Posts Tagged ‘Quantitative Easing’
By Greg Robb
August 25, 2011
Bernanke will open the Fed conference with a speech on Friday morning at 10 a.m. Eastern. Stocks have moved higher this week after being pummeled in mid-August, and many analysts attribute the move to investor hopes that Bernanke will use his speech to promise another round of asset purchases, or QE3.
Economists said that the recent weakness in the economy stems from structural issues like foreclosed properties and an unskilled pool of unemployed labor that are immune from monetary policy stimulus.
“I hope he talks about the limitations of monetary policy,” said Mickey Levy, chief economist at Bank of America.
Fed policy is very effective at preventing a downturn but once weak demand is in place, monetary policy cannot lift it, Levy said.
“All the targeted counter-cyclical stimulus is not going to address the huge pocket of distressed properties,” Levy said.
John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo, agreed that the woes facing the economy are structural in nature and described the Fed policy options as modest.
“The Fed has shot the big cannons. They are now playing the game with smaller ammunition,” Silvia said.
At its interest rate meeting earlier this month, the central bank surprised the markets by promising to keep its benchmark Federal funds rate near zero until mid-2013.
Former Fed governor Randall Krozner said that is all the Fed is prepared to do at the moment, and speculation of an announcement of QE3 in markets was misplaced.
Such a big policy shift would only come at a formal Federal Open Market Committee meeting and not in a speech, he said.
Many Fed watchers, including former vice chairman Alan Blinder, believe the central bank is likely to engineer another round of asset purchases, or quantitative easing. Bernanke ready for action but when is in doubt.
In the first round of bond purchases between Dec. 2008 and March 2010, the Fed bought $1.7 trillion of mostly mortgage securities, and in the second round between November and June, the central bank snapped up $600 billion of Treasury bonds.
These purchases did not stimulate demand, Levy noted.
“The slowdown is not the fault of not enough liquidity,” he said.
Levy said he expected Bernanke to say the Fed will do whatever it has to do to avoid recession.
Ultimately, the next step is likely to be take steps to alter the composition of the composition of the Fed’s balance sheet to keep bond yields low, he said.
“That is all the Fed can do,” Levy said.
“More QE would not help. Lower long-term yields on the margin would help,” he added.
Silvia forecast sluggish growth in the 2% range over the next 18 months.
“We are in one of those periods where the economy grows far below potential and the unemployment rate will probably rise,” he said.
“It is a very challenging economy. I just don’t see a silver bullet or a special spark,” he said.
Read the entire article HERE.
By Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON | Sun Aug 21, 2011 10:08am EDT
The U.S. economy is grinding so painfully and haltingly toward recovery that the Federal Reserve looks poised to incrementally strengthen the dosage to keep growth on track.
Expect Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to use a speech at an annual central bank conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, next Friday to acknowledge his disappointment over the pace of growth, even downgrade his outlook, and explain which medicines left in the Fed’s cabinet are best suited to fortify the economy.
He looks unlikely to reach for shock treatment.
“With the recovery grinding to a halt in the first half of this year and the economy operating perilously close to a second recession, the Fed will remain on guard against a negative surprise on growth, and will be willing to act accordingly,” Millan Mulraine, an economist with TD Securities, wrote in a note to clients.
So, how is Fed to administer further remedies?
With interest rate tools well exploited, Bernanke is most likely to focus on the Fed’s balance sheet and opt for tinkering with the size and composition of its portfolio to get the world’s largest economy out of its funk.
Interest rates are already near zero, and the central bank’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee just two weeks ago signaled it is willing to hold borrowing costs at rock bottom levels for two years if necessary. There is little more that can be achieved using the rates tool.
Many of the balance sheet steps are well known, and each carries its own risks and rewards, which Fed staff would research carefully. But chances for a major new bond buying operation announced at Jackson Hole would appear limited currently.
In shaping its thinking, the Fed is likely guided by a sense that the current situation, though rather uncertain, merits a cautious approach and does not arise to the crisis proportions seen in 2008 through 2010 that justified bold and aggressive moves.
The last of these – the $600 billion bond purchase program dubbed QE2 because it was the second installment of quantitative easing – was the Fed’s response to historically low inflation that risked tipping the U.S. economy into a vicious cycle of falling prices and falling consumption and investment.
The situation today is different.
Unlike mid-2010, U.S. inflation is now higher, and core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy prices has accelerated. While higher readings are a concern for some Fed officials, they are not raising widespread alarm at the central bank on the assumption that overall inflation will fall as energy prices recede and that core prices will remain in check.
Instead, the focus is on stumbling growth and the risks ahead. A central group of policymakers on the Fed’s decision-making committee see mounting evidence that growth originally forecasts at around 3 percent for the second half of the year will be slower. While not as dismal as the 1 percent that some Wall Street firms are forecasting, growth this sluggish would fall well short of what’s needed to reduce the steep 9.1 percent jobless rate.
Looming large as a risk factor is Europe’s long running sovereign debt saga, which is pummeling U.S. financial markets and business confidence. So far Europe’s woes and the market turmoil have not caused distress on the scale of the 2008/2009 credit crisis, but it is worrisome.
NO BIG GUNS
Against that backdrop, Bernanke appears unlikely to reach for dramatic measures, but the Fed could be primed to gradually boost the dosage for the ailing economy over the coming months.
One initial step might be simply to use verbal communication. It could commit to maintain its balance sheet, which has ballooned to $2.8 trillion from a pre-crisis level of around $900 billion, at this high level for an extended period of time — even adding a timeframe just as it has for the fed funds rate.
Another measure would be to put downward pressure on medium to long-term interest rates, where mortgages are fixed and corporations borrow, by taking steps to weight the mix of assets in the Fed’s balance sheet toward longer-maturity instruments. This can be done either by replacing its maturing securities with longer-term ones, or by actively exchanging shorter maturities with longer ones.
“Last year at Jackson Hole when the Chairman laid the groundwork for QE2, inflation was rapidly decelerating — the opposite is true at present,” Deutsche Bank economist Carl Riccadonna wrote to clients.
“As a result, if the Fed does move toward additional accommodation, it may first try to extend the average maturity of its portfolio rather than further expand its asset holdings.”
A bolder step would be to buy more bonds, though conditions do not seem to merit that at this juncture. While Fed officials argue bond buying has held longer term rates lower than they would otherwise have been and moved investors to seek riskier assets than safe-haven Treasury securities, the strategy has drawn sharp criticism domestically and internationally.
As a way to tamp down worries that bond buying would spur inflation, the Fed could consider sterilizing new bond buying by simultaneously draining bank reserves. Doing so would remove risk and duration from credit markets, push down interest rates at the longer end of the yield curve, while keeping abundant reserves in check.
FACING THE CRITICS
U.S. critics charge that fresh measures would court inflation. Detractors abroad say bond buying drives down the dollar, drives up commodity prices and unleashes volatile investment flows into emerging markets. Even some within the Fed object to aggressive easing, and the Fed’s August low rate pledge drew an unusual three dissents.
The Fed faces domestic political attacks as well. Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry this week said any further Fed monetary easing would be “almost treacherous, treasonous.
But the Fed has a track record of political independence and its credibility stems from a reputation of being free to act regardless of the political winds. To bow to these critics when the economy needed further support would be unusual.
Bernanke has a chance to make his case on Friday.
Read the entire article HERE.
by Agustino Fontevecchia
Jul. 13 2011 – 11:26 am
Chairman Ben Bernanke faced-off with Fed-hating Representative Ron Paul during his monetary policy report to Congress on Wednesday. The head of the Fed was forced to respond to accusations of enriching already rich corporations while failing to help Main Street, while he was pushed on his views on gold. When asked whether gold is money, Bernanke flatly responded “No.” (See video below).
While most of Bernanke’s reports to Congress serve politicians to pursue their own agendas by gearing the Chairman towards their issues, with Republican Rep. Bacchus talking of the unsustainability of Medicaid and Rep. Frank (D, Mass.) asking about the need to raise the debt limit without cutting spending, it was a stand-off between Bernanke and Ron Paul that took all the attention. (Read Apocalyptic Bernanke: Raise The Debt Ceiling Or Else).
Rep. Ron Paul, Republican for Texas, asked Bernanke why a capital injection of more than $5 trillion “hasn’t done much” to help the consumer, who makes up about two-thirds of GDP in the U.S., and prop up the economy, while it helped boost corporate profits. “You could’ve given $17,000 to each citizen,” Ron Paul claimed.
