Oct 31

Tea Leaves & $2000 Gold

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Yes, some people are still forecasting $2000 gold by year’s end…
 

BOB and BARB Moriarty launched 321gold.com over 10 years ago, adding 321energy.com the better to cover oil, natural gas, gasoline, coal, solar, wind and nuclear energy as well as precious metals.
 
Previously a US Marine fighter pilot, and holding 14 international aviation records, Bob Moriarty here tells The Gold Report why he’s 100% certain that a market crash is looming… 
 
The Gold Report: Bob, in our last interview in February, we had currency devaluation in Argentina and Venezuela, interest rate hikes in Turkey and South America, and a cotton and federal bond-buying program. Just eight months later in October, we’ve got Ebola, ISIS and Russia annexing Crimea plus a rising US Dollar Index. We’ve also got pullbacks in gold, silver and pretty much all commodity prices. With all this news, what, in your view, should people really be focusing in on?
 
Bob Moriarty: There is a flock of black swans overhead, any one of which could be catastrophic. The fundamental problems with the world’s debt crisis and banking crisis have never been solved. The fundamental issues with the Euro have never been solved. The world is a lot closer to the edge of the cliff today than it was back in February.
 
About ISIS, I think I was six years old when my parents pointed out a hornet’s nest. They said, “Whatever you do, don’t swat the hornets’ nest.” Of course, being six years old, I took stick and went up there and swatted the hornets’ nest, which really pissed off the hornets. I learned my lesson.
 
We swatted the hornets’ nest when we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. What we did is we empowered every religious fruitcake in the world. We said, “Okay, here’s your gun, go shoot somebody. We’ll plant flowers.” We are reaping what we sowed. What we need to do is leave them to their own devices and let them figure out what they want to do. It’s our presence in the Middle East that is creating a problem.
 
TGR: Will stepping back allow the Middle East to heal itself, or will there be continued civil wars that threaten the world?
 
Bob Moriarty: We are the catalyst in the Middle East. We have been the catalyst under the theory that we are the world’s policemen and that we’re better and smarter than everybody else and rich enough to afford to fight war after war. None of those beliefs are true. The idea that America is exceptional is hogwash. We’re not smarter. We’re not better. We’re certainly not effective policemen.
 
The Congress of the United States has been bought and paid for by special interest groups: part of it is Wall Street, part of it is the banks and part of it is Israel. We’re just trying to do things that we can’t do. What the US needs to do is mind its own business.
 
TGR: You’ve commented recently that you’re expecting a stock market crash soon. Can you elaborate on that?
 
Bob Moriarty: We have two giant elephants in the room fighting it out. One is the inflation elephant and one is the deflation elephant. The deflation elephant is the $710 trillion worth of derivatives, which is $100,000 per man, woman and child on earth. Those derivatives have to blow up and crash. That’s going to be deflationary.
 
At the same time, we’ve got the world awash in debt, more debt than we’ve ever had in history, and it’s been inflationary in terms of energy and the stock market. When the stock and bond markets implode, as we know they’re going to, we’re going to see some really scary things. We’ll go to quantitative easing infinity, and we’re going to see the price of gold go through the roof. It’s going to go to the moon when everything else crashes.
 
TGR: How are you looking at the crash – short term, before the end of this year? How imminent are we?
 
Bob Moriarty: Soon. But I’m in the market. Not in the general market, but I’m in resources. There’s a triangle of value created by a guy named John Exter: Exter’s Pyramid. It’s an inverted pyramid. At the top there are derivatives, and then there are miscellaneous assets going down: securitized debt and stocks, broad currency and physical notes. At the very bottom – the single most valuable asset at the end of time – is gold. When the derivatives, bonds, currencies and stock markets crash, the last man standing is going to be gold.
 
TGR: So the last man standing is the actual commodity, not the stocks?
 
Bob Moriarty: Not necessarily. The stocks represent fractional ownership of a real commodity. There are some really wonderful companies out there with wonderful assets that are selling for peanuts.
 
TGR: In one of your recent articles, “Black Swans and Brown Snakes“, you were tracking the US Dollar Index as it climbed 12 weeks in a row, and you discussed the influence of the Yen, the Euro, the British Pound. Can you explain the US Dollar Index and the impact it has on silver and gold?
 
