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Except For Gold...The Big 6 Commodities Were Closed Lower Again


 -- Published: Sunday, 11 February 2018 | Print  | Disqus 

By Ed Steer

10 February 2018 -- Saturday

YESTERDAY in GOLD, SILVER, PLATINUM and PALLADIUM


 

The gold price didn't do much of anything anywhere on Planet Earth on Friday, but I suppose the reality of the situation was that it wasn't allowed that luxury.

 

The gold price traded in a ten dollar price range yesterday -- and the high and low ticks aren't worth looking up.

 

Gold was closed in New York on Friday at $1,315.70 spot, down $2.60 on the day.  Net volume was pretty heavy at just under 293,000 contracts.

Silver didn't do much until shortly after 3 p.m. China Standard Time on their Friday afternoon.  Then it began to head unsteadily lower, with every tiny rally running into the usual resistance from "all the usual suspects".  The low tick -- and a new intraday low for this move down, was set at 1 p.m. EST -- and once the COMEX closed, it rallied quietly until trading ended at 5:00 p.m. in New York.

 

The high and lows in this precious metal were reported by the CME Group as $16.405 and $16.13 in the March contract.

 

Silver finished the Friday session at $16.33 spot, down 6 cents on the day -- and a new low close for this engineered price decline.  Net volume was 73,000 contracts, plus there was about 36,000 contracts worth of roll-over/switch volume on top of that amount.

Platinum rose and fell five bucks between 6 p.m. EST on Thursday evening -- and shortly before 11 a.m. CST on their Friday morning.  It then chopped quietly sideways until the COMEX open at 8:30 a.m. in New York.  The spoofing got started -- and the algos got spun -- and the $955 low tick came shortly before 1 p.m. EST.  It was bounced off that low tick a number of times until the COMEX closed and, like silver, rallied until trading ended at 5:00 p.m.  Platinum was down 15 bucks at its low tick, but closed down by 'only' 7 dollars at $963 spot.

Palladium was up four or five dollars by the Zurich open -- and then jumped up a bunch more between 10 a.m. and 12 o'clock noon CET over there.  From that juncture it was sold down to its low tick of the day, which came shortly after the Zurich close -- and like platinum and silver, rallied quietly until trading ended at 5:00 p.m. EST in New York.  Palladium finished the Friday session at $969 spot, up 17 bucks on the day.

The dollar index closed very late on Thursday afternoon in New York at 90.28 -- and chopped quietly sideways until 1 p.m. China Standard Time on their Friday afternoon.  It began to edge lower from there, only to get 'saved' for the fifth day in a row in the hour preceding the London open.  And except for a 2-hour 25-basis point slide between noon in London -- and 9 a.m. in New York, it chopped higher until the 90.56 high tick was set around 12:45 p.m. in New York.  It began to chop lower from there at a similar pace to what it had risen earlier -- and the dollar index finished the Friday session at 90.35 -- up 7 basis points on the day.

But, like every other day this week, it would have crashed and burned if allowed to seek its true 'intrinsic value'.

And here's the 2-year U.S. dollar index chart -- and you can read into this whatever you wish.  But while you're doing that, just remember that this graph is a total fabrication by the powers-that-be...as is most every other chart in this column.

 

 

The gold shares gapped down a bit at the open -- and kept right on going until shortly before the COMEX close.  Then they made a couple of rally attempts after that as gold rallied in after-hours trading -- and closed a decent amount off their respective low ticks of the day.  Thank heavens for that, as the HUI closed down 2.04 percent as it was.

The price pattern for the silver equities looked very similar to their golden brethren, except the sell-off was far more severe.  At their 1:30 p.m. lows, they were down about 5.7 percent, but their subsequent rallies pared that loss, as Nick Laird's Intraday Silver Sentiment/Silver 7 Index closed down 'only' 3.49 percent.  Click to enlarge if necessary.

And here's the 1-year Silver Sentiment/Silver 7 Index -- and it ain't lookin' that hot.  Click to enlarge...if you dare!

I get the distinct impression that at least one or two mutual funds were unloading a broad range of large and small gold and silver producers et al on Friday, because the loses were so evenly spread across the entire spectrum of equities.  This was not individual investors acting on their own.  I got an e-mail from John McFarland stating that opinion as well.


Here are the usual charts from Nick that show what's been happening for the week, month-to-date -- 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.

Here's the weekly chart -- and it's even uglier this week than it was last week.  There's just no other words for it.  Click to enlarge.

And here's the month-to-date chart -- and it's even less happy looking.  Click to enlarge.

And year-to-date -- and all the gains in the precious metal equities since the rallies began back in mid December, have vanished.  Click to enlarge as well.

Here, with a few minor changes, is what I said about this disgraceful situation when I wrote in this spot last Saturday.

 

No matter how obvious the price management scheme in the precious metals is, you can take it to the bank that the executives of these mining companies that we own shares in will say and do nothing.  And neither will the World Gold Council, The Silver Institute...or the CME Group or the CFTC.  Virtually all the large mining companies are members of, or closely associated with, those first two groups -- and would never say or do anything to upset their peers.  That disease also infects the major keynote speakers that I see at every precious metals conference I attend.  As stockholders, we have been completely abandoned by all parties that are supposed to be looking out after our best interests.  Instead of that, they've willfully fed us to the wolves.


The CME Daily Delivery Report showed that 50 gold and 16 silver contracts were posted for delivery within the COMEX-approved depositories on Tuesday.  In gold, the only two short/issuers that mattered were Scotiabank with 28 contracts out of its own account -- and R.J. O'Brien with 20 from its client account.  The only long/stopper that mattered was, drum roll please, JPMorgan with 49 for its in-house/proprietary trading account.  In silver, International F.C. Stone issued 15 contracts -- and JPMorgan stopped 15 contracts for its client account.  The link to yesterday's Issuers and Stoppers Report is here.

