Category Archives: U.S. Economy

The Shortage Of LBMA Bars Persisted Before Coronavirus

I found it amusing that Zerohedge tried to take credit for reporting the problem of a physical gold shortage on the LBMA and Comex earlier last week. Several of we “gold bugs” have been discussing and reporting on this issue since before the virus crisis exploded. The Comex has been settling contracts that stand for deliver through EFT and PNT transactions by which the counterparty accepts cash payment or the transfer of the Comex obligation to London for several months.

GATA’s Chris Powell expounded on this in a must-read essay on Friday: “What the heck are those mysterious ‘exchange for physicals,’ the mechanisms by which contracts to buy gold on the New York Commodities Exchange are neither fulfilled by delivery on the Comex nor settled for cash there but transported for supposed delivery elsewhere?

The mechanism long has been incorporated by the Comex trading system but was described as an “emergency” procedure undertaken upon agreement by buyer and seller — except that the use of this “emergency” procedure has exploded in the last year, involving tens of thousands of contracts and, nominally, hundreds of tonnes of gold.” Gold Traders Paid Not To Redeem Comex EFPs

Chris Marcus of Arcadia Economics and hash out this issue in our latest podcast:

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

“I felt in my gut that something was amiss with the markets a year or so ago and started reading up on sound money/macro. At that time I had most of my money in UK stocks but wanted a way out and a way into the metals. I needed guidance thus why I signed up to your short seller and mining journals.

Today I am way down on the mining stocks and somewhat down on physical silver and gold. But I have offset 80% or so of those paper losses with paper gains on a raft of put options on indexes and sector ETFs. So, thank you for your journals and keep up the excellent work.” – Mike, who subscribes to both journals

Stimulus Bill Gives The Banks $454 Billion In Taxpayer Bailout Money

The Government and the Federal Reserve are exploiting the virus crisis to implement another bailout – or attempted bailout – of the “Too Big To Fail Banks.”  The stimulus Bill approved 96-0 by the Senate gives the Fed a $454 billion taxpayer funded “slush fund” for Wall Street bailouts. Just as troubling, the Bill suspends the Freedom Of Information Act for the Fed until the earlier of the time at which Trump terminates the National Emergency declaration or December 31, 2020.

The latter provision means that the Fed can conduct meetings in secret,  is not under any circumstances required to disclose the meeting details to the public  and it does not have to keep a record of notes.   The public will never know how its $454 billion was spent or which banks and hedge funds (or individuals?) were the recipients of this taxpayer largess.

Wall Street On Parade takes a look at the implications of economic bailout Bill so far passed by the Senate.  It remains to be seen if this secrecy provision will be challenged by the House but I’m not hopeful.  You can read more on this here:  Wall Street On Parade

The Virus Crisis Exposed The Financial Markets’ Black Hole

The biggest bill of sale sold to the public after the great financial crisis was that the legislation enacted forced the banks to maintain a higher level of integrity in their business dealings. But nothing could be further from the truth. The various pieces of legislation enacted after the 2008 de facto banking system collapse ultimately made it easier for the TBTF banks to move their fiat currency-based Ponzi scheme off-balance-sheet.

Over the last 10 years a massive Rube Goldberg credit market black hole has formed. Point of note: the Fed is injecting printed money into the banking system at a faster rate now than at any time after 2008.

While the coronavirus to be sure is the “black swan” that pricked the stock bubble, market forces eventually would have accomplished the same result. The Fed started bailing out the banking system in September, printing half a trillion dollars to save the banks well before anyone had ever heard of coronavirus or Covid-19. As it turns out, the Fed was also bailing out hedge funds. Powell knew back in September that a massive credit problem was starting to bubble up.

Chris Marcus of Arcadia Economics and I try to put some context on the current market crisis that was triggered by coronavirus but was an eventuality anyway:

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

“Thank you – your research saved my finances!!! Your approach to OTM puts really worked for me. I like it when those red put positions turn from red to green in Trader Workstation – and all of a sudden – these puts are in the money! It already happened with CVNA, Citigroup, CACC, FICO, GS, JBHT, LGIH, SHAK, W, TOL, MXI – and I am almost in the money with SHOP, FICO! You turned upcoming crisis into an opportunity for me!” – Short Seller and Mining Stock Journal subscriber, “Philip”

“Risk Parity” Was More Risk And No Parity

The “60/40 risk parity” hedge fund strategy has been decimated in the market sell-off.  The strategy was supposed to generate consistent returns while minimizing risk.  So why not apply hedge fund leverage to the trade and enjoy multiples of “consistent returns” and “minimized risk?”   The risk parity funds were among the most leveraged going into the market plunge, which began in earnest on February 19th, though the Dow started tipping over a week earlier.

