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'Da Boyz' Cap the Precious Metal Rallies On the Bad Economic News

 -- Published: Sunday, 16 July 2017 | Print  | Disqus 

15 July 2017 -- Saturday


The gold price sold off a few dollars in morning trading in the Far East on their Friday.  The price began to crawl higher starting shortly before 2 p.m. CST -- and accelerated a bit in late morning trading in London.  The retail sales/consumer prices data was released at 8:30 a.m. EDT in New York -- and the gold price shot higher instantly, but was brutally capped within seconds on super-high volume.  The high tick of the day was printed minutes before 9 a.m. -- and was sold lower until around 11:15 a.m. EDT -- and then traded flat for the remainder of the Friday session.

The low and high ticks were reported as $1,214.00 and $1,232.70 in the August contract.

The gold price was closed in New York yesterday at $1,228.40 spot, up $11.10 from Thursday.  Net volume was pretty spectacular at around 217,000 contracts, with at least twenty percent of that amount used to put out the 5-alarm fire that occurred at 8:30 a.m. in New York yesterday morning.  Roll-over/switch volume out of August was fairly decent as well.

And here's the 5-minute gold tick chart courtesy of Brad Robertson.  The main reason for posting it was to show the huge volume spike that occurred at 6:35 a.m. Denver time/8:35 a.m. in New York...20,000+ contracts.   That's what it took to kill the initial price spike that occurred on the retail sales/consumer prices data that was released at that moment.  Volume didn't drop off to anything resembling normal until after the 8 a.m. MDT/10 a.m. EDT/3 p.m. BST London afternoon gold fix.

The vertical gray line is 10:00 p.m. Denver time, midnight in New York — and noon China Standard Time [CST] the following day in Shanghai—and don’t forget to add two hours for EDT.  The ‘click to enlarge‘ feature is a must.

It was virtually the same price path for silver on Friday as it was for gold.  The only discernible difference was the fact that the high tick of the day came at the afternoon gold fix in London -- and not at 9 a.m. in New York.  Once again silver was turned back at the $16 spot mark.

The low and high ticks in this precious metal were reported by the CME Group as $15.575  and $16.07 in the September contract.

Silver finished the Friday session in New York at $15.955 spot, up 28.5 cents on the day.  It would have close up $285 if allowed to trade freely in a market-clearing event for the ages.  Net volume was extremely heavy at just under 85,000 contracts.  Like in gold, a goodly chunk of that amount was used to snuff out the rally at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

And here's the 5-minute tick chart for silver, courtesy of Brad as well.  Note the big volume spike, plus the fact that is was, as usual, only what happened during the COMEX trading session that mattered.

As in gold, the vertical gray line is 10:00 p.m. Denver time, midnight in New York — and noon China Standard Time [CST] the following day in Shanghai—and don’t forget to add two hours for EDT.  The ‘click to enlarge‘ feature is a must here as well.

Ditto for platinum -- and the only difference with this precious metal vs. gold and silver was that it was allowed to rally a bit in early afternoon trading in New York, but ran into a concrete price ceiling at the $920 spot mark.  It finished the day at $919 spot -- and up 17 dollars from Thursday's close.

The palladium price rose and fell three bucks during Far East trading -- and was basically sitting at unchanged when Zurich opened.  It began to rally from the point, but got cut off at the knees at 8:30 a.m. in New York.  By 10:20 a.m. it had been sold back to unchanged, but rallied a few dollars going into the Zurich close -- and didn't do much of anything after that.  Palladium was closed on Friday in New York at $854 spot, up 2 dollars on the day.

The dollar index closed very late on Thursday afternoon in New York at 95.76 -- and after a tiny spike upwards at the 6:00 p.m. EDT open on Thursday evening, it began to chop quietly lower.  The rug got pulled out from under it on the 8:30 retail sales/consumer prices numbers.  The precipitous decline was halted at 9 a.m. by the usual 'gentle hands' I would suspect -- and it continued to head quietly lower from there, closing almost on its low tick of the day.  The dollar index finished the Friday session at 95.10 -- and down 66 basis points from Thursday.

It was another one of those trading sessions...the second one this week...where if the Plunge Protection Team hadn't been at battle stations, the dollar index would have crashed and burned once again.  That's why I post the 6-month U.S. dollar index chart for its entertainment value only.  Because its 'value' the precious metals...has absolutely nothing to do with free-market forces.

The gold stocks gapped up a bunch at the open -- and their high ticks were set fifteen minutes later.  They didn't do much until a minute or so before 2 p.m. in New York -- and then began to fade from there right into the close.  The HUI finished higher by 1.56 percent.  I was underwhelmed.

The silver equities gapped up a bit as well, but continued to rally until around 11:30 a.m. in New York.  They traded flat from there until they began to head lower starting just before 2 p.m...just like their golden cousins.  However, Nick Laird's Intraday Silver Sentiment/Silver 7 Index fared far better, closing up 3.42 percent.  Click to enlarge if necessary.

And here's the 6-month Silver Sentiment/Silver 7 Index.  Click to enlarge.

Here are the three charts from Nick that show what's been happening for the week, month -- and year-to-date.  The first one shows the changes in gold, silver, platinum and palladium for the past trading week, in both percent and dollar and cents terms, as of their Friday closes in New York — along with the changes in the HUI and the Silver 7 Index.

It's been a pretty good week.  Click to enlarge for all three charts.

And month-to-date.  It ain't that great, but it looks a lot better than the same chart did last Saturday.

...and the year-to-date.  It's looked better, but it's also looked worse.  Click to enlarge.

They say that market bottoms are ugly -- and they are.  But this one has been uglier than most.  Let's just hope that JPMorgan and Canada's Scotiabank are done to the downside.

