Gold May Be On The Cusp Of A Big Upward Price Reset

Precious metals investors may be getting an unexpected Christmas present this year, beginning with the sudden $25 jump in gold on Tuesday and Wednesday. From what I’m hearing, a shortage of physically deliverable gold is developing in London. In fact, Alasdair Macleod and Egon von Greyerz have both alluded to this development.

The action this past week fits the information. Given the size of the derivative short position (futures, LBMA forwards, leased gold, OTC derivatives, hypothecated gold) in London and New York, if obligated counterparties begin to default on delivery demands, the precious metals sector could become explosive next year.

The ability to suppress the price of gold has become problematic for the western bullion banks as evidenced by all-time high open interest in Comex gold, especially relative to the amount of gold reportedly held by Comex vaults. As of Monday, the open interest was 734k contracts representing 73.4 million ozs of paper gold. This is 8.4x more than the total amount of gold reported to be in Comex vaults as of Tuesday and 58.5x more than the amount “registered” gold, which is gold that is designated as available for delivery.

In the last few years the open interest has averaged around 450k (ballpark) contracts. When the price of gold ran toward $1900 in 2011, the highest weekly open interest was 542k the week of July 17, 2011. The last time gold was trading around the $1500 level, which was March 2013, the open interest was in the 420k area. The point here is that an increasing amount of paper gold is required in order for the banks to contain the rate at which the price of gold discovers price discovery.

More significant, every aggressive attempt this year by the bullion banks to push the gold price lower has been countered with a swift rally: “For months the usual central bank-inspired smashes in the gold futures markets have not been having much effect, even as GATA consultant Robert Lambourne has reported increasing intervention in the market by the Bank for International Settlements” – Chris Powell, GATA.

The quote just above is from a must-read essay by GATA’s Chris Powell in which he lays out the case supporting the view that the New York and London gold markets are getting squeezed:

“The Comex has just quickly authorized a vast expansion in what bullion banks can use as collateral for their selling — ‘pledged gold’ held off the exchange, supposedly in London, for whose existence and unimpairment there is no public evidence.

Amid these indications of shortages, the open interest in gold futures on the Comex keeps hitting record highs. The bullion banks selling the contracts seem to be acting as if the gold supply itself is infinite, not just the supply of gold paper.”

I highly recommend reading the rest of Chris Powell’s article:  The signs swirl all around us, so is the reset at hand?   If the theory, which is supported by evidence, of a developing shortage of physical gold on the Comex and the LBMA is correct, the prices of both gold and silver could become explosive in 2020.

“Rates Were Pushed Off The Cliff By The Central Banks”

The title quote is from Tad Rivelle, Chief Investment Officer of TCW (Los Angeles based fixed income management company), who manages one of the largest actively managed bond funds. He goes on to comment about the implications of the negative rate policy that has been implemented by Japan and the EU: “Credit markets look late cycle, manufacturing looks pretty late cycle and corporate profitability, as well. So the proliferation of negative rates may also suggest that central bank policy has reached exhaustion. It’s almost like negative rates are the last thing central bankers are trying to make it work.”

Many investors and market observers wonder why the Fed/Central Banks just can’t print money forever and drive the markets even higher. The answer can be found in the law of diminishing returns. When Central Banks print money – in our case dollars – at a rate that exceeds the amount of wealth produced to “back” that money printed, it begins to diminish the value of each extra dollar created. As the system becomes saturated with dollars, the Central Banks then try to force the market to use the oversupply of currency bu taking rates negative. This problem is reflected in the velocity of money (the number of times each currency unit changes hands):

That chart is the essence of the law of diminishing returns as it applies to the money supply. Think of it as the “productivity” of each dollar in the system.  Greenspan initiated the paradigm of using money printing to “fix” credit market and stock market problems.  These “problems” were in fact the market’s price discovery and risk discounting mechanisms . He was given the name “Maestro” because seemingly fixed economic and financials problems, though all he really did was defer their resolution.

In fact, Greenspan used money printing to paper over the underlying system structural problems going back to the market crash in 1987.  Greenspan, who was installed as Fed Chairman two months prior to the crash, confirmed that the Fed stood ready “to serve as a source of liquidity to support the economic and financial system.”

