23 September 2011

Gold Daily and Silver Weekly Charts - Liquidation Panic - Martian Gold - Comex Hikes Margins

"Yesterday, the textbook was thrown out the window. All asset classes saw sudden and sharp moves far in excess of normal volatility patterns. To an old timer, that points to one conclusion. Liquidation. Wide-spread liquidation across asset classes. Currencies, bonds, commodities and stocks all moved swiftly and sharply in a direction that screamed - Seek safety! Raise cash! Get liquid...

All of that had a quick and discernible negative impact on markets. But, the selling was far more pervasive and dramatic than simply a conscious adjustment of positions based upon new data. Thursday’s action screamed liquidation - and not all of it voluntary."

Art Cashin, 22 September 2011

"That day the U.S. announced that the dollar would be devalued by 10 percent. By switching the yen to a floating exchange rate, the Japanese currency appreciated, and a sufficient realignment in exchange rates was realized. Joint intervention in gold sales to prevent a steep rise in the price of gold, however, was not undertaken. That was a mistake."

Paul Volcker, Nikkei Weekly 2004

There was a major sell off in gold and silver today that was due in part to the liquidation of assets coming out of Europe. That is the basis of the quotation from Art Cashin, and he is right in what he says.

But while stocks and the dollar all paused today, gold and silver were hammered, and the selling looked to be more calculated than incidental as it has been throughout the week.

There is little doubt that some of this is the association with usual gaming of the Comex option expiration next week, and the potential delivery situation on that exchange with their unusually thin supplies and concentrated short positions held by a few of the banks. Comex Hikes Gold, Silver, Copper Margins After the Bell.

But today in particular seems to be even a little more than that.

Every time the central banks and their affiliates get desperate, some economic essayist trots out an outlandish argument about why gold is a 'barbarous relic.'   Here is one that tops even the almost petulant argument of Willem Buiter in 2009. 

The Price of Gold in 2160 - Statsguy and James Kwak

I had to read this essay twice to make sure it just was not satire. I can summarize my reaction by saying that finding gold in outer space with assumed technologies speaks to supply, but the author does not present any assumptions about population, economics structures, and of course future demand.

The method by which gold is formed in relatively rare supernova events is fairly well known, and its distribution relative to other elements and compounds is not completely eccentric, at least not as random and eccentric as pseudo-scientific economic theories might become these days.

The author's premise of the discovery of new bullion supplies in outer space is analogous to the discovery of the New World by Europeans, and the remarkable finds of gold and silver on those two vast continents.

And yet here we are today.

Some might say that the author was merely saying in a cute way that commodity based currencies always fail, with an example being salt or Yap stones as Mr. Buiter had argued to greater effect.

And I would say that all currencies do go in and out of favor in their time, since there is an element of relativism in value that can be enforced by ruling authorities, who themselves tend to come and go, even if in their time these authorities might seem invincible, their empires intended to last for a thousand years.

But some stores of value, not based on passing utilitarian criteria or force, do tend to be resilient, and come back again and again, and retain an element of value from generation to generation. Or as some might with a more profound understanding of money might say, they maintain the confidence of their steadfastness that is a pre-requisite of sound money that is difficult to maintain by mere force of will.

As some historians of money have pointed out, the Federal Reserve was initially set up to emulate this type of external immutability of value in what later became a purely fiat currency. As men like Andrew Jackson would have predicted, they failed in exactly the same ways and for the same reasons that every other attempt at this has failed throughout history.

All systems are prone to corruption and decay, but none so much as those that rely exclusively on the goodness and wisdom of small groups of powerful men, especially when acting in secret.

It does seems quite cheeky for a modern economist to criticize a natural store of value with a 5000 year history, while standing on the platform of a purely fiat currency, given the short half life of every fiat currency throughout history. They may be recreated and devalued, but they never retain much of their value and character, with the only remnant their name.

I hear the sounds of printing presses over the horizon. Get ready for Quantitative Easing European style, and massive European bailouts, and increasingly absurd arguments from the econo-sphere as they avoid the subject of justice for the sake of expediency.

I have some limited sympathy for the dilemma facing the increasingly desperate western central banks, and understand their rationalizations.  But they are doing something that is the very epitome of moral hazard, and abuse of power, in their attempts to stabilize the unsustainable, without allowing for meaningful change and reform.

The heart of the issue is that the existing monetary and financial system is becoming increasingly arbitrary and corrupt. A relatively small group of interconnected crony capitalists wishes to create a digital money out of nothing, and distribute it increasingly as they will, to whom they will.

And this is the basis of my resentment with this policy abuse, and the irritation with the assault on reason by those in the financial demimonde engaging in what might be politely called perception management.

This self-serving arbitrariness, even if done for 'good motives,' is the very reason why all fiat currencies fail. No matter how you want to rationalize it they are going to create money out of nothing, and give it to whom they will, while corrupting the political system in the process.

And the cumulative results of this abuse of power are corrosive to society. Lawless example by a ruthless few brings out the worst in all the people, always. And that is a shame.

"Our government teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”

Louis D. Brandeis
I am reading The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, and it is diverting as well as instructive, full of personal vignettes of Berlin in the 1930s told from the standpoint of the US Ambassador and his family.  It is perhaps not surprising that most cruelty is based in casual disregard for others, and a pre-occupation with the self.  And of course, that evil flourishes when the good do and say nothing.

As a preparation for this I read The Long Night by Steve Wick. Perhaps this is responsible for my gloomy frame of mind this week. But these things do not happen overnight, but by measures, until one is firmly in the crude grip of the banality of evil.  And then of course it is too late to escape from the maw of the abyss. 

So don't go there.

Have a pleasant weekend.