We’ve seen this “excess returns/alpha” with “minimized risk” fail badly twice in the era of modern finance – i.e. the post Bretton Woods era of unfettered expansion of fiat money supply, highly questionable use of leverage and untested “quant” strategies.

Most of you reading this will not remember or even know about Fisher Black’s “portfolio insurance” quant strategy, which promised to remove downside risk from all-equity portfolios (if you trade options and don’t know who Fisher Black is, then you shouldn’t be trading options).  But the “quantitative” magic embedded in the strategy failed miserably in the 1987 stock market crash.

In the 1990’s Long Term Capital Management branded a similar though more complex “all upside / no risk” strategy by assembling a “dream team” of quants which included Robert Merton and Myron Scholes, two Nobel laureates in economics.  LTCM was using unheard of amounts of leverage because its mad scientists of quant finance had achieved the goal of removing risk from LTCM’s portfolio.  Again, the strategies failed catastrophically when the high risk/return assets upon which LTCM was highly leveraged began to plummet, liquidity disappeared and the risk removal strategies proved worthless.

Amusingly, the purported “expert” in cross-asset strategies, Nomura’s Charles McElligot, apologizes for the failure of risk parity by explaining that “we now see the 18-day period of returns for [Nomura’s] model ‘World 60/40’ fund was 15.5% greater than an 8-sigma move and truly unprecedented dating back to the model’s start 1999 start date.”  Interesting that this “model” does not include data going to back to the 1987 crash or the LTCM collapse. Everyone is the perfect armchair quarterback the day after. But it’s impossible to model the future. Nomura’s model  didn’t even include the two most important multi-sigma downside events in the era of modern finance.

Funny thing about McElligot.  He was in grade school  during the 1987 crash and in college when LTCM blew up.  These quantitative gimmicks are no different than the methodologies applied by boiler-room stock brokers pitching risky stock ideas doomed to eventual failure. They all work wonderfully and make everyone money – especially the purveyors of these fantasy ideas – when markets are rising and even better when the bulls are all-out stampeding into the market.

But all of these strategies have one thing in common. They fail to incorporate the ability to measure and manage the sudden vacuum of liquidity when markets go from functioning continuously with bids just as “deep” on the downside as were the “offers” on the upside.  “Liquidity” is a risk variable that’s impossible to model or manage when everyone is running for the exits and bids disappear.

Just like Fisher Black’s “portfolio insurance” and LTCM’s Nobel Prize backed downside-risk removal models, the risk parity strategy turned out to provide all risk and no parity when the market had the rug pulled out from under it.  And when this happens the biggest charlatans of modern money management start crying for the Fed and the Government to bail them out.

Helicopter Money Will Send Gold Soaring…

Fiat justitia ruat caelum – Let justice be done though the heavens fall

…and the current gold/silver ratio indicates silver will soar even more.

Central Banks and sovereign Governments have been given a free pass to print money and bail out the banking, hedge fund and corporate interests from catastrophically hopeless loan, bond, subprime asset and derivative positions. The coronavirus crisis will be fingered as the culprit but market forces would have forced a financial collapse eventually anyway (see 2008 for the playbook). While the helicopter money will bail out the real perpetrators, it will also effect insidious currency devaluation aka inflation.

Chris Powell at GATA posted a must-read essay on the systemic effect of the impending acceleration of Central Bank printing presses:

“The success of a system of infinite money requires infinite commodity price suppression to defend government currencies. Gold price suppression has been Central Bank policy since the London Gold Pool of the 1960s.  But not only are government currencies becoming harder to defend amid the dislocations caused by the virus epidemic, governments no longer may want to defend their currencies so much.  They want to reflate asset valuations. But even before the virus epidemic, equities and bonds already were highly overvalued by traditional measures, and how can they be worth as much as they were now that world production is declining? Only devaluation of currencies can accomplish reflation.”

You can read the entire essay here: “As infinite money chases collapsing production, gold is on call

Extreme Disconnect Between Paper And Physical Gold

“The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it” – George Orwell

The western Central Banks, led by the BIS, are operating to push the price of gold and silver as low as possible.  It’s a highly motivated effort to remove the proverbial canary from the coal mine before it dies.  A soaring price of gold signals to the world that the Central Banks have lost control of their fiat currency, debt-induced profligacy.

