February was an extraordinary month…
President Trump was busy issuing executive orders and reversing those issued by his predecessor. Gold prices have been steadily climbing. The secret Obama executive order, which must have opened the US gold reserve to the banksters, does not appear to have been reversed quite yet. When it does happen, it should spark some mild price fireworks, as the manipulators dump remaining short positions. In the meantime, in all likelihood, the manipulators are loading up on as many physical gold bars as they can, at the lowest possible prices. It is, I believe, an indirect courtesy of the US government, thanks to the actions of the previous President.
It would appear that America’s treasure continues to be drained away at a fantastic rate, although as we will discuss later, there is a hesitancy to commit to future orders growing fast in London. In spite of the delay in reversing Obama’s executive order, gold’s price and timing continue to follow the pattern I described in an article in November. Probably, that’s because although it isn’t closed yet, the US Gold Reserve could be closed at any moment.
The price attacks will continue but are temporary and opportunistic. They will be geared more toward the collection of a few quick bucks and/or the collection of some discounted physical gold bars than trying to make a long-term impact on gold prices. Most likely, that’s because the recent updraft in gold prices is driven by physical demand. Physical buyers are thrifty people who stop buying when prices go up too fast. Their resistance doesn’t last forever, but they do need to get used to significant price hikes.
We know that physical buyers were ready to pay much more for gold just a few years ago. Based on the gold market of 2012, the point at which physical supply and demand balances in the longer term, was somewhere within the $1,500 – $1,600 range. Since nominal earnings are universally higher now than they were 4 years ago, it shouldn’t take too long for people to get used to the higher prices. The willingness to pay a much higher price has already been demonstrated. Downward biased manipulation can only be partially effective without government subsidies and support.
The recent price attacks can safely be viewed as the transient events that they are. It appears that the banksters are simply attacking highly leveraged get-rich-quick schemes for the short-term benefit of doing so. Such speculators are fools, who face bankruptcy from small price movements, and must run at the slightest negative price pressure. If they think gold will go down, they quickly take the opposite side from their usual bullish view and try to get rich quick that way. The problem for them is that they are being tricked. The manipulators want to buy physical gold bars at rock-bottom prices and transient price attacks in paper-based futures markets helps them do it.
The manipulators are being careful not to push gold prices below the hard physical buying orders. Manipulators piled on last Thursday, for example, with staggeringly large waves of short selling designed to torpedo prices. Gold and silver tend to follow the similar patterns of manipulative activity, and the exact numbers have actually been already documented in the silver market. Approximately 151 million troy ounces of paper silver were “sold” in a space of 45 minutes from 11:25 am to 12:10 pm, almost four times the amount of silver produced by the top mining company in an entire year! The net effect was a steep price decline and a great deal of cash to fill the pockets of manipulators. We can presume that the same thing happened with gold. Then, on Friday, the very next day, prices went right back up.
In spite of the effort being put in, Thursday’s manipulation event has no legs. By April, the folks who did it will have slowly bought back all the short positions they took on to do it. In contrast with the way they torpedoed prices, they will buy back the shorts in a slow and orderly manner that affects prices as little as possible. They will then likely stand for delivery of gold they purchased at rock-bottom prices from a shell-shocked market filled with hapless non-connected hedge fund managers. The hedge fund managers and their clearing brokers will scramble around searching for physical gold to meet delivery obligations. Overall, the process will help keep prices moving steadily upward over time.
If the manipulators play their game right, even as hard physical buyers raise their bids, the artificial price of gold will be kept just a little bit above the physical bids. The risk they face is only from miscalculation. For example, some unanticipated event could happen that creates a sudden and unexpected willingness, by physical buyers, to raise their bids. Thus, there is always an element of uncertainty.
Recent dramatic events at COMEX futures exchange, however, increase my level of confidence in my current forecast. As I reported last month, we saw a 729% increase in the demand for delivery of physical gold at COMEX during off-month of January 2017, year over year. This month (February) was a major delivery month, and there was another 230% increase in the delivery of physical gold bars. The huge increase in gross demand for actual physical gold bars is impressive. However, it is not the amount that was purchased but, rather, who was doing the buying that is the most important factor.
The biggest banks in the western world continued to be the biggest physical gold bar buyers during February. In many cases, their own customers are being called upon to deliver the bars to them. In total, about 18.66 metric tons worth of physical gold bars were delivered on COMEX in February. That compares to 7.99 tons delivered in February 2016. The net increase totals out to be 233% year over year, which is enormous.
HSBC, in particular, was the biggest single buyer this month. HSBC bought just over 10.62 tons worth of physical gold bars. Neither it nor its customers delivered much gold to speak of. As was the case when it made massive purchases in 2015 and 2016, these gold bars are now an asset of the bank.
J.P. Morgan was also one of the huge buyers this month. It didn’t buy quite as many gold bars as it did, last month, but it purchased about 2.4 additional tons. In contrast, J.P. Morgan’s customers were called upon to deliver about 10.95 tons, perhaps part of which went into the bank’s own asset base. As the customers scrounged around to find gold to deliver to the banks, they probably propelled gold prices upward in February.
As was the case last month, Scotia Bank was also a big net buyer. It bought about 1 ton of physical gold. Last month, it purchased 3.82 tons.
