Cooking the Gold Books

We got a small, if bitter, taste of gold’s “Zero Hour” in the second half of April.

Either that, or the world’s largest banks engineered a takedown of gold for the purpose of staving off Zero Hour… for now.

As you’ll recall from these pages in March, “Zero Hour” is the name we give to the moment when the price of real, physical gold in your hand starts to break away from the quoted price on the commodities exchanges.

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That is, the “physical price” becomes much higher than the “paper price” on CNBC’s ticker. The catalyst, we suggested, would be when a major metals exchange defaults on a gold or silver contract — settling in cash, instead of metal.

To be clear, Zero Hour did not take place when gold’s paper price plunged $150 in only two trading days — Friday, April 12, and Monday, April 15.

But what happened after that plunge hints at what the aftermath of Zero Hour would look like. Real metal suddenly became very hard to come by. We chronicled the worldwide scramble, in real-time, in The 5 Min. Forecast

  • The Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange nearly ran out of bullion on Friday, April 19
  • There were reports of a “massive wave of physical gold buying” in Dubai
  • Monthly sales of U.S. Gold Eagles fell just short of a 26-year high during April.

Result: If you wanted real metal, you paid a substantial premium over the paper price. In silver, these premiums were off the charts. On Thursday, April 25, spot silver was $23.94… but a Silver Eagle from a major online dealer would set you back $29.54 — as high as the paper price before the mid-April crash!

Meanwhile, the premium on “junk silver” — U.S. dimes, quarters and halves dated before 1965 — sits at four-year highs, according to coin dealer Richard Nachbar. Usually, these coins trade at a small discount to the paper price of silver. Now? As the chart nearby shows, they fetch a 17% premium over spot… and that’s wholesale!

Wholesale premium/discount to melt on 90% us silver coins

The April gold crash,” sums up Agora Financial’s own Byron King, “was the beginning of emancipating real gold from paper gold. We’re about to see a ‘real’ price for gold, coming from the bottom up, not the top down. I suspect that we’ll see a solid price rise for gold over time. The market bullies who deal in paper products have just punched themselves in the nose.”

Meanwhile, if you’re still skeptical that “Zero Hour” is a real possibility, there’s new and compelling evidence.

Sprott Asset Management chief Eric Sprott believes Zero Hour is made inevitable by Western central banks “leasing” their gold to commercial banks at less than 1% a year. The commercial banks then sell that gold and plow the proceeds into higher-earning investments.

“Now,” Sprott writes in a new white paper, “our long search for the ‘smoking gun’ to prove our hypothesis appears to have finally materialized.”

The evidence lies in the monthly trade data from the Census Bureau. The December 2012 report revealed net gold exports of $2.5 billion — almost 50 tonnes. This staggering number prompted Sprott and his team to dig through the figures as far back as they exist — all the way to 1991.

Here’s the problem: During that same period, U.S. supply mine production and recycling totaled 7,532 tonnes, while demand was 6,517 tonnes. That left only 1,015 tonnes available for export.

Where did the other 4,489 tonnes come from? “The only U.S. seller that would be capable of supplying such an astonishing amount of gold,” says Mr. Sprott, “is the U.S. government, with a reported gold holding of 8,300 tonnes.”

Yikes.

“If the Sprott analysis is accurate,” says our friend and Crash Course author Chris Martenson, “there’s a lot of missing gold in the U.S. equation, and it had to come from official sources, either of U.S. origin or belonging to other countries. Either way, the leased gold represents a tremendous liability of the Fed and the bullion banks to which it was loaned.”

“In this context,” Mr. Martenson continues, “the gold slam begins to smell like an operation designed to shake as much gold as possible out of weak hands so that the bullion banks can begin to recover it to square up their accounts.

GLD, the gold ETF that so many small investors participate in, is one large, obvious target,” he adds, “as it was sitting on 1,350 tonnes as of January 2013.”

Sure enough, by the end of April, more than 250 tonnes of that total were gone. On the chart nearby, you can see how the drain on GLD’s inventory neatly tracks the paper price of gold.

“Gold and silver,” Mr. Martenson suggests, “are getting closer to the day when you or I will not be able to purchase physical bullion at any price.”

