Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Silver Price Manipulation: The Public Deserves Answers

By Rob Mackinlay:

US regulators have been urged to reveal the results of a two-year-long investigation into silver and gold price manipulation allegations. The findings are keenly awaited by investors and organisations who have been making allegations about silver and gold price manipulation for decades.

The investigation was based on a claim that large traders, like banks, had been selling huge amounts of silver on the futures market to keep prices down. A substantial short position - believed to be equivalent to 25% of the annual global mining supply of silver - was exposed during the financial crisis.

Bart Chilton, a commissioner at the US Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which is investigating the claims, said: 'I think the public deserves some answers in the very near future.'

He said: 'I expect the CFTC to say something on our silver investigation within weeks. I can't pre-judge what that will be. I can't even guarantee that the agency will speak. That said, if the agency remain silent for much longer, I intend to speak out on the matter in an appropriate fashion.'

Geoffrey Aronow, a former CFTC investigator, told Citywire that there was a chance the investigation could affect silver prices: 'I would say that, generally speaking, results of investigations have not had direct market impacts, but it may depend on whether the Commission concludes that there is any ongoing questionable conduct.'

Ben Davies, chief executive of Hinde Capital, a london-based gold hedge fund manager said that it looked like the activity which had raised the original concerns had stopped and so a direct effect on the price of silver was unlikely.

Back in March 2010 Chilton suggested that CFTC investigators had made significant discoveries: 'We have looked at the silver market like we have never before and I think there is a window of success that has been opened for understanding about what has been going on and why.'

In the statement he said this was the first full investigation into the silver market since 1979 when the Hunt brothers cornered the market and the silver price spiked.

Until 2008 the CFTC believed that these allegations were groundless, a view still held by some gold experts.

The Keiser Report - Spewing Up Paper

Max and Stacey discuss Central Banks opening the spigot of money creation and how the market is responding by spewing up $US. It seems you can only force feed the market so much money before it chokes on it. Of course the owners of gold are cheering on the increasingly futile actions of the Fed and IMF.

Rick Santelli Interviewed

CNBC's veteran commentator Rick Santelli is interviewed by Eric King on King World News about the commodities market, gold, interest rate manipulations, QE and more......listen here

The Fed's Zero Rate Policy Is Destroying America

From the Business Insider:

By Christopher Whalen, an Institutional Risk Analyst of Lord, Whalen LLC.

In this issue of The Institutional Risk Analyst, we turn the camera eye on two different perspectives on the continuing crisis affecting the U.S. economy, the Fed's deflationary monetary policy and the surging price of gold. We look at how the rapid changes now underway in how consumers and investors alike view the dollar will affect the risk picture facing banks, companies and individuals. BTW, tomorrow IRA cofounder Christopher Whalen will be travelling back to the heartland to visit our friends at Indiana State University. We will give a talk entitled: "Do Americans Need a New Deal?" More on this theme next week.

Last week The IRA traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the latest event sponsored by our friend Alex Pollock at American Enterprise Institute, "Living in the Post-Bubble World: What's Next?" We received a great deal of media buzz before and after the event, but the most poignant comment came in this unexpected and very disturbing letter from Dianna in Rockford, IL:

"I have no way of knowing if this message will ever actually reach you. Nevertheless, I want to extend a most sincere message of appreciation for one of the comments you made during recent participation in an American Enterprise Institute symposium. You are the only financial guru /analyst whom I have heard make any reference to the devastating impact of extraordinary quantitative easing on "grandma" and her carefully laid financial plans. Many middle class retirees have no generous government or corporate pension. We have had to plan and save prudently for retirement. Now, as we watch returns on CD's plunge from an average 5% to an anemic 1.5%, we also experience a plunge from a comfortable retirement into a state of severe "penny-pinching". You were correct...not only do we have to cut back on gifts for the grandchildren, we are also drastically curtailing many discretionary purchases, travel to spend time with family and so forth. I have heard NO other analyst speak to this impact on responsible retirees who thought they had done all the right things to prepare for the "golden years". It just felt good to realize that there is at least one individual who has given any consideration to this fallout from "Fed" policies."

Now you know why we at IRA take time away from our business to engage in public debate about how the world of finance affects real people. And you also see the horrible damage that the Bernanke Fed is inflicting upon real American in order to bail out the large Wall Street banks. And the irony is that all of this damage and sacrifice by Dianna and tens of millions of American individuals and businesses who depend upon interest income to survive will be for naught. The Big Banks will have to be restrructured in any event using the resolution authority in the Dodd-Frank legislation.

We also heard from our friend Henry Smyth, proprietor of Granville Cooper Asset Management Ltd., which features a unique gold fund that is comprised solely of rolling forward positions in the noble metal. The fund is domiciled entirely out of reach of America's spendthrift government and settles via Julius Baer in Zurich. (Disclosure: IRA co-founder Chris Whalen is a neighbor of Smyth and an introducing party of GCAM.)