Bob Moriarty: First of all, when people talk about the US Dollar Index, they think it has something to do with the Dollar and it does not. It is made up of the Euro, the Yen, the Mexican Peso, the British Pound and some other currencies. When the Euro goes down, the Dollar Index goes up. When the Yen goes down, the Dollar Index goes up. The Dollar, as measured by the Dollar Index, got way too expensive. It was up 12 weeks in a row. On Oct. 3, it was up 1.33% in one day, and that’s a blow-off top. It’s very obvious in hindsight. I took a look at the charts for silver and gold – if you took a mirror to the Dollar Index, you saw the charts for silver and gold inversely. When people talk about gold going down and silver going down, that’s not true. The Euro went down. The Yen went down. The Pound went down and the value of gold and silver didn’t change. It only changed in reference to the US Dollar. In every currency except the Dollar, gold and silver haven’t changed in value at all since July.
 
The US Dollar Index got irrationally exuberant, and it’s due for a crash. When it crashes, it’s going to take the stock market with it and perhaps the bond market. If you see QE increase, head for your bunker.
 
TGR: Should I conclude that gold and silver will escalate?
 
Bob Moriarty: Yes. There was an enormous flow of money from China, Japan, England, Europe in general into the stock and bond markets. What happened from July was the equivalent of the water flowing out before a tsunami hits. It’s not the water coming in that signals a tsunami, it’s the water going out. Nobody paid attention because everybody was looking at it in terms of silver or gold or platinum or oil, and they were not looking at the big picture. You’ve got to look at the big picture. A financial crash is coming. I’m not going to beat around the bush. I’m not saying there’s a 99% chance. There’s a 100% chance.
 
TGR: Why does it have to crash? Why can’t it just correct?
 
Bob Moriarty: Because the world’s financial system is in such disequilibrium that it can’t gradually go down. It has to crash. The term for it in physics is called entropy. When you spin a top, at first it is very smooth and regular. As it slows down, it becomes more and more unstable and eventually it simply crashes. The financial system is doing the same thing. It’s becoming more and more unstable every day.
 
TGR: You spoke at the Cambridge House International 2014 Silver Summit Oct. 23-24. Bo Polny also spoke. He predicts that gold will be the greatest trade in history. He’s calling for $2000 per ounce gold before the end of this year. We’re moving into the third seven-year cycle of a 21-year bull cycle. Do you agree with him?
 
Bob Moriarty: I’ve seen several interviews with Bo. The only problem with his cycles theory is you can’t logically or factually see his argument. Now if you look at my comments about silver, gold and the stock market, factually we know the US Dollar Index went up 12 weeks in a row. That’s not an opinion; that’s a fact. I’m using both facts and logic to make a point.
 
When a person walks in and says, okay, my tea leaves say that gold is going to be $2000 by the end of the year, you are forced to either believe or disbelieve him based on voodoo. I don’t predict price; I don’t know anybody who can. If Bo actually can, he’s going to be very popular and very rich.
 
TGR: Many people have predicted a significant crash for a number of years. How do you even begin to time this thing? A lot of people who have been speculating on this have lost money.
 
Bob Moriarty: That’s a really good point. People have been betting against the Yen for years. That’s been one of the most expensive things you can bet against. Likewise, people have been betting on gold and silver and they’ve lost a lot of money. I haven’t made the money that I wish I’d made over the last three years, but I’ve taken a fairly conservative approach and I don’t think I’m in bad shape.
 
TGR: Describe your conservative approach.
 
Bob Moriarty: The way to make money in any market is to buy when things are cheap and sell when they’re dear. It’s as simple as that. Markets go up and markets go down. There is no magic to anything.
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Oct 30

Peak Oil? How About Peak Oil Storage?

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Here’s how cheap US energy promises an ‘epic’ turnaround in the US economy…
 

MATT BADIALI is editor of the S&A Resource Report, a monthly investment advisory focusing on natural resources from Stansberry & Associates.
 
A regular contributor to Growth Stock Wire, Badiali has experience as a hydrologist, geologist and consultant to the oil industry, and holds a master’s degree in geology from Florida Atlantic University.
 
Here he tells The Gold Report‘s sister title The Mining Report that cheap oil prices and the economic prosperity they bring can make politicians and investors look smarter than they are. Hence Badiali’s forecast that Hillary Clinton…if elected in 2016…could go become one of America’s most popular presidents. Yes, really.
 
The Mining Report: You have said that Hillary Clinton could go down in history as one of the best presidents ever. Why?
 