Bernanke, clearly on the defensive, told Rep. Ron Paul that his institution hadn’t spent a single dollar, rather, the Fed has been a “profit center” according to the Chairman, returning profits to the federal government. As Bernanke began to sermon Rep. Paul on the history of the Fed (“we are here to provide liquidity [in abnormal situations],” the Chairman said), he was interrupted.
“When you wake up in the morning, do you think about the price of gold,” Rep. Paul asked. After pausing for a second, Bernanke responded, clearly uncomfortable. that he paid much attention to the price of gold, only to be interrupted once again.
“Gold’s at about $1,580 [an ounce] this morning, what do you think of the price of gold?” asked Rep. Paul. A stern-faced Bernanke responded people bought it for protection and was once again cut-off, with Ron Paul once again on the offensive.
“Is gold money?” he asked. Clearly bothered, Bernanke told the representative, “No. It’s a precious metal.”
After Paul interrupted him to note the long history of gold being used as money, Bernanke continued,”It’s an asset. Would you say Treasury bills are money? I don’t think they’re money either but they’re a financial asset.”
“Is gold money?” he asked. Clearly bothered, Bernanke told the representative “no, gold is not money, it’s an asset. Treasuries are an asset, people hold them, but I don’t think of them as money,” said Bernanke.
Rep. Ron Paul again jumped in, noting the long history of gold being used as money, and then asked Bernanke why people didn’t hold diamonds, clearly hinting at his fiat money criticism of the U.S. monetary system. The Fed Chairman told Rep. Paul it was nothing more than tradition, and, as he was attempting to develop his argument, Rep. Ron Paul quickly asked the acting authority of the House of Representative’s Committee on Financial Services, Rep. Bacchus, to excuse him for exceeding his time, as he returned the floor to the Committee. (Read Bernanke To Rep. Paul Ryan: QE2 Created 600,000 Jobs).
The interesting exchange served as one of the few times Bernanke has been publicly pushed off his comfort zone by an elected official. Rep. Ron Paul brought up the issues that he’s famous for, namely, a sort of allegiance between the Fed and the nation’s most powerful institutions, the illusion of fiat money, and the gold standard. Bernanke, angered and bothered, had no option but to respond. (Read Bernanke’s Contradiction: Minutes Reveal QE3 Talk And Exit Strategy).
Read the entire article HERE.
Published 22 June 2011
Gold is trading at $1,544.31/oz, €1,072.96/oz and £957.30/oz.
Gold is lower in dollars but higher in euros and has reached new record highs in pounds sterling at £958.25/oz. Gold is being supported by strong and increasing demand internationally.
Sterling has fallen after the BoE minutes raised concerns of further quantitative easing and currency debasement. The Bank of England looks increasingly likely to maintain its ultra accommodative monetary policies. Interest rates may continue to remain at multi century lows and the BoE is again considering more printing of money to buy government debt.
UK Interest Rates – 1700 to Today
Despite Papandreou winning yesterday’s vote, the Greek parliament must now approve the austerity measures and this is leading to continuing nervousness in markets.
Cross Currency Rates
European equities have been sold this morning and Italian, Portuguese and particularly Irish debt are under pressure showing that the risk of contagion remains real. There remain many possible impediments to a solution to Greece’s and the Eurozone’s sovereign and banking debt crisis. That is, if indeed, a solution is possible given the scale of the crisis and the fact that it is systemic.
Gold in British Pounds – 30 Days (Tick)
Gold and silver’s increasing safe haven status is seen in news from the Financial Times (front page) and from Bloomberg today (see news).
The Financial Times reports that “Greek citizens are emptying savings accounts and buying gold as they brace themselves for the possibility of a sovereign default and a run on the banks.”
Sales of gold coins have soared as savers seek a safer and fungible source of value, says the FT.
“When the global financial crisis started, our sales of coins to investors overtook bullion for the first time,” said Harry Krinakis, at Sepheriades, a Greek precious metals trader. “Now the sales ratio has reached five to one.”
Tomas, a computer technician, has exchanged his euro savings for gold coins: “I keep them at home just like my grandmother did in the second world war.”
Athens Stock Exchange General Index – 10 Years (Weekly)
Gold is again being seen in Greece as an essential store of wealth, hedge against inflation and safe haven asset.
This is not surprising given the scale of the crisis and the sharp falls seen in Greek property and equity markets (see chart above).
The fact that gold cannot default or go bankrupt unlike every single corporation, bank and government in the world is making it the safe haven of choice again.
There is also the important fact that it cannot be debased by bankers and central bankers unlike currencies and bonds.
Greece is the canary in the coalmine and the likelihood is that what is happening in Greece today, people using their cash deposits in banks to buy gold bullion, will be seen in many other countries in the coming months.
Indeed, news from the Perth Mint of record sales of silver coins is indicative that this trend has already begun.
Bloomberg reports that “Silver-coin sales from Australia’s Perth Mint, which was founded in 1899 and processes all of the country’s bullion, have surged to a record as buyers seek to protect their wealth with the metal known as poor man’s gold.
The mint sold 10.7 million 1-ounce silver coins since July 1 last year, according to Sales and Marketing Director Ron Currie. That’s 66 percent higher than the previous full fiscal year and about 10-fold more than five years earlier. Sales of 1- ounce gold coins will be close to a record, he said.
Confirming robust demand internationally, UBS said that its gold sales to India have increased significantly and that sales of gold coins and bars in Europe have also accelerated in recent days.
GoldCore has seen a marked increase in sales last week and this. Silver in particular had seen a sharp drop in sales since late April but buying renewed again last week. Renewed buying comes after a long period of hesitancy on behalf of many clients since the sell off at the end of April led to heightened concerns that the “bubble” had burst.
Yet another indication, if one were needed, that gold is anything but a bubble comes in the news that the People’s Bank of China is planning to double its issuance of gold bullion Chinese gold coins.
Both the FT and Bloomberg report that the People’s Bank of China plans to issue about 1 million ounces of its 2011 panda gold bullion coins compared with plans at the end of last year for 500,000 ounces of the coins.
Gold is far from being a bubble. Bubbles witness investors and speculators greedily piling in in expectation of making quick profits. It is quite the opposite today as risk and concern is leading to diversification into gold and buying of gold bullion as a long term store of wealth internationally.
Today, those buying gold and silver are increasingly protected due to the floor being put under precious metal prices due to Indian, Chinese and Asian public and central bank buying of gold.
Silver is trading at $36.09oz,€25.07/oz and £22.37/oz.
PLATINUM GROUP METALS
Platinum is trading at $1,740.00/oz, palladium at $763/oz and rhodium at $1,925/oz.
Read the entire article HERE.
After Dumping 30% Of Its Treasury Holdings In Half A Year, Russia Warns It Will Continue Selling US Debt
by Tyler Durden
06/18/2011 17:04 -0400
Just in time for the end of QE2, when the US needs every possible foreign buyer of US debt to step up to the plate, we get confirmation that yet another major foreign central bank has decided to not only not add to its US debt holdings, but to actively sell US Treasurys. The WSJ reports that “Russia will likely continue lowering its U.S. debt holdings as Washington struggles to contain a budget deficit and bolster a tepid economic recovery, a top aide to President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday. “The share of our portfolio in U.S. instruments has gone down and probably will go down further,” said Arkady Dvorkovich, chief economic aide to the president, told Dow Jones in an interview on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.” Well, with Russia out, at least we have China and Japan continuing to buy US debt…. Oh wait, China is contemplating dumping two thirds of its debt you say? And the biggest buyer of Japanese bonds is now in the process of selling Japanese bonds in the open market for the first time (so not really in the market of US bonds).
Well, surely US households will step up to the plate. After all they all have so much “cash on the sidelines” courtesy of the RecoveryTM ©® that they can’t wait to dump it all into paper yielding less than 3% a year, and has negative real rates of return. Wait, what’s that: according to the Fed, in Q1 US “households” sold $1.1 trillion annualized in Treasurys to the Fed? So, let’s get this straight: China, Japan, and now very much openly Russia, the three countries with the largest financial reserves in the world, are threatening, if not already dumping US bonds, just in time for US households to sell their holdings of US paper to Brian Sack. And this is happening 2 weeks before QE2 ends… Um… Are we and Bill Gross (and certainly not Morgan Stanley) the only ones to see a problem with this?
More on the latest confirmation that the time of US superpower supremacy has ended…
Asked if U.S. debt was as solid an investment now as it was 10 years ago, Mr. Dvorkovich said: “On an absolute basis, yes. On a relative basis, compared to other investments, of course not.”
“When we take decisions and compare, we’re not thinking in absolute terms,” he said.
