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Managed Money Traders M.I.A. in Silver in Friday’s COT Report

 -- Published: Sunday, 12 March 2017 | Print  | Disqus 

11 March 2017 — Saturday


The gold price traded quietly lower in Far East trading on their Friday — and back below $1,200 spot, with the low tick of the day printed about ten minutes before the London open.  It crept higher from there until at, or just after, the noon GMT silver fix.  It was sold a bit lower from there — and about ten minutes before the COMEX open, it began to rally with some real authority, but ran into the usual long sellers and short buyers of last resort.  The price was capped minutes after 9 a.m. EST — and was sold down a bit until around 11:30 a.m. in New York.  It began to creep higher starting at 12:15 p.m. EST — and this slow, but steady rally lasted right into the 5:00 p.m. close in the thinly-traded after-hours market.

With the gold price trading within a ten dollar price range once again, the high and low ticks aren’t worth looking up.

Gold finished the Friday session in New York at $1,204.50 spot, up $3.70 on the day.  Net volume was of the sky-high variety at around 223,000 contracts.

Here’s the 5-minute gold tick chart courtesy of Brad — and although it’s not obvious at first glance, there wasn’t much in the way of background volume yesterday.  The scale is what it is because of the 14,000+ contract volume spike that occurred right at 6:30 a.m. Denver time…8:30 a.m. in New York.  It was a busy day in the gold market yesterday.

The silver price was forced to follow a similar pattern as gold on Friday — and throughout the entire session from one end to the other…virtually tick for tick.  I shan’t bother embellishing my silver commentary more than that.

The low and high ticks in this precious metal were reported by the CME Group as $16.855 and $17.105 in the May contract.

Silver was closed in New York yesterday afternoon at $17.015 spot, up 7.5 cents from Thursday.  Net volume was pretty heavy at just under 69,000 contracts.

Here’s the 5-minute tick chart for silver from Brad — and as you can see at a glance, all the volume that mattered occurred during the COMEX trading session…complete with its own big volume spike around 6:30 a.m. MST/8:30 a.m. EST.

Like for the 5-minute tick chart for gold, the vertical gray line is 10:00 p.m. Denver time, midnight in New York — and 1:00 p.m. China Standard Time [CST] the following afternoon in Shanghai—and don’t forget to add two hours for EST.  The ‘click to enlarge‘ feature is a must as well.

The platinum price chopped quietly sideways a dollar or so either side of unchanged during Far East trading on Friday.  It rallied about 5 bucks after the Zurich open — and then chopped sideways until the noon silver fix.  After that, its price pattern was very similar to both silver and gold, with both rallies in morning trading in New York getting squashed before the could get very far.  Then, around 11:30 a.m. EST, the platinum price began to inch higher — and that really picked up speed once the COMEX closed.  Platinum finished the day at $941 spot, up 8 bucks from Thursday.

The palladium price really didn’t do much of anything, although it traded mostly lower by a dollar or two until the COMEX open.  Its rally at that juncture was cut off at the knees shortly after 9 a.m. in New York — and it quietly chopped lower from there…back into negative territory by shortly after 1 p.m. EST.  It rallied back to unchanged…$746 spot…by the 5 p.m. close.

The dollar index closed very late on Thursday afternoon in New York at 102.03 — and began to head lower as soon as trading began at 6:00 p.m. EST a few minutes later.  After shedding about 15 basis points, the index wandered sideways until the job numbers came out at 8:30 a.m. in New York.  The dollar fell to about the 101.42 mark before getting rescued by the usual ‘gentle hands’ at precisely 9:00 a.m.  It ‘rallied’ about 15 basis points or so — and began to head lower shortly after the equity markets opened in New York.  The 101.17 low tick was set at 3:30 p.m. EST — and it certainly looked like the ‘gentle hands’ reappeared to guide the dollar index higher into the close.  The index finished the day at 101.38 — down 65 basis points on the day.

With strong hints from Mnuchin in Europe yesterday about wanting a weaker dollar, that event may be in the cards, despite this baked-in-the-cake interest rate increase next Wednesday.

Here’s the 6-month U.S. dollar index charts — and you can read into it whatever you wish.

The gold stocks opened slightly above unchanged — and then chopped sideways until around 11:20 a.m. in New York trading.  They began to head higher from there — and topped out at 3:30 p.m. when the ‘mystery’ rally in the dollar index began [and gold ticked lower] at that moment.  The HUI finished higher by 2.91 percent.

The silver equities opened up a percent and change — and then chopped lower to a hair above unchanged by 11:20 a.m…when both silver and gold prices began to inch higher for the rest of the Friday session.  The silver stocks also topped out at 3:30 p.m. EST when the dollar index turned higher, although the silver price was barely affected.  Nick Laird’s Intraday Silver Sentiment/Silver 7 Index closed higher by 2.55 percent.  Click to enlarge if necessary.

And here are three charts from Nick that shows the unhappy news for the week, month — and year-to-date.  The first one shows the changes in gold, silver, platinum and palladium for the past week, in both percent and dollar and cents terms, as of Friday’s closes in New York — along with the changes in the HUI and Silver Sentiment/Silver 7 Index.   The Click to Enlarge feature really helps on all three.

And the chart below shows the month-to-date changes as of Friday’s close.

And here are the year-to-date changes.  All the gains are mostly gone in the HUI and the Silver 7 indexes.

And I’m still looking for an explanation as to whey the metals are outperforming their underlying equities.

But on the bright side, it certainly wouldn’t take much of a price rally in either silver or gold to ignite the precious metal equities — and make these charts look a lot better in a real hurry.

The CME Daily Delivery Report was a surprise, as it showed that zero gold — and only 3 silver contracts were posted for delivery within the COMEX-approved depositories on Tuesday.  ADM was the short/issuer out of its client account — and JPMorgan was the stopper for its own account on all 3 contracts.  I shan’t bother linking this amount.  If this tiny delivery at this time of month isn’t a sign of tightness, I don’t know what it is.