In effect, the chart above reflects the fact that a large portion of the printed money, rather than circulating in a chain of economic transactions, sits stagnant in “pools.” As an example, the money printed and given to the banks in the first three QE programs sat in the Fed’s excess reserve account “earning” a tiny rate of interest which is nothing more than additional printed money used to boost bank earnings and give the banks no-risk, unearned cash flow.

As printed money sits idly, the Central Banks artificially lower the “cost” of money, which is also known as the interest rate, thereby making an attempt to force money into the system and incentivizing companies and consumers to use this money by making it nearly costless. Currently Central Banks are cutting interest rates at the fastest pace since December 2009.

Lowering rates toward zero is a temporary fix – i.e. it only serves to defer the inevitable economic bust cycle. But an oversupply of currency which can be used – or borrowed – at little to no cost also ushers in credit bubbles which become manifest in the form of the various asset bubbles, like the housing and stock bubbles, or is used for purposes which do not create economic value. The best example of the latter is when corporations borrow money at near-zero interest rates and use that borrowed money to buyback shares. There is absolutely no economic benefit whatsoever from share buybacks – none, zero – other than for the corporate insiders who dump their shares into buybacks.

This brings me to the quote at the beginning from Tad Rivelle: “the proliferation of negative rates may also suggest that central bank policy has reached exhaustion; it’s almost like negative rates are the last thing central bankers are trying to make it work.” The velocity of money chart is evidence that printing money and forcing interest rates to zero are measures which eventually fall victim to the Law of Diminishing Returns.

The Central Banking policy of near zero and zero interest rates combined with unfettered money creation has lost its “traction.” We are approaching the point at which money printing will not produce the intended effects. In response “rates have been pushed off a cliff by Central Banks.” It’s been acknowledged that Trump discussed negative rates with Fed Chairman Powell just a few weeks ago.

The imposition of negative interest rates on the financial system perversely turns the laws of economics inside-out. Ironically, perhaps fittingly, it’s a desperate act of economic treason that will boomerang back and decapitate the global economy, including the U.S. This reality is already reflected in the rapidly contracting manufacturing reportsand the confirmed by the freight transportation data, which have been collapsing for the better part of the last year.

The commentary above is from a recent issue of the Short Seller’s Journal. Despite the melt-up in the stock market, several stocks are sectors are diverging negatively and I have presented some short ideas that have been making money – Lending Tree (TREE) is a good example.  To learn more follow this link: Short Seller’s Journal information.

 

 

Junior Exploration Stocks Are Generationally Undervalued

Gold and silver are set up potentially for an explosive move, fueled by the inevitable escalation of Central Bank money printing. The Federal Reserve has led the charge on this account over the last three months as the financial system has begun to veer off the rails.

Currently, the Fed is printing money at the fastest rate in its history. The brown stuff is hitting the fan blades in the financial system.  By mid-January the Fed’s balance will be close its all-time high.  Fiat currency devaluation aka QE aka money printing is like rocket fuel for gold and silver.

A lot of mining stock analysts are drooling over the charts of the large cap stocks. And kudos to Crescat Capital for sharing the chart of above (with my edit in yellow). But the junior exploration “venture capital” stocks are the most undervalued relative to the prices of gold and silver in at least the last 19 years, which is the amount of time I’ve been involved in the precious metals sector.

Last Thursday gold  spiked up $14 before the stock market opened. But when Trump tweeted that a trade war “Phase 1” deal was close, gold went $20 off the cliff.  However, February gold closed flat vs Wednesday’s close and March silver has reclaimed the $17 level.  It’s a big positive that the “Phase 1” trade deal was signed because now Trump won’t have the ability to jerk the markets around with his silly “positive trade talks” tweets.

More important to the gold bull market, the Fed once again expanded the repo money printing QE operations. Early today (Thursday, December 12th) the Fed announced an additional $275 billion in repo operations around year-end. Adding all of it up, the Fed will be pumping half a trillion dollars into the repo system over year-end. This is unequivocally due to bank assets melting down and the need to finance new Treasury debt issuance.

The Fed’s re-liquification program will be given creative names – anything but “QE.”  It started off with “balance sheet expansion” but that term was abandoned because of its transparency. The best one I’ve heard so far is “yield curve capping operation.”  Watching Jerome Powell try to camouflage the Fed’s money printing  is like watching a baby  smoke a cigarette.

It’s a good bet that eventually the repo activity will be converted into a permanent “QE” money printing program.  The best way to make this wager  is via the precious metals sector.

