Category Archives: U.S. Economy

An Unavoidable Global Debt Implosion

“[Whatever] the repo failure involved, it is likely to prove a watershed moment, causing US bankers to more widely consider their exposure to counterparty risk and risky loans, particularly leveraged loans and their collateralised form in CLOs. a new banking crisis is not only in the making, for which the repo problem serves as an early warning, but it could escalate quite rapidly.” Alasdair Macleod, “The Ghost of Failed Bank Returns”

The delinquency and default rate on consumer and corporate debt is rising. This creates funding gaps and cash flow shortfalls at banks. In a fractional banking system, banks only have to put up $1 of reserve for every $9 of money loaned. When the value of the loans declines because of non-performance, it requires capital – cash liquidity – to make up the shortfall in debt service payments received by the banks. In simple terms, the banks are staring at a systemic “margin call.”

To be sure, the current repo funding shortfall may subside. But it will not fix the underlying causes (Deutsche Bank, CLO Trusts, subprime debt, consumer debt, derivatives), which are likely leading up to another round of what happened in 2008 – only worse this time.

Chris Marcus of  Arcadia Economics  invited me to discuss my thoughts on the meaning behind the sudden need for the Fed to inject $10’s of billions into the overnight bank lending system:

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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

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.

Negative Rates, Money Printing and Gold

“As well as being modified by its specific supply and demand conditions, Gold’s time preference is essentially for its moneyness, represented by its use as a medium of exchange and store of value. The moneyness aspect links it to its exchange value for all commodities, and it is this aspect of gold’s qualities that should warn us that a backwardation in gold, emanating from negative dollar interest rates, will herald a general backwardation in commodities as well.” – Alasdair Macleod, Negative Rates and Gold

The “perfect storm” is forming that will push gold to record highs in U.S. dollars. In 2008 a near-perfect storm hit the global financial system that drove the price of gold to record level in just about every currency including dollars. The only missing ingredient back then was negative interest rates. The same financial excesses that caused the previous financial crisis have reformed only now they are much larger in scale. Most of the western hemisphere has already implemented negative interest rates. Now Trump has opened that Pandora’s Box in the U.S.

Chris Marcus of Arcadia Economics invited me onto this podcast to discuss the implications of Trump’s proposal and how it will affect the precious metals sector:

Massive Bull Run In Gold And Silver Is Just Starting

Several Central Banks already buy stocks and bonds with printed money, including the Bank of Japan, Swiss National Bank and the PBoC.  It now looks like Germany’s Bundesbank is going to begin dabbling in the German stock market, extending  its market invention beyond the bond market.

I’m certain the United States’ Exchange Stabilization Fund buys at least stock index futures, if not the shares of companies deemed essential to “national security.”   Given Trump’s tendencies toward dictatorial decrees (see “The Wall” debacle), I suspect eventually he’ll order the Fed to print money and buy stocks directly rather than by proxy via the ESF in an effort to keep the stock bubble from blowing up in the context of a deepening economic recession.

Bill Powers invited me onto his Mining Stock Education podcast to discuss why I believe the move in the precious metals this summer is just beginning.  We also discuss why it will pay off to focus on junior exploration “venture capital” companies, many of which will throw off 50-1000% returns (or more) if gold and silver continue to move higher:

If I’m right, and if the metals continue moving a lot higher, we should start to see stocks like AG move well above their 2016 highs. Eventually many of the juniors will be 3-5x higher than their current level. We got a taste of the type of moves juniors will start to make this week.

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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.

Gold, Silver, Mining Stocks: Quo Vadimus? (Where Are We Going?)

The chart above was sourced from spiralcalendar.com with a couple edits of mine. It shows the S&P 500/gold ratio going back to 1980, when the 1970’s gold bull market culminated. I believe before the a complete financial “reset” is imposed on the global financial system, we could see the SPX/gold ratio fall to the level it hit in 1980.

A subscriber asked me if I thought that the fact that stocks like AG, EXK and HL, among many others, are only 50% as high in price as they were when silver hit $20 in the summer of 2016 is a red flag.

I said that I do not see it as red flag for the sector. Rather, I see it as just one measure by which mining shares are extremely undervalued relative to gold and silver and to the rest of the stock market. I always thought that the mining shares ran up in price too quickly during the 2016 rally. The GDXJ rose 300% in six months and investor sentiment had become far too frothy.

In my observation of the moves in the sector from 2001 to mid-2006 and from November 2008 to mid/late 2011, gold and silver lead the sector at first, followed by the large cap producers, with the juniors lagging and then outperforming gold/silver/large caps. That seems to be the progression unfolding now.

If I’m right, and if the metals continue moving a lot higher, we should start to see stocks like AG move well above their 2016 highs. Eventually many of the juniors will be 3-5x higher than their current level. We got a taste of the type of moves juniors will start to make this week.

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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.

“Thanks for today’s latest issue. It’s value to me is increasing with time.” – From “Greg”

What’s Driving The Price Of Gold and Silver?

Fear, Greed and Reality. Also Bill Murphy’s “Commercial Signal Failure,” which occurs when physical demand for deliverable gold and silver overwhelms the paper derivative short positions used by the western Central Banks to manage the price of gold and silver.

The naked short position in paper gold and silver is so big that any government or central bank with a substantial FX surplus could pull the plug on it by trading enough Treasuries, or even euros or yen, for real metal. Russia and China, among several other eastern hemisphere Central Banks are doing just that.