The CME Daily Delivery Report showed that 3 gold and 51 silver contracts were posted for delivery within the COMEX-approved depositories on Tuesday.  Scotiabank stopped all 3 gold contracts for its own account.  In silver, the only two short/issuers were International F.C. Stone with 32 contracts from its own in-house [proprietary] trading account -- and ABN Amro issued 19 contract from its client account.  ADM was the largest long/stopper by far with 34 for its client account.  The link to yesterday's Issuers and Stoppers Report is here.

So far in July there have been 120 gold, plus 2,866 silver contracts issued and stopped.

The CME Preliminary Report for the Friday trading session showed that gold open interest in July dropped by 53 contracts, leaving 32 remaining, minus the 3 mentioned just above.  Thursday's Daily Delivery Report showed that only 2 gold contracts were actually posted for delivery on Monday, so that means that 53-2=51 gold contracts vanished from the July delivery month without either have to make or take delivery.  Silver o.i. in July fell by 41 contracts, leaving 110 still around, minus the 51 contracts mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Thursday's Daily Delivery Report showed that 8 silver contracts were actually posted for delivery on Monday, so that means that 41-8=33 silver contracts, like their golden counterparts just mentioned, disappeared from the July delivery month as well.

There were no reported changes in either GLD or SLV yesterday.

There was no sales report from the U.S. Mint, either.

Month-to-date the mint has sold 10,500 troy ounces of gold eagles -- 2,500 one-ounce 24K gold buffaloes -- and 1,290,000 silver eagles.

For the entire month of June, the mint sold 4,000 troy ounces of gold eagles, 1,000 one-ounce 24K gold buffaloes -- and 320,000 silver eagles.  So sales are up quite a bit, albeit from a very low base.  But, there's no doubt about it, as from what I've seen and heard, retail sales have certainly picked up.  When my brother-in-law, who couldn't spell silver even with a dictionary in front him, has been buying the stuff hand over fist on multiple occasions for the last week or so, you know the bottom is really in.

The only 'in' activity in gold at the COMEX-approved depositories on the U.S. east coast on Thursday was one lonely kilobar [SGE kilobar weight] deposited at Brink's, Inc.

There was decent movement in silver, as 615,458 troy ounces were reported received -- and a further 294,869 troy ounces were shipped out the door.  The one truck load received...600,145 troy ounces...ended up at Brink's, Inc.  -- and the remaining 15,313 troy ounces found a home in Delaware.  In the 'out' category, there was 231,724 troy ounces shipped out of CNT...48,847 out of Scotiabank -- and 14,297 came out of Brink's, Inc.  The link to that activity is here.

It was pretty busy over at the COMEX-approved gold kilobar depositories in Hong Kong on their Thursday.  They reported receiving 8,977 of them, plus they shipped out 5,142.  As per usual, all this activity was at Brink's, Inc. -- 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 lived up to its advanced least in the Legacy COT Report.  But under the hood in the Disaggregated COT Report, things were a little strange.  Not that it matters, I suppose, but the Managed Money traders didn't follow their normal script.

In silver, the Commercial net short position dropped by 14,661 COMEX contracts, or 73.3 million troy ounces of paper silver.  They arrived at that number by increasing their long position by 3,956 contracts, plus they covered a chunky 10,705 short contracts.  The total of those two numbers is the change for the reporting week.

Ted said that the Big 4 decreased their short position by about 4,500 contracts.  It probably would have been a much larger number, but it's a near certainty that there's a Managed Money trader with a short position big enough to be included in this category.  And with the July Bank Participation Report [BPR] in hand, along with the Big 4 trading data since the June BPR in hand as well, Ted sets JPMorgan's short position at 10,500 contracts...give or take a thousand or so.  I'll have more about this, in my discussion on the Bank Participation Report further down.  Continuing on, the '5 through 8' large traders only decreased their short position by around 1,000 contracts -- and that's because there's at least one Managed Money trader contaminating this category as well.  But the real heavy lifting during the reporting week was done by Ted's raptors, the Commercial traders other than the Big 8, as they added a healthy 9,200 long contracts to their almost-record long position.

The surprises were under the hood in the Disaggregated COT Report, as the Managed Money traders only accounted for 7,527 contracts of the change in the Commercial net short position, which is a little over half.  They arrived at that number by selling 4,099 long contracts, but they only added 3,428 contracts to their short position.  I was expecting a bigger 'add' to their short position than that.  The 7,100 contract difference came from the 'Other Reportables' and 'Nonreportable/small trader categories, as the former went net short by about 4,750 contracts -- and the latter group dumped about 2,390 long contracts.  Ted was wondering out loud on the phone whether or not there may have been a reporting error, but the numbers are what they are -- and all that really matters when all is said and done, is the change in the Commercial net short position.

Ted was somewhat disappointed that the non-technical Managed Money traders sold as many long positions as they did during the reporting week...4,099 contracts.  This reduced their long position down to 55,700 contracts.  But considering how savage the attack on the silver price has been over the last few weeks, I'm not all surprised that even some of these deep-pocket traders were forced to throw in the towel.

The Commercial net short position in silver is now down to 24,567 contracts, or 122.8 million troy ounces of paper silver.  And once you factor out the extra 30,000+ non-technical funds Managed Money longs that have been added over the last three years, this report is, with out a word of a lie, the most wildly bullish in COMEX history...especially for JPMorgan.

Here's the 3-year COT chart.  Click to enlarge.

In gold, the commercial net short position declined by 33,310 contracts, or 3.33 million troy ounces of paper gold.  They arrived at that position by purchasing 16,628 long contracts, plus they covered another 16,682 short contracts -- and the sum of those two numbers is the change for the reporting week.