Smyth, who we know from our Mexico days, has been pestering us since the summer about a chart created by his colleague Zeke Brustkern that illustrates the growth of the demand for gold over the past decade and how the increased estimates each year understate the actual market performance. Click here to see the gold chart which Smyth explains below:

"What this graphic aims to elucidate is the evolution of parabolic estimates of the future of gold price over the last five years. Starting with five years of data, from Sept. 2000 through Sept. 2005, a growth projection is forecasted through Sept. 2012. Each subsequent year another projection is crafted adding the additional data points into the curve's slope estimate. Five curves are portrayed in all, representing data from Sept. 2000-Sept. 2010, all projecting through 2012. What becomes clear is that despite using estimation methods intended to represent rapid parabolic growth, the estimated values continue to fall short of the real asset value appreciation. With the exception of 2008/2009, each passing year has brought substantial upward revision of growth projections, and has continued to do so throughout 2010."

Consider these two data points: First, an American retiree named Dianna who has seen her retirement savings rendered worthless by the ill-considered policy actions of the Federal Open Market Committee. Second, the action of the gold market, which is likewise suggesting that fiat paper dollars have no value. If you take the two observations together, it suggests to us that the Fed's actions are feeding global deflation and that the next leg down in the U.S. financial markets could be particularly severe -- especially if the Fed resumes printing more funny money.

While some analysts are calling for a mild devaluation of the dollar, what we see forming ahead could be something far more dramatic and potentially disruptive to the world economy, namely a protracted period of deflation driven by the subserviant position of the Fed vis-a-vis the largest banks. This new shrinkage will not only see gold moving higher but will also see the dollar collapse a la the FDR dollar devaluation of the early 1930s. This crisis is being caused by Fed zero interest rate and quantitative easing ("QE") policies.

As we have said before and we'll say again, the FOMC's zero rate policies imply that the dollar and all assets denominated in dollars have no value. Stocks, bonds and other financial assets depend upon income to make these obligations money good. Without a positive return, there is no reason to hold dollar assets. When President Abraham Lincoln introduced fiat paper dollars backed by nothing to finance the Civil War, these pieces of debt originally were convertible into Treasury notes that paid interest. But the need of a growing nation for a means of exchange rendered such devices irrelevant.

Today the situation is reversed. Non-commercial demand for dollars is collapsing in much of the global economy, in part because the Fed is transferring something like three quarters of a trillion dollars annually from individual and corporate savers to the Wall Street banks. And even this vast subsidy will be insufficient to prevent the ultimate restructuring of the top three U.S. banks. What will Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the other members of the FOMC say to Dianna and the millions of other Americans impoverished by their policy errors when we have to break up the top-three U.S. banks anyway?

Forget more QE. If the FOMC does not soon allow interest rates to rise and thereby rebalance the policy equation between American savers and borrowers, then we fully expect to see gold prices climb further. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the FOMC will hand the detractors of the central bank led by Rep Ron Paul (I-TX) the political issue they need to eliminate the Fed once and for all. And President Barack Obama will be wearing the concrete booties that once belonged to President Herbert Hoover. Unlike your worthless greenbacks, you can take that to the bank.

Yale Ph.D., And Former Fed Member Tells Obama To Pull A "Gordon Brown" And Sell All Of America's Gold

From ZeroHedge:

Edwin Truman, a senior fellow in the Peterson Institute, who is of course a former Fed member, and of course a Yale Ph.D., writes in the FT, suggesting the brilliant idea that it is high time for the US to sell its gold. In other words do precisely what Gordon Brown did a few thousand percent ago, and now has to defend against allegations he did so merely to protect the LBMA cartel which was on the verge of being margin called into oblivion. And even if one ignores the fact for a minute that there has not "really" been an audit of the US gold holdings in who knows how long, who is to say that Goldman, of all people, may not be right and gold will be at $1,700 in a year? Or Dylan Grice for that matter, and it will be about 10 times higher. One thing is certain: converting real hard asset value into paper to patch up 2.25% of government debt as a % of GDP is easily the dumbest idea we have ever heard. Especially, since as we disclosed yesterday, the Fed will have to force Congress to increase its deficit, and thus debt funding needs, simply so that there are enough Treasuries for the Fed to monetize. We hope Mr. Truman is in the contention for next year's economic and peace Nobel prizes, because with articles such as this he has certainly proven he belongs to that unique category of brilliant economists that only Princeton, Yale and Harvard can produce.

From the article:

Gold is back in the news. Its price is soaring in what some analysts say is a reflection of a weak economy and a lack of confidence in government policies. Naturally, investors are looking at a new sure thing in the expectation that prices will continue upward. My advice to the US government, however, is that this may be the best time – to sell. Doing so would help President Barack Obama and Congress reduce indebtedness, at little cost.

It is an article of faith in bullion markets that the US will be the last country to dispose of its gold stock. For 30 years it has had a no-net-sales policy for reasons ranging from resistance by US gold-producing interests to concerns about the international monetary system. That assumption may remain plausible. Yet the administration has an obligation to re-examine its policy.