“In the last 10 years,” George said, “the central banks have effectively shown that when there is a real crisis, gold actually goes down — and it’s so blatant, it’s a joke.” – Peter George, South Africa’s “Mister Gold,” at 2005 GATA conference

The signs of massive intervention abounded last week:   record levels of PNT and EFP transactions;  aggressive interventionary gold swap transactions by the BIS in January/February (per the monthly BIS statement of operations) – and presumably this month as well;  and a big physical dump of gold last Thursday at the p.m. London gold price fix which knocked down the gold price. These opaque Central Bank operations thereby triggered even more paper selling on the Comex.

The most overt signal of the disconnect between the physical and paper markets is coming from large international bullion coin dealers. I have seen three letters from large dealers (BullionStar, JM Bullion and SD Bullion) which detail shortages and an inability to replace what’s being sold.   Here’s insightful commentary from BullionStar sent out over the weekend:

“The bullion supply squeeze and shortages are getting worse and worse every day. We are working very hard to source metal but regret that we can not replenish most products as they sell out. We will be getting some additional inventory which is already on the way in transit to us by the end of March. Following that, our expectation is that we may not be able to replenish for months…

Paper gold is traded on the and on the in New York. Both of these markets are derivative markets and neither is connected to the physical gold market…By now it is abundantly clear that the physical gold market and paper gold market will disconnect. If the paper market does not correct this imbalance, widespread physical shortages of precious metals will be prolonged and may lead to the entire monetary system imploding.” – Torgny Persson, founder & CEO of BullionStar

The removal of supply/demand price discovery by the oppressive manipulation of gold and silver in the paper derivative markets has created a shortage in the availability of physical metal, with buyers currently willing pay 50% above the spot price of silver.

This is highly reminiscent of the price take-down that occurred in 2008, a few months head of Helicopter Ben launching his money helicopters AND the massive taxpayer bailout of the big banks.  Back then silver eagles were trading at 50-60% over the spot price. This preceded the remarkable 2 1/2 year price rally in gold and silver that took gold up to an all-time high.

Historically, official induced market intervention fails. And when it fails, it fails spectacularly.  Gold ran from $700 to $1900 and silver ran from $7 to $49 between late 2008 and mid-2011, before the bullion banks were able to gain control of  the price discovery mechanism.  This time around the systemic problems – notwithstanding the virus crisis – are far worse than the problems that erupted in 2008.

Barring some type of systemic debt and monetary reset – and I have no idea what something like that would look like –  gold and silver will eventually be trading several multiples higher than their current price.

Stocks, Bonds, Paper Gold – What The Hell Is Happening?

Make no mistake, the financial system is collapsing under one giant margin call being issued to banks and hedge funds. How big?  No one knows. The Fed obviously was preparing for something when it commenced its money printing in September. But it had no idea of the scale of the underlying systemic problems.  Coronavirus is not the cause of what’s unfolding in the markets – it merely served as the pin that pricked the biggest financial asset bubble in history.

The $1.5 trillion “repo” QE announced by the Fed today did a complete belly flop, as the Dow closed 400 points lower than where it was trading when the QE was announced.  This will take the Fed’s balance sheet well above its peak level during QE1-3.

Craig “Turd Ferguson” Hemke and I had a short discussion about the devastation in the stock and credit markets, including trying to make sense of the action in the precious metals sector – Use this link to access the podcast and TF Metals or click on the image below:

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

Coronavirus Is Not The Cause Of Stock Market Turmoil

“The coronavirus could be the proverbial Black Swan event. No one saw that coming. We’ve seen everything else [up to this point] that’s coming. The Fed saw something coming in September and it wasn’t coronavirus.”

All it took was a 10% sell-off in the S&P 500. On Tuesday the Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points to a target range between 1% and 1.25% over fears the coronavirus will have a negative impact on the U.S. economy. I am confident that the rate cut was targeting the stock market because that’s all the Fed, the White House and Wall Street have as “evidence” the economy is fine. The bond market is suggesting otherwise, the yield curve has compressed to record low yields.

David Stockman perfectly describes the scenario facing the country: “The coronavirus is now exposing a far more deadly disease: Namely, the poisonous brew of easy money, cheap debt, sweeping financialization and unbridled speculation that has been injected into the American economy by the Fed and Washington politicians.” (LINK)

Chris Marcus of Arcadia Economics and I discuss the market forces causing the stock and bond market chaos of the last few weeks:

JP Morgan / Jamie Dimon Decide To Burn Their Bras

JP Morgan took the bold step  to “break a stigma” and announce that it planned to borrow from the Fed’s discount window.  The discount window in the context of modern finance has evolved into  an emergency source of liquidity.  This is nothing more than an attempt at reverse psychology to cover up the fact that JPM is preparing for the eventuality that it will need to tap into emergency sources of liquidity like the Fed’s discount window.

