been a general erosion of bank assets – primarily debt-based securities and loans, which have led to enormous losses when Credit Default Swap derivatives are factored into the mix. In effect, there likely was a large systemic margin call which has created a cash and collateral squeeze in the banking system with the primary dealers, which is why the overnight funding mechanism required a cash injection by the Fed eight days in a row now. This is similar what happened in 2008.

For now the Fed is going to plug the funding gap at the banks with these Repo operations. But my bet is that the problem is escalating rapidly.  It is much bigger in aggregate globally than anyone can know,  just like in 2008.  In all probability the Fed has no clue how big the potential problem is and these Repo operations will eventually morph into outright money printing.

With More Money Printing Coming (“QE”) Gold, Silver And Miners Will Soar

It would be difficult to find a chart with a  more bullish set-up than that of GDX unless it was a chart of the imminent move higher in the U.S. dollar money supply:

The Fed was unable to move the Fed funds rate within 50% of the long term average “normalized” level. It was also unable to unwind little more than 20% of the money it printed under Bernanke and Yellen, despite Bernanke’s insistence that the $4.5 trillion printed and injected into the banking system was “temporary.”  Not only was the first series of QE operations not temporary, the Fed is preparing to re-start its printing press.

I believe we are very close to a major shift in investor sentiment, as investors lose faith in the Central Banks’ ability to control the markets with monetary policy. As you can see from the chart above, we experienced just a “whiff” of the type action we can expect in the precious metals sector as reality ushers in true price discovery in the markets.

I can tell the sentiment is not getting frothy in the precious metals sector when several people, subscribers and others, have expressed disappointment in the rate of return for the mining stocks. From May 30th thru the start of Labor Day weekend, gold rose 15.3% and silver climbed 32.3%. Over the same period of time, GDX rose 43.7%. Call me old fashioned, but I can remember when 43.7% over a two or three year period of time was considered a great return on stocks (this was before the tech bubble).

Where I really see disappointment expressed is with the junior exploration micro-cap stocks. Although some have been stuck in mud, many have doubled or tripled. One example is Discovery Metals (AYYBF, DSV.V), which ran from 17 cents to as high as 52 cents this summer. Based on today’s closing price, it’s more than doubled since May 30th. Many of the other stocks I feature in my  Mining Stock Journal newsletter provided double-digit percentage returns this summer and some have doubled or tripled.

I believe the pullback in the sector this month is a necessary and healthy technical correction, with some help from the price management squad, that will lead to higher highs sometime between now and year-end. Certainly investor sentiment, from the metrics I see daily, are far from exuberant, which is bullish.

 

Repo Rates And Gold: Something Big Is Happening

“We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” – Ayn Rand

Something big is happening beneath the surface of a Dow and S&P 500 trading near all-time highs. The soaring repo rate, more demand for overnight Fed funding loans than is being supplied and a big move in the price of gold since the end of May are clear indicators.

The global financial system is unsustainably over-leveraged. This problem is compounded by the massive increase in OTC derivatives. The U.S. financial system, in exceptional fashion, leads the way. Trump calls it “the greatest economy ever.” Yet the Fed was unable to “normalize” the Fed Funds Rate back up to just the historically average level without crashing the financial system. In fact, the Fed couldn’t even get halfway there before it had to reverse course and take rates lower plus hint a more money printing.

Phil Kennedy of Kennedy Financial hosted me plus Larry Lepard (mining stock fund manager) and Jerry Robinson (economist and trend trader)  to discuss what appears to be a giant margin call on the global financial system and where we think the price  of gold is headed:

NOTE:  I will be analyzing the signal being sent by the soaring repo rate this week and why it may be evidence that the fractional reserve banking fiat currency system is collapsing in my Short Seller’s Journal this week. You can learn more about my newsletters here  Short Seller’s Journal  and here  Mining Stock Journal. Two weeks ago I presented ROKU as a short at $169 and last week Tiffany’s (TIF) at $98. So far my put play on ROKU has been a home run.