Matt Badiali: Before we get your readership in an uproar, let me clarify that the oddsmakers say that Hillary Clinton is probably going to take the White House in the next election. Even Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet said she is a slam dunk. I’m not personally a huge fan of Hillary Clinton, but I believe whoever the next president is will ride a wave of economic benefits that will cast a rosy glow on the administration.
 
Her husband benefitted from the same lucky timing. In the 1980s, people had money and felt secure. It wasn’t because of anything Bill Clinton did. He just happened to step onto the train as the economy started humming. Hillary is going to do the same thing. In this case, an abundance of affordable energy will fuel that glow. The fact is things are about to get really good in the United States.
 
TMR: Are you saying shale oil and gas production can overcome all the other problems in the country?
 
Matt Badiali: Cheap natural gas is already impacting the economy. In 2008, we were paying $14 per thousand cubic feet. Then, in March 2012, the price bottomed below $2 because we had found so much of it. We quit drilling the shale that only produces dry gas because it wasn’t economic. You can’t really export natural gas without spending billions to reverse the natural gas importing infrastructure that was put in place before the resource became a domestic boom. The result is that natural gas is so cheap that European and Asian manufacturing companies are moving here. Cheap energy trumps cheap labor any day.
 
The same thing is happening in tight crude oil. We are producing more oil today than we have in decades. We are filling up every tank, reservoir and teacup because we need more pipelines. And it is just getting started. Companies are ramping up production and hiring lots of people. By 2016, the US will have manufacturing, jobs and a healthy export trade. It will be an economic resurgence of epic proportions.
 
TMR: The economist and The Prize author Daniel Yergin forecasted US oil production of 14 million barrels a day by 2035. What are the implications for that both in terms of infrastructure and price?
 
Matt Badiali: Let’s start with the infrastructure. The US produces over 8.5 million barrels a day right now; a jump to 14 would be a 65% increase. That would require an additional 5.5 million barrels a day.
 
To put this in perspective, the growth of oil production from 2005 to today is faster than at any other time in American history, including the oil boom of the 1920s and 1930s. And we’re adding it in bizarre places like North Dakota, places that have never produced large volumes of oil in the past.
 
North Dakota now produces over 1.1 million barrels a day, but doesn’t have the pipeline capacity to move the oil to the refineries and the people who use it. There also aren’t enough places to store it. The bottlenecks are knocking as much as $10 per barrel off the price to producers and resulting in lots of oil tankers on trains.
 
And it isn’t just happening in North Dakota. Oil and gas production in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and even parts of Texas is overwhelming our existing infrastructure. That is why major pipeline and transportation companies have exploded in value. They already have some infrastructure in place and they have the ability to invest in new pipelines.
 
The problem we are facing in refining is that a few decades ago we thought we were running out of the good stuff, the light sweet crude oil. So refiners invested $100 billion to retool for the heavier, sour crudes from Canada, Venezuela and Mexico. That leaves little capacity for the new sources of high-quality oil being discovered in our backyard. That limited capacity results in lower prices for what should be premium grades.
 
One solution would be to lift the restriction on crude oil exports that dates back to the 1970s, when we were feeling protectionist. It is illegal for us to export crude oil. And because all the new oil is light sweet crude, the refiners can only use so much. That means the crude oil is piling up.
 
Peak oil is no longer a problem, but peak storage is. If we could ship the excess overseas, producers would get a fair price for the quality of their products. That would lead them to invest in more discovery. However, if they continue to get less money for their products, investment will slow. 
 
TMR: Is everything on sale, as Rick Rule likes to say?
 
Matt Badiali: Everything is on sale. But the great thing about oil is it is not like metals. It is cyclical, but it’s critical. If you want your boats to cross oceans, your airplanes to fly, your cars to drive and your military to move, you have to have oil. You don’t have to buy a new ship today, which would take metals. But if you want that sucker to go from point A to point B, you have to have oil. That’s really important. There have been five cycles in oil prices in the last few years.
 
Oil prices rise and then fall. That’s what we call a cycle. Each cycle impacts both the oil price and the stock prices of oil companies. These cycles are like clockwork. Their periods vary, but it’s been an annual event since 2009. Shale, especially if we can export it, could change all of that.
 
The rest of the world’s economy stinks. Russia and Europe are flirting with recession. China is a black box, but it is not as robust as we thought it was. Extra supply in the US combined with less demand than expected is leading to temporary low oil prices. But strategically and economically, oil is too important for the price to get too low for too long.
 