Fortuna Silver: An Incredible Value Play

I originally shared this analysis with my Mining Stock Journal subscribers in the October 17th issue.  I sent it to Peter Spina at Goldseek.com because I saw the idea from one of his tweets a few weeks earlier.   It’s rare when the market mis-prices a larger cap producing mining company, thereby allowing aggressive investors an opportunity to buy into a high quality operation at a level that can produce a rate of return that would be expected from much higher risk junior exploration stocks.

The market put this opportunity in investors’ laps earlier this year and the analysis below was my rationalization for buying this stock when it dropped to $3 (note, I followed this up after FSM dropped below $3 briefly on its Q3 earnings report with a detailed analysis in my Mining Stock Journal which explained why the market was wrong again and buying FSM at $3 would yield an extraordinary ROR).   Since Thanksgiving,  the FSM  is up 21%.

Value Play – Fortuna Silver – (FSM, FVI.TO – US$3.07) – Most of the stocks I follow are micro-cap junior “venture capital” plays. However, I’ll invest in a larger cap producing mining company if I believe the stock has been sold down irrationally to a price that offers superior upside risk/return potential.

Fortuna was founded in 2005 with a focus on acquiring precious metals projects in Latin America (“Fortuna” was Greek goddess of fortune). One of the co-founders and the current CEO, Jorge Ganoza, is from a Peruvian mining family. FSM currently has two low-cost mines in Peru and Mexico. In 2016 it acquired the Lindero gold project in Argentina, a large open pit, heap-leach gold project that should achieve commercial production in early 2020.

San Jose Mine – The 100% owned San Jose Mine, located in Oaxaca, Mexico, began production in July 2011. The mine produces silver and gold from a 3,000 tonne per day underground operation. In 2018 the mine produced 8 million ozs of silver and 53,517 ozs of gold. San Jose currently has a resource of 46 million ozs of silver and 375,000 ozs of gold. Most of the resource consists of proven/probable reserves.

In addition to the existing resource, FSM budgeted $4.3 million for 11,500 meters of brownfield and exploration drilling. “Brownfield” exploration encompasses looking for deposits near or adjacent to an operating mine. The property hosts a mineralization zone – the Victoria zone – that runs “sub-parallel” to one of the main veins (the Trinidad vein) currently being mined. A drill program from 2H 2017 – 2018 returned several high grade intercepts.

Caylloma Mine – The Caylloma Mine is a 100%-owned underground silver, lead and zinc mine operation in Arequipa, Peru. A small amount of gold is also extracted from the ore, the value of which is used to offset the cash costs of mining. For 2019, the mine is expected to produce around 1mm ozs of silver, 27 million lbs of lead and 40-44 million lbs of zinc.

Fortuna has owned the mine since 2005. On a silver-equivalent (AgEq) basis, the all-in sustaining cost of the Caylloma mine averages about $13/oz. Caylloma currently has five years left of reserves but the property hosts potential for step-out resource expansion.

Lindero Gold Project – In July 2016, FSM acquired Goldrock Mines Corp in an all stock transaction valued at $129 million. This gave FSM 100% ownership of the Lindero open pit, heap leach operation in Argentina’s Salta Province. The mine will process 18,750 ton per day over a 13-year mine life, averaging 100,000 ozs of gold annually at an all-in sustaining cost of about $750/oz.

Fortuna announced the start of pre-production mining at Lindero in mid-September. The first gold pour is planned for Q1 2020. This is an incredibly low-cost operation. Part of the reason for this is that the ore body is high grade with a low “strip ratio.” The strip ratio is the amount of waste rock required to be processed in order to extract a tonne of ore. For instance, a 2:1 strip ratio means two tonnes of rock needs to be processed per tonne of mineable ore. Lindero will have a strip ratio below 1 in the first year of operation.

Once Lindero is up and running efficiently, it will be a literal “cash cow,” especially if the price of gold continues to move higher.

The Company also has a of couple exploration assets. The Arizaro Project is situated in the Lindero land package. It’s a gold-copper porphyry project on which preliminary exploration and drilling was conducted by the previous owners and which was followed-up by Fortuna with a surface core drill program of 2,178 meters over 12 holes down to 200 meters. The results encountered near-surface gold-copper porphyry mineralization.