“I don’t even look at gold as gold anymore… they securitized it,” CNBC’s voluble Rick Santelli said on March 27 — weeks before the big beat-down.

“If things [went] badly in the world that I used to observe as the gold bug, the gold would end up in the hands of the gold bugs. If things go badly now, they’re going to end up with checks from ETFs! Sorry, it’s not the same. The reign of [paper] gold is the Ayn Rand end product. To me, that’s over. Game, set, match.”

The endgame is getting closer. “What I believe is going to happen, probably in the not too distant future,” says Eric Sprott’s right-hand man John Embry, “is that the pricing mechanism of the gold and silver markets will swing to the physical market, which cannot be manipulated, because, basically, either you’ve got it or you haven’t.

“Whereas the paper market has been set up specifically so that it can be manipulated. I would not be too concerned about that, even though they’ve got the upper hand to date. I think that their power is going to be sharply eroded in the very near future.”

But that’s when you won’t be able to get any metal at any price. Best act before then: “The current sell-off in gold,” says Eric Sprott, “should be viewed not with extreme trepidation, but as an unbelievable opportunity to buy the metal at an artificially low value.”

Source: http://dailyreckoning.com/cooking-the-gold-books/

Is The South African Mint Short Of Gold?

In what may be the strangest story I have seen in a while related to the gold market, it appears $982 million worth of gold has left JFK international airport in New York to some undisclosed location in South Africa.  While it remains unclear what purpose this gold serves, it seems the most likely explanation is to fulfill demand for Krugerrands (South Africa’s popular gold bullion coin) to meet elevated demand in the face of constricted mine production.  This story is timely coming on the heels of the article I posted yesterday about how Dubai’s gold demand is running at 10x normal levels.  This is a bizarre story, so if anyone has further color I’d love to hear it.

From Quartz:

Examining US trade data, we were surprised to see that South Africa’s $402 million trade surplus with the United States in January had turned into a $689 million deficit by March.

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Why?

It turns out the $1.1 billion swing is entirely due to unusual shipments of gold from the US to South Africa in February and March. So far this year, 20,013 kg of unwrought gold, worth $982 million, has left John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), in New York, for somewhere in South Africa, according to the US Census Bureau’s foreign trade division. (Unwrought gold includes bars created from scrap as well as cast bars, but not bullion, jewelry, powder, or currency.)

The shipments from JFK were the only unwrought gold to leave the US for South Africa in 2013; another large shipment occurred in September 2012.

However, the strikes that rocked South Africa’s mining industry last year briefly caused gold output to fall sharply, around the same time as last autumn’s big gold shipment from JFK. Overall 2012 production declined by a relatively modest 6% (pdf) over the year before, according to a preliminary figure from the US Geological Survey; but those first estimates have sometimes proven wide of the mark. (In 2009 the USGS estimated South Africa’s 2008 production to be 250 tons; it subsequently revised the figure to 213 tons.) So it could be that the strikes dealt a more severe blow to the country’s gold industry than the data show.

Still, even if gold output did fall precipitously, it’s not clear why South Africa would need to start importing it. One possible destination for the gold is the South African Mint, which produces legal-to-own gold coins called Krugerrands; the gold used in them is first refined by the Rand refinery. Calls to the South African embassy in Washington, DC were not returned.

Meanwhile how about this chart, courtesy of the Quartz article.

GoldfromJFK

 Source: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-05-14/south-african-mint-short-gold

The 21 Key Statistics About The Explosive Growth Of Poverty In America

If the economy is getting better, then why does poverty in America continue to grow so rapidly? Yes, the stock market has been hitting all-time highs recently, but also the number of Americans living in poverty has now reached a level not seen since the 1960s. Yes, corporate profits are at levels never seen before, but so is the number of Americans on food stamps. Yes, housing prices have started to rebound a little bit (especially in wealthy areas), but there are also more than a million public school students in America that are homeless. That is the first time that has ever happened in U.S. history.

So should we measure our economic progress by the false stock market bubble that has been inflated by Ben Bernanke’s reckless money printing, or should we measure our economic progress by how the poor and the middle class are doing? Because if we look at how average Americans are doing these days, then there is not much to be excited about. In fact, poverty continues to experience explosive growth in the United States and the middle class continues to shrink. Sadly, the truth is that things are not getting better for most Americans. With each passing year the level of economic suffering in this country continues to go up, and we haven’t even reached the next major wave of the economic collapse yet. When that strikes, the level of economic pain in this nation is going to be off the charts.