Russia’s financial reserves—which stood at $528 billion as of June 10—are the world’s third largest, after China and Japan’s. As of May, according to Russia’s central bank, 47% of reserves were in dollars and 41% in euros, compared with 45.2% in dollars and 43.1% in euros on Jan. 1.
The central bank recently diversified the stash to include the Canadian dollar, which makes up 1% of the total, and plans to put 0.8% into the Australian dollar starting in September.
And next, presenting the monthly status update of the second cold war, which is now held entirely between central bank trading accounts. Russia has now cut 30% of its Treasury holdings in the past 7 months. When the caption above the blue thingy hits zero, the “Evil Empire” wins.
Read the entire article HERE.
June 7, 2011, 4:05 p.m. EDT
I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me to participate once again in the International Monetary Conference. I will begin with a brief update on the outlook for the U.S. economy, then discuss recent developments in global commodity markets that are significantly affecting both the U.S. and world economies, and conclude with some thoughts on the prospects for monetary policy.
The Outlook for Growth
U.S. economic growth so far this year looks to have been somewhat slower than expected. Aggregate output increased at only 1.8% at an annual rate in the first quarter, and supply chain disruptions associated with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan are hampering economic activity this quarter. A number of indicators also suggest some loss of momentum in the labor market in recent weeks. We are, of course, monitoring these developments. That said, with the effects of the Japanese disaster on manufacturing output likely to dissipate in coming months, and with some moderation in gasoline prices in prospect, growth seems likely to pick up somewhat in the second half of the year. Overall, the economic recovery appears to be continuing at a moderate pace, albeit at a rate that is both uneven across sectors and frustratingly slow from the perspective of millions of unemployed and underemployed workers.
As is often the case, the ability and willingness of households to spend will be an important determinant of the pace at which the economy expands in coming quarters. A range of positive and negative forces is currently influencing both household finances and attitudes. On the positive side, household incomes have been boosted by the net improvement in job market conditions since earlier this year as well as from the reduction in payroll taxes that the Congress passed in December. Increases in household wealth–largely reflecting gains in equity values–and lower debt burdens have also increased consumers’ willingness to spend. On the negative side, households are facing some significant headwinds, including increases in food and energy prices, declining home values, continued tightness in some credit markets, and still-high unemployment, all of which have taken a toll on consumer confidence.
Developments in the labor market will be of particular importance in setting the course for household spending. As you know, the jobs situation remains far from normal. For example, aggregate hours of production workers–a comprehensive measure of labor input that reflects the extent of part-time employment and opportunities for overtime as well as the number of people employed–fell, remarkably, by nearly 10% from the beginning of the recent recession through October 2009. Although hours of work have increased during the expansion, this measure still remains about 6.5% below its pre-recession level. For comparison, the maximum decline in aggregate hours worked in the deep 1981-82 recession was less than 6%. Other indicators, such as total payroll employment, the ratio of employment to population, and the unemployment rate, paint a similar picture. Particularly concerning is the very high level of long-term unemployment–nearly half of the unemployed have been jobless for more than six months. People without work for long periods can find it increasingly difficult to obtain a job comparable to their previous one, as their skills tend to deteriorate over time and as employers are often reluctant to hire the long-term unemployed.
Although the jobs market remains quite weak and progress has been uneven, overall we have seen signs of gradual improvement. For example, private-sector payrolls increased at an average rate of about 180,000 per month over the first five months of this year, compared with less than 140,000 during the last four months of 2010 and less than 80,000 per month in the four months prior to that. As I noted, however, recent indicators suggest some loss of momentum, with last Friday’s jobs market report showing an increase in private payrolls of just 83,000 in May. I expect hiring to pick up from last month’s pace as growth strengthens in the second half of the year, but, again, the recent data highlight the need to continue monitoring the jobs situation carefully.
The business sector generally presents a more upbeat picture. Capital spending on equipment and software has continued to expand, reflecting an improving sales outlook and the need to replace aging capital. Many U.S. firms, notably in manufacturing but also in services, have benefited from the strong growth of demand in foreign markets. Going forward, investment and hiring in the private sector should be facilitated by the ongoing improvement in credit conditions. Larger businesses remain able to finance themselves at historically low interest rates, and corporate balance sheets are strong. Smaller businesses still face difficulties in obtaining credit, but surveys of both banks and borrowers indicate that conditions are slowly improving for those firms as well.
In contrast, virtually all segments of the construction industry remain troubled. In the residential sector, low home prices and mortgage rates imply that housing is quite affordable by historical standards; yet, with underwriting standards for home mortgages having tightened considerably, many potential homebuyers are unable to qualify for loans. Uncertainties about job prospects and the future course of house prices have also deterred potential buyers. Given these constraints on the demand for housing, and with a large inventory of vacant and foreclosed properties overhanging the market, construction of new single-family homes has remained at very low levels, and house prices have continued to fall. The housing sector typically plays an important role in economic recoveries; the depressed state of housing in the United States is a big reason that the current recovery is less vigorous than we would like.
Developments in the public sector also help determine the pace of recovery. Here, too, the picture is one of relative weakness. Fiscally constrained state and local governments continue to cut spending and employment. Moreover, the impetus provided to the growth of final demand by federal fiscal policies continues to wane.
The prospect of increasing fiscal drag on the recovery highlights one of the many difficult tradeoffs faced by fiscal policymakers: If the nation is to have a healthy economic future, policymakers urgently need to put the federal government’s finances on a sustainable trajectory. But, on the other hand, a sharp fiscal consolidation focused on the very near term could be self-defeating if it were to undercut the still-fragile recovery. The solution to this dilemma, I believe, lies in recognizing that our nation’s fiscal problems are inherently long-term in nature. Consequently, the appropriate response is to move quickly to enact a credible, long-term plan for fiscal consolidation. By taking decisions today that lead to fiscal consolidation over a longer horizon, policymakers can avoid a sudden fiscal contraction that could put the recovery at risk. At the same time, establishing a credible plan for reducing future deficits now would not only enhance economic performance in the long run, but could also yield near-term benefits by leading to lower long-term interest rates and increased consumer and business confidence.
The Outlook for Inflation
Let me turn to the outlook for inflation. As you all know, over the past year, prices for many commodities have risen sharply, resulting in significantly higher consumer prices for gasoline and other energy products and, to a somewhat lesser extent, for food. Overall inflation measures reflect these price increases: For example, over the six months through April, the price index for personal consumption expenditures has risen at an annual rate of about 3.5%, compared with an average of less than 1% over the preceding two years.
Although the recent increase in inflation is a concern, the appropriate diagnosis and policy response depend on whether the rise in inflation is likely to persist. So far at least, there is not much evidence that inflation is becoming broad-based or ingrained in our economy; indeed, increases in the price of a single product–gasoline–account for the bulk of the recent increase in consumer price inflation. Of course, gasoline prices are exceptionally important for both family finances and the broader economy; but the fact that gasoline price increases alone account for so much of the overall increase in inflation suggests that developments in the global market for crude oil and related products, as well as in other commodities markets, are the principal factors behind the recent movements in inflation, rather than factors specific to the U.S. economy. An important implication is that if the prices of energy and other commodities stabilize in ranges near current levels, as futures markets and many forecasters predict, the upward impetus to overall price inflation will wane and the recent increase in inflation will prove transitory. Indeed, the declines in many commodity prices seen over the past few weeks may be an indication that such moderation is occurring. I will discuss commodity prices further momentarily.
Besides the prospect of more-stable commodity prices, two other factors suggest that inflation is likely to return to more subdued levels in the medium term. First, the still-substantial slack in U.S. labor and product markets should continue to have a moderating effect on inflationary pressures. Notably, because of the weak demand for labor, wage increases have not kept pace with productivity gains. Thus the level of unit labor costs in the business sector is lower than it was before the recession. Given the large share of labor costs in the production costs of most firms (typically, a share far larger than that of raw materials costs), subdued unit labor costs should remain a restraining influence on inflation. To be clear, I am not arguing that healthy increases in real wages are inconsistent with low inflation; the two are perfectly consistent so long as productivity growth is reasonably strong.
The second additional factor restraining inflation is the stability of longer-term inflation expectations. Despite the recent pickup in overall inflation, measures of households’ longer-term inflation expectations from the Michigan survey, the 10-year inflation projections of professional economists, the 5-year-forward measure of inflation compensation derived from yields on inflation-protected securities, and other measures of longer-term inflation expectations have all remained reasonably stable. As long as longer-term inflation expectations are stable, increases in global commodity prices are unlikely to be built into domestic wage- and price-setting processes, and they should therefore have only transitory effects on the rate of inflation. That said, the stability of inflation expectations is ensured only as long as the commitment of the central bank to low and stable inflation remains credible. Thus, the Federal Reserve will continue to closely monitor the evolution of inflation and inflation expectations and will take whatever actions are necessary to keep inflation well controlled.