The CME Preliminary Report for the Friday trading session showed that gold open interest in March fell by 3 contracts, leaving 28 still around.  Thursday’s Daily Delivery Report showed that 2 gold contracts were actually posted for delivery on Monday, so that means that 3-2=1 contract holder in gold covered and departed the March delivery month.  Silver o.i. in March declined by 132 contracts, leaving 1,148 contracts still open, minus the 3 contracts mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Thursday’s Daily Delivery Report showed that 135 silver contracts were posted for delivery on Monday, so that means that another 135-132=3 silver contracts were added to the March delivery month.  That was a surprise.

I know that Ted will have much more to say about ‘all of the above’ in his weekly commentary this afternoon

There was another withdrawal from GLD yesterday, as an authorized participant took out a chunky 285,663 troy ounces.  And as of 7:47 p.m. EST yesterday evening, there were no reported changes in SLV.

I would suspect that all the SLV shares being dumped are being accumulated by JPM — and at some point we’ll see a rather large withdrawal.  That would be a sure sign that one of Ted’s “exchanges for physical” had just occurred.

Once again there were no reported sales from the U.S. Mint.

Month-to-date mint sales are even more putrid this month than they were this time last month.  So far they’ve sold only 4,500 troy ounces of gold eagles — and 280,000 silver eagles.  And they still haven’t sold a single solitary 1-ounce 24K gold buffalo so far in March.

It was another very quiet day for physical movement in gold over at the COMEX-approved depositories on Thursday.  Nothing was reported received once again — and only 399 troy ounces were shipped out…all from Delaware.  There was some shift from Registered back into Eligible — and most of that occurred at HSBC USA…to the tune of 54,401 troy ounces.  The link to this ‘activity’…such as it is…is here.

Not surprisingly, it was another busy day in silver, as the tightness in the March delivery month continues unabated.   There was one container load…599,942 troy ounces…shipped into JPMorgan — and 1,196,915 troy ounces shipped out, with 1,100,110 troy ounces coming out of HSBC USA.  The remaining ‘out’ activity was 96,000-odd ounces from Canada’s Scotiabank.  There was also a container load…596,571 troy ounces…transferred from the Eligible to the Registered category over at CNT — and that is certainly slated to be delivered in March…most likely JP Morgan-bound!  The link to all that action is here.

JP Morgan’s total physical stash on the COMEX is now sitting at 92.35 million troy ounces — and should be pretty close to the 100 million ounce mark by the time they’ve taken delivery of all the silver they’ve stopped — and have yet to stop — in the March delivery month.

It was fairly busy over at the COMEX-approved gold kilobar depositories in Hong Kong on their Thursday.  They reported receiving 2,728 of them — and shipped out 876.  All of this activity was at Brink’s, Inc. as per usual — and the link to that, in troy ounces, is here.

The Commitment of Traders Report, for positions held at the close of COMEX trading on Tuesday, certainly showed improvements in the commercial net short positions in both silver and gold, but not as much improvement in silver as was expected.  It was very decent in gold, however.

In silver, the Commercial net short position only decreased by 2,148 contracts, or 10.7 million troy ounces of paper silver.  The commercial net short position still sits at a monstrous 529.3 million troy ounces of paper silver.

The commercial traders arrived at the 2,148 contract reporting week change by decreasing their short position by 5,455 contracts, but they also decreased their long position by 3,307 contracts — and the difference between those two numbers is the change for the reporting week.

Ted said that the Big 4 traders decreased their short position by only about 1,000 contracts — and all of that he attributes to JP Morgan.  [He puts their current short position at 29,000 COMEX contracts, down 1,000 from the previous week’s report.  And with the new Bank Participation Report in hand yesterday, he didn’t make any changes to JPMorgan’s short position based on this updated data.]  He said that the ‘5 through 8’ large traders decreased their short position by around 700 contracts — and his raptors, the commercial traders other than the Big 8, decreased their short position by about 400 contracts during the reporting week.

Under the hood in the Disaggregated COT Report, the Managed Money traders only made up 1,444 contracts of the 2,148 contract change for the reporting week.  They only decreased their long position by 1,546 contracts, a very tiny change — and, oddly enough, the also reduced their short position by 102 contracts.  The difference between those two numbers is their 1,444 contract change for the reporting week.  The 700-odd contract difference came courtesy of the traders in the Other Reportables and Nonreportable/small trader categories.

Ted’s “Has the Worm Turned” hypothesis in silver is still very much in play based on this data, because the Managed Money Traders barely reduced their long positions during the reporting week, plus they covered some shorts as well.  We’ll have to wait until next Friday’s report to see how his hypothesis is doing, but lots can happen between now and then — and probably will.

Here’s the 3-year COT chart — and as you can see for yourself, this week’s changes are barely noticeable in the grand scheme of things.  Some would be surprised by this tiny change, as most were expecting more, especially since the 200-day moving average was broken to the downside during the reporting week.  But with Ted’s hypothesis now a work in progress, this tiny change fits in perfectly. Undoubtedly, there has been further improvement in silver since the Tuesday cut-off, as the 50-day moving average also got taken out with some authority.  But who will be the long sellers and short buyers in next week’s report — and by how much?  That will tell all.  Click to enlarge.

In gold, the weekly changes were far more traditional, as Ted’s “Worm Has Turned” thesis is not in play with this precious metal.

The commercial net short position in gold declined by 27,259 contracts, or 2.73 million troy ounces of paper gold.  That takes the commercial net short position down to 15.26 million troy ounces.

Ted said that the Big 4 traders reduced their short position by about 5,700 contracts, the ‘5 through 8’ large traders reduced their short positions as well, by around 5,400 contracts.  And Ted said that the raptors, the commercial traders other than the Big 8, not only closed out their remaining 5,900 short contracts, but they also went long to the tune of around 10,300 contracts.

Under the hood in the Disaggregated COT Report, it was almost all a Managed Money affair, as they decreased their long position by 16,160 contracts, plus they added 7,839 short contracts, for a total weekly swing of 23,999 contracts.  The remaining 3,400 contract change between that number — and the commercial net short position came, as it always does, from the trading in the other two categories…the ‘Other Reportables’ and the Nonreportable/small trader category.