FSM also acquired a 24.2% in Medgold Resources, which owns the Tlamino Project, a high grade gold-silver project in Serbia. FSM has an option to earn a 51% interest in Tlamino by spending $3 million in development by March 2020. It can earn an additional 19%, or 70% of the project economics, by spending an additional $5 million and completing a preliminary economic assessment by March 2023.

Why FSM dropped in price – In the frenzy of the first 6 months of 2016, FSM traded as as high as US$9.50. Since then the stock has trended down to as low as $2.40 in early May 2019. Most of the decline, I believe, can be attributed to the general downtrend in the price of gold and silver from July 2016 through May 2019. In addition, the price of lead fell as much as 30% and zinc has dropped as much as 37% since early 2018.

You can read the rest of this at  Goldseek.com

In the latest issue of the Mining Stock Journal released last night, I have another similar large cap mining stock that I believe provides a similar opportunity as the market gift handed out on Fortuna.  You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Mining Stock Journal information

As The Financial System Melts Down Gold And Silver Will Soar

To the extent that some analysts reject the Fed/Wall St/Perma-Bull narrative that the Fed’s repo operation is needed to address “temporary” liquidity issues or was caused by the newer regulatory constraints, the only explanation offered up is that the financial system’s “plumbing” is malfunctioning.  But there has to be an underlying cause…

…The underlying cause is abject deterioration in credit instruments – largely subprime right now – is causing an ever-widening chasm between the value of these securities and the funding used to finance those asset values.  The banks have reduced their willingness to fund  the increasing demand for overnight collateralized loans because they see first-hand the degree to which some of the collateral has become radioactive (CLO bonds, for instance).  The Fed has had to plug the “gap” with its repo operations, several of which have maturities extended up to a month. This is de facto QE, which is de facto money printing.

As this slow-motion train wreck unfolds, more money printing will be required to prevent systemic collapse, which in turn will trigger an explosive move higher in gold, silver and mining stocks.  Chris Marcus of Arcadia Economics invited me onto this podcast to discuss these issues in a little more detail:

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Currently junior mining stocks are the most undervalued relative to the price of gold and silver as at any time in at least the last 20 years.  But several producing gold and silver mining stocks are extraordinarily cheap.  I featured one in my Mining Stock Journal that’s up nearly 14% since Thanksgiving.  I’ll be presenting a similar producing mining stock in the next issue released Thursday.

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 Fed’s Repo QE: The Underlying Problems Are Escalating

Pressures are already building on the financial stability front that will make the next economic downturn messier than anticipated.” – Bill Dudley, former President of the NY Fed

I get irritated when I see mainstream media and alternative mainstream media parroting the propaganda used to cover up the truth. This morning Zerohedge echo’d the “corporate tax payments liquidity squeeze” narrative first used back in September to justify the re-start of the repo QE program. I would have thought that idiotic excuse would have been proved wrong after this:

It’s truly amazing that Fed officials come clean after they leave their post at the Federal Reserve. We’ve seen this dynamic for sure with Greenspan. Not so much with Bernanke, but I always considered Bernanke to be a bad liar and it seems that he’s chosen largely to fade from public exposure. Ditto with Janet Yellen.

Bill Dudley, however, is a former partner of Goldman Sachs and thus highly intelligent (as is Greenspan – Bernanke and Yellen not so much). Dudley clearly sees the writing on the wall. Now that he’s not in a position at Goldman in which it’s advantageous for him to promote stocks in exchange for big bonuses, or at the Fed where it’s politically correct to rationalize a bullish narrative (“Fed-speak”), he’s coming “clean” per the quote at the top.

The Fed’s current posture, based on the Fed officials’ weekly speeches ad nauseum, is that the economy is healthy with moderate growth and a strong labor market. If this is the case, however, why is the Fed printing money on a monthly basis in an amount that is close to the peak monthly “QE” after the financial crisis?

The question, of course, is strictly rhetorical. In fact the Fed once again quietly increased the amount of money it is printing and handing over to the banks. On November 25th the Fed released an updated repo operation schedule which showed additional repo operations totaling at least $50 billion. The Fed has also made its website less user-friendly in terms of tracking the total amount by which the repo operations have increased since the first operation in mid-September.