 

The CME Preliminary Report for the Friday trading session showed that gold open interest in February declined by 110 contracts, leaving 1,199 still around, minus the 50 contracts mentioned just above.  Thursday's Daily Delivery Report showed that 141 gold contracts were actually posted for delivery on Monday, so that means that 141-110=31 more gold contracts were added to the February delivery month.  Silver o.i. in February rose by 16 contracts, leaving 157 still open, minus the 16 contracts mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Thursday's Daily Delivery Report showed that zero silver contracts were posted for delivery on Monday, so that means that a net 16 contracts were added to February.


There was another withdrawal from GLD yesterday -- and it was a pretty big one, as an authorized participant removed and/or took ownership of 180,257 troy ounces.  There were no reported changes in SLV.

The folks over at the shortsqueeze.com Internet site updated the short positions in both SLV and GLD as of the close of trading on Wednesday, January 31 -- and this is what they had to report.  The short position in SLV declined by only 6.4 percent...from 10,975,500 shares/troy ounces, down to 10,269,500 shares/troy ounces.  It was similar in GLD, as the short position in it dropped by 6.0 percent...from 1,719,630 troy ounces, down to 1,616,410 troy ounces.

 

There was no sales report from the U.S. Mint yesterday.

 

Month-to-date the mint has sold 1,500 troy ounces of gold eagles -- 1,500 one-ounce 24K gold buffaloes -- and 225,000 silver eagles.  Retail investor interest is basically non-existent.

 

However, I got an amazing e-mail from Tolling Jennings yesterday -- and the significance of it was not lost on me, as it immediately unfolded in one of those 'Eureka' moments that we've all had from time to time.  It was a link to a story headlined "United States Mint has 12 authorized purchasers for bullion coin issues".

 

You may remember two or three years back that the mint would not release their list of 'authorized purchasers' -- and even a 'Freedom of Information' request through government channels was turned down for 'national security' or some other such equally ridiculous reason.

 

And why was that, you ask?

 

Well, Ted Butler had figured out that JPMorgan was the 'big buyer' of silver and gold coins, not only from the U.S. Mint, but also silver and gold maple leafs from the Royal Canadian Mint for about four or five years running.  He also assumed that they weren't buying through any of these 'authorized purchasers' at all, but had applied for and become an 'authorized purchaser' from the U.S. Mint themselves, to save on the fees charged...cutting out the middleman.

 

As JPMorgan discovered in hindsight, this turned out to be a grave mistake -- and with sober second thought, they had to hide that fact from the general public -- and the U.S. Mint went along with it, probably with the approval of their bosses over at the U.S. Treasury Department.  But once JPM's name had been removed as an authorized participant by the mint, then the coast was clear for them to breeze forth with their freshly polished up "transparency".

 

And if you have a better explanation, I'd love to hear it.

 

So would Ted.

 

There wasn't much activity in gold over at the COMEX-approved depositories on the U.S. east coast on Thursday.  There was 2,225.057 troy ounces received -- and 12,938 troy ounces shipped out.  Of the 'in' amount, there was 2,000.000 troy ounces/200 - 10 oz. gold bars deposited at Delaware -- and 225.057 troy ounces/7 kilobars [SGE kilobar weight] left at Brink's, Inc.  Of the 'out' activity, there was 11,009 troy ounces shipped out of Brink's, Inc. -- and the remaining 1,929.000 troy ounce/60 kilobars [U.K./U.S. kilobar weight] departed Canada's Scotiabank.  The link to that activity is here.

 

It was busier in silver.  JPMorgan picked up another truck load...598,011 troy ounces...and one good delivery bar...1,027 troy ounces...was dropped off at Delaware.  That puts JPMorgan's COMEX silver stash at another new record high...129.1 million troy ounces.  In the 'out' department, there was 443,771 troy ounces that was shipped out of Brink's, Inc.  The link to all this is here.

 

It was yet another very busy day over at the COMEX-approved gold kilobar depositories in Hong Kong on their Thursday.  They reported receiving 2,300 of them, but shipped out a very chunky 8,496 to parts unknown.  All of this activity was at Brink's, Inc. of course -- 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 came in almost exactly as Ted Butler said they would -- and there were also a few surprises as well.

In silver, the Commercial net short position dropped by 16,650 contracts, or 83.2 million troy ounces of paper silver.

 

They arrived at that number by increasing their long position by 6,977 contracts, plus they covered 9,673 short contracts -- and the sum of those two numbers was the change for the reporting week.

 

Ted said that the Big 4 traders reduced their short position by approximately 2,900 contracts -- and the '5 through 8' large traders decreased their short position by around 3,800 contracts.  Ted's raptors, the 44-odd small Commercial traders other than the Big 8, increased their long position by about 10,000 contracts.

Under the hood in the Disaggregated Report, it was all Managed Money  -- and a lot more, as they not only sold 11,615 long contracts, they also increased their short position by 11,794 contracts as well -- and the sum of those two numbers...23,409 contracts...was their change for the reporting week.  The difference between that number and the Commercial net short position...23,409 minus 16,650 equals 6,759 contracts...was made up by the traders in the other two categories...the 'Other Reportables' and the 'Nonreportable'/small trader category...with the traders in the 'Other Reportables' category making up the lion's share of that difference.

 

Here's a snip from the Disaggregated COT Report for silver, so you can see what I see when I'm looking at this report every week.  Click to enlarge.

The big surprise in the Disaggregated COT Report was the sale of those 11,615 long contracts -- and it's obvious from the size of the change that most of these sales were by non-technical Managed Money traders, the ones I  call the "unblinking" longs.  Both Ted and I were expecting/hoping that this number would not exceed 3-4,000 contracts, which would take the Managed Money long position back to its old base number of about 46,000 contracts.  That didn't happen -- and as Ted pointed out, it appeared that some of these non-technical traders made some permanent portfolio adjustments -- and that trend may have also extended into the next reporting week as well, if the big drops in silver open interest since the cut-off are any indication.  Ted is the real authority on this -- and I look forward to what he has to say in his weekly missive this afternoon.