As I noted earlier, the rise in commodity prices has directly increased the rate of inflation while also adversely affecting consumer confidence and consumer spending. Let’s look at these price increases in closer detail.
The basic facts are familiar. Oil prices CL1N
-0.49% have risen significantly, with the spot
price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil near $100 per barrel as of the end of last week, up nearly 40% from a year ago. Proportionally, prices of corn and wheat have risen even more, roughly doubling over the past year. And prices of industrial metals have increased notably as well, with aluminum and copper prices up about one-third over the past 12 months. When the price of any product moves sharply, the economist’s first instinct is to look for changes in the supply of or demand for that product. And indeed, the recent increase in commodity prices appears largely to be the result of the same factors that drove commodity prices higher throughout much of the past decade: strong gains in global demand that have not been met with commensurate increases in supply.
From 2002 to 2008, a period of sustained increases in commodity prices, world economic activity registered its fastest pace of expansion in decades, rising at an average rate of about 4.5% per year. This impressive performance was led by the emerging and developing economies, where real activity expanded at a remarkable 7% per annum. The emerging market economies have likewise led the way in the recovery from the global financial crisis: From 2008 to 2010, real gross domestic product (GDP) rose cumulatively by about 10% in the emerging market economies even as GDP was essentially unchanged, on net, in the advanced economies.
Naturally, increased economic activity in emerging market economies has increased global demand for raw materials. Moreover, the heavy emphasis on industrial development in many emerging market economies has led their growth to be particularly intensive in the use of commodities, even as the consumption of commodities in advanced economies has stabilized or declined. For example, world oil consumption rose by 14% from 2000 to 2010; underlying this overall trend, however, was a 40% increase in oil use in emerging market economies and an outright decline of 4.5% in the advanced economies. In particular, U.S. oil consumption was about 2.5% lower in 2010 than in 2000, with net imports of oil down nearly 10%, even though U.S. real GDP rose by nearly 20% over that period.
This dramatic shift in the sources of demand for commodities is not unique to oil. If anything, the pattern is even more striking for industrial metals, where double-digit percentage rates of decline in consumption by the advanced economies over the past decade have been overwhelmed by triple-digit percentage increases in consumption by the emerging market economies. Likewise, improving diets in the emerging market economies have significantly increased their demand for agricultural commodities. Importantly, in noting these facts, I intend no criticism of emerging markets; growth in those economies has conferred substantial economic benefits both within those countries and globally, and in any case, the consumption of raw materials relative to population in emerging-market countries remains substantially lower than in the United States and other advanced economies. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the tremendous growth in emerging market economies has considerably increased global demand for commodities in recent years.
Against this backdrop of extremely robust growth in demand, the supply of many commodities has lagged behind. For example, world oil production has increased less than 1% per year since 2004, compared with nearly 2% per year in the prior decade. In part, the slower increase in the supply of oil reflected disappointing rates of production in countries that are not part of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). However, OPEC has not shown much willingness to ramp up production, either. Most recently, OPEC production fell 1.3 million barrels per day from January to April of this year, reflecting the disruption to Libyan supplies and the lack of any significant offset from other OPEC producers. Indeed, OPEC’s production of oil today remains about 3 million barrels per day below the peak level of mid-2008. With the demand for oil rising rapidly and the supply of crude stagnant, increases in oil prices are hardly a puzzle.
Production shortfalls have plagued many other commodities as well. Agricultural output has been hard hit by a spate of bad weather around the globe. For example, last summer’s drought in Russia severely reduced that country’s wheat crop. In the United States, high temperatures significantly impaired the U.S. corn crop last fall, and dry conditions are currently hurting the wheat crop in Kansas. Over the past year, droughts have also afflicted Argentina, China, and France. Fortunately, the lag between planting and harvesting for many crops is relatively short; thus, if more-typical weather patterns resume, supplies of agricultural commodities should rebound, thereby reducing the pressure on prices.
Not all commodity prices have increased, illustrating the point that supply and demand conditions can vary across markets. For example, prices for both lumber and natural gas are currently near their levels of the early 2000s. The demand for lumber has been curtailed by weakness in the U.S. construction sector, while the supply of natural gas in the United States has been increased by significant innovations in extraction techniques. Among agricultural commodities, rice prices have remained relatively subdued, reflecting favorable growing conditions.
In all, these cases reinforce the view that the fundamentals of global supply and demand have been playing a central role in recent swings in commodity prices. That said, there is usually significant uncertainty about current and prospective supply and demand. Accordingly, commodity prices, like the prices of financial assets, can be volatile as market participants react to incoming news. Recently, commodity prices seem to have been particularly responsive to news bearing on the prospects for global economic growth as well as geopolitical developments.
As the rapid growth of emerging market economies seems likely to continue, should we therefore expect continued rapid increases in the prices of globally-traded commodities? While it is certainly possible that we will see further increases, there are good reasons to believe that commodity prices will not continue to rise at the rapid rates we have seen recently. In the short run, unexpected shortfalls in the supplies of key commodities result in sharp price increases, as usage patterns and available supplies are difficult to change quickly. Over longer periods, however, high levels of commodity prices curtail demand as households and firms adjust their spending and production patterns. Indeed, as I noted earlier, we have already seen significant reductions in commodity use in the advanced economies. Likewise, over time, high prices should elicit meaningful increases in supply, both as temporary factors, such as adverse weather, abate and as investments in productive capacity come to fruition. Finally, because expectations of higher prices lead financial market participants to bid up the spot prices of commodities, predictable future developments bearing on the demands for and supplies of commodities tend already to be reflected in current prices. For these reasons, although unexpected developments could certainly lead to continued volatility in global commodity prices, it is reasonable to expect the effects of commodity prices on overall inflation to be relatively moderate in the medium term.
While supply and demand fundamentals surely account for most of the recent movements in commodity prices, some observers have attributed a significant portion of the run-up in prices to Federal Reserve policies, over and above the effects of those policies on U.S. economic growth. For example, some have argued that accommodative U.S. monetary policy has driven down the foreign exchange value of the dollar, thereby boosting the dollar price of commodities. Indeed, since February 2009, the trade-weighted dollar has fallen by about 15%. However, since February 2009, oil prices have risen 160% and nonfuel commodity prices are up by about 80%, implying that the dollar’s DXY
+0.04% decline can explain, at most, only a small part of the rise in oil and other
commodity prices; indeed, commodity prices have risen dramatically when measured in terms of any of the world’s major currencies, not just the dollar. But even this calculation overstates the role of monetary policy, as many factors other than monetary policy affect the value of the dollar. For example, the decline in the dollar since February 2009 that I just noted followed a comparable increase in the dollar, which largely reflected flight-to-safety flows triggered by the financial crisis in the latter half of 2008; the dollar’s decline since then in substantial part reflects the reversal of those flows as the crisis eased. Slow growth in the United States and a persistent trade deficit are additional, more fundamental sources of recent declines in the dollar’s value; in particular, as the United States is a major oil importer, any geopolitical or other shock that increases the global price of oil will worsen our trade balance and economic outlook, which tends to depress the dollar. In this case, the direction of causality runs from commodity prices to the dollar rather than the other way around. The best way for the Federal Reserve to support the fundamental value of the dollar in the medium term is to pursue our dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability, and we will certainly do that.
Another argument that has been made is that low interest rates have pushed up commodity prices by reducing the cost of holding inventories, thus boosting commodity demand, or by encouraging speculators to push commodity futures prices above their fundamental levels. In either case, if such forces were driving commodity prices materially and persistently higher, we should see corresponding increases in commodity inventories, as higher prices curtailed consumption and boosted production relative to their fundamental levels. In fact, inventories of most commodities have not shown sizable increases over the past year as prices rose; indeed, increases in prices have often been associated with lower rather than higher levels of inventories, likely reflecting strong demand or weak supply that tends to put pressure on available stocks.
Finally, some have suggested that very low interest rates in the United States and other advanced economies have created risks of economic overheating in emerging market economies and have thus indirectly put upward pressures on commodity prices. In fact, most of the recent rapid economic growth in emerging market economies appears to reflect a bounceback from the previous recession and continuing increases in productive capacity, as their technologies and capital stocks catch up with those in advanced economies, rather than being primarily the result of monetary conditions in those countries. More fundamentally, however, whatever the source of the recent growth in the emerging markets, the authorities in those economies clearly have a range of fiscal, monetary, exchange rate, and other tools that can be used to address any overheating that may occur. As in all countries, the primary objective of monetary policy in the United States should be to promote economic growth and price stability at home, which in turn supports a stable global economic and financial environment.