Oddly, CME, Inc. was also a significant buyer. It has consistently been a significant gold bar purchaser throughout 2016. Like Goldman Sachs, HSBC, J.P. Morgan, Scotia and others, it has been stocking up. The exchange operator didn’t buy as many gold bars as a “too-big-to-fail” megabank, but its purchases were enormous, and way out of line from a historical perspective. Remember, the futures exchange operator is not a bank, a hedge fund or an independent investor. It has no obvious reason to buy physical gold bars — except one which we will discuss in a moment.
CME, Inc. bought about 1/3rd of a metric ton in 2016. This past month, it purchased another 62 kilograms. In comparison, it bought only 5 gold bars in all of 2015. The exchange is contractually liable on any default in delivery by clearing members. There hasn’t been any default yet. However, the fact that the company is now buying so many gold bars implies that it is preparing for that to happen. It seems to be planning on weathering a major supply disruption.
If some of the COMEX clearing members end up defaulting on delivery, the exchange is on the hook to supply either gold or the cash value of that gold at the time of default. It is perfectly legal for the exchange to pay customers cash, instead of the gold they contracted for, BUT if the company does that, COMEX will be discredited as a forum for price discovery. Its usefulness for market manipulation purposes will end forever. All of which brings us to the celebrated London-based metals market whistleblower Andrew McGuire…
Mr. McGuire has a history of accuracy in his description of what is going on behind the scenes at the London precious metals market. In a recent public interview, he stated that a huge crisis is in the offing. London gold dealers don’t have enough gold to meet demand. Most of the “gold” controlled by LBMA banks is actually not theirs. It is all “stored” under “non-allocated” storage contracts. These contracts give banks the right to use the gold in any way they want, including selling or leasing it.
Apparently, they’ve been selling and leasing the gold they don’t own for many years. All of it is spoken for, and there isn’t any left. With no stockpiles of their own, and facing the prospect of being cut off from the US Gold Reserve, they seem ready to default on metal delivery obligations. McGuire says that the banks are on the verge of declaring a cash settlement of all gold obligations. Because of the clever lawyers who wrote the contracts, however, this will not equal a legal default.
All the non-allocated storage contracts have a clause that allows for the “substitution” of cash in settlement of gold obligations. If McGuire is right about an oncoming crisis in London, and a cash-based “reset” is about to happen, what CME, Inc. is doing makes perfect sense. Most smaller COMEX dealers refuse to tie up cash on vaulted gold and simply wait until the last minute to buy gold to make deliveries. But, after the de facto default in London, physical gold will be unavailable at any price. These firms will be unable fulfill COMEX delivery obligations.
An educated guess would be that CME, Inc.’s motive, in buying so much physical gold, is to prevent collateral damage to the COMEX exchange’s reputation. Meanwhile, the big banks’ motivation may also revolve around an expected London default. Most of the same players operate in both NYC and London, but COMEX is the more critical market for price manipulators because it is there that world prices are set. The same people who now manipulate gold prices downward will probably turn to upside biased manipulation once the government’s subsidy ends. To profit from price manipulation, they must be able to control prices.
Continuing the credibility of the COMEX futures market, in spite of a massive London default, will enhance its dominance in price discovery. COMEX has always been the key to controlling the price of gold, in spite of the fact that the London gold market is five times larger. The London price and the world price of gold are primarily set by banks and hedge funds fighting with one another at the futures exchange. If the futures exchange allows a large scale default, it will end up as discredited as the LBMA in London.
Here is the bottom line. When the appropriate time comes, LBMA obligations can be cashed out, and the organization can be closed down. But, if COMEX is discredited, the primary profit-making vehicle will be lost forever. In contrast, by preserving COMEX in spite of the collapse of the London market, attention can be quickly shifted toward upwardly biased manipulation activities, and profit can be preserved. Meanwhile, in the shorter run, there is the prospect of selling gold bars to the hedge funds and smaller COMEX clearing members around the time of the London default. Thus, buying gold bars now, for later sale, is going to be an extraordinarily profitable gambit.
In the face of the oncoming massive upward “reset” in the price of gold, I am reminded of a recent article in Forbes magazine. The author urged President Trump to bring back the gold standard in order “to make America great again.” According to the article, there are only three choices open to President Trump.
First, muddle along under the current “dollar standard,” a position supported by resigned foreigners and some nostalgic Americans—among them Bryan Riley and William Wilson at the Heritage Foundation, and James Pethokoukis at the American Enterprise Institute.
Second, turn the International Monetary Fund into a world central bank issuing paper (e.g., special drawing rights) reserves—as proposed in 1943 by Keynes, since the 1960s by Robert A. Mundell, and in 2009 by Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China. Drawbacks: This kind of standard is highly political and the allocation of special drawing rights essentially arbitrary, since the IMF produces no goods.
Third, adopt a modernized international gold standard, as proposed in the 1960s by Rueff and in 1984 by his protégé Lewis E. Lehrman …and then-Rep. Jack Kemp.
Of course, to bring back the gold standard, the price of gold versus the US dollar must be reset much higher. If Mr. McGuire is right, however, the implosion of the London gold market will do just that. It will also bring the role of gold as money back into the world’s consciousness. A massive one-off price reset will happen, dramatically devaluing cash currencies including the US dollar. Going back to the gold standard might end up being enough to offset the enormous debts built up under decades of incompetent economic management.
– Josh Pullman –
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