Here’s the 3-year COT chart for gold — and the change looks far more reassuring.  But don’t forget that the internal dynamics in silver and gold in the COMEX futures market are miles apart.  That’s why the big difference between what happened in silver and gold during the reporting week.  Click to enlarge.

Ted and I would have loved to have a had an updated COT report yesterday that showed the changes as of the close of COMEX trading on Friday, as he’d know immediately what the Managed Money traders in silver had done with their long positions.  There are still two more trading days left in the reporting week — and another week before the next COT Report.  Between now and then we get the FOMC meeting — and the unfolding U.S. debt ceiling fiasco.  Next week’s report is a lifetime away at the moment.

Here’s Nick Laird’s “Days to Cover” chart updated with yesterday’s COT data for positions held at the close of COMEX trading on Tuesday.  It shows the days of world production that it would take to cover the short positions of the Big 4 — and Big ‘5 through 8’ traders in each physically traded commodity on the COMEX.  These are the same Big 4 and ‘5 through 8’ traders discussed in the COT Report above.  Click to enlarge.

For the current reporting week, the Big 4 are short 153 days of world silver production—and the ‘5 through 8’ traders are short an additional 55 days of world silver production—for a total of 208 days, which is seven months of world silver production, or about 505.4 million troy ounces of paper silver held short by the Big 8. [In last week’s report the Big 8 were short 212 days of world silver production.]

In the COT Report above, the Commercial net short position in silver is 529.3 million troy ounces.  So for the fourth week in a row, the commercial net short position is larger than the short position held by the Big 8 traders — to the tune of 529.3 – 505.4 = 23.9 million troy ounces…give or take.  What that means in plain English is that Ted’s raptors, the commercial traders other than the Big 8, are now net short in silver, after being net long for what seemed like forever.

As stated in the COT Report, Ted pegs JP Morgan’s short position at around 29,000 contracts, or 145 million ounces, which is down from the 30,000 contracts/150 million ounces they were net short a week ago.  145 million ounces works out to around 60 days of world silver production that JPMorgan is short.  That’s compared to the 208 days that the Big 8 are short in total.

The approximate short position in silver held by Scotiabank works out to around 53 days of world silver production.  For the fourth week in a row, JP Morgan is the number one short holder in silver in the COMEX futures market.

The two largest silver shorts on Planet Earth—JP Morgan and Canada’s Scotiabank—are short about 113 days of world silver production between the two of them—and that 113 days represents 74 percent of the length of the red bar in silver in the above chart…three quarters of it!  The other two traders in the Big 4 category are short, on average, about 20 days of world silver production apiece.  The four traders in the ‘5 through 8’ category are short, on average, a bit under 14 days of world silver production apiece.

The short positions of Scotiabank and JP Morgan combined, represents about 54 percent of the short position held by all the Big 8 traders combined.  How’s that for a concentrated short position within a concentrated short position?

The Big 8 are short 52.6 percent of the entire open interest in silver in the COMEX futures market — and that number would be close to 60 percent once the market-neutral spread trades are subtracted out.  In gold it’s 37.5 percent of the total open interest that the Big 8 are short.

In gold, the Big 4 are short 40 days of world gold production, down from 42 days last week — and the ‘5 through 8’ are short another 18 days of world production, which is down from 20 days from the prior week, for a total of 58 days of world gold production held short by the Big 8.  Based on these numbers, the Big 4 in gold hold about 69 percent of the total short position held by the Big 8.  How’s that for a concentrated short position within a concentrated short position?  At least it’s not quite as bad as silver in that regard, but close enough to be considered the same, which is outrageous.

The “concentrated short positions within a concentrated short position” in silver, platinum and palladium held by the Big 4 are about 73, 75 and 71 percent respectively of the short positions held by the Big 8.  All these percentages are unchanged from last week’s COT Report — and the week before that, as well.

The March Bank Participation Report [BPR] data is extracted directly from the above Commitment of Traders Report.  It shows the COMEX futures contracts, both long and short, that are held by all the U.S. and non-U.S. banks as of Tuesday’s cut-off.  For this one day a month we get to see what the world’s banks are up to in the COMEX futures market, especially in the precious metals—and they’re usually up to quite a bit.

In gold, 5 U.S. banks are net short 54,899 COMEX contracts in the March BPR.  In February’s Bank Participation Report [BPR], that number was 53,915 contracts, so they’ve increased their collective short positions by a smallish 1,000 contracts or so during the reporting period.  Three of the five banks would certainly include JPMorgan, HSBC USA and Citigroup.  As for who the fourth and fifth banks might be—I haven’t a clue, but I doubt very much if their positions, long or short, would be material.

Also in gold, 31 non-U.S. banks are net short 48,559 COMEX gold contracts, which isn’t much per bank.  In the February BPR, 27 non-U.S. banks were net short 41,868 COMEX contracts, so the month-over-month change showed an increase of 6,691 contracts.  And it’s still a mystery as to which non-U.S. bank in the Big ‘5 through 8’ category got bailed out of their huge short position in gold in July of last year.  I’m suspecting it could be Canada’s Scotiabank, but I could be wrong about that.

As of this Bank Participation Report, 36 banks are net short 23.8 percent of the entire open interest in gold in the COMEX futures market, which is a tiny increase from the 23.1 percent they were short in the February BPR.

Here’s Nick’s chart of the Bank Participation Report for gold going back to 2000.  Charts #4 and #5 are the key ones here.  Note the blow-out in the short positions of the non-U.S. banks [the blue bars in chart #4] when Scotiabank’s COMEX gold positions [both long and short] were outed in October of 2012.  Click to Enlarge is a must.

In silver, 5 U.S. banks are net short 31,830 COMEX silver contracts—and it was Ted’s calculation from yesterday that JPMorgan holds around 29,000 of those silver contracts net short on its own — which is about 91 percent of the entire net short position shown in this month’s BPR.  This means that the remaining 4 U.S. banks aren’t net short by much — and a couple of them might actually be net long!  In February’s BPR, the net short position of these five U.S. banks was 26,554 contracts, so there’s been an increase of 5,276 contracts in the net short positions of the U.S. banks since then — and JPMorgan probably owned all of that increase.  As Ted says, JPMorgan is the ‘Big Kahuna’ in silver as far as the U.S. banking system is concerned.  No kidding!