 

The Commercial net short position in silver is now down to 153.2 million troy ounces of paper silver.  Ted pegs JPMorgan's short position at 28,000 contracts...giving them all the improvement in the Big 4 traders in this COT Report.  And with the new Bank Participation Report in hand, Ted said he could certainly make a case for JPMorgan's short position to be three or four thousand contracts higher than that, but the entrance [for the first time] of a sixth U.S. bank into the COMEX futures market in silver, gave him pause.

Here's the 3-year COT chart for silver -- and its configuration is very bullish.  Click to enlarge.

Of course it has grown even more bullish since Tuesday's cut-off -- and as I said to Ted on the phone yesterday afternoon...what I wouldn't pay to see what the COT Report looked like after the COMEX close on Friday.


In gold, the commercial net short position fell by 19,625 contracts, or 1.96 million troy ounces of paper gold.

They arrived at this number by adding 3,960 long contracts -- and they also reduced their short position by 15,665 contracts.  The sum of those two numbers was the change for the reporting week.

 

Ted said that the Big 4 traders reduced their short position by a hefty 9,200 contracts -- and the '5 through 8' large traders also decreased their short position by an even heftier 11,400 contracts.  And if those huge drops weren't surprise enough, Ted was shocked [as was I] that his raptors, the 48-odd small commercial traders other than the Big 8, actually sold 1,000 contracts of their huge long position during the reporting week.  Normally during these engineered price declines, the raptors pile in big on the long side...like they did in silver to the tune of 10,000 contracts this week...but not this week in gold.  I didn't discuss this with Ted, but I'm wondering if they got some sort of notice from on high that they should back off during this reporting week.  Needless to say that I'll be more than interested in what the raptors did during this reporting week, but that won't be known until next Friday's report.

 

Under the hood in the Disaggregated COT Report it was, as is almost always the case, all Managed Money traders...plus more.  They reduced their long position by a monstrous 24,220 contracts, but only added a piddling 413 contracts on the short side...another surprise -- and it's the sum of those two numbers...24,633 contracts...that was their change for the reporting week.  Like in silver, the difference between that number and the commercial net short position...24,633 minus 19,625 equals 5,008 contracts, was made up by the traders in the other two categories, with the largest chunk going to the traders in the 'Other Reportables' category.

 

Considering the huge decline in the Managed Money long position during the reporting week, it was more than surprising that they didn't add to their short position far more aggressively than they did.  That still might occur, but it probably won't be more evident until JPMorgan et al engineer the gold price below its 50 and 200-day moving averages.

 

Here's the snip from the Disaggregated Report for gold, so you can see what these three groups of traders were up to.  Click to enlarge.

The commercial net short position in gold is now down to 20.55 million troy ounces -- and still very much in bearish territory.

 

And here's the 3-year COT chart for gold -- and although it does look a bit better, the down-side price potential is still very much in place.

Although the internal structure of the COMEX futures market in all four precious metals has much improved since the Tuesday cut-off, the 50 and 200-day moving averages in gold remain unbroken -- and hang over the market like the proverbial sword of Damocles.  And with China closed for their New Year's celebrations for a week starting on February 16...'da boyz' may wait until that market is closed before doing the dirty.

 

As Ted pointed out on the phone -- and is evident in the numbers presented above, there were strange goings-on in this report.  I'm sort of wondering if a couple of them might be related to Scotiabank's departure as a player in both silver and gold.

 

There are lots of pieces in motion in this great gold and silver chess game that's going on, most of which is hidden from our sight.  But when all the motion stops -- and the pieces are aligned in the correct order...then look out above!


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 120 days of world silver production-and the '5 through 8' large traders are short an additional 56 days of world silver production-for a total of 176 days, which is just under 6 months of world silver production, or about 427.6 million troy ounces of paper silver held short by the Big 8.  [In the COT Report last week, the Big 8 were short 190 days of world silver production.]

 

In the COT Report above, the Commercial net short position in silver was reported as 153.2 million troy ounces.  As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the short position of the Big 8 traders is 427.6 million troy ounces.  The short position of the Big 8 traders is larger than the total Commercial net short position by a chunky 427.6 minus 153.2 = 274.4 million troy ounces.  The reason for the difference in those numbers is that Ted's raptors, the 44-odd small commercial traders other than the Big 8, are long that amount.

As I also stated in the above COT Report analysis, Ted pegs JPMorgan's short position at about 28,000 contracts, or around 140 million troy ounces, down 15 million ounces from what they were short in last week's COT Report.  140 million ounces works out to around 58 days of world silver production that JPMorgan is short -- and that would be a minimum number.  That's compared to the 176 days that the Big 8 are short in total.  JPM holds about 33 percent of the entire short position held by the Big 8 traders.

As Ted also mentioned, he could make a case that JPMorgan's silver short position is still 31,000 contracts, or 64 days of world silver production

 

It's more than obvious that Scotiabank has been actively reducing their short position in the COMEX futures market for the last year and change.  Based on the COT data, Scotiabank's short position is around 23 days of world silver production -- and could actually be a lot less than that.  They may not even be a member of the Big 4 anymore, but may have slipped all the way down into the '5 through 8' category.  I'm sure they've covered a certain portion of it during the normal course of business, but it's equally obvious that JPMorgan has taken up some of the slack, as have some of the other traders in the Big 8 category.

 

JPMorgan has been forced by circumstance to pick up Scotiabank's trading/price management duties in silver and gold.  So JPMorgan is by far the No. 1 silver short on Planet Earth -- and likely to remain that way indefinitely.  Of course they have 675+ million troy ounces of physical silver [and counting!] stashed away to cover that, so they are in no danger.  That can't be said of the remaining Big 7, unless JPMorgan plans to bail out some, or all of them.  And if that's the case...at what price?  I get the feeling, as I said last week, that it wouldn't come cheap.

 

The two largest silver shorts on Planet Earth-JPMorgan and one other, which may or may not be Scotiabank, are short about 81 days of world silver production between the two of them-and that  81 days represents a bit over 67 percent of the length of the red bar in silver in the 'Days to Cover' chart...two thirds of it.  The other two traders in the Big 4 category are short, on average, about 19.5 days of world silver production apiece, which is exactly unchanged from last week's report.