I was recently at a conference in Washington DC where International Energy Agency Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven predicted that without significant investment in the oil fields in the Middle East, we can expect a $15 per barrel increase in the price of oil globally by 2025.
 
I don’t foresee a lot of people investing in those places right now. A shooting war is not the best place to be invested. I was in Iraq last year and met the Kurds, and they’re wonderful people. This is just a nightmare for them. And for the rest of the world it means a $15 increase in oil.
 
For investors, the prospect of oil back at $100 per barrel is not the end of the world. With oil prices down 20% from recent highs and the best companies down over 30% in value, it is a buying opportunity. It means the entire oil sector has just gone on sale, including the companies building the infrastructure.
 
As oil prices climb back to $100, companies will continue to invest in producing more oil. And that will turn Hillary Clinton’s eight-year presidency into an economic wonderland.
 
TMR: The last time you and I chatted, you explained that different shales have different geology with different implications for cracking it, drilling it and transporting it. Are there parts of the country where it’s cheaper to produce and companies will get higher prices?
 
Matt Badiali: The producers in the Bakken are paying about twice as much to ship their oil by rail as the ones in the Permian or in Texas are paying to put it in a pipeline. The Eagle Ford is still my favorite quality shale and it is close to existing pipelines and export infrastructure, if that becomes a viable option. There are farmers being transformed into millionaires in Ohio as we speak, thanks to the Utica Shale.
 
TMR: What about the sands providers? Is that another way to play the service companies?
 
Matt Badiali: Absolutely. The single most important factor in cracking the shale code is sand. If the pages of a book are the thin layers of rocks in the shale, pumping water is how the producers pop the rock layers apart and sand is the placeholder that props them open despite the enormous pressure from above. Today, for every vertical hole, drillers create long horizontals and divide them into 30+ sections with as much as 1,500 pounds of sand per section. A single pad in the Eagle Ford could anchor four vertical holes with four horizontal legs requiring the equivalent of 200 train car loads of sand.
 
Investors need to distinguish between companies that provide highly refined sand for oil services and companies that bag sand for school playgrounds. Fracking sand is filtered and graded for consistency to ensure the most oil is recovered. Investors have to be careful about the type of company they are buying.
 
TMR: Coal still fuels a big chunk of the electricity in the US Can a commodity be politically incorrect and a good investment?
 
Matt Badiali: Coal has a serious headwind, and it’s not just that it’s politically incorrect. It competes with natural gas as an electrical fuel so you would expect the two commodities would trade for roughly the same price for the amount of electricity they can generate, but they don’t. The Environmental Protection Agency is enacting emission standards that are effectively closing down coal-fired power plants. And because it is baseload power, you can’t easily shut it off and turn it back on; it has to be maintained. That means it doesn’t augment variable power like solar, as well as natural gas, which can be turned on and off like a jet engine turbine. So coal has two strikes against it. It is dirty and it isn’t flexible.
 
Some coal companies could survive this transition, however. Metallurgical coal (met coal) companies, which produce a clean coal for making steel, have better prospects than steam coal. Along with steam coal, met coal prices are at a six-year low. 
 
Generally, I want to own coal that can be exported to India or China, where they really need it. Japan has replaced a lot of its nuclear power with coal and Germany restarted all the coal-fired power plants it had closed because of carbon emissions goals. We are already seeing deindustrialization there due to high energy prices. Cheap energy sources, including coal, will be embraced. I just don’t know when.
 
TMR: Thank you for your time, Matt.
 
Matt Badiali: Thank you.
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Oct 29

QE, War & Other Autopilot US Action

Gold Price Comments Off on QE, War & Other Autopilot US Action
Ready for a clean break with Fed money creation…?
 

AMONG the many things still to be discovered is the effect of QE and ZIRP on the markets and the economy, writes Bill Bonner in his Diary of a Rogue Economist.
 
We can’t wait to find out.
 
The Fed has bought nearly $4 trillion of bonds over the last five years. You’re bound to get some kind of reaction to that kind of money.
 
But what?
 
Higher stocks? More GDP growth? Higher incomes? More inflation?
 
Washington was hoping for a little more of everything. But all we see are higher stock and bond prices. And if QE helped prices to go up, they should go back down when QE ends this week.
 
Unless the Fed changes its mind…
 
If the Fed makes a clean break with QE, it risks getting blamed for a big crack-up in the stock market. On the other hand, if it announces more QE, it risks creating an even bigger bubble…and getting blamed for that.
 