Also in silver, 20 non-U.S. banks are net short 36,306 COMEX contracts—and that’s down 1,167 contracts from the 37,473 contracts that these same non-U.S. banks held short in the February BPR.  I’m still prepared to bet big money that Canada’s Scotiabank is the proud owner of the lion’s share of this short position—somewhere between 65 and 75 percent of the above number.  That most likely means that a number of the remaining 19 non-U.S. banks might actually be net long the COMEX silver market by a bit.  But even if they aren’t, the remaining short positions divided up between these remaining 19 non-U.S. banks, are immaterial — and have always been so.

As of this Bank Participation Report, 25 banks are net short 35.4 percent of the entire open interest in the COMEX futures market in silver—which is up  from the 33.0 percent that they were net short in the February BPR — with much more than the lion’s share of that held by only two banks…Canada’s Scotiabank and JP Morgan.

Here’s the BPR chart for silver.  Note in Chart #4 the blow-out in the non-U.S. bank short position [blue bars] in October of 2012 when Scotiabank was brought in from the cold.  Also note August 2008 when JPMorgan took over the silver short position of Bear Stearns—the red bars.  It’s very noticeable in Chart #4—and really stands out like the proverbial sore thumb it is in chart #5.  Click to enlarge.

In platinum, 5 U.S. banks are net short 14,119 COMEX contracts in the February Bank Participation Report.  In the February BPR, these same banks were short 14,526 COMEX platinum contracts, so there’s been almost no meaningful change in the U.S. banks’ short position from the prior month.

I suspect that, like in silver and palladium, JP Morgan holds virtually all of the platinum short position of the 5 U.S. banks in question.

Also in platinum, 17 non-U.S. banks are net short 8,930 COMEX contracts, which is down a smallish 459 contracts from the 9,389 contracts they were net short in the February BPR.  Their short positions are most likely immaterial compared to the short positions held by the 5 U.S. banks…or, more likely, 1 or 2 U.S. banks.

If there is a large player in platinum among the non-U.S. banks, I wouldn’t know which one it is.  However I’m sure there’s at least one big one in this group.  The reason I say that is because before mid-2009 when the U.S. banks showed up, the non-U.S. banks were always net long the platinum market by a bit—see the chart below—and now they’re net short.  The remaining 16 non-U.S. banks divided into whatever contracts are left, isn’t a lot, unless they’re all operating in collusion—which I doubt.  But from the numbers it’s easy to see that the platinum price management scheme is an American show as well, with one big non-U.S. bank possibly involved.  Scotiabank perhaps.

And as of February’s Bank Participation Report, 22 banks are net short 33.8 percent of the entire open interest in platinum in the COMEX futures market, which is down a bit from the 36.9 percent they were collectively net short in the February BPR.  The ‘click to enlarge‘ feature is a must here as well.

In palladium, 4 U.S. banks were net short 6,722 COMEX contracts in the March BPR, which is down 673 contracts from the 7,395 contracts they held net short in the February BPR.

Also in palladium, 13 non-U.S. banks are net short 3,864 COMEX contracts—which is an increase of 817 contracts from the 3,047 COMEX contracts that these same banks were short in the February BPR.  When you divide up the short positions of the non-U.S. banks more or less equally, they’re mostly immaterial, just like they are in platinum.

But, having said all that, as of this Bank Participation Report, 17 banks are net short 37.8 percent of the entire COMEX open interest in palladium.  In February’s BPR, the world’s banks were net short 35.6 percent.

Here’s the palladium BPR chart.  You should note that the U.S. banks were almost nowhere to be seen in the COMEX futures market in this metal until the middle of 2007—and they became the predominant and controlling factor by the end of Q1 of 2013.  But their footprint is much smaller now.  However, I would still be prepared to bet big money that, like platinum and silver, JPMorgan holds the vast majority of the U.S. banks’ short position in this precious metal as well.  Click to enlarge.

As I say every month at this time, there’s a maximum of three U.S. banks—JPMorgan, HSBC USA and Citigroup—along with Canada’s Scotiabank—that are the tallest hogs at the precious metal price management trough. However, it’s also a fact that one of the non-U.S. banks in the Big ‘5 through 8’ category got bailed out of its COMEX short position in gold in July of last year.

But JP Morgan and Canada’s Scotiabank still remain the two largest silver short holders on Planet Earth in the COMEX futures market, with JP Morgan momentarily in the #1 spot.  I would suspect that might apply to gold as well, although it may not in the case of Scotiabank, if the non-U.S. bank that got bailed out in July turns out to be them.  The jury, as I said further up, is still out on that one.

I have an average number of stories for you today, including a fair number that have been sitting in my in-box awaiting my Saturday column.  I hope you have enough time in what’s left of your weekend to watch/listen/read the ones that interest you.


U.S. interest rate rise almost certain after bumper jobs growth

The U.S. Federal Reserve is poised to raise interest rates next week for only the third time since the financial crisis after the latest job numbers for the world’s largest economy beat expectations.

The closely watched Labor department data for February showed that the number of new jobs soared to 235,000, the best month for job growth since July last year, adding to pressure on the central bank to agree the first of three predicted rises this year.

Officials meet on Wednesday in the wake of strong employment, manufacturing and consumer data that should persuade the Fed to add further to its December rate rise, which saw the cost of borrowing raised by 0.25% to a range of between 0.5% and 0.75%.

President Donald Trump grabbed the chance to hail the strong jobs numbers, covering the first full month of his administration, as a personal victory, despite the momentum clearly springing from the legacy of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

This news item put in an appearance on Internet site at 6:15 p.m. GMT on their Friday evening, which was 1:15 p.m. on Friday afternoon EST.  I thank Patrik Ekdahl for sharing it with us — and another link to it is here.  The Zero Hedge headline on this reads “Gold Jumps Above $1,200 As Bond Yields, Dollar Drop After ‘Disappointing’ Jobs Data” — and that comes to us courtesy of Brad Robertson.