Ted said that the Big 4 traders only covered around 4,000 contracts -- and the fact that these four bullion banks still hold a huge short position after this engineered price decline of the last month or so, I still find worrisome.  I expect that Ted will have a comment or two about it in his weekly review this afternoon.  The big surprise was that the '5 through 8' large traders actually added about 2,500 contracts to their short position.  Whether there's a Managed Money trader in this group is unknown but, like the Big 4, I'm not at all amused by the short position of the '5 through 8' traders either.  And, like in silver, it was Ted's raptors, the commercial traders other than the Big 8, that did the monster lifting during the reporting week, as they added an eye-watering 31,800 contracts to their long position.

Under the hood in the Disaggregated COT Report, there were even bigger surprises in gold, as the Managed Money traders only accounted for 10,467 contracts of the total change in the commercial net short position.  The difference between that number and the commercial net short position is around 22,800 contracts -- and it was the traders in the 'Other Reportables' category that accounted for every contract of it, plus a bit more.  They increased their net short position by about 23,100 contract.  The traders in the 'Nonreportable'/small trader category made up the tiny difference of several hundred contracts.

These changes in the 'Other Reportables' category in gold, like in silver, appear counterintuitive -- and it remains to be seen if a correction is made in next week's report.  But as I stated regarding silver, the numbers may be what they are, regardless of what Ted and I expected them to be.

The commercial net short position in gold is down to only 7.39 million troy ounces.  I haven't seen that small a number in many, many years -- and I know that Ted will have the exact date in his column later today.

Here's the 3-year COT chart for gold -- and like its silver counterpart, it's set up for a rocket ride higher as soon as JPMorgan et al allow it.  Click to enlarge.

Except for the 'hinky' Ted put it...going on in the Disaggregated COT Report, the numbers you see above couldn't possibly get more extreme than they are now.  Of course, if 'da boyz' really wanted to hammer prices lower, I suppose they could.  But at these levels, the law of diminishing returns is in full force -- and if I had to bet the proverbial ten dollar bill, I'd happily bet it on the fact that lows for this move down are already in place.

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 102 days of world silver production—and the ‘5 through 8’ large traders are short an additional 57 days of world silver production—for a total of 159 days, which is just over five months of world silver production, or about 386.3 million troy ounces of paper silver held short by the Big 8.  [In last week's report the Big 8 were short 170 days of world silver production.

In the COT Report above, the Commercial net short position in silver was reported as 122.8 million troy ounces.  The short position of the Big 8 traders is 386.3 million troy ounces.  The short position of the Big 8 traders is larger than the total Commercial net short position by a chunky 386.3-122.8=263.5 million troy ounces.  The reason for the difference in those numbers is that Ted's raptors, the commercial traders other than the Big 8...are long that amount!

As I also stated in the above COT Report, Ted pegs JPMorgan's short position at around 10,500 contracts, or around 52.5 million troy ounces, which is down from the 15,000 contracts they were net short in the previous week's report.  52.5 million ounces works out to around 22 days of world silver production that JP Morgan is short.  That's compared to the 159 days that the Big 8 are short in total.  JPM is short about 14 percent of the entire short position held by the Big 8 traders.  This percentage figure has been dropping steadily for weeks.

I estimate the approximate short position in silver held by Scotiabank at approximately 43 days of world silver production.  So Scotiabank continues in its role as the No. 1 silver short in the COMEX futures market -- and by a very wide margin now.

The two largest silver shorts on Planet Earth—JP Morgan and Canada’s Scotiabank—are short about 65 days of world silver production between the two of them—and that 65 days represents about 64 percent of the length of the red bar in silver in the above chart...just under two thirds of it.  The other two traders in the Big 4 category are short, on average, about 18.5 days of world silver production apiece.  The four traders in the '5 through 8' category are short, on average, just over 14 days of world silver production each.

The short positions of Scotiabank and JPMorgan combined, represents about 41 percent of the short position held by all the Big 8 traders.  How's that for a concentrated short position within a concentrated short position?

The Big 8 are short 37.3 percent of the entire open interest in silver in the COMEX futures market -- and that number would be a bit under 45 percent, once the market-neutral spread trades are subtracted out.  In gold, it's 38.5 percent of the total COMEX open interest that the Big 8 are short.

For the sixth time in seven weeks, the Big 8 are short a larger percentage of total open interest in gold than they are in silver.

In gold, the Big 4 are now short 48 days of world gold production, which is down from the 49 days that they were short last week — and the ‘5 through 8’ are short another 17 days of world production, which is unchanged from what they were short from the prior week, for a total of 65 days of world gold production held short by the Big 8 -- down from the 66 days the were short in last week's report.  Based on these numbers, the Big 4 in gold hold about 74 percent of the total short position held by the Big 8, unchanged from the prior week's COT Report.

The “concentrated short positions within a concentrated short position” in silver, platinum and palladium held by the Big 4 are about 64, 62 and 67 percent respectively of the short positions held by the Big 8.  Silver and platinum are both down 1 percentage point from the last reporting week -- and palladium is unchanged for the fourth week in a row.

The July 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 64,050 COMEX contracts in the July BPR.  In June’s Bank Participation Report [BPR], that number was 99,653 contracts, so they’ve decreased their collective short positions by a whopping 35,603 contracts during the last month.  Four of the five U.S. banks would certainly include JPMorgan, HSBC USA and Citigroup -- and maybe Goldman.  As for who the fifth bank might be—I haven’t a clue, but I doubt very much if their positions, long or short, would be material.

Also in gold, 29 non-U.S. banks are net short 40,698 COMEX gold contracts, which isn't much per bank.  In the June BPR, 32 non-U.S. banks were net short 76,834 COMEX contracts, so the month-over-month change shows a whopping decrease of 36,136 contracts.  I suspect that there's at least one large non-U.S. bank in this group that might hold a third of this short position all by itself -- and the remaining contracts, divided up by the 28 banks left, would be immaterial.  Scotiabank comes to mind as that "one large non-U.S. bank".