Our guess is we’ll get a mealymouthed announcement that leaves investors reassured…but uncertain. The Fed won’t allow a bear market in stocks, but investors won’t know how and when it will intervene next.
 
Last week, we were thinking about the reaction to the murder in Ottawa of a Canadian soldier who was guarding a war memorial.
 
There were 598 murders in Canada in 2011 (the most recent year we could find). As far as we know, not one registered the slightest interest in the US. But come a killer with Islam on his mind, and hardly a newspaper or talk show host in the 50 states can avoid comment.
 
“War in the streets of the West,” was how the Wall Street Journal put it; the newspaper wants a more muscular approach to the Middle East.
 
Why?
 
After a quarter of a century…and trillions of Dollars spent…and hundreds of thousands of Dollars lost…America appears to have more enemies in the Muslim world than ever before. Why would anyone want to continue on this barren path? To find out, we follow the money.
 
Professor Michael Glennon of Tufts University asks the same question: Why such eagerness for war?
 
People think that our government policies are determined by elected officials who carry out the nation’s will, as expressed at the ballot box. That is not the way it works.
 
Instead, it doesn’t really matter much what voters want. They get some traction on the emotional and symbolic issues – gay marriage, minimum wage and so forth.
 
But these issues don’t really matter much to the elites. What policies do matter are those that they can use to shift wealth from the people who earned it to themselves.
 
Glennon, a former legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has come to the same conclusion. He says he was curious as to why President Obama would end up with almost precisely the same foreign policies as President George W. Bush.
“It hasn’t been a conscious decision. […] Members of Congress are generalists and need to defer to experts within the national security realm, as elsewhere.
 
“They are particularly concerned about being caught out on a limb having made a wrong judgment about national security and tend, therefore, to defer to experts, who tend to exaggerate threats. The courts similarly tend to defer to the expertise of the network that defines national security policy.
 
“The presidency is not a top-down institution, as many people in the public believe, headed by a president who gives orders and causes the bureaucracy to click its heels and salute. National security policy actually bubbles up from within the bureaucracy.
 
“Many of the more controversial policies, from the mining of Nicaragua’s harbors to the NSA surveillance program, originated within the bureaucracy. John Kerry was not exaggerating when he said that some of those programs are ‘on autopilot’.
 
“These particular bureaucracies don’t set truck widths or determine railroad freight rates. They make nerve-center security decisions that in a democracy can be irreversible, that can close down the marketplace of ideas, and can result in some very dire consequences.
 
“I think the American people are deluded…They believe that when they vote for a president or member of Congress or succeed in bringing a case before the courts, that policy is going to change. Now, there are many counter-examples in which these branches do affect policy, as Bagehot predicted there would be. But the larger picture is still true – policy by and large in the national security realm is made by the concealed institutions.”
Calling the Ottawa killing “war” not only belittles the real thing; it misses the point. There is no war on the streets of North America. But there is plenty of fraud and cupidity.
 
Here is how it works: The US security industry – the Pentagon, its hangers-on, its financiers and its suppliers – stomps around the Middle East, causing death and havoc in the Muslim world.
 
“Terrorists” naturally want to strike back at what they believe is the source of their sufferings: the US. Sooner or later, one of them is bound to make a go of it.
 
The typical voter hasn’t got time to analyze and understand the complex motives and confusing storyline behind the event. He sees only the evil deed.
 
His blood runs hot for protection and retaliation. When the call goes up for more intervention and more security spending, he is behind it all the way.
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Oct 23

An End to QE? A Good Man in Congress?

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God knows what Ron Paul was ever doing in US politics…
 

OVER the weekend, we were down in Nashville at the Stansberry Conference Series event, along with Ron Paul, Porter Stansberry, Jim Rickards and others, writes Bill Bonner in his Diary of a Rogue Economist.
 
The question on the table: What’s ahead for the US?
 
Ron Paul took up the question from a geopolitical angle. He told the crowd that the military-security industry had Congress in its pocket.
 
As a result, we can expect more borrowing, more spending and more pointless and futile wars. They may be bad for the country and its citizens, says Paul, but they are good for the people who make fighter jets and combat fatigues.
 
“We’ve been at war in the Middle East for decades,” he said…
“We supported Osama bin Laden against the Soviets in Afghanistan…and the result of that was the creation of al-Qaeda.
 