The 28-day repo QE for $25 billion that was added to the program Nov 14th was nearly 2x oversubscribed this morning, which means the original $25 billion deemed adequate 3 weeks ago was not nearly enough – a clear indicator the problems in the banking system are escalating at a rate faster than the Fed’s money printing operation. Just wait until huge jump in subprime quality credit card debt that will be used to fund holiday shopping begins to default in the first half of 2020…

The chart to the right shows the Fed’s repo schedule posted on September 23rd on the top and the latest repo operation schedule on the bottom. I suspect this won’t be the last time the Fed will increase the amount of its “not QE” QE money printing. Additionally, the Fed refuses to identify the specific banks which are receiving most of the repo money. One obvious recipient is Deutsche Bank, which is quietly shutting down a large portion of its business operations and is likely technically insolvent. Per a 2016 IMF report, DB is highly interconnected to all of the Too Big To Fail banks (JPM, GS, C etc). This means inter-bank loans and derivatives counterparty exposure, among other financial connections. Aside from the DB factor, as I detailed last week with deteriorating leveraged loan/CLO assets held by banks, I am convinced that the “repo” money is needed to help banks shore up their liquidity as loans and other assets begin to melt-down. This is quite similar to 2008.

For more insight into the truth underlying the Fed’s renewed money printing operations, spend some time perusing articles like this from Wall Street On Parade.

The Truth Behind The “Repo” Non-QE QE Money Printing

“The Fed first tried to justify the loans by saying they were a short-term measure to stem a liquidity crisis. But the so-called “liquidity crisis” has not prevented the stock market from setting new highs since the loan operations began on September 17. And the short-term operation has been running every business day since that time and is currently scheduled to reach into next year or last permanently. A cumulative total of approximately $3 trillion in overnight and longer-term loans has been funneled to unnamed trading houses on Wall Street without either the Senate or House calling a hearing to examine what’s really going on.”Wall St On Parade

The analysis below is an excerpt from my November 24th issue of the Short Seller’s Journal

“Credit deterioration is a typical symptom of the end of a cycle — and that is exactly what Credit Benchmark is finding, particularly in the industrial sector.” – Bloomberg News in reference to a report from Credit Benchmark on the deterioration in credit quality of the industrial sector globally.

Credit Benchmark offers data/analytic services which provide forward-looking insights into the credit quality and liquidity of companies and sectors globally.  Credit deterioration is a typical symptom of the end of an economic cycle. Credit Benchmark also noted last week that U.S. high-yield corporate credit quality has been crumbling since early 2019.

High yield debt sits below and props up leveraged loans held by banks, pension funds and CLO (collateralized loan obligations) Trusts. Leveraged loan credit quality is also declining, with many loan issues trading well below par and a not insignificant portion trading at distressed levels. Banks have been stuck with a lot of leveraged loans that were underwritten with the hope of sticking them in CLO investment structures. But big investors have been pulling away from CLO’s since mid-summer.

A CLO is a type of collateralized debt obligation. An investment trust is set-up and structured into tranches in order of “safeness,” with credit ratings assigned to each tranche ranging from AAA down to the “residual” or mezzanine/equity layer. Each tranche is sliced into bonds which are sold to investors, primarily institutional and wealthy investors, who invest in the various tranches of the CLO based on relative appetite for risk. Typically hedge funds and/or the underwriter of the CLO will provide funding for the mezzanine/equity layer.

Leveraged loans underwritten by Wall Street are pooled together and the interest and amortization payments are used to fund the interest and amortization payments of each layer of the trust. Each tranche receives successively higher rates of return to compensate for the level of risk. In addition each tranche is amortized based on seniority. If and when enough loans in the trust default and cash collected by the CLO trust is insufficient to pay off all of the tranches, the losses are assigned in reverse order from bottom to top. During the financial crisis, losses spread into the highest-rated tranches.

Invariably, as yield-starved investors grab for anything with a higher yield than is available from relatively riskless fixed income investments like Treasuries, agency debt (FNM/FRE) and high-grade corporate bonds, the underwriting standards of leveraged loans deteriorate. Wall Street requires loan product to feed the beast in order to continue raking in fat fees connected to this business. And, as you might have guessed, Wall Street opportunistically offers credit default derivative “insurance” products structured around the CLO trusts.