And now for kicker #1: gold is up due to "fraud and misinformation" - oddly there is no mention of the fraud accompanying the Keynesian ponzinomics that the world is fighting tooth and nail to preserve:

The market price of gold has risen for more than a decade propelled by low interest rates, the hype of the bullion dealers (holding large inventories) and no doubt the normal amount of fraud and misinformation accompanying asset price bubbles. The Financial Times has reported that the precious metals industry expects the price to increase by a further 11 per cent over the next year.

So here is Truman's modest proposal: take the gold, convert it to linen, and use it to patch up just over 2% of US debt. Brilliant

Meanwhile, the US Treasury holds 621.5m fine troy ounces of gold. The government has been sitting on that gold since the Great Depression, receiving no return. At the current market price of $1,300 per ounce, the US gold stock is worth $340bn. The Treasury secretary, with the approval of the president, has the power to sell (and buy) gold on terms that the secretary considers most beneficial to the public interest. Revenues from sales must be used to reduce the national debt.

If the US were to sell its entire gold stock at the current market price, it would reduce the gross government debt by 2¼ per cent of gross domestic product. Based on the average interest cost from 2005 to 2008, this reduction in debt would trim the budget deficit by $15bn annually. Thus, the Obama administration would be doing something about the US fiscal debt and deficit without reducing near-term support for the ailing economy.

Kicker #2: Truman had graduated from economist to financier, recognizing the importance of buying (or confiscating as the case may be) low and selling high:

This proposal has several other benefits. First, the US would be obeying the maxim to buy low and sell high. Second, it would be performing a socially useful function. Demand for gold exceeds normal production, driving up the price. To the extent that the gold craze is being fed by concern (rational or irrational) about government policies, public welfare would be enhanced by giving citizens something tangible to hang around their necks or place in safe deposit boxes. Third, if the price is a bubble, as seems likely, the sooner it is burst the better for the average investor.

Lest Truman be accused of being a biased idiot, he himself provides some counter arguments to his Darwin award worthy suggestio:

Some people point to possible costs. Aside from political pressures from those who want to protect the value of their holdings, above or below ground, two principal arguments are made against US gold sales. The first is that such sales would disrupt the market. But the US government can be cautious in its sales, avoiding disruption of gold sales programmes of other countries, as it has in the past. There is little risk. In recent years, sales under the Central Bank Gold Agreement have dwindled, and some other central banks are buying gold. (The US is not a party to the agreement.) Also the International Monetyary Fund has completed more than three-quarters of its own planned sales of 403.3 metric tons.

Another counter argument is that the US should hold on to its stock in anticipation of the return to a monetary system based on gold by itself or with other nations. Returning to the gold standard would reinstate a system that has not existed for a century, however. It is not going to happen. The gold standard was associated with unstable prices, wages, output and employment. The current official discussions of the reform of the international monetary system do not include any advocates of a return to gold, and the IMF articles of agreement prohibit doing so. The sooner thoughts of a return to the gold standard are laid to rest, the better. A related argument for retention of the US gold stock is as a “rainy day” precaution. But after the recent economic and financial crisis and with the prospect of further misery for several more years, how much more rain must pour before the US acts?

So now you know - the gold standard "is not going to happen." What else is there to say - arguing with such brilliant logic which sees the benefits in 100 years of dollar devaluation, coupled with the greatest credit bubble ever, which has led the world to the precipice of all out currency, trade and soon, actual, war and assumes that the barbarous relic is actually worse than this is, well, pretty much pointless

Wall Street Begins To Fear Nightmare Foreclosure-Gate Scenario Where All Of Housing Finance Is Wrecked

From Business Insider:

A great report from Diana Olick at CNBC titled: Foreclosure Fraud: It's Worse Than You Think.

The gist: industry folks are getting really nervous that all this robo-signing and document fraud could infect the entire housing finance ecosystem.

She cites Georgetown Law Prof Adam Levitin who recently went on a Citigroup call to discuss the issue with investors.

Here's what he tells Olick about a possible nightmare scenario as it pertains to regular mortgage situations -- not just foreclosures:

The mortgage is still owed, but there's going to be a problem figuring out who actually holds the mortgage, and they would be the ones bringing the foreclosure. You have a trust that has been getting payments from borrowers for years that it has no right to receive. So you might see borrowers suing the trusts saying give me my money back, you're stealing my money. You're going to then have trusts that don't have any assets that have been issuing securities that say they're backed by a whole bunch of assets, and you're going to have investors suing the trustees for failing to inspect the collateral files, which the trustees say they're going to do, and you're going to have trustees suing the securitization sponsors for violating their representations and warrantees about what they were transferring.

If this were to come to pass -- and plaintiffs lawyers will certainly be eager to show that their clients were paying the wrong mortgage holders -- the value of all instruments (including the performing ones) could plummet.