“Then we supported Saddam Hussein against Iran. Saddam and bin Laden hated each other. But after 9/11 we attacked Saddam, using a bunch of lies to justify it. We sent over military equipment worth hundreds of billions of Dollars. This equipment is now in the hands of ISIS – another enemy we created…and a far more dangerous one.”
Ron Paul is such a pure-hearted soul. What was a man like him doing in Congress?
 
It must have been some sort of electoral accident. Good men rarely run for public office. And when they do, it is even rarer for them to win.
 
Poor Ron is retired from Congress now. And he spends his time trying to “get the word out.” He thinks that if people only realized what was happening they would vote for more responsible leaders and more sensible policies.
 
Alas, that’s not the way it works. The further the country goes in the wrong direction, the more people there are who have a financial interest in staying on the same road.
 
We visited Ron in his office on Capitol Hill. He held a breakfast meeting with a small group of congressmen, trying to convince them to vote his way; we don’t remember what was at issue.
 
It was an uphill battle. Only a few members of Congress attended. And those few worried that their districts would lose money…or that the labor unions wouldn’t like it if they voted no…or that they might not get a plum committee assignment if they bucked their own party leadership. Ron was alone.
 
Politics favors blowhards, hustlers and shallow opportunists, we concluded. Which makes us wonder how Ron Paul ever got elected to Congress in the first place.
 
But not only did he get elected…once in Washington, he never sold out. Neither to the right nor the left. He opposed zombies, malingerers and bullies wherever he found them.
 
Which brings us to the subject of our own presentation to the Nashville crowd. We were following the (QE) money. “St. Louis Fed president James Bullard let the cat out of the bag last week,” we explained.
 
As Bullard told Bloomberg TV last week:
“I also think that inflation expectations are dropping in the US. And that is something that a central bank cannot abide. We have to make sure that inflation and inflation expectations remain near our target.
 
“And for that reason I think a reasonable response of the Fed in this situation would be to invoke the clause on the taper that said that the taper was data dependent. And we could go on pause on the taper at this juncture and wait until we see how the data shakes out into December.
 
“So…continue with QE at a very low level as we have it right now. And then assess our options going forward.”
We didn’t think it would happen so fast. We thought the central bank would wait. We expected a little more hypocrisy…a bit more posturing…a little more phony resistance…a few denials…
 
…the Fed should have played it cool…coy…elusive…hard to pin down, making investors really sweat before coming to the rescue.
 
We knew where the Fed would end up…but we didn’t know it would go there so quickly and easily!
 
Bullard is admitting to a staggering act of vanity and hypocrisy. In the land of free minds and free markets, apparently only the Fed knows what prices equities should fetch.
 
Henceforth, it will approve all price movements on Wall Street.
 
To bring you fully into the picture, dear reader, the US central bank has the economy, and the markets, hooked on cheap credit and printing-press money. It has been supplying both on a grand scale for the last five years.
 
But it had promised to stay away from the playground, beginning this month. Now that the economy is recovering, goes the storyline, the Fed will back away from its emergency measures and allow things to return to normal.
 
QE ends this month. Higher interest rates are expected next year.
 
No bubble has ever been created that didn’t have a pin looking for it. And nobody likes it when the two meet up. Last week, it looked as though the Fed’s bubble and Mr. Market’s pin were coming closer. Then quick action by Bullard helped push them apart on Friday.
 
QE began in November 2008. And zero interest rates began a month later. This has perverted prices for stocks, bonds, houses…and just about every other asset price on the planet. Stocks are worth more than twice what they were at the bottom of the crisis. The average house is worth $60,000 more.
 
Now QE is ending. And that means a lot less money gushing into financial markets.
Instead of increasing at a 40% rate as it did in 2012, what Richard Duncan calls “excess liquidity” – the difference between what the Fed pumps out via QE and what the government absorbs via borrowing – will go up only 6% this year.
 
Next year, there will be even less.
 
With less new money coming from the Fed…and still no real recovery…something’s gotta give. No matter what Fed officials say. And since stocks periodically go down anyway, this seems like as good a time as any.
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Sep 28

Cash Starved Mining Stocks Go Bang

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Tough times for Australian miners are not letting up…
 

RICHARD KARN is managing editor of the Emerging Trends Report.
 