 

The four traders in the '5 through 8' category are short, on average...14 days of world silver production each, which is down 2 full days from what each was short in last week's COT Report.  That's a big drop!

This is just more proof of the fact, if any was needed, that it's only what JPMorgan does in the COMEX silver market that matters, as it's only their position that ever changes by any material amount.

The Big 8 commercial traders are short 41.7 percent of the entire open interest in silver in the COMEX futures market, which is a big decline from the 46.6 percent they were short in last week's COT Report.  Once whatever market-neutral spread trades are subtracted out, that percentage would be over 45 percent.  In gold, it's now 46.8 percent of the total COMEX open interest that the Big 8 are short, down a bit from last week's report -- and a hair over 50 percent once the market-neutral spread trades are subtracted out.

In gold, the Big 4 are short 64 days of world gold production, which is down 4 days from what they were short last week -- and the '5 through 8' are short another 25 days of world production, which is also down 4 days from what they were short the prior week, for a total of 89 days of world gold production held short by the Big 8 -- which is down 8 days from the 97 days they were short in last week's report.  Based on these numbers, the Big 4 in gold hold 72 percent of the total short position held by the Big 8...which is up 2 percentage point from last week's COT Report.

 

The "concentrated short positions within a concentrated short position" in silver, platinum and palladium held by the Big 4 commercial traders are 68, 69 and 77 percent respectively of the short positions held by the Big 8.  Silver is up 2 percent points from the previous week's COT Report -- and platinum is down 2 percentage point from last week -- and palladium is about unchanged from what it was in last week's COT Report.


The February 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, 6 U.S. banks were net short 114,088 COMEX contracts in the February BPR, which is well over 50 percent of this week's commercial net short position shown in the above COT Report.  In January's Bank Participation Report [BPR], that number was 106,147 contracts, so they've increased their collective short positions by a rather immaterial 8,000 contracts.  Four of the six U.S. banks would certainly include JPMorgan, HSBC USA and Citigroup -- and Goldman.  As for who the fifth and sixth U.S. 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, 28 non-U.S. banks are net short 64,513 COMEX gold contracts, which isn't much per bank.  In the January BPR, 29 non-U.S. banks were net short 53,078 COMEX contracts, so the month-over-month change shows an increase of about 11,400 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 between the remaining 27 non-U.S. banks, would be immaterial.  I used to think it might have been Scotiabank, but that may not be the case anymore as they exist stage left.  But with 27 non-U.S. banks in this category, an 11,400 contract increase spread out more or less equally, wouldn't be much per bank, either.

 

As of this Bank Participation Report, 34 banks [both U.S. and foreign] are net short 33.3 percent of the entire open interest in gold in the COMEX futures market, which is a small increase from the 31.8 percent they were short in the January 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 in October of 2012.  Click to enlarge.

In silver, 6 U.S. banks are net short 31,460 COMEX silver contracts in February's BPR - and Ted figures that JPMorgan is the proud owner of 28,000 contracts worth, but as stated in the COT discussion in silver, he could make a case that it was 31,000 contracts as well.  This means that some of the remaining 5 U.S. banks obviously have to be net long the silver market in order for the numbers to work out -- and they are long to the tune of 3,615 COMEX silver contracts.  In January's BPR, the net short position of these U.S. banks was 29,934 contracts, an increase of about 1,500 contract since the last reporting month.

 

Also in silver, 19 non-U.S. banks are net short 17,378 COMEX contracts...down from the 21,517 contracts that 22 non-U.S. banks were short in the January BPR.  I would suspect that Canada's Scotiabank holds a goodly chunk of this amount all by itself, but down a substantial amount from a year or so ago.  That most likely means that a number of the remaining 18 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 other 18 non-U.S. banks are immaterial - and have always been so.

 

It should be noted that the short position of the U.S. banks in silver rose in the February BPR, while the short position of the non-U.S. banks fell.  That is the obvious sign the Scotiabank is quietly covering their massive silver short position, or transferring it to others -- and obviously U.S. banks.  And January was the first month on record where the number of U.S. banks involved in the COMEX futures market in silver rose to 6.

 

As of February's Bank Participation Report, 25 banks are net short 23.8 percent of the entire open interest in the COMEX futures market in silver-which is down a decent amount from the 26.7 percent that they were net short in the January BPR - with much, much more than the lion's share of that held by 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 20,817 COMEX contracts in the February Bank Participation Report.  In the January BPR, '3 or less' U.S. banks were net short 13,341 COMEX platinum contracts, so there's been a huge increase in the short position of the U.S. banks in question during the last reporting month.

 

I suspect that, like in silver and palladium, JPMorgan holds virtually all of the platinum short position by itself.

Also in platinum, 17 non-U.S. banks are net short 8,589 COMEX contracts, which is up about 1,700 contracts from the 6,869 contracts they were net short in the January BPR.

 

As you can see from the number of banks and number of contracts involved in the U.S./non-U.S. categories...this price management scheme platinum is a "Made in America" show as well.

 

And as of February's Bank Participation Report, 22 banks were net short 32.3 percent of the entire open interest in platinum in the COMEX futures market, which is up huge from the 24.7 percent they were collectively net short in the December BPR.  It's obvious that the banks, especially the U.S. banks, having been shorting this current rally in platinum all the way up.  Click to enlarge.

In palladium, 4 U.S. banks were net short 12,021 COMEX contracts in the February BPR, which is down a decent amount from the 13,379 contracts they held net short in the January BPR.  And to show you how lopsided the short position is in palladium, these four U.S. banks hold a total long position of only 31 contracts in the January BPR...but in the February BPR the long position held by the U.S. banks had 'blown out' to 524 contracts.

 

Also in palladium, 12 non-U.S. banks are net short 3,096 COMEX contracts-which is down substantially from the 5,304 COMEX contracts that 13 non-U.S. banks were short in the January BPR.  When you divide up the short positions of these non-U.S. banks more or less equally, they're mostly immaterial...especially when you compare them to the positions held by only 4 U.S. banks.