Let me conclude with a few words about the current stance of monetary policy. As I have discussed today, the economic recovery in the United States appears to be proceeding at a moderate pace and–notwithstanding unevenness in the rate of progress and some recent signs of reduced momentum–the labor market has been gradually improving. At the same time, the jobs situation remains far from normal, with unemployment remaining elevated. Inflation has risen lately but should moderate, assuming that commodity prices stabilize and that, as I expect, longer-term inflation expectations remain stable.
Against this backdrop, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has maintained a highly accommodative monetary policy, keeping its target for the federal funds rate close to zero and further easing monetary conditions through large-scale asset purchases. The FOMC has indicated that it will complete its purchases of $600 billion of Treasury securities by the end of this month while maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its securities holdings. The Committee also continues to anticipate that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate for an extended period.
The U.S. economy is recovering from both the worst financial crisis and the most severe housing bust since the Great Depression, and it faces additional headwinds ranging from the effects of the Japanese disaster to global pressures in commodity markets. In this context, monetary policy cannot be a panacea. Still, the Federal Reserve’s actions in recent years have doubtless helped stabilize the financial system, ease credit and financial conditions, guard against deflation, and promote economic recovery. All of this has been accomplished, I should note, at no net cost to the federal budget or to the U.S. taxpayer.
Although it is moving in the right direction, the economy is still producing at levels well below its potential; consequently, accommodative monetary policies are still needed. Until we see a sustained period of stronger job creation, we cannot consider the recovery to be truly established. At the same time, the longer-run health of the economy requires that the Federal Reserve be vigilant in preserving its hard-won credibility for maintaining price stability. As I have explained, most FOMC participants currently see the recent increase in inflation as transitory and expect inflation to remain subdued in the medium term. Should that forecast prove wrong, however, and particularly if signs were to emerge that inflation was becoming more broadly based or that longer-term inflation expectations were becoming less well anchored, the Committee would respond as necessary. Under all circumstances, our policy actions will be guided by the objectives of supporting the recovery in output and employment while helping ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with the Federal Reserve’s mandate.
Read the entire article HERE.
Wednesday, 1 Jun 2011 | 6:42 AM ET
By Jessica Hartogs
Investors should prepare themselves for a third round of quantitative easing, Simon Maughn, co-head of European equities at MF Global, told CNBC Wednesday.
“The bond market is going in one direction which is up-falling yields which is telling you quite clearly the direction of economic travel is downwards. Downgrades. QE3 (a third round of quantitative easing) is coming,” said Maughn. “The bond markets are all smarter than us, and that’s exactly what the bond markets are telling me.”
“What’s interesting in the bond markets over the last couple of sessions is, you’ve seen human traders trying to step in and call this turn in the market the same way that equities have done … and they have just been mowed down by the quant funds which are all about leverage, all about momentum and are betting on bond prices going up,” added Maughn.
Once again, the United States will step up as the marginal buyer of bonds, said Maughn.
“One more big injection of cash into the bond market should take you through at least the summer season into the beginning of the fourth quarter.”
“That cash injection will have the normal inflationary knock-on impact, driving back up commodities, supporting industrial stocks, dragging the financials up with them… I think it’s all about the monetary injection trade,” Maughn told CNBC.
Read the entire article HERE.
May 9, 2011
As we warned our readers on May 1, 2011, when silver had clawed its way back to about $48 per ounce: “We expect another massive price attack in the next few days.”
We came to this conclusion based upon a number of factors, including the impending opening of the Hong Kong Merchantile Exchange, which will be controlled by many of the same international players who control NYMEX. Like clockwork, a vicious attack, perhaps the most ferocious one ever mounted in the history of precious metals, began on Monday, May 2, 2011. We knew it was coming, but to be honest, we didn’t expect the level of ferocity. Following our own suggestions, when silver had tanked by about 18%, we entered into a small speculative long position, using the SIVR silver trust. The price punched right through the minor support level we had chosen, and continued down.
Had we realized the depth of the silver short seller despair, we would have played the game a bit differently. We would have waited longer, bought a lot more later on, and created a much longer term position. As it is, we have lost nearly nothing, and will do it anyway. Nevertheless, as irrational as this kind of thinking is, and as much as we warn people against it, human beings are human beings and we are not happy about putting on a little bet, no matter how small, that fails to catch the bottom of a dip.
The level of despair among short sellers, which is motivating this attack, is growing. Anything could happen at this point. They could give up entirely, or the attack could become more ferocious. We don’t know. What we do know is that the short sellers’ predicament has just grown worse. They will eventually become even more desperate than they are now as weeks and months pass by. We will explain why shortly.
New and ever larger performance bond deposit requirements are being announced by the NYMEX so-called “clearing house risk committee” (performance bond committee) almost every other day. On top of these substantial increases, the individual clearing members are often making even bigger demands and hiking up performance bond requirements even higher.
We cannot help but wonder if some of these clearing members are themselves short silver, or if they are deathly afraid that other clearing members will default, leaving them footing the bill? Or are they trying to help attack their own customers? To the extent that a clearing member is raising performance bonds above the level of the exchange, customers should say goodbye and never do business with them again.
According the official spokesperson for CME Group, which owns NYMEX, the performance bond increases are designed to address “increased risk”. If this were so, however, such changes would apply only to short sellers and new long buyers who purchased up in the higher price ranges. Most of the older long buyers were sitting on huge profits from the upward movement of silver, when the new bond requirements were imposed in the $49 range. They posed no greater risk at all than they did back when they made their purchases at $18, $20, $25 per ounce, etc.
But the exchange and its dealers don’t play the game that way. Instead, they apply these changes to everyone, even people who may have bought when silver was down near $18 per ounce, even though these older position holders pose no greater risk of defaulting than before. The exchange committee members are quite expert at all this, and are well aware that the net effect of what they were doing would be to throw people involuntarily out of positions. The effect is carefully calculated and thought out, and is part of the overall process used to artificially control silver prices.
Coupled with the sudden increased performance in bonds, there has been an all-out media effort to convince people that a “bubble is bursting” even though, as we will shortly explain, anyone who is worth his salt as an analyst knows it isn’t true. There has NEVER been any bubble in silver in 2011, and therefore, it cannot possibly “burst”. There has simply been an unwinding of a grossly underpriced asset that has been subject to a multi-year price suppression effort.
Be that as it may, this downturn provides, for the first time in a long time, more than mere gambling opportunities. Highly leveraged and undercapitalized speculators have been kicked out of their positions, and they had pushed the price of silver up very fast. It would have gone to the same levels, anyway, and beyond, but the process would have been slower and steadier if the market had been limited to cash buyers and well-capitalized investors.
We have been carefully observing the methods used in this attack and have reached some conclusions. The attack is not sophisticated. It is NOT rocket science. The method is so simple that it is astounding that so few people see it for what it is. Regulators could put an end to it any time they want to. They simply don’t want to. That means, of course, that they are essentially complicit. There are genuine folks over at CFTC, like Commissioner Bart Chilton, but they are operating at an agency which is structurally corrupted, with a revolving door swapping employees to and from the regulator and those who are supposed to be regulated.
The current price attack involves an overwhelming creation of transient short positions that last less than one day. This is expensive to do in terms of upfront cash. But it isn’t quite as expensive as it may seem at first glance. Each day, except on Friday, May 6th, more than 10,000 short positions appeared to be transiently created, closed and recreated during the trading day. This must have required posting at least $180 million in performance bonds. However, to give credit to the ingenuity of the manipulators, most cash is recouped by the end of the trading day. With access to Federal Reserve loan windows, putting up an infinite amount of upfront fiat cash in the morning of a trading day is no deterrent.
From what we can see, this is what they are doing, in a highly coordinated fashion:
1) Either using control over the exchange committee system to induce sudden hikes in performance bond requirements, or opportunistically using such hikes. The hikes soften up the market by causing an initial destabilization of accounts of overleveraged long position holders. Some of the big clearing members of NYMEX have enhanced this effect by raising their own requirements higher than the exchange committee, and thereby softening up their own customers more substantially;
2) Using analysts to make extensive commentary to the mass media to the effect that the “silver bubble has burst” in the hope of inducing fear in the marketplace, further softening it up, in preparation for step 3.
3) Using trading “bots” to transiently create thousands and, sometimes, tens of thousands of intra-day short positions, designed to soak up opportunistic buying by better capitalized long side oriented investors. The flooding of the market with this paper supply of imaginary “silver” prevents futures based prices from rising and triggers stop-loss orders among leveraged customers.