Speaking here to The Gold Report, he notes how nearly 150 mining companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange went into bankruptcy during the fiscal year that ended June 30, and another 23 have gone under since then. Now Karn believes a fresh wave of Aussie mining stock failures will hit when the current financial quarter ends September 30. A major shakeout at some point appears likely…
 
The Gold Report: When we interviewed you in April, you said the pending demise of zombie companies on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) was a good thing because there were too many deadbeats in the specialty metal sector. Has that process worked its way through the system or are there still some “walking dead” making it difficult for investors to pick out the promising companies?
 
Richard Karn: Unfortunately, the latter is still the case. According to the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC), 146 companies in the mining sector went into administration (bankruptcy) during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. As Luke Smith pointed out last month in your publication, yet another 226 resource companies did not have sufficient cash to meet their anticipated expenditures for this quarter.
 
Since then another 23 resource companies have failed, and as of Aug. 25, 2014, 17 more had not paid their listing fees and were suspended from trading on the ASX.
 
So no, we do not think the process is over.
 
TGR: How are companies accessing capital today?
 
Richard Karn: By and large, they’re not. We’ve been picking up on some positive activity in the base and precious metal sectors, but that mostly has yet to trickle through to the specialty metal sector.
 
In the case of specialty metal companies, most are unable to raise money either from the capital markets or from their shareholders. Failed or abysmal uptake of rights issues and the like continue to be common. Many companies are literally being starved of cash.
 
TGR: Can companies sell some of their assets to cover costs on other projects?
 
Richard Karn: Asset sales are difficult in the current environment because so many companies are now so desperate to sell that it has become a buyers’ market. That being said, the Chinese have been stepping in to snap up the occasional bargain.
 
TGR: If companies have no more options, how long can they keep the lights on?
 
Richard Karn: Not long. The end of the quarter is September 30, and companies will have to disclose their financial situations. We expect a fresh wave of failures within the next six to eight weeks as more resource companies become insolvent.
 
We don’t know what the catalyst will be, but for some time we’ve been expecting a final selling frenzy that will mark at least an intermediate-term bottom in the specialty metal sector.
 
Some assets are so mispriced that the market appears to be pricing in failure well before the fact. In fact, so sure is the market that a number of these companies will fail that they are trading for less than the cash they have on hand, literally placing no value whatsoever on their resource projects.
 
Final washouts often occur when markets are oversold, and the specialty metal sector remains oversold. The spark for the selloff could be another failed rights issue or poor uptake on an option scheme, either of which would reflect a fundamental lack of confidence in management.
 
It could be some unknown – perhaps an otherwise meaningless threshold event – that “spooks the herd,” and shareholders just start selling everything indiscriminately to ensure they recover some of the money they’ve invested.
 
It could be that it finally dawns on investors that a number of these junior resource companies hold a lot of each other’s stock, which they are carrying on their balance sheets at par as a liquid asset when in actuality those shares are so illiquid they could not be sold except at a steep discount – and could well crash the share price in any case.
 
As I said, we do not know what will spark the selloff – just that it is coming.
 
And when the selling has been exhausted, it will constitute at least an intermediate bottom in the specialty metal sector.
 
In the final shakeout, we are anticipating a number of mismanaged companies will deservedly go under – as, unfortunately, will some quite good companies – and some very good projects will be picked up very inexpensively.
 
And being able to pick up outstanding assets for very little money always marks the bottom of the cycle, because it increases the odds of success as the cycle turns up again.
 
TGR: What characteristics should investors look for to avoid these doomed ventures?
 
Richard Karn: At the moment I would avoid small-cap specialty metal companies that are carrying any debt, especially if they are not cash-flow positive. If or when their ability to service that debt is called into question, it will likely be too late to get out.
 
In addition to reading financial statements to get a grasp of their financial situations and those circumstances just mentioned, I would look at what managements are actively doing to help their long-suffering shareholders.
 
For example, have they reduced staff, cut expenditures and taken a cut in salary themselves or are they still maintaining a “resource boom” lifestyle at their shareholders’ expense?
 
Most important, I would look for either positive cash flow from operations or sufficient cash on hand to sustain operations through to some pivotal event the market has been waiting for, such as commencing production, receiving project funding, permits or approvals, or receiving the results of a bankable feasibility study, etc. – something that will demonstrate management is delivering on its promises.
 
TGR: Could the recent repeal of the mining tax in Australia help all of these companies, or will it only impact large operators?
 
Richard Karn: The Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) did not apply to the specialty metal end of the resource sector in Australia, so its repeal will have little direct impact on these companies.
 