 

But, having said all that, as of this Bank Participation Report, 16 banks are net short 46.8 percent of the entire COMEX open interest in palladium...which is a monstrous amount...and more than the short positions held by  the Big 8 traders in silver -- and equal to the Big 8 short position held in gold.  In January's BPR, the world's banks were net short 48.9 percent of total open interest...a record high number, so it has only improved by a bit in the last month.

 

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, 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 four U.S. banks-JPMorgan, HSBC USA, Goldman and maybe Citigroup-along with Canada's Scotiabank...and they're getting out of Dodge-that are the tallest hogs at the precious metal price management trough.

 

JPMorgan is now the largest silver short holders on Planet Earth in the COMEX futures market -- and by more than the proverbial country mile.  JPMorgan's short position now towers above all of the rest of the Big 7 traders...including Canada's Scotiabank.


Before hitting today's stories, I have more commentary from Bill King from the Friday edition of his King Report.  In it, he had this to say...

 

SPHs, which had been down as much as 23.00 in Wednesday night trading, rallied to an 11.00 gain during Thursday's European open.  The standard manipulation in the normal window of intervention appeared.
 
As European trading progressed, SPHs tumbled 21 handles due to a hawkish BoE interest rate outlook.

However, the manipulators, out of desperation instead of their usual larcenous urges, crafted a 29.50 SPH rally to influence the NYSE open.
 
As soon as the NYSE opened, the selling began - and it was furious.  The two manipulations, one might have been a pump & dump, failed as stocks and SPHs tumbled.
 
The overnight SPH low (2645.25) was obliterated during the first two hours of trading.  This is a very, very bad development for stocks that astute traders monitor daily (overnight SPH high & low).
 
Similar to Wednesday, stocks rallied in the early afternoon as bond yields rose smartly.  The US 30-year hit 3.15%; the 10-year hit 2.86%.
 
After the VIX fix at 14:15 ET, stocks tumbled with the S&P 500 Index violating its panic low of 2593.07 on Tuesday by 13 handles.  Major indices closed at their session lows.  This is abysmal technical action.
 
The S&P 500 Index all-time high is 2872.87 in January 26, 2018.  A 10% decline, conventional wisdom's correction threshold, would put the index at 2585.58.  This should have been very strong support.  In fact, one would expect a monstrous 'V' rally of this level.
 
Because the breach of the 10% decline threshold occurred near the close, the usual suspects did not have the time to provoke a 'V' rally and maintain the notion that the decline is just a 'healthy correction'. 
END

I have an average number of stories for you today...plus the Cohen/Batchelor interview.


CRITICAL READS 

Jim Rogers Says Next Bear Market Will Be Worst in His Life

Jim Rogers, 75, says the next bear market in stocks will be more catastrophic than any other market downturn that he's lived through.

 

The veteran investor says that's because even more debt has accumulated in the global economy since the financial crisis, especially in the U.S. While Rogers isn't saying that stocks are poised to enter bear territory now -- or making any claim to know when they will -- he says he's not surprised that U.S. equities resumed their selloff Thursday and he expects the rout to continue.

 

"When we have a bear market again, and we are going to have a bear market again, it will be the worst in our lifetime," Rogers, the chairman of Rogers Holdings Inc., said in a phone interview. "Debt is everywhere, and it's much, much higher now."

 

The plunge in equity markets resumed Thursday, as the S&P 500 Index sank 3.8 percent, taking its rout since a Jan. 26 record past 10 percent and meeting the accepted definition of a correction. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 1,000 points, while the losses continued in early Asian trading Friday as the Nikkei 225 Stock Average dropped as much as 3.5 percent.

 

This Bloomberg article showed up on their Internet site at 6:37 p.m. Denver time on Thursday evening -- and was updated about four hours later.  It comes from Zero Hedge via Brad Robertson -- and another link to it is here.


U.S. Debt Bomb Exacerbating Stock Market Panic! -- Jim Rickards

This 3:51 minute video interview hosted by Stuart Varney over at Fox Business was posted on the youtube.com Internet site on Thursday -- and I thank Harold Jacobsen for bringing it to our attention.


Contagion: Credit Crashes to 14-Month Wides Amid Soaring Outflows

Thursday saw rate vol start to accelerate, and today we see credit markets start to snap as equity market volatility contagion is spreading.

 

In fact, credit market volatility is spiking - and is above the Aug 2015 highs (higher relative to stocks where VIX remains below those levels)...

 

This is the biggest spike in High Yield bond spreads since Aug 2015's crash and raises relative funding costs to their highest since Dec 2016...

 

It's not just equities that are seeing fund outflows surge.

 

Junk bond ETFs have seen only 2 days of inflow in 2018, and outflows are accelerating as prices plunge.  IG bond ETFs have also seen outflows for 6 of the last 7 days...

 

Judging from the discount to NAV, there is more 'physical' selling to come in corporate bonds (as managers use JNK as their overlay, then selectively sell into illiquid markets...and one might wonder how much longer the S&P will hold its gains?

 

This chart-filled story was posted on the Zero Hedge website at 12:49 p.m. EST on Friday afternoon -- and I thank Richard Saler for pointing it out.  Another link to it is here.


Subprime and Short Vol -- Doug Noland

For nine long years now, CBB analysis has posited "the global government finance Bubble," "The Moneyness of Risk Assets" and the "Granddaddy of all Bubbles" theses. I believe the Bubble has likely been pierced. The spectacular blowup of all these "short vol" products is a replay of subprime in the summer of 2007 - just so much bigger and consequential. The "insurance" marketplace has badly dislocated, concluding for now the environment of readily available cheap market protection.

 

Structured finance was instrumental in ensuring the marginal subprime buyer could access the means to keep the Bubble inflating, even in the face of inflated home prices increasingly beyond affordability. These days, all these structured volatility products have been key to enormous pools of "money" chasing inflated securities prices increasingly detached from reality.