As of this Bank Participation Report, 34 banks [both U.S. and foreign] are net short 22.0 percent of the entire open interest in gold in the COMEX futures market, which is a huge decline from the 35.7 percent they were short in the June 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 short position was outed by the CFTC.  Click to enlarge.

In silver, 5 U.S. banks are net short 20,417 COMEX silver contracts in July's BPR — and it was Ted’s calculation from yesterday that JP Morgan holds around 10,500 of those silver contracts net short on its own — which is a bit over 50 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.  In June's BPR, the net short position of these five U.S. banks was 31,759 contracts, so the short position of the U.S. banks has dropped by a third during the last reporting month.

Also in silver, 23 non-U.S. banks are net short 20,887 COMEX contracts—and that’s down a huge 10,872 contracts from the 31,759 contracts that these same non-U.S. banks held short in the May BPR.  I’m prepared to bet big money that Canada’s Scotiabank is the proud owner of virtually all of that short position.  That most likely means that a number of the remaining 22 non-U.S. banks might actually be net long the COMEX silver market by a bit as well.  But even if they aren’t, the remaining short positions divided up between these remaining 22 non-U.S. banks are immaterial — and have always been so.

As of this Bank Participation Report, 28 banks are net short 19.9 percent of the entire open interest in the COMEX futures market in silver—which is down a huge amount from the 30.0 percent that they were net short in the June BPR — with much more than the lion’s share of that held by only two banks…Canada’s Scotiabank and JPMorgan.

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 4,954 COMEX contracts in the July Bank Participation Report.  In the June BPR, these same banks were short 7,812 COMEX platinum contracts, so there’s been a big drop of 2,858 contracts  in the U.S. banks’ short position from the prior month...36.6 percent.

I suspect that, like in silver and palladium, JPMorgan 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 4,752 COMEX contracts, which is a drop of 45.7 percent from the 8,759 contracts they were net short in the June 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 large 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 July's Bank Participation Report, 22 banks are net short only 13.0 percent of the entire open interest in platinum in the COMEX futures market, which is a monster decline from the 23.9 percent they were collectively net short in the June BPR.  Click to enlarge.

In palladium, 4 U.S. banks were net short 7,539 COMEX contracts in the July BPR, which is up a smallish 587 contracts from the 6,952 contracts they held net short in the June BPR.  There's not much to see here.

Also in palladium, 13 non-U.S. banks are net short 4,607 COMEX contracts—which is a very large decrease from the 6,269 COMEX contracts that these same banks were short in the June BPR.  This works out to a decline of 26.5 percent.  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 still net short 36.7 percent of the entire COMEX open interest in palladium...which is a goodly chunk.  In June's BPR, the world's banks were net short 38.2 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.  I would still be prepared to bet big money that, like platinum and silver, JP Morgan 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.

But Canada’s Scotiabank and JPMorgan still remain the two largest silver short holders on Planet Earth in the COMEX futures market, with Scotiabank in the #1 spot by a country mile.

However, the latest COT Report -- and this Bank Participation Report -- shows one thing for sure -- and that's that world's banks appear to be heading out of Dodge...led by the ringleader...JPMorgan.

And as wonderful as this news is, Ted Butler's big question still needs to be answered -- and that is:  "Will JPMorgan and a couple of the other Big 4 traders, refrain from going short during the next rally?"  If they don''s the "same old, same old".  But if they we go.

JPMorgan et al have expended a lot of effort since mid-April to cover as many of their short positions as they can in all precious metals, particularly in silver.  As the Bank Participation Report shows, the world's banks short positions have been slashed to never-before-seen low numbers -- and you have to ask yourself why they would throw themselves headlong back into the lion's mouth after that.

Whatever happens, I doubt we'll have long to wait for an answer.

I don't have all that many stories for your reading pleasure this weekend -- and I'm always happy about that, as it cuts down on the amount of work I have to do.


U.S. Consumers Reeling: Core Retail Sales/Consumer Prices Post Weakest Growth in Over Three Years

This is not the data the Fed was looking for: after the 4th consecutive miss in CPI data, moments ago the Census Bureau also reported June retail sales which was unexpectedly poor, missing across the board once again, and judging by the surge in bonds, suggests that the Fed's rate hike intentions and narrative is now on indefinite hold.

The details, as shown below, missed in every category:

* Retail sales down -0.2%, Exp. +0.2% after falling 0.1% in May
* Retail ex-autos -0.2%, Exp. +0.2%
* Retail sales ex-autos and gas -0.1%, Exp. 0.4%
* Retail sales control group -0.1%, Exp. +0.3%

Furthermore, the steep disappointment in the control group, suggests that Q2 GDP estimates are about to be revised sharply lower.

Putting the weak consumer spending data in context, core retail sales ex-auto/gas posted by the lowest annual increase going back to February 2014.

Coupled with the miss in CPI, the USD has taken a plunge and the risk is, as Citi notes, it has more to go. More importantly, the Fed is now in a hole how to explain not only the 4th consecutive CPI miss but also the unexpectedly poor retail sales confirming that U.S. consumers fail to see the so-called economic recovery.

This Zero Hedge story was posted on their website at 8:49 a.m. on Friday morning -- and is the first of several from Brad Robertson.  Another link to it is here.

Yellen on Inflation -- Doug Noland

It’s fair to say that the whole issue of “inflation” confounds the Fed these days. Despite antiquated analytical frameworks and econometric models, the Federal Reserve is showing zero inclination to rethink its approach. At the minimum, objective policy analysis would recognize today’s nebulous link between monetary stimulus and consumer price inflation. Rational thinking would downgrade CPI as a policy guidepost, especially relative to indicators of broader price and financial stability. Still, consumer prices rising slightly below 2% have somehow become central to the argument for maintaining aggressive monetary accommodation.