As I’ve detailed previously, credit rating downgrades in leveraged loans are mounting as the level of distress in the asset class rises. CLO’s purchase roughly 75% of all leveraged loans underwritten. In theory, CLO trusts are “over-collateralized” to account for a certain level of loan default and to ensure the top tranche receives the highest credit rating possible. But it would appear that many of these CLO trusts are starting to incur losses at the lowest tranches. This fact is reflected in the rececent performance of CLO bonds since June. As an example, through June, double-BB rated CLO bonds threw off a 10% ROR (interest payments and bond price appreciation). But by the end of October, this 10% ROR was wiped out, meaning the value of the bonds has fallen 10% since June including 5% alone in October.

The chart above plots the SPX vs an index of “generic” CLO triple-B rated bonds. The negative divergence of the CLO bonds reflects the escalating degree of distress in leveraged loans, which are underlying collateral funding the CLO trusts.

I am certain that part of the reason the Fed has had to start bailing out the banking system with its not-QE QE repo operations is connected to the rapid deterioration in the CLO/leveraged loan market. Chunks of thes CLO’s and leveraged loans are sitting on bank balance sheets.

The 2008 financial crisis was primarily triggered by the collapse of collateralized subprime mortgage CDO’s (these were the securities featured in “The Big Short”). I believe – and I’m not alone in this view – that CLO’s will cause the same type of systemic damage . The CLO market is roughly $680 billion just in the U.S. That was about the same size as the subprime mortgage market by 2008. Including the offshore market, the global leveraged loan market is now $1 trillion, doubling in size since 2010.

Most people think of the Fed when they hear the term “repo.” But the repo market primarily is funded by banks and money market funds. CLO bonds have been used as repo collateral for several years. As the credit quality of this asset class declines, banks are less interested in participating in repo market funding transactions to avoid the rising probability of suffering a counterparty default from use of CLO collateral, thereby reducing liquidity in the repo market.

In addition, many banks have been stuck with leveraged loans that could not be offloaded onto investors or CLO trusts. This inability to off-load loans into CLO’s started this past summer when the largest investor in CLO’s, a large Japanese bank, began to pull away from the CLO market. As the value of these loans declines, banks are forced to increase the amount of capital required to maintain reserve ratios – another reason for the Fed repo market intervention.

As the global economy, including the U.S. economy notwithstanding the insistence to the contrary by the Fed and Trump, continues to contract it’s quite probable that CLOs/leveraged loans will begin to melt-down Chernobyl-style. Referring back to the SPX/CLO bond price chart above, in my view there’s no coincidence that the Fed’s intervention in the repo market commenced at about the same time the triple-B CLO bonds began to take a dive. That price decline is even more pronounced for the tranches with ratings below triple-BBB.

To be sure, CLO’s are not the only financial wildfire outbreak targeted by the Fed’s money printing, but I would wager a healthy amount of gold coins that distress in the CLO market is one of the primary troubles right now. And the problem is magnified when you take into account the credit default swap transactions “wrapped around” these CLO trusts. These derivative trades also require an increasing amount of collateral as CLO tranche distress escalates.

To accompany the above analysis in my Short Seller’s Journal, I presented some ideas for expressing a bearish view based on the the eventual collapse in the CLO/leveraged loan market. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

The Path Of Least Resistance For Gold Is Up

The price of gold has held firm at the $1460 (front-month contract basis, not the Kitco “spot” price) level despite the constant price attacks that have been occurring overnight and into the Comex floor trading hours since early November.

On an intra-day basis gold has managed to hold continuous aggressive attempts to push the price below $1460 for the last 6 trading days, including today.  Interestingly, last Tuesday (November 26) and Friday, gold shot up during the Comex floor trading hours in the absence of any news or event triggers.

Zerohedge attributed Tuesday’s spike in gold to the jump offshore yuan vs the dollar. But that day gold started moving before the yuan moved.  On Friday, gold soared as much as $14 from an intra-day low of $1459 while offshore yuan declined vs the dollar.  Zerohedge’s explanation for the mysterious movement in the gold price on two days thus lacks evidence.

The open interest in the December Comex contract remained stubbornly high through first notice day last Friday. The banks, which have an extreme net short position in Comex gold have exerted an enormous effort to force hedge funds either to liquidate long positions or to sell December contracts and move out to February, which is the next “front month” contract.

If an unusually large number of longs decide to stand for delivery, it would place an enormous amount of stress on the warehouse stock of gold that has been designated as available for delivery in Comex vaults. In addition India has been importing an enormous amount of gold starting in late October. This has provided strong price support from the physical market.