4) Closing most intra-day positions into the mass of involuntary liquidations. Sometimes, “artillery” is left on the battlefield by the close of the day. This happens when transient short positions cannot be fully unloaded. In other words, the bots are competing with heavy buying from well-capitalized buyers who now want to pay the “bargain” prices created by the bots, and taking over those positions before the bots have the opportunity to buy them back. This shows up as a net increase in the “open interest” in silver, even as the price is falling. That aberrant result is impossible if a bubble were really “bursting”, because we would have run out of such buyers by now;
5) Rinsing and repeating the same process the next day, and on various days after that, allowing for a few “up” days centered around points of natural technical support, in order to preserve plausible deniability.
Again, CME officials claim that the sudden margin changes are motivated by “high volatility”, and that their actions are not a cause for the recent crash of silver prices. That is disingenuous at best. The changes are not “motivated” by high volatility — they are the initial cause of the volatility. They knowingly destabilized the accounts of highly leveraged buyers. Those buyers were highly leveraged because the exchange previously encouraged high leverage by marking down performance bond requirements. Sudden upward adjustment of performance bonds creates an opening for trading “bots” to move in, and helps make the manipulation less costly.
If performance bonds were never set in the first place, at ridiculous ultra-low levels, then suddenly raised, then suddenly lowered, over and over again – which is exactly what the exchange has done for years – prices would be stable. Substantial performance bonds, kept the same at ALL times, would mean no “pie-in-the-sky” undercapitalized long buyers drawn into the market. The ability of the manipulators to flush them out, collect their performance bonds, and periodically crash commodity prices would end.
In that scenario, silver and gold would transform back to their 10,000 year old role as the most stable stores of value that exist, and conservative investors would convert their fiat cash, stocks and bonds into precious metals. That is a nightmare scenario for western central bankers, because it is a severe threat to the long term profits of the commercial casino-banks they service, whose tight control over the world economy facilitates the sale of derivatives and control over the contingencies that trigger such derivatives. This tight control cannot exist in an honest money gold/silver base monetary system, and is based primarily upon control of paper and electronic money printing presses
But, in spite of the incredible power of the central banks standing behind them, short sellers are losing this war. Their surface “success” is an illusion. Instead of escaping from liability, their liability is growing. In spite of the propaganda machine, the attack by clearing members against their own customers, and the trading bots, buying interest has remained incredibly high. This is exemplified by the fact that not all of the tens of thousands of transient intra-day short contracts have been closed by the end of the trading day. That is NOT a sign of a bursting bubble but, rather, of just the opposite.
In a normal market, the cost of a relatively fixed supply of goods will always result in rising prices when the number of purchase contracts rise. This is because demand has increased while supply has stayed roughly the same. But, not in our corrupted futures markets. On Tuesday, May 3, 2011, CME Group records show that the silver bars underlying 23 contracts were delivered. That should have reduced “open interest” contracts by 23. Instead, there was a net INCREASE that day of “same-month” positions by 10 contracts. In other words, short sellers will now need to deliver 165,000 additional ounces of silver this month.
On Friday, May 6, 2011, the short sellers must have been proud of themselves. They were able to deliver 243 contracts, or 1.2 million ounces of silver, which is a huge amount. But, the open interest for May delivery only declined by 13 contracts, which means that the artificially cheap prices attracted 230 new long contract buyers who paid cash. The new contracts will need to be delivered this month. As hard as it must have been to find the silver for May 6th delivery, they are now forced to find another 1.15 million ounces somewhere.
The so-called “spot” price is now largely irrelevant, but short sellers have still not acknowledged that fact to themselves. Intense physical silver demand continues. This is amply illustrated by continued backwardation. Dealers at COMEX and the LBMA may create fake prices at will, but the cash market is their achilles’ heel. Short sellers have put paper silver on a fire sale at the futures exchanges. Yet they have not improved their position by doing so. They have, instead, insured a worse problem. Cash buyers put the fear of God in the hearts of silver manipulators. Cash buyers can put them into bankruptcy, destroy their power over the market, and discredit the futures markets, LBMA and the central bankers by inducing multiple defaults.
New “urban” myths about mysterious eastern billionaires buying up silver have spread quickly. On April 28, 2011, silver was selling for a high of $49 per ounce. The open interest had fallen to as low as 129,711 as short sellers slowly capitulated, and serious cash buyers took the bait. Allowing higher and higher fiat prices was effective in allowing open short positions to be closed, which is what short sellers must do before it is too late. On one day, for example, in early Asian trading, prices rose temporarily by over 10%. Asian short sellers were breaking ranks and buying back positions at any price. Then the bull-headed spirit of their European and American comrades awoke, and the current attack on silver prices began.
The market is NOT becoming dispirited or shell-shocked, as would have once been the case under similar conditions. Instead, we are seeing heavy buying by well capitalized long buyers who have probably read Andrew McGuire’s emails. They now know the score. They know that this is simply a manipulation event. As of May 5, 2011, the open interest had already risen to 134,804. The evil “Empire” is facing 5,093 new long positions. Two hundred sixty six of those are “same-month” positions, bought with a 100% cash, and need to be delivered this month.
Tens of thousands of other positions have changed hands. The trading “bots” managed to close most of their intra-day shorts into margin calls and stop loss orders, but have not accomplished much in terms of the level of open interest. Tens of thousands of existing contracts plus 5,093 additional hard long positions were unintentionally created by the trading bots, and all of these are now transferred from undercapitalized longs who would never have taken delivery, into much stronger hands.
The percentage of contracts, going forward, that will be forced into delivery as the months pass, will rise as a result of the transfer from weak to strong hands, and the silver short sellers’ problem is now bigger. New buyers have streamed in and bought at lower prices. That is the natural response of any bull market to a major manipulation event like this one. Silver is in a secular bull market. That has not changed as a result of a manipulation event. In fact, nothing has changed, except the unfavorable position of the silver short side manipulators, who are facing a much worse picture now than they did before they started this manipulation.
They have collected performance bond “candy” from undercapitalized investment “babies”. But, they need much more. Short sellers need to create the type of dispirited shell-shocked market they managed to create in late 2008. The effort, back then, made use of the demise of Lehman Brothers to offload hundreds of billions of dollars worth of short positions in all the precious metals in the OTC derivatives market. So far, however, this manipulation event isn’t working very well. The only way to bring the number of positions down is to allow the price to rise substantially.
If they abandon the effort now, as Friday’s action implies they might, it will be impossible for them to shift their short term price reduction into a longer term situation of altered market perceptions, which is their end goal. The Federal Reserve can give them as much cash as they need to mount as many paper-based attacks as they want, but it can’t give them physical silver. Short sellers will need to “put up” or “shut up”. They need to pay the price for their misconduct over many years.
Short sellers have proven to be so bull-headed that one has to doubt whether they will do the smart thing. The next move might be to flood physical markets with newly “cashed out” baskets of silver bars from the SLV silver trust stockpile. That might dampen pressure from increasing demand, and might even meet the immediate need for physical delivery in the OTC cash markets. Over the long run, however, assuming that the price remains discounted, the bars will quickly disappear and as they raid the stockpile, others will buy SLV shares and also raid the stockpile. SLV may end up stripped of its silver.
Does SLV really have the full amount of silver claimed? It does have a solid-seeming inspection report that says it does. If it doesn’t, we may be finding out soon enough. If those who have been dismissed as paranoid people end up being right, and there is not enough silver in the stockpile to cover claims, jail cells will be waiting. The CME Group clearing house risk committee can raise performance bonds to 100% of the amount that long buyers paid for their positions in silver. They can even raise it higher than that, but only at the risk of jail cells, and/or triple damages that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy for its individual members. Meanwhile, manipulators can continue to flood the market with bidding-bots and intra-day transient short positions. They can theoretically absorb all the buying pressure if they are stubborn enough.
They can continue to raid the SLV stockpile to make deliveries, and spin those withdrawals to the media as the “public getting out of silver”. But this is not 1980. No one remotely similar to Nelson Bunker Hunt is relying on bank financing to corner the silver market using leveraged positioning. Price pressure is from the cash physical market, not derivatives. COMEX is relatively irrelevant. Nothing the manipulators can do in derivatives markets will relieve the physical market pressure.
Short sellers have replaced weak hands with strong ones who are much more likely to take delivery. This manipulation episode will dramatically unwind, just as it dramatically began, when silver short sellers capitulate, as they must. Prices will shoot far beyond the recent high levels. “Bottom picking”, therefore, may be nice but it isn’t absolutely necessary. The prospective price appreciation over the next few months or years should overwhelm any differences in price right now. It won’t matter whether you bought at $50, $40, $35, $20 etc. In a few months, the price will likely be back up, and, in a few years, the price will be many multiples of all those numbers.