The nature of economic output has fundamentally changed – from mass-produced high tech hardware, to limitless software and digitalized content, to endless pharmaceuticals and wellness to energy alternatives to, even, the proliferation of organic foods - just to get started. There is today essentially unlimited capacity to supply many of the things we now use in everyday life (sopping up purchasing power like a sponge). Much of this supply is sourced overseas, which further diminishes the traditional relationship between domestic monetary conditions and consumer price inflation.

These dynamics have unfolded over years and are well recognized in the marketplace. To be sure, ongoing tepid consumer price inflation seems to be the one view that markets hold with strong conviction. So when Yellen suggested that below target inflation would alter the trajectory of Fed “normalization,” the markets immediately took notice. When she again referred to the “neutral rate” and implied that the Fed was currently near neutral, this further signaled a Fed that has developed its own notion of what these days constitutes “normal.” Throw in that the FOMC plans to pause rate increases while gauging market reaction to its (cautious) balance sheet operations, and it has become apparent to the markets that the Fed won’t be pushing rates much higher any time soon.

Doug's weekly Credit Bubble Bulletin showed up on his website in the wee hours of Saturday morning EDT -- and another link to it is here.

Bill Bonner: How Dumb is the Fed

This morning, we are wondering: How dumb is the Fed?

The question was prompted by this comment by former Fed insider Chris Whalen at The Institutional Risk Analyst blog...

[O]ur message to the folks in Jackson Hole this week [at the annual central banker meeting there] is that the end of the Fed’s reckless experiment in social engineering via QE and near-zero interest rates will end in tears.

“Momentum” stocks like Tesla, to paraphrase our friend Dani Hughes on CNBC last week, will adjust and the mother of all rotations into bonds and defensive stocks will ensue. We must wonder aloud if Chair Yellen and her colleagues on the FOMC fully understand what they have done to the U.S. equity markets. […]

    Once the hopeful souls who’ve driven bellwethers such as Tesla and Amazon into the stratosphere realize that the debt driven game of stock repurchases really is over,

If you believe the newspapers, the Fed has begun a “tightening cycle.” It is on course to raise its key interest rate, little by little, in quarter-point increments.

It must know that this is a perilous thing to do. After so much market manipulation over such a long period, prices all up and down the capital structure – from junk bonds to quality stocks and solid real estate – have been bent and distorted.

This commentary, authored by Bonner & Partners' Bill Bonner, and annotated by Acting-Man's Pater Tenebrarum, showed up on the Zero Hedge website at 8:27 a.m. on Friday morning EDT -- and I thank Richard Saler for pointing it out.  Another link to it is here.

Jamie Dimon: "It's Embarrassing as an American Listening to This Stupid $hit We Have to Deal With"

One month after Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein trolled Donald Trump, when on June 9 in only his 4th ever tweet, the chief executive sarcastically said on Twitter "Just landed from China, trying to catch up.... How did "infrastructure week" go?" moments ago Jamie Dimon, in very uncertain terms, lashed out at the gridlock in Washington in general, and - according to some - president Donald Trump in particular (despite Dimon's subsequent clarification that that was not the case).

During today's earnings call discussing JPM's Q2 beat, which however masked another sharp drop in the company's trading revenue, Dimon - fresh from a work trip overseas, unloaded on everything that’s holding U.S. businesses back.

"It's almost an embarrassment be an American citizen traveling around the world and listening to the stupid shit we have to deal with in this country and at one point we have to get our act together. We won't do what were supposed to for the average American."

He continued: "since the Great Recession, which is now 8 years old, we've been growing at 1.5 to 2 percent in spite of stupidity and political gridlock, because the American business sector is powerful and strong. What I'm saying is that it would be much stronger growth if there were more intelligent decisions and less gridlock."

Dimon's outburst was prompted by a Wall Street analyst who asked if clients were beginning to worry about D.C. dysfunction and a lack of progress. Dimon countered by saying that the economy has grown despite years of bad policy, and that it would continue to grow regardless of the U.S. political climate.

This Zero Hedge article put in an appearance on their Internet site at 9:55 a.m. on Friday morning EDT -- and I thank Brad Robertson for sharing it with us.  Another link to it is here.

VISA offers restaurants $10,000...if they stop accepting cash

They're calling it the "The Visa Cashless Challenge."

The plan is to convince small business restaurants, cafés and food trucks to stop accepting cash, forcing customers to pay with credit cards or digital payments.

"Visa will be awarding up to $500,000 to 50 eligible U.S.-based small business food service owners who commit to joining the 100% cashless quest," the credit card company wrote in a press release.

If a restaurant ops in, it'll get a $10,000 gift from Visa to help pay for technology upgrades, the company said. Those tech upgrades could mean installing platforms that that accept payments from phones, smart watches or other devices.

Visa has a clear incentive: Credit card companies charge processing fees and tack on other charges to businesses that accept their cards as payment.

This news item was posted on the Internet site at 5:30 p.m. EST yesterday afternoon -- and it comes to us courtesy of Florida reader John Jeffcoat.  Another link to it is here.

Donald Trump goes rational on Russia

Trump stated

I don’t think this is the right time, but the answer is yes, I would. Let’s be the smart people not the stupid people. The easiest thing for me to tell you is that I would never invite him. We will never ever talk to Russia. That all of my friends in Congress will say, oh he’s so wonderful, he’s so wonderful. Folks, we have perhaps the second most powerful nuclear country in the world. If you don’t have dialogue, you have to be fools. Fools”.