Also, the gold price has withstood a 43,000 contract liquidation in Comex open interest, including a 1-day record 127k contract liquidation in the December contract, much of which “rolled” out to February.  Historically a draw down in Comex open interest of this magnitude would have removed at least $50 from the gold price.

In the chart above, gold appears to be establishing a strong base in the $1460 area. The MACD shows an extremely oversold technical condition as does the RSI.  With the Central Banks, including the Fed, printing money at a furious pace right now, the conditions are in place for potentially a big move in gold.

The commentary above is a partial excerpt from my lastest issue of the Mining Stock Journal. In this issue I present an opinion on the Kirkland Lake acquisition of Detour Gold that may surprise some mining stock investors. The junior exploration stocks have been relentlessly pounded lower during this latest sell-off in the sector, especially relative to the shares of the mid-cap and large-cap producing miners. I believe several junior exploration stocks are trading at a price level which significantly reduces the risk and increases the potential ROR in these shares.

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.

The Telsla CyberTruck Event: Elon Musk’s Travelling Burlesque Show

As many of you are aware by now, Tesla’s roll-out of its Cybertruck, an event which pushed the stock price irrationally higher ahead of time, was a complete disaster. The vehicle itself, which one commentator said “looks like the product of a DeLorean that had sex with a triangle,” was visually quite unappealing. Morgan Stanley conducted a snap poll of its email distribution list to determine viewers’ impression of the Cybertruck.  Zero percent (0%) of those surveyed thought the truck would be a success.

Whether or not the claims by Musk & Co are true that over 250k people have plunked down a $C-note to “reserve” a Cybertruck, at this point it’s unclear whether not the vehicle will ever make it to production. Notwithstanding inconvenient realities, Musk fraudulently refers to the refundable reservations as “orders.”  Electrek.co and Musk’s Twitter pimps behave as if Tesla has already pre-booked $10 billion in revenues.

But Tesla has several hurdles to overcome before this electrified Lego block on wheels ever rolls off the production line, not the least of which includes addressing a technically insolvent balance sheet and raising the $100’s of millions of capex required. Notwithstanding this, the entire auto industry, including Tesla, faces gale force economic headwinds as the sector globally plunges into recession.

Based on YTD sales through October – plus estimates for November and December – data published by EV-Volumes, a service that provides a database of sales statistics for EVs, shows that total EV sales in the U.S. will decline 4% from 2018. After 10 years of EV availability, the market penetration rate for EVs is just 2% – and ex-California it’s 1%. Think about this in the context that the Government has provided enormous subsidies for EV/hybrids, thereby lowering the all-in cost for the buyer. As the largest EV seller in the U.S. (currently but not for long), Tesla is by far the most affected by the negative trend in EV sales.

Finally, because of plunging EV sales (along with plunging sales for the entire Chinese auto market), the Chinese Government is implementing major cuts to its EV sales subsidy program. The Chinese Association of Automobile Manufactures said that weak demand for the vehicles is one of the reasons for the pullback in the subsidy program.

Eric Peter’s Autos blog captured the essence of Musk’s farcical CyberTruck burlesque show:

Thousands of affluent marks have already put down deposits, unsightliness seen. And in spite of one of Elon’s many promises about the Cybertruck revealed to be a blatant lie right in front of their very eyes – the “shatterproof” door glass that wasn’t. It’s wondrous, baffling. Elon’s mesmeritic powers are so puissant he could probably get his followers – this includes the press – to bark like dogs if he asked them to.

You can read Peter’s entire commentary here:    And So They Drooled

Netflix’s Business Model Is Headed For An Epic Fail

How does NFLX manage to show positive net income yet burn hundreds of millions of dollars each quarter?  It’s the magic of GAAP accounting.  I did a detailed analysis for my Short Seller’s Journal subscribers back in 2017.  Each quarter NFLX has to spend $100’s of millions on content.  Most companies like NFLX capitalize this cost and amortize 90% of the cost of this content over the first two years.   Amortizing the cost of content purchased is then expensed each quarter as part of cost of revenues.  Companies can play with the rate of amortization to lower the cost of revenues and thereby increase GAAP operating and net income.

In the analysis I did for my subscribers, I demonstrated this accounting Ponzi mechanism:

The ratio of cash spent on content in relation to the amount recognized as a depreciation expense can be used to determine if NFLX is “stretching out” the amount depreciation recognized on its GAAP income statements in relation to the amount that it is spending on content. In general, this ratio should remain relatively constant over time.