Dollar Tumbles to Session Lows on Mnuchin Devaluation, Trade Deficit Warning

First, the dollar dropped following comments from commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, who said that he expected to start renegotiating NAFTA within two weeks and that Japan will be high on the list for trade agreements.

Now, in a second salvo against the strong dollar on the same day, Bloomberg reports that during his first appearance at next week’s G-20 meeting in Baden-Baden, Germany, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plans to drive home the message that the U.S. won’t tolerate countries that engage in currency devaluation to gain an edge in trade, a statement which would clearly refute Mnuchin’s recent praise for a stronger dollar, and provides further evidence that the Trump administration’s preliminary focus will be on getting the dollar weaker, not stronger, which may in turn impact the Fed’s decision-making, especially if indeed Yellen hopes to hike rates three (or more) times in 2017.

More from Bloomberg:  If Mnuchin advances this argument further in Germany, he’ll find himself at odds with fellow Goldman Sachs alumnus Mario Draghi. The European Central Bank president on Thursday rejected the Trump administration charge that Germany is manipulating its currency — the euro, which is shares with 18 other countries — and defended the G-20 status quo. “It’s quite important that the G-20 reaffirms this commitment,” Draghi said at a press conference in Frankfurt. The consensus against protectionism and in favor of market-based exchange rates “have been pillars of world prosperity for many, many years,” he said.

One ex-Goldmanite versus another: it should make for an entertaining media – and trial balloon – spectacle, if little more.

Having been hit earlier following Ross’ comments, the greenback slide further, and hit intraday lows following the Mnichin statement, as concerns build that the Trump administration’s patience with a strong dollar may have run out.

This worthwhile news item showed up on the Zero Hedge website at 12:52 p.m. on Friday afternoon EST — and it’s another Brad Robertson offering — and another link to it is here.

David Stockman and Robert Kiyosaki: How to navigate these uncertain times

David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s budget director, and former Wall Street insider, joins Robert. Stockman uses clear language to explain why Trump is doomed, why income inequality will only get worse, and what you can do to navigate these uncertain times. Stockman and Robert lay out the road map that lead America to a cycle of economic bubbles. Find out why Robert and Stockman both believe the next crash will be the worse ever.

This 57-minute long audio interview was posted on the Internet site on Wednesday — and for length reasons it had to wait until today’s column.  I thank Roy Stephens for sharing it with us — and another link to it is here.

Oroville Dam/spillway update

This commentary /video runs for 4:59 minutes and was posted on the Internet site back on March 6th, which was Monday.  Roy Stephens sent it our way on Wednesday — and it’s another news item that had to wait for today.

Doug Noland: Unparalleled Credit and Global Yields

New Fed Q4 Z.1 Credit and flow data was out this week. For the first time since 2007, annual Total Non-Financial Debt (NFD) growth exceeded $2.0 TN – a bogey I’ve used as a rough estimate of sufficient new Credit to fuel self-reinforcing reflation. Based on some nebulous “neutral rate,” the Fed rationalizes that it’s not behind the curve. Robust “money” and Credit growth argues otherwise. A Bloomberg headline from earlier in the week: “Taylor Rule Suggests Fed is About 12 Hikes Behind.”

The Bubble in Federal debt runs unabated. Federal debt jumped $843bn in 2016, up from 2015’s $725bn increase to the strongest growth since 2013’s $857bn. It’s worth noting that after ending 2007 at $6.074 TN, outstanding Treasury debt has inflated more than 160% to $16.0 TN. As a percentage of GDP, Treasury debt has increased from 42% to end 2007 to 86% to close out last year.

Yet Treasury is not Washington’s only aggressive creditor. GSE Securities jumped a notable $352bn in 2016 to a record $8.521 TN, the largest annual increase since 2008. In quite a resurgence, GSE Securities increased almost $1.0 TN over the past four years. Treasury and GSE Securities (federal finance) combined to increase $1.194 TN in 2016 to $24.504 TN, or 132% of GDP. For comparison, at the end of 2007 Treasury and Agency Securities combined for $13.449 TN, or 93% of GDP.

The unprecedented amount of system-wide debt is so enormous that the annual percentage gains no longer appear as alarming. Non-Financial Debt expanded 4.7% in 2016, up from 2015’s 4.4%. Total Household Debt expanded 3.6%, with Total Business borrowings up 5.6%. Financial Sector borrowings expanded 2.9% last year, the strongest expansion since 2008.

Doug’s weekly Credit Bubble Bulletin is always worth reading — and this one is no exception.  I found it on his website just before midnight Denver time — and another link to it is here.

U.K. Likely to Trigger Article 50 by Tuesday: Juncker Hopes U.K. Will “Re-Enter the Boat

One U.K. government official involved in the process said he “hoped” that Article 50 could begin on Tuesday when Mrs May is due to address the House of Commons, but would certainly start by the end of the week.

Donald Tusk, the E.U. Council president, said that other European capitals would be ready to issue draft “guidelines” for negotiations within 48 hours. The E.U. is “well prepared for all procedures”, he said, at the conclusion of a meeting at which Europe’s political elite continued fleshing out plans for life without the U.K. in the bloc.

Mrs. May faces votes in both houses of parliament on Monday which are likely to give her the authority to begin Brexit.

Brexit negotiations will start this month, most likely on March 14 when Prime Minister Theresa May addresses Parliament. The E.U. has Prepared Brexit Guidelines.

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Juncker is in Fantasyland…hoping that the U.K. “will reenter the boat“.

This article appeared on the Internet site  at 3:04 p.m. EST yesterday afternoon — and it’s another contribution from Roy Stephens.  Another link to it is here.

Volkswagen pleads guilty to all criminal charges in emissions cheating scandal

Volkswagen pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges in a brazen scheme to get around U.S. pollution rules on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles by using software to suppress emissions of nitrogen oxide during tests.