 

The risk versus reward calculus has rather quickly deteriorated for risk-taking and leveraging. Markets have turned much more volatile and uncertain - equities, fixed-income, currencies and commodities. The cost of market "insurance" has spiked, the Treasury market safe haven attribute has been diminished and various market correlations have increased, certainly including global equities markets. "Risk Off" has made a rather dramatic reappearance. How much leverage is lurking out there in global securities and derivatives markets?

Next week is tricky. I would generally expect at least an attempt at a decent rally prior to options expiration. But at the same time, my sense is that market players are especially poorly positioned for the unfolding "Risk Off" backdrop. A break of this week's trading lows would likely see another leg down in the unfolding bear market. And with derivatives markets already stressed, major outflows from the ETF complex would be challenging for less than liquid markets to accommodate.

 

Too many years of central bank-induced over-liquefied markets incentivized excess, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley to Washington to Beijing to Tokyo and Frankfurt. Markets at home and abroad completely failed as mechanisms to discipline, to self-adjust and to correct.

There will be a very steep price to pay.

 

This absolute must read commentary by Doug put in an appearance on his website in the wee hours of Saturday morning EST -- and another link to it is here.


Moody's Threatens U.S. Downgrade Due to Soaring Debt, "Fiscal Deterioration"

Back in 2011, Standard & Poors' shocked the world, and the Obama administration, when it dared to downgrade the U.S. from its vaunted AAA rating, something that had never happened before (and led to the resignation of S&P's CEO and a dramatic crackdown on the rating agency led by Tim Geithner).

 

Nearly seven years later, with the U.S. on the verge of another government shutdown and debt ceiling breach (with the agreement reached only after the midnight hour, literally) this time it is Warren Buffett's own rating agency, Moody's, which on Friday morning warned Trump that he too should prepare for a downgrade form the one rater that kept quiet in 2011. The reason: Trump's - and the Republicans and Democrats - aggressive fiscal policies which will sink the U.S. even deeper into debt insolvency, while widening the budget deficit, resulting in "meaningful fiscal deterioration."

 

In short: a U.S. downgrade due to Trumponomics is inevitable. And incidentally, with today's 2-year debt ceiling extension, it means that once total U.S. debt resets at end of day - unburdened by the debt ceiling - it will be at or just shy of $21 trillion.

 

We expect if not a full downgrade, then certainly a revision in the outlook from Stable to Negative in the coming  months.

 

This news item put in an appearance on the Zero Hedge website at 9:48 a.m. EST on Friday morning -- and another link to it is here.


Soros and the 400k Question: What constitutes 'foreign interference' in the U.K.'s democracy? -- Neil Clark

You'd have to have a real sense of humor failure not to laugh. The news that U.S. billionaire Soros donated 400k to an anti-Brexit group came on the day that YouTube said they found no evidence of Russian interference in Brexit.

 

Repeat After Me (with robotic arm movements): "Unproven Russian involvement in Brexit - terrible! Impose more sanctions on Moscow!  A 400k check from an American billionaire for an anti-Brexit campaigning group - that's no problem; it's helping our democracy!"

 

You don't have to own a brand new 999 state-of-the art Hypocrisy Detector from Harrods, to pick up on the double standards. Just having a few functioning brain cells and thinking for yourself will do. For months in the U.K. we've been bombarded with Establishment-approved conspiracy theories - peddled in all the 'best' newspapers - that Russia somehow 'fixed' Brexit. Getting Britain to leave the E.U. was all part of a cunning plot by Vladimir Putin, aka Dr. Evil, to weaken Europe and the 'free world.'

 

Even West End musical composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber, who knows quite a bit about phantoms, seemed taken in by it. "By quitting Europe, I fear that we are hastening Putin's dream of the break-up of the EU - and with it, potentially, western civilisation," the noble Lord declared in July.

 

Never mind that we don't have a single statement from Putin or other senior Kremlin figures saying that they actually supported Brexit. These Establishment Russia-bashers know exactly what The Vlad is thinking.

And never mind that RT and Sputnik, which we are repeatedly told are "propaganda arms of the Russian government," ran articles by pro- and anti-Brexit writers. The same people who told us Iraq had WMDs in 2003 were absolutely sure it was those dastardly Russkies who had got Britain to vote 'leave.' The irony is of course that there was significant foreign interference in Brexit. But it didn't come from Moscow.

 

This longish, but worthwhile commentary/opinion piece was posted on the rt.com Internet site on 4:32 p.m. Moscow time on their Friday afternoon, which was 8:32 a.m. in Washington -- EST plus 8 hours.  I thank George Whyte for sending it along -- and another link to it is here.


Europe ready to defy the U.S. if economic sanctions imposed on Iran

The E.U. is mulling its options in the event of a U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 multinational nuclear deal struck with Iran. Various European nations have been exploring ways of increasing business with the middle eastern country since the deal was struck, and are invested in making sure that the deal sticks and that sanctions are not reimposed.

 

The parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (commonly referred to as the JCPOA) agreed to lift all nuclear-related sanctions on Iran if they would apply strict limitations on their nuclear program. The U.S., China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and Iran struck the accord in July of 2015, the implementation of which began in January of 2016.

 

The U.S. President, Donald Trump, however, has overtly expressed his opposition to the deal, which was negotiated by Barack Obama, Trump's predecessor, and has repeatedly threatened to "terminate" it. In January, he extended the waivers of economic sanctions against Tehran for 120 days "for the last time."

In spite of Trump's position on the matter, the European parties, together with Russia and China are committed to the pact, on which they will not renegotiate, and view it as working quite well in its present iteration. Iran has expressed that they will not agree to any further obligations than those which they have already agreed to under the JCPOA, and will not renegotiate the deal. Therefore, Trump's concerns can only be considered by U.S. Congress and will have no legal jurisdiction over the nuclear deal, Tehran or the International Atomic Energy Agency.

 

This article appeared on theduran.com Internet site at 5:20 p.m. EST on Friday afternoon -- and it comes courtesy of Roy Stephens.  Another link to it is here.