For 2014, 2015 and 2016, this ratio was 1.42, 1.69 and 1.80 respectively. When this ratio increases, it means that NFLX is spending cash on content at a rate that is greater than the rate at which NFLX is amortizing this cash cost into its GAAP expenses. If NFLX were using a uniform method of calculating media content depreciation, this number should remain fairly constant across time. However, as content spending increases and GAAP depreciation declines relative to the amount spent, this ratio increases dramatically – as it has over the last three years. A rising ratio reflects the fact that NFLX has lowered the rate of depreciation taken in the first year relative to previous years. It does this to “manage” expenses lower in order to “manage” income higher.

In the first nine months of 2018, this ratio was 1.70, which explains largely why NFLX’s rate of GAAP “earnings” growth is declining.  To pay for its massive cash flow burn rate, NFLX has to continually issue more debt and stock.

NFLX’s 2019 Q3 income statement contained the usual GAAP games in order to show gross, operating and net income. But as I’ve detailed in the past, NFLX’s treatment of the amortization of the cost of buying content is highly questionable if not outright fraudulent. While the GAAP net income reported provides terrific headline material, the truth shows up in the statement of cash flows. Through the first nine months of 2019, NFLX’s operations burned nearly $1.5 billion in cash. On top of that, NFLX spent another $145 million on content acquisition. Keep in mind that NFLX’s North American subscriber growth has hit quick-sand.

But not only is NFLX’s business model a literal cash incinerator, the Company robotically issues debt. Through the first nine months of 2019, NFLX issued $2.24 billion in debt, which was $343 million more than the same period in 2018. But NFLX wasn’t finished issuing debt this year. Seven days after reporting Q3 numbers, NFLX issued another $2 billion in bonds. This brings its total debt issuance in 2019 to $4.24 billion. NFLX now has a total of $14.4 billion in debt. But we’re not finished. On top of this, the Company has $19.1 billion in streaming content obligations, $16.9 billion of which is due over the next three years. This makes a total $31.3 billion in debt and debt-like commitments.

On top of all of this, NFLX now faces stiff competition from well-funded companies which have started to roll-out their own content streaming operations at lower price points. In some cases, NFLX will no longer have access to desirable content. As an example, Disney rolled out its Disney+ streaming service on November 12th, signing up more than 10 million users by opening day. Verizon offers a free one-year subscription to Disney+ to wireless customers on unlimited plans. Disney’s service is $6.99/month. Apple rolled out its AppleTV streaming at $4.99/month. NBC Universal debuts streaming in early 2020 and is considering offering it for free. AT&T/Warner will soon launch a streaming service that will be similar to Netflix from a cost standpoint but will be built around HBO.

I believe part of the reason NFLX’s stock has run up like it has is due to the release of “The Irishman,” a highly acclaimed movie it produced that is directed by Martin Scorcese and features Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesce, among other marquee actors. But the movie cost $160 million to produce, an amount NFLX will never recoup.

The movie debuted this past week in a limited number of theaters. Several major theater chains refused to show it because NFLX demanded a 3-week window of exclusivity before sticking it on its streaming platform. Three weeks is the minimum amount of time a movie must spend in public theaters to qualify for the Oscars.  Movie production companies rely on huge box office revenues plus revenue sharing deals on concessions to cover the production cost of blockbuster movies. After raking it in from the theaters, they look to milk huge fees from content syndication agreements. NFLX cut short its ability to pocket huge box office revenues and will not benefit from the ability to sell the rights to “The Irishman.”

NFLX sacrificed a large portion of box office revenues with the idea that it could use “The Irishman” as “bait” to catch new subscribers. However, people who don’t already subscribe to NFLX will likely either see it while it’s at the theaters or sign up for the free month to watch it and then cancel, which is what I’m going to do.

NFLX’s business model will lead to an epic fail. Eventually Netflix’s stock is dead meat. While Netflix has a viable streaming business, it simply has too much debt. It will never be able to service its debt load, especially in conjunction with the its content payment obligations.

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The commentary above is an excerpt from the Short Seller’s Journal. Each weekly issue contains macro economic analysis, market analysis, and short ideas.  I  To learn more about this short-sell focused newsletter, click here:  Short Seller’s Journal info