Donald Trump also promised that he would “make great deals” with Russia, even while turning America into an energy exporting state which Trump wants to see complete with Russia, something which at least on paper will be difficult due to the comparative expense of American liquefied natural gas vis-à-vis Russian gas delivered to places like Europe via pipeline.

Donald Trump’s idea of healthy business competition with Russia is a breath of fresh air vis-à-vis Obama’s attitude of a perpetual ideological struggle backed up by active proxy wars in places like Syria. Yesterday, during a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump even indicated that further Syrian ceasefires guaranteed by both the U.S. and Russia could be in the works.

Trump seems to understand that the world is a balance of power and that super-powers can have healthy commercial competition, cultivate areas of cooperation and at no time take an aggressive stance against one another. This is a rational attitude and it is to be commended.

This article appeared on Internet site in the wee hours of Friday morning EDT -- and it comes courtesy of Roy Stephens.  Another link to it is here.

Unite and Rule: E.U. as NATO's Auxiliary Economic Alliance

According to a recent infographic by The New York Times, 79,000 U.S. troops have currently been deployed in Europe out of 210,000 total U.S. troops stationed all over the world, including 47,000 in Germany, 15,000 in Italy and 17,000 in the rest of Europe. By comparison, the number of U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan is only 8,400 which is regarded as an occupied country. Thus, Europe is nothing more than a backyard of corporate America.

Both NATO and E.U. were conceived during the Cold War to offset the influence of Soviet Union in Europe. Therefore, it is not a coincidence that the Soviet Union was dissolved in December 1991 and the Maastricht Treaty that consolidated the European Community and laid the foundations of the European Union was signed in February 1992.

The basic purpose of the E.U. has been nothing more than to lure the formerly communist states of the Eastern and Central Europe into the folds of the Western capitalist bloc by offering incentives and inducements, particularly in the form of agreements to abolish internal border checks between the E.U. member states, thus allowing the free movement of labor from the impoverished Eastern Europe to the prosperous countries of the Western Europe.

No wonder then, the neoliberal political establishments, and particularly the deep state of the U.S., are as freaked out about the outcome of Brexit as they were during the Ukrainian Crisis in November 2013, when Viktor Yanukovych suspended the preparations for the implementation of an association agreement with the European Union and tried to take Ukraine back into the folds of the Russian sphere of influence by accepting billions of dollars of loan package offered by Vladimir Putin to Ukraine.

In this regard, the founding of the E.U. has been similar to the case of Japan and South Korea in the Far East where 45,000 and 28,500 US troops have currently been deployed, respectively, according to the aforementioned infographic.

This longish, but very interesting and very worthwhile commentary showed up on the Zero Hedge website at 5:00 a.m. EDT on Friday morning -- and it comes to us courtesy of "Wojtek in Warsaw".  Another link to it is here.

Lessons learned of U.S./Russia summits...past and present:  John Batchelor Interviews Stephen F. Cohen

There is a return to the historical view in this podcast as perspectives of change are examined to reveal how governments now behave, and to give some idea whether the world is a safer place or not. The recent drama has been around the G20 meeting in Hamburg when Putin and Trump met for the first time. Cohen considers this as potentially a very good thing, while Batchelor wonders, in his introduction, if any détente efforts are even possible. The meeting in reality was a summit and for Trump an official attempt to reduce tensions between Russia and the United States, and although there is opposition to détente in both countries Cohen notes that “Russiagate” forces are mounting a very heavy resistance to the process – much heavier (with details given) than has been faced by other presidents. The main point for Cohen about the meeting may be centred around Putin’s and the Kremlin’s concern whether Trump can even deliver on any agreements between the two countries; this because Russiagate has so weakened the ability for the president to act. (This writer shares that concern.) The U.S. MSM, Cohen continues, of course went into a frenzy of fake news during the summit, for example, about Russian agents pouring into the US, and doubled down on the repetitious themes that are so cherished by them- regardless that most of narratives have been repudiated from official sources. I think that this says more about how more important the MSM is to the American public’s awareness level than government investigations are when a media can edit out the important realities to continue to corrupt the internal politics. Perhaps the, media should also be considered a national security threat or formally recognized as part of government in Washington.

The two pundits then launch a discussion on opposition to the previous détente efforts by presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan. Eisenhower’s efforts were negated by the U-2 shoot down incident over Russia, for example. Nixon’s were hindered by Soviet immigration policy for its Jews, and, of course, Watergate. Reagan also faced huge opposition and overcame it (even firing his neo-conservative elements close to him -Larry). But Cohen points out that what Trump is facing is different – his opposition is much greater than anything seen in the past. And Cohen offers that perhaps this was predictable in that cooperation with Russia was part of his election platform (and the only one still pursued by him - Larry). Cohen also states that Trumps problems have been compounded with his views about Syria that Assad should stay. Cohen also mentions the intelligence aid given by Israel and Jordan to Russia in the war (although I have a problem with this view - more about this later). Many of these subjects were discussed at the recent summit: Trump shares with Putin the view that terrorism is the existential danger. A new solution for settling the civil war in Ukraine was a topic - without the EU involved (and here his opposition is also expanded to conflict with elements in NATO/CIA and the E.U.). Even cyber warfare was discussed – although one wonders how anything that secretive and destructive can ever be honestly regulated between Washington and Russia. Cohen, however, rates these summit talks between Putin and Trump as a major achievement and a necessary one.