The following are 21 statistics about the explosive growth of poverty in America that everyone should know…

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1 – According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately one out of every six Americans is now living in poverty. The number of Americans living in poverty is now at a level not seen since the 1960s.

2 – When you add in the number of low income Americans it is even more sobering. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either “poor” or “low income”.

3 – Today, approximately 20 percent of all children in the United States are living in poverty. Incredibly, a higher percentage of children is living in poverty in America today than was the case back in 1975.

4 – It may be hard to believe, but approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are currently living in homes that are either considered to be either “low income” or impoverished.

5 – Poverty is the worst in our inner cities. At this point, 29.2 percent of all African-American households with children are dealing with food insecurity.

6 – According to a recently released report, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.

7 – The number of children living on $2.00 a day or less in the United States has grown to 2.8 million. That number has increased by 130 percent since 1996.

8 – For the first time ever, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless. That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.

9 – Family homelessness in the Washington D.C. region (one of the wealthiest regions in the entire country) has risen 23 percent since the last recession began.

10 – One university study estimates that child poverty costs the U.S. economy 500 billion dollars each year.

11 – At this point, approximately one out of every three children in the U.S. lives in a home without a father.

12 – Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

13 – Today, there are approximately 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing. That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

14 – About 40 percent of all unemployed workers in America have been out of work for at least half a year.

15 – At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

16 – There has been an explosion in the number of “working poor” Americans in recent years. Today, about one out of every four workers in the United States brings home wages that are at or below the poverty level.

17 – Right now, more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government. And that does not even include Social Security or Medicare.

18 – An all-time record 47.79 million Americans are now on food stamps. Back when Barack Obama first took office, that number was only sitting at about 32 million.

19 – The number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of Spain.

20 – According to one calculation, the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of “Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.”

21 – Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps. Today, close to one out of every six Americans is on food stamps. Even more shocking is the fact that more than one out of every four children in the United States is enrolled in the food stamp program.

Unfortunately, all of these problems are a result of our long-term economic decline. In a recent article for the New York Times, David Stockman, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, did a brilliant job of describing how things have degenerated over the last decade…

Since the S&P 500 first reached its current level, in March 2000, the mad money printers at the Federal Reserve have expanded their balance sheet sixfold (to $3.2 trillion from $500 billion). Yet during that stretch, economic output has grown by an average of 1.7 percent a year (the slowest since the Civil War); real business investment has crawled forward at only 0.8 percent per year; and the payroll job count has crept up at a negligible 0.1 percent annually. Real median family income growth has dropped 8 percent, and the number of full-time middle class jobs, 6 percent. The real net worth of the “bottom” 90 percent has dropped by one-fourth. The number of food stamp and disability aid recipients has more than doubled, to 59 million, about one in five Americans.

For the last couple of years, the U.S. economy has experienced a bubble of false hope that has been produced by unprecedented amounts of government debt and unprecedented money printing by the Federal Reserve.

Unfortunately, that bubble of false hope is not going to last much longer. In fact, we are already seeing signs that it is getting ready to burst.

For example, initial claims for unemployment benefits shot up to 385,000 for the week ending March 30th.

That is perilously close to the 400,000 “danger level” that I keep warning about. Once we cross the 400,000 level and stay there, it will be time to go into crisis mode.

In the years ahead, it is going to become increasingly difficult to find a job. Just the other day I saw an article about an advertisement for a recent job opening at a McDonald’s in Massachusetts that required applicants to have “one to two years experience and a bachelor’s degree“.

If you need a bachelor’s degree for a job at McDonald’s, then what in the world are blue collar workers going to do when the competition for jobs becomes really intense once the economy experiences another major downturn?

Do not be fooled by the fact that the Dow has been setting new all-time highs. The truth is that we are in the midst of a long-term economic decline, and things are going to get a lot worse. If you know someone that is not convinced of this yet, just share the following article with them: “Show This To Anyone That Believes That ‘Things Are Getting Better’ In America“.

Article Source: Zerohedge