Silver Doctor’s James Anderson invited me to discuss the factors behind what appears to be a major move higher in the precious metals, possibly leading to the eventual geopolitical and financial systemic reset (Silver Doctors/SD Bullion):

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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

Everything Is Worse Now Than In 2007

Does anyone seriously believe that in the next global recession equity markets will not collapse? Do market participants really believe fiscal stimulus and helicopter money will save us from a gut-wrenching global bust that will make 2008 look like a picnic? Has the longest US economic cycle in history beguiled investors into soporific complacency? I hope not. – Albert Edwards, Market Strategist at Societe Generale

Friday’s 625 point plunge in the Dow capped off another volatile week. Three of the top 20 largest one-day point declines in the Dow have occurred during this month. Remarkably, the Dow has managed to hold the 200 dma 5 times in August. The SPX similarly has managed to hold an imaginary support line at 2,847, about 40 SPX points above the 200 dma. The Russell 2000 index looks like death warmed-over and it’s obvious that large funds are unloading their exposure to the riskier small-cap stocks.

The randomness of unforeseen events causing sudden market sell-offs is starting to occur with greater frequency. Friday’s sell-off was triggered by disappointment with Jerome Powell’s speech at Jackson Hole followed by an escalation of the trade war between China and Trump. Given the response of the stock market to the day’s news events, I’m certain no one was expecting a less than dovish speech by the Fed Head at J-Hole or the firing of trade war shots.

It’s laughable that the stock market soars and plunges based on whether or not the Fed will cut rates, and by how much, at its next meeting. At this point, only stocks and bonds will respond positively to the anticipation of more artificial Central Bank stimulus. And the positive response by stocks will be brief.

Morgan Stanley published a table of 21 key global and U.S. economic indices – ranging from the Market Global PMI manufacturing index to the Goldman Sachs US financial conditions index – and compared the current index levels to the same indices in September 2007. Every single economic index was worse now than back in late 2007. September 2007 was the first time the Fed cut rates after a cycle of rate hikes.

But there’s a problem just comparing a large sample of economic indices back then and now. By the time the Fed started to take rates down again in 2007, it had hiked the Fed funds rate 425 basis points from 1% to 5.25%. This time, of course, the Fed started at zero and managed to push the Fed funds rate up only 250 basis points to 2.5%. Not only is the economy in worse shape now than at the beginning of the prior financial crisis but the Fed funds rates is less than 50% as high as it was previously.  For me this underscores that fact that everything is worse now than in 2007.

The commentary above is an excerpt from the latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal. Each issue contains economic and market analysis short sell ideas based on fundamental analysis, including ideas for using puts and calls to express a short view. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal Information.

Thanks Dave for the TREE recommendation. I covered in the high $200’s for a very profitable trade after it cracked finally – subscriber “Daniel”

Gold, Silver, Mining Stocks: Get Ready For A Huge Ride Higher

Bullion Star released a graph Tuesday that showed Switzerland exported 90 tonnes of gold to the London gold market (U.K.) in July, which dwarfed exports to India and China.  Bloomberg’s spin on the data was that the gold was needed for ETFs.   Of course, as is typical, the Bloomberg “journalist” likely regurgitated “information” that came from a  source rather than fact-check.

But fact-checking shows that the number of tonnes of gold in GLD, by far the largest gold ETF, increased by only 23 tonnes during July from 800 to 823.  Assume the much smaller gold ETFs took in the same amount collectively – an estimate that is more than generous, and ETF gold flow accounts for less than 50% of the gold  exported to London.

Alternatively, a more likely explanation is that large quantities of physical gold are needed on the LBMA to feed an enormous buyer or buyers in London. This would explain what has become routine “V” shape moves in overnight gold futures trading, as the price of gold shrugs off repetitive attempts to push the price lower after Asia closes and LBMA forward and Comex futures trading replaces the physical gold markets in the eastern hemisphere.

This amount of gold imported by the London gold market also reflects the tight supply that has persisted for quite some time. The presence of a large physical buyer(s) would explain the relentless move higher in the price of gold (and silver).

This chart shows the  US-dollar price of the gold/HUI ratio. When I started to look at this sector back in 2001, gold was re-testing $250, which it hit after the Bank of England dumped half of its gold (400 tonnes) onto the market in 1999 (gold hit $253 on July 20, 1999). The HUI index was around 50 when I began to delve into the sector. This chart sourced from The Felder Report, with my edits, shows how cheap the mining stocks are relative to the price gold:

The ratio of the HUI index to gold has ranged from just over 0.6 in 2003 to the 0.10 it hit in December 2015. I predict that if the price of gold moves over $2000, we could see the HUI/gold ratio converge on 1.0. As the price of gold moves above the average cost for a mining company to pull gold out of the ground, every dollar higher the price moves adds a dollar to the income and cash flow of producing mining companies.

While the mining stocks in general have had a strong move since the end of May, “gold fever” and “mining stock fever” have not infected the general investment audience – yet. As an example, over the last two months of 2008, the HUI doubled (150 to 300). Gold was around $800. From mid-January 2016 to mid-August 2016, the GDXJ tripled. Since the end of May, the GDXJ has moved up 46%. An impressive move to be sure but it has long way to move to match the 2016 move in eight months.

The juniors are even cheaper than the producers. This is because, as the price of gold moves higher, value of the gold (or silver) in the ground for juniors with a resource becomes worth even more to potential acquirers, especially juniors who have projects in close proximity to mining companies with operating mines and infrastructure. At some point, larger mining companies will either have to start buying juniors or face being acquired by even bigger mining companies. Assuming the price of gold/silver continues to move higher from here, I believe we’ll start to see a lot more acquisition activity before the end of the year.