Technical support levels still have meaning because manipulators want it to be so. Cash fueled trading “bots”, filled to the brim with Federal Reserve funny money, can be programmed to open as many transient intra-day short positions as needed to punch right through any support levels. But manipulators must preserve an illusion of natural market movement. We can expect loose adherence to chart patterns, allowing bounces where appropriate, and then, punch-throughs.
The only way a psychologically depressed market could now be achieved is by crash prices beneath the long-term trend line, which is around $22.50 per ounce. This would require hundreds of millions of additional trading bot dollars to do. They might try it, at some point, but more likely, they will give up for the moment and return to a slow capitulation. Even if they do push prices down below $22.50, we doubt it would work for very long. Such a battering would cause heavy technical damage, but as noted, this market is not being driven by technical trends.
If they don’t achieve the sub-$22.50 level, even most technical analysts relied upon by the big non-manipulation-involved hedge funds and other big players will assume that the silver bull market is still running and that this is merely a deep correction. They will buy back in and run the price back up. In other words, if the manipulators do not achieve a sustainable self-perpetuating shell-shocked market, as was achieved in late 2008, the manipulators will not be able to close short positions without great losses.
It may be possible to use technical analysis to make intra-day, or multi-day gambles on bounces. We would not feel comfortable, however, with recommending that this be done with substantial capital, because the manipulators could suddenly attack again at any time. If they decide to punch through the strong technical support level at $33-34, they will do so with everything they’ve got. They will need to take down the price very quickly because they need to get it done before so much of the month has passed that they will be impaired in their ability to gather silver to make delivery in the OTC market.
You must think long term now before entering this silver market, because you may well get stuck with a silver position for a longer term than you may expect. But if the manipulators do press the price down below the $22.50 level, you should buy with every dollar you have available, because even though things will look bleak by then, with every media outlet heralding the “bursting of the silver bubble”, a few months later, the price will be back to way above $50 again. Prefacing the big fall will probably be a huge technical rally in the U.S. dollar, and a big fall in the stock market. These events may not happen until the end of QE-2 in late June.
On the other hand, if you don’t buy now, and, instead rely on the forlorn hope that manipulators will push hard enough to take prices into $20-22 level, you may well lose the excellent opportunities that now exist. There is no way to know, in a manipulated market, whether the manipulators will decide to punch through a particular support level. As we have stated in previous articles, the better way to deal with this is to pick a reasonable price level acceptable to your pocketbook, put in a buy order, and wait. If your buy order is successful, and the price turns up immediately, great. If not, be secure in knowing that you have a long term view, and a position in an asset destined for much more appreciation than we’ve ever seen before, over the next few years.
In short, it is time to stop thinking about short term gambling, because no metric you use is safe against the depredations of a manipulation that regulators refuse to stop. Buy with the long term in mind and wait for the market to punish the manipulators, which it will. Take physical delivery if you buy at the futures markets. Remember, the primary value of precious metals is NOT in making “big money” from gambling in the banker-controlled gambling casinos. We have always strongly suggested that only very small gambles like those you would make in Las Vegas should be made on a speculative basis. But buying on big dips, like this one, is not a speculative undertaking. It is long-term investing. The long term power of silver, like gold and platinum, is to preserve the buying power you’ve worked for all your life.
The powers-that-be want the U.S. dollar and all other paper fiat currencies to lose value every year. In fact, 2% inflation is their openly stated goal. If you consider compounding, that is an inflation rate that destroys the value of money very rapidly. But the true inflation rate in America is already closer to 6%, not anywhere near the low official numbers that the government likes to report to the media. With a huge increase in the amount of circulating funny-money liquidity around the world, including but not limited to the U.S. dollar, inflation is likely to rise much more sharply from here forward all over the world, not just in the U.S.A. The willingness to tackle this inflation, on the part of policy-makers, is very limited because serious efforts involve a lot of pain to powerful constituencies.
Investing in precious metals means converting U.S. dollars, pounds, euros, etc., into hard “money” that can be manipulated in price, but which cannot be debased. Manipulation has its limits, and since it appears to have been happening in the gold and silver markets for decades, in one form or another, the unwinding that is now beginning will just get more intense with time. No matter what technical support levels they target and take out, the short sellers are not going to extricate themselves without paying big bucks. Knowledge of how the price suppression scheme operates is in the public domain, and it is highly unlikely that manipulators will succeed in shell-shocking markets with their shenanigans, nor suppressing prices, for any significant period of time.
The next step to control prices for several more months will be borrowing enough money from the Fed’s loan windows to keep their trading bots active whenever some type of opportunity presents itself, and to become even more aggressive using control of exchange mechanisms to continue sudden increases in performance bonds. Because SLV shareholders tend to be unaware of the fact that they are dealing in a manipulated market, they continue to buy and sell the trust at whatever the spot price may be manipulated to. Thus, short sellers can use opportunistic futures markets attacks to raid SLV silver stockpiles “on the cheap”.
This should allow them to obtain enough silver to meet physical delivery demands, and even to periodically flood physical markets. Meanwhile, the reduction in the stockpiles will be spun into a claim that the “bubble is bursting” as “big players” “sell” SLV shares. In fact, they are not selling at all but, rather, cashing shares for silver to meet delivery demands. We doubt, for this reason, that the speculations about impending COMEX defaults have any basis in fact.
Silver investors should understand that the ride is going to be a roller coaster, as it always has been. Going forward, the intensity of that thrill ride is likely to increase proportionally to the desperation of short sellers. The biggest threat to silver prices will be the supposed end of QE-2. Short sellers are likely to view it as another opportunity to attack. But July is also a big delivery month in silver, and the delivery demand will be considerably higher than now, as a result of this price attack and the replacement of weak hands with strong ones.
If the manipulators had strong faith that the cessation of QE will save them, they wouldn’t have launched the ongoing attack we are now suffering through. The most likely outcome of the end of quantitative …
Read the entire article HERE.
May 1, 2011
While it will not surprise anyone that Japan, which for the past 3 decades has been a monetary policy basket case caught in what bankers like calling a deflationary spiral (yet which others like Sean Corrigan merely define as prices re-indexing to a fair value absent endless cheap credit crutches), has constantly had to resort to a record loose monetary policy coupled with endless episodes of quantitative easing, some may not know that over the past month Japan has seen its current account balance swell by $250 billion, or nearly half the entire Fed QE2 monetization mandate. And as the BOJ continues to disclose the full extent of the Japanese economic devastation following March 11, we are confident that very soon the most recent episode of Japanese “printing” will surpass the $600 billion that the Fed is injecting into the US economy (in addition to the roughly $250 billion in Treasury bonds monetized by the BOJ each year): an amount roughly 5 times greater than America’s when expressed as a ratio of GDP. It is thus no surprise then that Bernanke does not seem too concerned with the purported end of QE – after all money printing is merely moving from developed world point A to developed world point B. And thanks to monetary linkages of “globalization” all this brand new money will once again find its way into speculative assets, and thus, Fed mandate #3 favorite – Russell 2000. Below we provide a closer look at what exactly the current and future, Japanese QEasing will look like.
To do that, we present some observations from an Ad Hoc Comment by GaveKal: “The Understandable Japanese Liquidity Surge.” As we presented yesterday, while for the time being the Japanese monetary base (unlike our own exploding Adjusted Monetary Base) will not show much if any change for a few months, the Japanese current account balance has “swollen by Yen equivalent of $250 billion in the past few days (i.e., about half of the amount of QE).” This is shown on the chart below:
And since this move does not occur in isolation, it has impacted the broader total assets category of the BOJ, which is now close to an all time high following the recent surge:
So while it is now obvious that Japan has quietly, and without much fanfare moved into another monetization regime, the two questions remaining are: i) what is the mechanism by which Japan is pumping a quarter trillion into the market, and ii) and, much more important, where is this money going? GaveKal answers question #1:
Breaking down the BoJ’s increase in assets, it seems that the entire increase of the past week is pretty much attributable to one source – loans by funds supplying operations against pooled collateral (green line below). This is clearly a change in normal practices:
Click Chart for larger view
- In 2002-2004, the BoJ injected cash in the system by purchasing treasury bills (dark blue above).
- In 2008, the little the BoJ did was through the purchase of foreign assets and even then, the BoJ’s intervention was sterilized through the sale of JGBs (yellow line going down).