The Fed’s “temporary” repo money printing operations are not doing the trick. The big banks are in trouble from the same type of bad lending decisions that led to the 2008 crisis, only this time it will be worse. Chris Marcus (Arcadia Economics) and I flush out exactly what this means in a short podcast:

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

Stocks And Gold: What Happened Last Week

The coronavirus crisis is perhaps the real “Black Swan” that no one saw coming.  While the virus pulled the trigger on the loaded weapon aimed at the stock market, it’s not the cause of the 2nd fastest 10% decline in the history of stock market.  Using “as adjusted” GAAP accounting applied to the current trailing 12-month SPX earnings to make them comparable to the GAAP standards applied to 1999 earnings, this was the most overvalued stock market in U.S. history.  While Fed officials and Wall Street story-tellers rejected the notion that the stock market was in a bubble, this table from Crescat Capital demonstrates the stock market’s extreme degree of overvaluation:

The SPX is at an all-time high in five of eight valuation metrics.  However,  I would argue it’s really 6 of 8. The “adjusted” P/E (CAPE) used by Robert Shiller is in the 96th percentile of high valuation.  But if the historical earnings of the SPX were adjusted using 1999 GAAP, the current “Shiller P/E” ratio would at an all-time high. This is because GAAP standards for recognizing income have become considerably more lenient over the last 21 years.

A metric more suited to comparable analysis across time is the median enterprise value (market cap + debt) to sales ratio. The revenue line is the least affected by GAAP.  For the most part (there are exceptions), sales are what they are.  Currently the median EV/sales ratio is 3.6x. This is double what it was at the peak of the dot.com/tech bubble.

It was just a matter of time before the stock market fell off its valuation cliff.  Meanwhile, the precious metals and mining stocks ripped lower last week. Several subscribers asked what was going on given the expectation that at least gold and silver should have benefited from cash seeking a safe haven.  But, as with the general stock market, the precious metals sector was set up technically for a correction.

When hedge funds face margin calls they start to dump anything in their fund that has a reasonable bid. The sheer force of the stock market sell-off took everything with hit.  Most NYSE stocks, including mining stocks, have a bid.  Most CME futures contracts, especially paper gold and silver, have liquid bids. Hedge funds have large leveraged positions in illiquid subprime high yielding garbage which have no bid in a highly turbulent market.  The Fed’s repo/QE operation since September has enabled hedge funds to maintain these morally hazardous illiquid investments rather than forcing the funds to pare back.

You’ll note, however, that most of the decline all week in the price of gold and silver occurred during Comex trading hours, when most of the rest of the world is done for the day. While the Fed/BIS/banks no doubt helped push on the metals in the paper market, hedge funds were extraordinarily long gold and silver futures going into this past week and gold and silver futures had a liquid short-cover bid conveniently provided by the banks who are clearing agents for the Comex.

Furthermore, the HGNSI (Hulbert Gold Newsletter Sentiment Index) had jumped over 70. The mining stocks and gold/silver ALWAYS correct when the HGNSI is over 60. The week before last the entire precious metals sector went straight up in a “flight to safety” move. With sentiment off the charts, the pullback is healthy because it sets up the next big move, especially as it becomes obvious that the Fed will attempt to fight a bear market in the stock market by taking the Fed Funds rate to zero and upsizing its current QE money printing agenda.

The Dow could drop to 17,000, which is where it was trading when Trump labeled the stock market “a big, fat ugly bubble” in late 2016, and still be egregiously overvalued based on fundamentals. India’s massive gold appetite was muted this past week after the big move gold had made the previous week thereby making it easier to push gold and silver lower. This is characteristic of India’s buying pattern. With the smash in gold, India will back in play next week which should at the very least insert a floor under the precious metals sector.

The Fed seems to time its reinsertion of the Fed put strategically at a time when the stock market is technically highly oversold. December 26, 2018 is a perfect example. Of course it’s no coincidence that the Fed caved in on Friday and posted a notice on its website BEFORE the stock market closed that it would use its tools and “act as appropriate to support the economy.” Translation: “we’re telling you we’ll print money to support the stock market and we wanted to get the ball rolling on Friday before the market closes with the Dow down 900 points.”  Of course, the Dow proceed to  rally over 500 points going into the close.

I expect a dead-cat bounce in the stock market that may or may not last all week. If the Fed increases the amount of money spewing from its printing press it might extend the DCB longer than a week. The precious metals sector should benefit from this and it might even continue higher when the stock market inevitably takes another turn for the worse and heads toward “bear market” territory.  For precedence on this pattern, see the fall of 2008.

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