The German automaker has already agreed to pay $4.3bn in civil and criminal penalties – the largest ever levied by the U.S. government against an automaker –although VW’s total cost of the scandal has been pegged at about $21bn, including a pledge to repair or buy back vehicles.

As recently as 20 February, the company’s executives insisted they had “misled nobody” in testimony before the British House of Commons’ transport select committee.

Even after that admission, company employees were busy deleting computer files and other evidence, VW’s general counsel Manfred Doss acknowledged to U.S. district judge Sean Cox.

Summing up the scandal, assistant U.S. attorney John Neal said it was a “calculated offense”, not a “momentary lapse of judgment”.

This AP story was picked up by The Guardian at 5:58 p.m. GMT on Friday afternoon, which was 12:58 p.m. EST in New York.  I thank Patricia Caulfield for sending it our way — and another link to it is here.

More Russian emigrants return home, report disappointment with E.U.

About 150 thousand people returned to Russia from foreign countries in 2016, the interior ministry said. State support for repatriates and the anti-Russia campaign in Western countries were the top reasons given.

According to the report, quoted by Izvestia daily, the total number of people who returned to Russia from foreign nations in 2016 was 146,585. Most of them returned from former Soviet republics, but as many as 30,000 people returned to Russia from E.U. countries, the report reads.

A man called Yan, who has lived in Paris for over 20 years, told the newspaper that he personally knew about 20 people who had decided to return to Russia because of the changed attitude of the French.

Most media knowingly distort information in order to keep the population of Europe in constant fear of Russia. When you find yourself in a group that is under constant pressure you would defend your people or your nation more vigorously. But in the end you grow tired of justifying it and decide to return to where your home is,” Yan told reporters.

This news story appeared on their Internet site at 11:21 a.m. Moscow time on their Thursday morning, which was 3:21 a.m. on Thursday morning in Washington — EDT plus 8 hours.  It’s another offering from Roy Stephens — and another link to it is here.

All Washington blames Putin and calls for investigations of Russian villainy: John Batchelor interviews Stephen F. Cohen

The character of events from week to week, and as discussed by both Batchelor and Cohen, is manifestly worsening. While the proxy wars are stabilizing to some little extent, we see the political wars in governments as fall out of the New Cold War in a constant state of escalation.  Cohen notes a New York Times piece by Charles Blow that coined a name for what is happening as an “Era of Suspicion” and the author considered this a positive thing for the country – where all the interest groups are being forced by the hate and fear campaign to align with the anti-Russian narrative whether it serves their interests or not. This past week Batchelor brings up the news about the Estonian Ambassador, Eerik Marmei and the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin who spoke to a Senate subcommittee about Russia disrupting elections in Europe, and the danger of cyber warfare by Russia. Also mentioned were the Trump charges that Obama had his Trump Tower “bugged”. Cohen then launched into what the consequences of this new “Era of Suspicion” and the professor describes how the pressure to conform has influenced all the politicos (Flynn debacle) and the masters of industry in the United States, who want to have business dealings with Russia, into remaining cautiously silent.  These and other efforts are being used to isolate Trump and neuter or redirect any chance of détente or even honest discussion of serious geopolitical events. It is working too – with Republicans also becoming divided. Some Republicans are looking at Vice President Pence for the president’s position.

Cohen also discusses the role of “expert consultants on Russia” in the media and their efforts to vilify Putin and the Kremlin. All interviews using these people are factually untrue. The most egregious of these, for example, maintained that Putin was “deliriously happy that Washington was in complete chaos over Russian policies”. Batchelor exclaims that this is “complete rubbish”. It was also Batchelor’s opinion that it was serious that Trump did not mention Russia in his address to Congress. What this indicates is that détente is getting much less likely. Cohen also mentions the resurrection of McCarthyism with a Committee of Un-American Activity being formed and concludes that disorder is the contrived tenure of modern Western diplomacy. In my opinion Trump has to decide whether folding to the will of his opposition will stop this campaign to remove him or will it show weakness that will lead to escalation. His reticence to talk about Russia may be testing the waters, or be showing weakness. Senator Graham, who talked with the president, seems to think the latter and the US will “push back” against Russia. I think Trump is folding too.

The push back will see more support for NATO and perhaps more military help for Ukraine. Cohen discusses the quasi NATO presence now in Ukraine, and he also brings up a potential increase in US troop presence in Syria. He discusses the dangers of a combined military presence of US and Russian assets in Syria. Cohen then discusses the simple solution to ease the danger, and it really is simple. Disengagement. But Putin needs Washington (Trump) to cooperate. But Cohen now considers this as unlikely as he thinks Trump is folding to his opposition in Washington. In Ukraine the political and economic situation is worse and where President Poroshenko is having no control over the ukronazis – who are now embargoing coal imports from the Donbass. This hurts Kiev, but also illuminates the reality of a failing central government.  A personal question: Will NATO continue to base troops there? It would mean contending with or working with nazis in a failed state environment? But would most of the West hear about it? That’s where we are, living behind a virtual information wall that George Orwell would immediately recognize.

From my point of view the Military Industrial Complex has shown no sense of danger in supporting a “confrontation for profit” policy against Russia, and now the people of the West are effectively “walled off” from learning about critical realities by a systemic corruption of the MSM. Washington is creating its own “Iron Curtain”. Not even discussions at the highest levels of Washington are tolerated unless they support the narrative. One wonders how long this can go on with the Military Industries dependent on tax dollars, and the financial sector and other interests looting the economy and destroying that same tax base. This becomes another reason to impose that “Era of Suspicion” on the whole country; if one cannot advise or discuss an argument against war dangers (or government policies) without censure, then war becomes more inevitable in spite of the fundamentals that work against it. One could say, “unleash the dogs of war” but first hugely increase the fiscal deficit.

This 39-minute audio interview from Tuesday is certainly worth your time, especially if you’re a serious student of the New Great Game.  A big THANK YOU to Larry Galearis for sending us the link, plus for the above executive summary — and another link to it is here.

The time to invest in Iran is now” — Pepe Escobar

It’s a beautiful late winter morning, the snowy Alborz mountains glittering under the sun, and Professor Mohammad Marandi from the faculty of world studies at the University of Tehran is taking me on the road, westbound.