So what is this ‘loans by funds against pooled collateral’? Given the underlying amount, the only explanation we come up with (though we look forward to alternative theories from clients) is that the BoJ has dramatically increased its bank repo operation; in essence, making sure that the banks are not scarce of cash in the middle of the current national emergency. Importantly, so far, there seems to be no sterilization by the BoJ of this cash injection. A fact which begs a number of important questions, including:
- Why isn’t the Yen retreating on this news? Is it just a question of delays and the markets still finding their footing after the massive exogenous shock of two weeks ago?
- Where will that excess money go? Will it all go into rebuilding the devastated areas? Will it go into local stocks? Or will we see what we saw in 2003 onwards from Japanese investors, namely a rush for carry?
On this last point, it is interesting to note that since the G7 intervention was announced on the 18th, the typical ‘carry’ currencies, namely AUD, NZD, ZAR, BRL, etc., have done rather well:
Click Chart for larger view
As for question #2, as Louis Gave speculates, the excess money, instead of hitting the Nikkei, and with the dramatic relative underperformance of the Japanese stock market compared to the US this would not be surprising at all, could simply be fuelling the latest surge in commodity prices, which at this point provide far greater rates of return than stocks (by now everyone has seen the parabolic rise in silver prices in 2011 soon to be followed by gold and all other commodities). To wit:
Another possibility of course is that this excess liquidity is already helping fuel the next leg of the equity bull market while a more worrying development would be if this excess cash found its way in the hot ‘momentum’ trades of the day, namely oil, gold or silver.
Thus if the March action by the BOJ has taken about one month to translate into a nearly $20 spike in silver, just what will happen as the BOJ is forced to pump hundreds of billions more into its market? And pump it will: after holding back for over a month on the consequences of Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, the head of the central bank has finally stepped up to the plate and warned that the Japanese economic outlook is “very severe.”
First a quick overview of what was disclosed about the Japanese economy in the past week: factory output fell at a record monthly pace in March, household spending declined at a record annual rate and another private survey showed manufacturing activity languishing at a two-year low. This is about as catastrhopic for a deflationary economy as it gets. And with apologies to Larry Kudlow, there is no boost in GDP coming any time soon. In fact, March monthly GDP was cut to the lowest since Lehman.
So with its back to the wall, what is Japan to do? More of the same of course. From Reuters:
Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa said on Saturday that the country’s economic outlook was very severe and that the central bank would take appropriate action to support the economy.
But he offered few clues on whether and when the BOJ would expand its asset-buying scheme, only saying that its next policy step would depend on economic conditions at the time.
“The BOJ sees the outlook for Japan’s economy as very severe,” Shirakawa told a financial committee meeting in the lower house of parliament.
“We’d like to take appropriate policy steps as needed while monitoring the economy and prices, taking into account that uncertainty over the outlook is high,” he said.
Asked by a lawmaker whether the BOJ would consider buying more government bonds to support the economy, Shirakawa said only: “We’d like to consider in earnest what would be the desirable step to take.”
The BOJ kept monetary policy unchanged on Thursday even as it lowered its growth forecast for the current fiscal year, which began in April, and warned of uncertainties over the extent of damage that last month’s devastating earthquake would inflict on the economy.
Shirakawa reiterated that having just expanded its asset purchasing scheme days after the March 11 quake, the BOJ preferred to spend more time examining the impact the step would have on the economy.
But he also left open the possibility of easing monetary policy further if damage from the quake proved bigger than expected, stressing that the central bank was focusing on downside risks to growth for the time being.
In a sign some in the BOJ were more cautious about the economic outlook than Shirakawa, Deputy Governor Kiyohiko Nishimura proposed on Thursday expanding the central bank’s asset buying scheme by 5 trillion yen ($62 billion).
While the proposal was outvoted by the board, some market players said it may be a sign the BOJ may loosen policy as early as next month.
And loosen it will, because unfortunately as the past 30 years have shown, the country at this point has no other choice but to take the same toxic medicine which merely removes the symptoms briefly, while making the underlying problems far worse. Also, with the Fed threatening to end QE2 in precisely two months, someone out there has to be dumping hundreds of billions in infinitely dilutable 1 and 0s into primary dealer prop desks. Furthermore, as shown above, the BOJ needs not to buy securities outright: tinkering with the shadow economy in the form of the repo market will provide just as desirable an outcome… If, of course, said outcome is to see gold and silver continue on their relentless rise to new all time record highs. And/or higher. Because the only thing limiting the price of gold is price stupidity and the amount of paper money in existence. Both are infinite.
The latest projections from the Japanese Finance Ministry regarding the fiscal year which started on April 1 make for sobering reading. They say that Japan’s “public” (funded) debt will probably rise by 5.8 percent this year – to 997.7 TRILLION Yen ($US 12.2 TRILLION at current exchange rates). Should these projections be even slightly on the optimistic side – and government financial projections always are – then Japan could easily be looking at a public debt of 1,000 TRILLION Yen by March 31, 2012.
There is another way of expressing 1,000 TRILLION. It is the same as ONE QUADRILLION.
The sheer magnitude of these numbers has long been a talking point for the watchers of international finance. Now, they are becoming very nervous indeed. The OECD has recently “urged” the Japanese government to “do something” about their deficits, especially in the wake of the earthquake disaster. Noting that Japanese sovereign debt is about to hit 204 percent of GDP, they suggested that Japan’s current sales tax be “at least” doubled from its present 5 percent to 10 percent. The Japanese Foreign Ministry politely declined to comment on this suggestion, contenting themselves with assuring the OECD that – “We will continue to work to maintain and secure trust in Japanese government bonds.”
At this, a line from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead comes to mind: “Eternity’s a terrible thought. I mean, where’s it all going to end?” While this has been mostly a rhetorical question over the ages, G7 central planners are set to provide a definitive answer very soon.
(and people worry about the “bubble” in precious metals)
Read the entire article HERE.
by Nick Olivari
NEW YORK | Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:34pm EDT
By contrast European Central Bank has raised rates, boosting the euro by 11 percent so far this year.
The U.S. dollar index .DXY hit a three-year low of 72.834 on Friday and has now fallen for five straight months, with April posting a 3.8 percent April decline.
“It’s pretty close to a one-way bet (on the dollar), but in foreign exchange markets, anything can happen,” said Chris Turner, head of foreign exchange strategy at ING Commercial Banking in London. “U.S. monetary policy is reflationary policy which is great news for the commodity currencies and frames the weak dollar.”
The euro rose about 4.6 percent against the dollar in April for its best month since September. The dollar fell 2.5 percent this month against the yen, its worst month since December.
On Friday the euro was buoyed by stronger-than-expected euro-zone inflation data that increased the chance of another ECB rate rise. Trading was thinned by a holiday in the U.K. for Britain’s royal wedding.
The euro closed around $1.4816, little changed on the day but still near its highest since early December 2009.
The U.S. Labor Department will publish its April employment report next week, and analysts at Citigroup said dollar bearishness should persist.
“It is hard to be optimistic on the (dollar’s) long-term prospects, given the Fed’s ability to surprise on the dovish side, the ongoing overhang of U.S. dollar assets among reserve managers and the concerns that have emerged on long-term U.S. fiscal prospects,” CitiFX said in a research note.
Overextended speculative positioning suggest the dollar’s decline may slow next week, according to Vassili Serebriakov, currency strategist at Wells Fargo in New York.
“However, with the Fed sending a strong dovish message, we see few significant triggers for an immediate dollar turnaround,” he said.
The Swiss franc was buoyed by upbeat comments from the Swiss National Bank’s chairman and an above-forecast Swiss sentiment survey.
The Swiss franc rose to hit a record high of 0.86256 francs per dollar on EBS. Speculators remained net long the Swiss franc to the tune of 17,841 contracts, according to CFTC data. The euro ended the week down about 1.0 percent at 1.2820 francs.
Against the yen, the dollar was down 0.6 percent at 81.07 yen. The net short yen position dropped by 15,986 contracts to 36,997 from 52,983 the week before, according to CFTC data. Most of the shift was from a decline of 14,858 total short contracts to 51,060 contracts.
Euro resistance was expected around $1.4905, the peak in December 7 2009, with a substantial options barrier at $1.5000. Beyond $1.5000, the key target was the 2009 high of $1.5145, analysts said.
One-month euro/dollar risk reversals last traded at -1.3 on Friday, according to Reuters data, with a bias toward euro puts and dollar calls, suggesting more investors are betting the euro will fall than will rise.
But the same measure traded at -1.48 on Tuesday, which indicates relatively less bearishness, the day before Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke hosted his first-ever post-policy decision news conference.
Still, euro long positions rose to 68,279 contracts in the latest week, the highest since December, 2007, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission released on Friday.
(Reporting by Nick Olivari)
Read the entire article HERE.