Tales of the New Cold War: The Origins of Russiagate & Questions to be asked -- John Batchelor interviews Stephen F. Cohen

Part 1:  This week we hear a great journalist and a historian discuss what are probably the beginnings of the greatest political scandal(s) in United States history. These are the increasingly infamous events around the FISA Memo, Russiagate, illegal acts of major politicians and heads of departments, and indiscreet minions in government. Again email evidence in addition to media efforts is very important for revealing who was behind Russiagate. But Cohen reminds us of his prediction at the beginning of this ordeal, fully a year and a half ago, that he considered the better name than Russiagate should be "Intellgate". His point is that since no collusion was found with Trump and Putin, "there was "no Russia in Russiagate", but there were lots of nefarious behaviour in Washington. A good example, he points out were the people like Glen Simpson and his "Fusion Operation" that was behind the "Steele Dossier". However, equally guilty, notes Cohen, were the early FBI operations to defame Trump even before the election. This Steele Dossier was very quickly accompanied by the Intelligence Community Assessment released by "17 Intelligence Agencies" (sic) that "verified" the latter. But the important question for Cohen about these events is when did the Russiagate operation actually begin? With the collapse of the Steele Dossier "evidence" the Trump adversaries attempted to find earlier "proof" of Trump's guilt.  But Cohen maintains John O. Brennan began the earliest effort of this conspiracy (my word), when he passed on "suspicious information about Trump" to the FBI. That joins James Clapper of the FBI with this plot and by extension also to Comey, head of the FBI. But it was Brennan who shared the Steele Dossier with then President Obama.

 

Part 2:  Cohen returns to the Steele Dossier and effectively debunks it. He mocks the description by Steele having Kremlin contacts and from this condemned the whole "report" - although about this Steele was not questioned, and there were inconsistencies in the story about how the information was received from these contacts. The information that Brennan first sent to the FBI was therefore not from Russian sources but were from British or Ukrainian sources. This connects to the Department of Justice, to an Assistant Attorney General, Bruce Ohr, whose wife, a Russian expert, was helping to research and put together the Steele Dossier. Another dossier was also being researched by Hillary Clinton people and all ended up in the Steele Dossier with Steele as the "author". Due to the flurry of dubious accusations over the Steele accusations, we are starting to see the lawsuits begin. Nevertheless, Cohen has some major questions remaining about Russiagate and its purpose(s):  Was Russiagate the product of the entire intelligence community and not just the FBI; is the entire intelligence leadership rogue, or just the FBI; were those people close to Trump (Paul Manafort, for example) attacked because they were actually under suspicion, or was it for political reasons only; was Brennan's involvement a product of consolidating his position with the CIA when Clinton became president; what was Obama's role in Russiagate; Comey's actions as FBI director are confusing given he was in a no win situation in his indecisive behaviour to ward's Clinton prior to the election and to Trump after the election; and finally, Cohen asks whether we are really facing a massive cover-up?

 

I have been waiting impatiently for a really good journalist and first-rate historian's interpretations of what Russiagate and the unwinding revelations of the FISA memo mean. This is surely it. Both pundits chronologically join up the dots of the criminal activities of people who created and pushed this narrative and how important the FISA revelations mean for them. What is ahead for Washington is likely in the answers to the five questions posed by Cohen at the end of his talk. My very small quibble is with the question about a cover up. We are already seeing it in the reactions in most of the MSM, political comments from Democrats (and not a few Republicans), the Mueller investigation and the Council on Foreign Relations. There is so much invested by the neocons and the Deep State in this narrative that they will not (can not?) give up, and that should give people an inkling of how much potential damage is ahead for these people and the Washington government institutions. We should speculate that all the Intelligence Agencies and the DOJ are controlled by the Deep State since the top echelons have been active in building the foundation of Russiagate, or shielding the participants, or using it geopolitically (Europe). The bright note here - a no gain, no pain point of view - is that since there is no "Russia in Russiagate" (wonderful line, that), then the whole excuse for war with Russia may be damaged. Basically we are all a little safer that this sinister stupidity is revealed for what it is...

 

This 2-part audio interview, with each part running about twenty minutes, was posted on the audioboom.com Internet site on Tuesday.  As always, I thank Larry Galearis for the excellent executive summary you see above.  The link to Part 1 is in the headline -- and here.  And the link to Part 2 is here.


Professor Stephen F. Cohen: Rethinking Putin -- a review by the Saker

I have recently had the pleasure of watching a short presentation by Professor Stephen F. Cohen entitled "Rethinking Putin" which he delivered on the annual Nation cruise on December 2, 2017 (see here for the original Nation Article and original YouTube video). In his short presentation, Professor Cohen does a superb job explaining what Putin is *not* and that includes: (but, please do watch the original video before proceeding).

 

The key thesis is this: Putin began as a pro-Western, European leader and with time he realigned himself with a much more traditional, Russian worldview. He is more in line with Russian voters today.

 

Professor Cohen concluded by addressing two topics which, I presume, his audience cared deeply about: he said that, contrary to Western propaganda, the so-called 'anti-gay' laws in Russia are no different from the laws of 13 U.S. states. Secondly, that "by any reckoning, be it flourishing inside Russia or relations with Israel, by general consent of all, nobody denies this, Jews under Putin in Russia are better off than they had ever been in Russian history. Ever. They have more freedom, less official anti-Semitism, more protection, more official admiration for Israel, more interaction, more freedom to go back and forth".

 

This is all very interesting important stuff, especially when delivered to a Left-Liberal-Progressive US audience (with, probably, a high percentage of Jews). Frankly, Professor Cohen's presentation makes me think about what Galileo might have felt when he made his own "presentations" before the tribunal of Inquisition (Cohen's articles and books are now also on the modern equivalent of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum). In truth, Professor Cohen is simply true to himself: he opposed the crazies during the old Cold War and now he is opposing the same crazies during the new Cold War. His entire life Professor Cohen was a man of truth, courage, and integrity - a peacemaker in the sense of the Beatitudes (Matt 5:9). So while I am not surprised by his courage, I am still immensely impressed by it.