Sprawling west Tehran is a decentralization/connectivity spectacular, with its brand new highways, metro lines, artificial lakes and megamalls. While not on the epic scale of the construction rush in Beijing or Shanghai, it is similar in spirit and comparable to what’s going on in Istanbul.

The professor — arguably Iran’s leading political and cultural analyst —and I had been on a running conversation for days on all aspects of an evolving Russia-China-Iran strategic partnership, the massive Eurasia integration project pushed by China, and its myriad interconnected challenges.

Watching west Tehran go by, it was hard not to connect this new normal to the atmosphere of excitement surrounding the Iran nuclear deal struck in Vienna in the summer of 2015. But this had actually started even before President Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013, “linked to Iran’s stability and rising regional status,” Marandi said.

This commentary by Pepe showed up on the Internet site on Wednesday — and it’s another article that had to wait for my Saturday missive.  The first reader through the door with it was Roy Stephens — and another link to it is here.

U.S. Targets China and Russia Under Guise of ‘Korea Protector’

The sped-up deployment of America’s THAAD missile defense system in South Korea this week has triggered alarm over a new arms race in the Asia-Pacific region. Central to regional concerns is the following question: why is the US missile system capable of penetrating deep inside Chinese and Russian territory?

The installation of the U.S.-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea this week has gone ahead despite earlier protests from China and Russia that it would upset the strategic balance in the region. China’s reaction has been particularly furious, with media outlets there calling for economic sanctions on major South Korean commercial ties between the two countries.

Deployment of the THAAD system near South Korea’s capital Seoul has also been brought forward by several months since it was first announced by Washington and its South Korean ally last year.

The apparent prompt for the latest move was the test-firing of four ballistic missiles by North Korea earlier this week in the Sea of Japan. That test reportedly spurred the Americans to deploy the THAAD in South Korea. Components arrived this week onboard giant C-17 military transport planes from a base in Texas.

Both Japan and South Korea have been unnerved by a spate of nuclear and ballistic weapons testing in recent years carried out by North Korea in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Washington says it is obliged by long-held defense pacts to allay its allies’ fears by installing THAAD.

However, Beijing and Moscow are apprehensive that their territories are the real target for the American missile system and that they represent the ultimate strategic objectives behind Washington’s declared defense commitments. In other words, Washington is playing a charade of acting as a virtuous protector when in fact it is being an aggressor.

A charade it is, as the U.S. war machine has no interest in peace.  This commentary/opinion piece by Finian Cunningham was posted on the Internet site on Friday sometime — and I thank Roy Stephens for his final contribution to today’s column.  Another link to it is here.

On Galápagos: Revealing the Blue-Footed Booby’s True Colors

The birds move with comic grace, like Fred Astaire and Judy Garland as hobo swells in oversize shoes. The male faces the female and slowly, slowly lifts up one foot, sets it down and lifts the other. Check out my feet! They’re blue. Really, really blue.

The female mirrors his ponderous moves. Mine are blue, too. Is this ground sticky, or what?

He leans over, spreads his wings wide, points his bill at the sky and whistles breathily, as if blowing on a toy flute. She grunts and totters up to him, and they clack bills. He grabs a pebble, and they clack bills again; he drops the pebble and spears a twig. Clack, whistle, grunt, whistle. And suddenly, she backs away.

Desperate, the male solemnly starts high-stepping again, displaying his beautiful teal-blue feet. But the courtship has fizzled, and when the female again lifts up a foot in response, it looks as if she’s waving goodbye.

It’s dating time here for the blue-footed booby. Everywhere, dozens of times a day, the large, handsome seabirds are making their highly ritualized courtship display — one reason the boobies are among the most celebrated and beloved residents of this archipelago.

This cute, funny — and very interesting article put in an appearance on The New York Times website on Monday — and for obvious content reasons, it had to wait for today’s column.  I thank Zoey for pointing it out — and it’s definitely worth your while, even if you only look at the photos — and the embedded video clip.  Another link to it is here.

Indian government mobilizes 6.4 tonnes of gold under paperization scheme

The government has collected 6.4 tonnes of gold under the scheme for monetising the metal, Parliament was informed today.

Launched in November 2015, the scheme intends to mobilise idle gold held by households and institutions so that the wealth can be put to productive use.

The scheme also intends to reduce the current account deficit by lowering country’s reliance on gold imports to meet the domestic demand, Minister of State for Finance Arun Ram Meghwal said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

6.4 tonnes is but a small drop in a very big bucket.  This PTI story showed up on The Economic Times of India website at 7:08 p.m. IST on their Friday evening — and I found it in a GATA dispatch.  Another link to it is here.

India Braces for Ban on Large Cash Deals

India’s ban on high-value cash transactions could damage rural gold demand or spur growth in the black market, the World Gold Council (WGC) warned.

From April 1, the government will cap cash purchases at $4,493 (INR 300,000) as it continues its attempts to transform the nation’s economy into one based more on electronic transactions.

This will have the greatest impact in rural India, where people do not necessarily have access to checks and electronic payments,” the WGC said in a market update Wednesday.

Even so, the ban on large cash deals could merely impact jewelry buyers’ shopping habits rather than force them to spend less overall.

However, the gradual shift to cashless payments will benefit the gold market in the long term, the council predicted.  “Over time, consumers will move away from cash towards digital payments, and organized players should benefit from this trend,” it said. “This change in market dynamics will result in more transparency and a better deal for consumers, protecting them from shady practices such as under-carating.”

This gold-related news item showed up on the Internet site at on Thursday, March 9 — but no time zone was given.  I found this on the Sharps Pixley website last night — and another link to it is here.