At this point I should mention an omission in the discussion by Cohen. Israel is on measure far from firmly supportive of Russia in this complicated war in Syria. One can make make a healthy argument that Israeli foreign policy is a prime driver of this war. Israel has attacked Syria numerous times over the years and also recently and like several other players, like the U.S. and Turkey, have illegally invaded the country (the Golan Heights) with clearly hostile intent. It has actively supported ISIS by even providing medical aid to its fighters. It has prospered by buying stolen Syrian oil from ISIS and hence given financial support to the ISIS cause. Destroying Assad and Syria as a state ranks very high for its own existential national security, and to this end it has lobbied Washington's support - even to the point where now the United States is directly involved in the conflict. One could also make a very good argument that Israel supported (cooperating with the Sunni Gulf States and Saudi Arabia) both of the Iraq wars and the Yemen proxy war along with the current one in Syria. One can then also argue that Israel is also an adversary of Trump and a very powerful one.

This 41:20 minute audio interview appeared on the Internet site on Tuesday -- and had to wait for my Saturday missive as usual.  And, as always, my thanks go out once again to Larry Galearis for his superb and time-consuming executive summary.  I thank Ken Hurt for the link -- and another link to the audio interview is here.

Power, Politics, and Putin:  Russia's Role in Today's World Order

During the 2016 presidential election, a new term entered the lexicon of political pundits—kompromat, incriminating material on a public figure compiled for purposes of blackmail. And that was just the beginning. From Russia’s role in Syria and Ukraine to its support for far-right nationalist parties in Europe and its alleged hack of the DNC email system, it is no wonder Russian President Vladimir Putin was dubbed “the world’s most powerful man” by Fareed Zakaria.

To help us understand what Russia wants and what strategies it will employ to get it, during this AJC Global Forum 2017 session hear from three experts: Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus, NYU and Princeton; Julia Ioffe, Staff Writer, The Atlantic; and Andrew Weiss, Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Moderater Jason Isaacson, AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy. Introduction by Steven Zelkowitz, AJC Executive Council.

This discussion/forum, which last for 1 hour and 15 minutes, features Stephen F. Cohen as one of the panelists.  It was posted on the Internet site back on June 6 -- and I thank Larry Galearis for sharing it with us.  Another link to it is here.

The Saker: The Syrian Powder Keg -- an Interview With Chris Martenson

Following up on our recent warning about the situation in Syria, Chris sits down this week for a conversation with The Saker, who writes extensively on geo-political and military matters. The Saker (a nom-de-plume), is a former intelligence expert with professional and personal insights into Russia and the Middle East.

He shares our deep concern for the dangerously misdirected current state of U.S. foreign and military policy, as well as the potentially lethal repercussions these threaten to have in the powder keg that is Syria.

In this week's podcast, The Saker provides an excellent distillation of the complex forces in play in Syria -- as well as in the brewing friction between the U.S. and Russia -- and why the risk of nuclear war has now grown higher than it has been in decades:

"I'm not convinced there is a U.S. strategy. I think there is a CIA strategy, a Pentagon strategy, a State Department strategy. There used to be a White House strategy. Right now, I am not even sure. We should go deeper into who is doing what inside the Pentagon and the military. I mean, there is chaos. There has been chaos since at least Obama because he was an extremely weak president. When a superpower like the United States is ruled by more or less an absent man in the White House, the agencies themselves start implementing their own policies. This is happening now under Trump, who was elected under specific platform and now is basically giving it up. There has been a coup against him by the neo-cons who basically got him under control. He wanted to drain the swamp, but the swamp basically drowned him."

This must listen 46-minute audio interview between The Saker and Chris Martenson was posted on the Internet site at 9:20 a.m. PDT on Monday -- and I found it embedded in a Zero Hedge commentary that Ellen Hoyt sent our way.  This was originally posted in my Wednesday column...but I said at that time, I would also include it in my Saturday missive -- and here it is.   Another link to the interview is here.

The New Silk Road will go through Syria -- Pepe Escobar

Amid the proverbial doom and gloom pervading all things Syria, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune sometimes yield, well, good fortune.

Take what happened this past Sunday in Beijing. The China-Arab Exchange Association and the Syrian Embassy organized a Syria Day Expo crammed with hundreds of Chinese specialists in infrastructure investment. It was a sort of mini-gathering of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), billed as “The First Project Matchmaking Fair for Syria Reconstruction”.

And there will be serious follow-ups: a Syria Reconstruction Expo; the 59th Damascus International Fair next month, where around 30 Arab and foreign nations will be represented; and the China-Arab States Expo in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui province, in September.

Qin Yong, deputy chairman of the China-Arab Exchange Association, announced that Beijing plans to invest $2 billion in an industrial park in Syria for 150 Chinese companies.

Nothing would make more sense. Before the tragic Syrian proxy war, Syrian merchants were already incredibly active in the small-goods Silk Road between Yiwu and the Levant. The Chinese don’t forget that Syria controlled overland access to both Europe and Africa in ancient Silk Road times when, after the desert crossing via Palmyra, goods reached the Mediterranean on their way to Rome. After the demise of Palmyra, a secondary road followed the Euphrates upstream and then through Aleppo and Antioch.

This very worthwhile commentary by Pepe was posted on the Asia Times website at 7:12 p.m. Hong Kong Time on their Thursday evening -- and it's the second offering in a row from Ellen Hoyt.  Another link to it is here.

Elon Musk's Tesla to build world's biggest lithium ion battery to secure power for South Australia

South Australia will be home to the world's largest lithium ion battery thanks to a historic agreement between Tesla and the State Government.

And Tesla boss Elon Musk is promising to build it in 100 days, or it's free.

Tesla will build the 100-megawatt battery which will store energy from French renewable company Neoen's Hornsdale Wind Farm near Jamestown, which is still under construction.

The project will be in place before summer.

Mr Musk's '100 days or it's free' pledge starts once the grid interconnection agreement has been signed.

This longish, but very interesting article showed up on the Internet site back on July 7 -- and Australian reader Peter King sent it our way on Sunday.  It had to wait for a spot in today's column -- and another link to it is here.

Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us)

On Nov. 16, 1974, a few hundred astronomers, government officials and other dignitaries gathered in the tropical forests of Puerto Rico’s northwest interior, a four-hour drive from San Juan. The occasion was a rechristening of the Arecibo Observatory, at the time the largest radio telescope in the world. The mammoth structure — an immense concrete-and-aluminum saucer as wide as the Eiffel Tower is tall, planted implausibly inside a limestone sinkhole in the middle of a mountainous jungle — had been upgraded to ensure its ability to survive the volatile hurricane season and to increase its precision tenfold.

To celebrate the reopening, the astronomers who maintained the observatory decided to take the most sensitive device yet constructed for listening to the cosmos and transform it, briefly, into a machine for talking back. After a series of speeches, the assembled crowd sat in silence at the edge of the telescope while the public-address system blasted nearly three minutes of two-tone noise through the muggy afternoon heat. To the listeners, the pattern was indecipherable, but somehow the experience of hearing those two notes oscillating in the air moved many in the crowd to tears.

That 168 seconds of noise, now known as the Arecibo message, was the brainchild of the astronomer Frank Drake, then the director of the organization that oversaw the Arecibo facility. The broadcast marked the first time a human being had intentionally transmitted a message targeting another solar system. The engineers had translated the missive into sound, so that the assembled group would have something to experience during the transmission. But its true medium was the silent, invisible pulse of radio waves, traveling at the speed of light.

It seemed to most of the onlookers to be a hopeful act, if a largely symbolic one: a message in a bottle tossed into the sea of deep space. But within days, the Royal Astronomer of England, Martin Ryle, released a thunderous condemnation of Drake’s stunt. By alerting the cosmos of our existence, Ryle wrote, we were risking catastrophe. Arguing that ‘‘any creatures out there [might be] malevolent or hungry,’’ Ryle demanded that the International Astronomical Union denounce Drake’s message and explicitly forbid any further communications. It was irresponsible, Ryle fumed, to tinker with interstellar outreach when such gestures, however noble their intentions, might lead to the destruction of all life on earth.

This very long, but very interesting essay put in an appearance on The New York Times website back on June 28th.  Patricia Caulfield sent it my way back on July 2...but somehow it got overlooked in my in-box for last Saturday's column, so here it is now.  Another link to it is here.

I didn't find any precious metal stories I though worth posting.


The jaguar is a big cat, a feline in the Panthera genus, and is the only extant Panthera species native to the Americas. The jaguar is the third-largest feline species after the tiger and the lion, and the largest in the Americas. The jaguar's present range extends from Southwestern United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Though there are single cats now living within the western United States, the species has largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 20th century.  Click to enlarge.


Today's 'blast from the past' stems from last week's 'blast from the past', which was Matt Munro crooning "From Russia, With Love" from the 1963 James Bond movie of the same name.  Here's another theme song from a James Bond hit.  This one comes twenty years later in 1983...Octopussy...a movie I didn't care for one bit.  Rita Coolidge does the honours -- and the link is here.  Except for Tom Jones singing Thunderball, this Rita Coolidge theme song is my favourite.

Today's classical 'blast from the past' was something I came across when I was looking for an Edward Elgar piece,  It's a composition for violin and orchestra that I've been waiting for years to post.  Up until now, the best one available was Janine Jansen at the Proms at The Royal Albert Hall.  But the video and audio were dreadful, so I passed on it.  Finally, there's a new one that was just posted on on May 1 of this year.  It's the yummy and incredibly gifted Hilary Hahn doing the honours in Ralph Vaughan Williams "The Lark Ascending".  It's a work I only came to appreciate later in life.  This is as good as it gets.  The link is here.

Gold was hammered lower before it could break above it's 200-day moving average yesterday -- and silver was turned back at the $16 spot mark for the third day in a row.  On Wednesday and again yesterday, considerable COMEX paper was required to snuff out moon-shot rallies in the precious metals that materialized on bad economic news released at 8:30 a.m. EDT on both days.  So, at least for the moment, it's obvious that they aren't going to be allowed to run away to the upside.

Here are the 6-month charts for all four precious metals, plus copper, once again -- and I what I spoke of in the previous paragraph -- and in my comments on both gold and silver at the top of the column, are obvious to see.

Although there certainly has been deterioration in the commercial net short positions in both these precious metals since the Tuesday cut-off, it only subtracts a little from the wildly bullish set-up that exists in silver and gold as per yesterday's COT Report -- and companion Bank Participation Report.

It remains to be seen what the "event" will be that will propel the precious metal prices skyward, as per CME CEO Terry Duffy's comment on Fox Business on Wednesday.  Whatever it is, it's obviously not going to be anything on the economic front, as two opportunities for that to happen since the Tuesday cut-off have already been met with all guns blazing by the long sellers and short buyers of last resort in the COMEX futures market.

All we can do is wait and see what happens next.

But having said all that, the news on the economic front is ghastly -- and that's being kind.  Only the President's Working Group on Financial Markets is keeping equity prices elevated -- and that's been a more-than-visible equity market fixture ever since the financial crisis of 2007/09.

Of course all this started back with the 'crash of '87''s just that the Fed is making no secret of it now -- and pretty much everyone knows that 'the fix' is in.  But it can't go on forever -- and when the inevitable day of reckoning does finally materialize, all the paper in the world won't be able to stop the deluge once it starts to unwind.

Of course it's the opinion of many, including mine to a certain degree, that when the great unwind begins, it will be allowed to more or less run it course, as the powers-that-be withdraw their support that's kept all things paper at nosebleed levels for the last thirty years.  But, for the moment, it's the "same old, same old"...until it isn't.

That's it for the day -- and the week -- and I'll see you here on Tuesday.



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