 

I posted the 28-minute embedded video [referred to in the opening paragraph] in my column some time ago, but the Saker resurrects it in this longish but worthwhile commentary about Cohen that showed up on his Internet site on Thursday sometime.  I thank Larry Galearis for pointing it out -- and another link to it is here.


Modern imperialism goes on trial, and is found guilty -- Neil Clark

Imperialism - which today is usually referred to by the euphemism 'liberal interventionism' - went on Trial at the Waterside Theatre in Derry, Northern Ireland this week.

 

Five passionate and well-informed speakers, who included the former British Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford, detailed the carnage and chaos that has been unleashed around the globe by the aggressive, warmongering policies of the U.S. and its closest allies.

 

The event could have been called 'War on Trial.' It might have been called 'Regime Change on Trial.' Or 'Economic Sanctions on Trial.' But it was - thanks to organizer Gregory Sharkey - called 'Imperialism on Trial' and, as the first speaker, the writer and broadcaster John Wight declared, that in itself was highly significant.

For the truth is the 'I' word is the elephant in the room in contemporary discourse. We're not supposed to acknowledge its existence. Imperialism, according to the dominant Establishment narrative, ended when the European empires gave their colonies independence in the 1950s and 60s. In fact, the 'old' imperialism was only replaced by a new variant which is even more destructive, and certainly more dishonest. At least the British Empire admitted it was an empire.

 

Today's U.S.-led neoliberal empire, which has Britain as its junior partner, does no such thing. Entire countries have been destroyed, with millions killed, and it's been done under a 'progressive' banner trumpeting concern for 'human rights' and 'enhancing freedoms.'

 

This very worthwhile commentary by Neil, with four embedded video clips, was posted on the rt.com Internet site last Saturday, but for length and content reasons, had to wait for today's column.  I thank George Whyte for his second contribution to today's column -- and another link to it is here.


For the First Time Turkey Ranks Among the top 10 Countries in the World with the Largest Reserves of Gold

Turkey's gold reserve is 564.80 tons, according to statistics from the World Council on Gold.

By this indicator, Turkey ranks for the first time among the top 10 countries in the world with the largest reserves of precious metal, moving from 10th India.

The world's largest gold reserves are the U.S. with 8,133 tonnes, followed by Germany and Italy. Gold in Turkey's total gold-currency reserves is about 18.3%.

Last year, Ankara twice increased its gold by 30.1 tonnes and 33.9 tonnes respectively.

The above four paragraphs are all there is to this brief gold-related news item that put in an appearance on the novinite.com Internet site on Friday.  I found it on the Sharps Pixley website -- and another link to the hard copy is here.


The PHOTOS and the FUNNIES 

Today's 'critter' is the sandhill crane.  I was getting the tires rotated on my vehicle yesterday -- and while I was waiting, I was reading a story in a sports magazine that there actually is a hunting season for these birds, which I find personally abhorrent.  But that's just my opinion, as they're magnificent creatures.  I have my own photos of these things, but I don't have the time to dig them out right now.  The ones here are borrowed from the Internet.  Click to enlarge.

 

 

 


The WRAP

Today's pop 'blast from the past' comes from a movie soundtrack that I was listening to while I was bottling wine earlier this week.  It's the theme song from the 1985 movie "St. Elmo's Fire".  It was written and produced by David Foster, who did to the recording industry what George Lucas did to the film industry with "Star Wars"...he changed everything.  The link is here.  Enjoy!

Today's classical 'blast from the past' dates from c. 1809/11 and was Beethoven's last piano concerto...No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73.  The premiere performance of the "
Emperor Concerto" took place at the Palace of Prince Joseph Lobkowitz in Vienna on 13 January 1811.  Here's the New York Philharmonic with British-born virtuoso pianist Stephen Hough at the keyboard.  The link is here.


Except for gold, there were new closing lows or new interim day lows set in all of the Big 6 commodities yesterday, as 'da boyz' went about their business of getting the Managed Money traders off the long side -- and as maximum short as they can get them.

And as bad as things are for the precious metals at the moment, there's still that proverbial "Sword of Damocles" overhanging gold, as the two critical moving averages, the 50 and 200-day, remain untouched.  And if JPMorgan et al still have them in their sights -- and there's no reason to suppose that they haven't, then the pain in the other precious metals, particularly silver, is not over yet.

I wish there was a way to sugar-coat this, but there isn't, so I won't bother trying.

Here are the 6-month charts for all of the Big 6 commodities, so you can see what I mean with your own eyes.  The 'click to enlarge' feature helps a bit with the first four.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The powers-that-be have certainly been busy this week, as their attempts to prevent the total collapse of the world's equity and bond markets are now so obvious, that every pundit out there is commenting on it -- and the quotes from Bill King that precede the Critical Reads section pretty much sums it up.

 

Their work in the COMEX futures market has certainly taken away the safe haven status that would normally be found in the precious metals and other commodities at times like this.  But they can only keep this up for so long, because at some point, the markets simply will not be denied in seeking their intrinsic values...up, in the case of precious metals and commodities in general...and down, for everything paper.

 

The economic, financial and monetary systems world-wide are in the process of coming totally unglued, regardless of what the world's central banks and various Plunge Protection Teams do going forward.  It is simply too big to fix this time -- and whether or not Jim Rickards gold-back IMF SDRs put in an appearance at some point, the world as we've know it all our lives, is coming to an end.

Not to be forgotten in all this is the U.S. deep state.  With their backs to the proverbial wall, I'll put absolutely nothing past them, either at home...or abroad...or both.

These are very dangerous times and, unfortunately, all we can do is watch from the sidelines -- and hope that our carefully-made nests of precious metals and their equities will see us through all this.

 

There's no doubt in my mind that they will, but until JPMorgan et al either get over run, or are instructed to stand aside...either of which has a 100 percent probability of happening...it's going to be a very rough road ahead until that day dawns.

 

I'm done for the day -- and the week -- and I look forward to the Sunday night opening in the Far East with a certain amount of trepidation.

 

See you on Tuesday.

Ed

 


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