How to Become an International Gold Smuggler

As the minutes ticked by on the afternoon of April 28, 2015, Harold Vilches watched stoically while customs officers at Santiago’s international airport scrutinized his carry-on. Inside the roller bag was 44 pounds of solid gold, worth almost $800,000, and all the baby-faced, 21-year-old college student wanted was clearance to get on a red-eye to Miami. Vilches had arrived at the airport six hours early because he thought there might be some trouble—he’d heard that customs had recently seized shipments from competing smugglers. But Vilches had done this run, or sent people to do it, more than a dozen times, and he’d prepared his falsified export paperwork with extra care. He was pretty sure he wouldn’t have any trouble. While he waited, he texted his contacts in Florida, telling them he’d already cleared customs.

The plan was to hand off the gold at the Miami airport to a pair of guards, who would load it into an armored truck for the short trip to NTR Metals Miami LLC, a company that buys gold in quantities large and small and sells it into the global supply chain. The modesty of its shabby office, where a receptionist sits behind an inch-thick acrylic barrier, belies the amount of business that goes on inside. U.S. Department of Justice investigators believe NTR Metals Miami has bought at least $3 billion in South American gold in the past four years, much of it from illegal mining operations, people familiar with the investigation say.

Vilches didn’t need this headache. In just two years he had rapidly risen in the ranks of Latin American gold smugglers. Although he was barely old enough to order a beer in Miami, he’d won a $101 million contract to supply a gold dealer in Dubai. That hadn’t exactly worked out—the Dubai company was after him for $5.2 million it says he misappropriated—but still, in a brief career he’d acquired and then resold more than 4,000 lb. of gold, according to Chilean prosecutors. U.S. investigators and Chilean prosecutors suspect almost all of it was contraband.

That evening at the airport, Vilches employed his standard cover story, saying that the gold came from coins acquired from customers and recast as ingots. The customs officers weren’t buying it. The laboratory Vilches had used to vouch for the gold wasn’t government-certified, they said, and they doubted his claims that the gold had come from coins. Vilches was irate. He couldn’t believe it when the man behind the desk called his boss and then relayed orders from above: If it’s Vilches’s gold, seize it.

Investigators with the Policía de Investigaciones, Chile’s equivalent of the FBI, had been monitoring Vilches for months, intercepting his phone calls and scouring the export papers he’d submitted. The kid was clever, they agreed, but who was he working for? “I thought there was someone behind him, always,” says José Luis Pérez, a Chilean prosecutor on the case.

This very long feature/photo essay was posted on the Internet site at 2:00 a.m. Denver time on Thursday morning — and Brad Robertson found it on the Zero Hedge website.  Another link to it is hereI haven’t read it yet, but certainly plan on it over the weekend.


Andy Seliverstoff is a 58-year-old professional photographer from St. Petersburg, Russia — and this photo was taken in one of the various parks around the city.  I’ll have more from this photographer in the days and weeks ahead.  Click to enlarge.


Today’s pop ‘blast from the past’ dates from 1977 — and was featured on their album “The Grand Illusion“.  It became one of their biggest hits.  You’ll know the song — and the group — instantly.  The link is here.

Today’s classical ‘blast from the past’ is one I haven’t featured before — and I’m sure it’s because I’m so familiar with it, that I’m tired of it.  It’s Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 [The Emperor] in E flat major, Op. 73 — and it’s another one of the old warhorses of the classical repertoire.  Here’s Daniel Barenboim once again, just like last week — and the link is here.

It certainly was an interesting day from a price perspective in all four precious metals perspective on Friday.  It’s impossible to tell whether the lows were in or not — and if they’re not, they’re not far off.  The precious metal equities certainly were on a tear.

Of course it’s what happens on Wednesday after the FOMC meeting that should indicate where we go from here, but to put a stake in the ground about it at this moment in time, would be more than premature.

So we wait some more.

Here are the 6-month charts for all four precious metals, plus copper, once again — and the most important is the silver chart, at least from a price perspective.  But from a March delivery perspective, things have never been tighter — and I must admit that I can hardly wait to see what Ted has to say about it later today — and I’ll steal what I think I can get away with for my column on Tuesday.  The click to enlarge feature helps a bit with the first four charts.

And once more, here’s the 6-month chart for WTIC, as it closed below $50 the barrel yesterday.

The current state of the world’s financial system could hardly be more egregious.  I know from reading Doug’s Credit Bubble Bulletin further up, that even he is lost for words as to how to describe it.  But there should be no doubt that the world’s largest financial bubble in history continues to expand in all directions.  What pin awaits it in the future is not apparent — and it’s “pedal to the metal” in all directions at the moment.

Returning to the COMEX silver market briefly, I snatched a few more words from silver analyst Ted Butler‘s Wednesday missive… “I am thunderstruck when observing just how much stronger the control of the COMEX has grown with each passing day.

There is no shortage of evidence that what happens in COMEX futures contract positioning has become the prime, if not sole driver of price. It can be seen in the almost universal attention paid to the current near-record bearish market structure in COMEX silver, where the last COT report indicated massive managed money long and commercial short positions. Never have I seen more specific references to this highly-specialized fact of market life. Most remarkable of all is that the attention to the COMEX market structure is well-deserved and justified.”

But whether or not things will play out in silver the way they have in the past, is still not known.  Will the Managed Money traders dump longs and go short during this engineered price decline?  They certainly didn’t do much in yesterday’s COT Report, only reducing their gigantic long position by 1,546 contracts — and not only did they not add to their short position, they actually reduced it by 102 contracts.  That was on a price decline of just about a dollar — plus the 200-day moving average fell during the reporting week as well.  If that didn’t induce them to sell, will have blasting through the 50-day moving average on Thursday made any appreciable difference?

I’m sure that there has been some Managed Money long selling/shorting during the reporting week in progress…but how much?  And if they’re not prepared to dump any more longs or go short to any great degree from here, then how are the commercial traders going to be able to cover their monstrous short positions?

Of course this doesn’t affect JP Morgan, because they have more than enough physical silver to cover their remaining short position if need be.

This is a drama playing out in real time and, concurrently, we have the ongoing and extremely tight March delivery month in the metal itself, which Ted pointed out, is a different situation entirely.

You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Something has to give at some point regarding silver — and sometime between now and the end of this month, I expect their to some sort of denouement, as this situation can’t remain like this more much longer.

Beware the Ides of March“…indeed!

See on Tuesday.



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