Indirectly, however, repealing the tax serves returns Australia to the ranks of the safest, most mining-friendly jurisdictions in the world, and at some point that will indeed lead to increased investment flows into the specialty metal sector.
 
What markets fail to fully appreciate is that many, and arguably most, of the technological advances we enjoy today, whether found in consumer electronics or transportation or renewable energy sources or military hardware, rely on secure, uninterrupted supply of a range of specialty metals.
 
With military conflict raging across the Middle East and North Africa; a full-fledged arms race between the countries with claims to the South China Sea, notably China and Japan; and the numerous potential conflicts brewing throughout the world, now more than ever secure supply of these specialty metals should be a very high priority. Should a war erupt, common sense, as well as history, dictates the first victims will be the very notion of globalization, free market economics and “just in time” delivery.
 
If it were in China’s strategic interests to stop exporting rare earth elements or tungsten or antimony or graphite, to name just a few of the specialty metal markets China controls, all of which are crucial to a range of military applications, there is absolutely nothing anyone could do about it.
 
Of the 50 specialty metals we track, more than 40 could be mined economically in Australia alone, thanks to its unique geology.
 
We’ve been writing about this trend for more than six years now, but except for a relatively brief period from mid-2010 through late 2011, in the panicked response to China cutting off supply of REEs to Japan, the aftermath of the global financial crisis has squelched the market’s appetite for mining projects in general and specialty metal projects in particular. They require the long-term commitment of capital and a sustained effort to put into profitable production.
 
The flood of liquidity sloshing around the planet since 2008 in search of a return appears to have such a short investment horizon that mining projects are largely off the radar.
 
So nothing has been done. There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of bureaucratic posturing and comic sputtering as World Trade Organization complaints are ignored or unfair business practices perpetuated, but nothing has been done. And the longer this continues, the more vulnerable the West becomes.
 
The specialty metal price spike the West suffered in 2010-2011 in panicked response to the Chinese curtailing exports of REEs will be nothing compared to what a “shooting war” would provoke.
 
Thinking otherwise is the height of naiveté.
 
TGR: Thank you for your insights.
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Sep 03

Conflict-Led Commodity Squeeze Ahead?

Gold Price Comments Off on Conflict-Led Commodity Squeeze Ahead?
Tumultuous times in Europe and the Middle East point to tight supply…
 

The GEOPOLITICAL EVENTS of summer 2014 may go down in history as a decisive turning point in world affairs, writes Amine Bouchentouf – partner at Parador Capital LLC, author of the best-selling Commodities For Dummies, and also founder of Commodities Investors LLC – at Hard Assets Investor.
 
Tensions across the Middle East and the European continent are reaching a high point and may soon reach a point of no return.
 
In this report, we examine the global macroeconomic scenario and what impact this will have on the performance of commodities. This will allow us to pick our investment spots as we move into the final quarter of the year.
 
A storm is brewing in Europe and the Middle East that could drag the world’s superpowers into regional conflicts that could escalate into a much broader war encompassing several countries across several continents. Let’s start in Europe.
 
The last time events similar to those in 2014 happened in Europe were right before the outbreak of World War II in the late 1930s. In the summer of 2014, Putin-led Russia annexed Crimea, a province that had been part of Ukraine for decades.
 
The annexation took most of the international community by surprise, as much by its speed as by its effectiveness. Almost overnight, Russian troops entered the Crimea, and Moscow declared it a part of the Russian Federation. The annexation was so swift and complete that a few months later, Vladimir Putin signed a law legalizing gambling in the Crimea.
 
The response from NATO countries was to issue warnings and targeted sanctions against Russian individuals and companies. Those sanctions seem to have done nothing; in fact, the situation has only deteriorated since then.
 
During the last week of August, Russia sent 1,000 Russian soldiers into Eastern Ukraine, well inside Ukraine’s international recognized borders. This 1,000-man army came in with tanks and antiaircraft and heavy artillery military equipment.
 
Furthermore, Russian-backed militants have been inside of Eastern Ukraine for some time now. These militants shot down a Malaysia Airlines civilian aircraft that was flying from the Netherlands to Malaysia, claiming more than 200 victims.
 
The response from NATO has been to increase sanctions which, in a previous column, I argued didn’t have any real teeth and would do little to spur a change of behavior from the Kremlin.
 
The rhetoric has become so heated that Vladimir Putin explicitly warned to “not mess with Russia” because of its status as a nuclear power with thousands of nuclear warheads at its disposal.
 
While tension is increasing on Europe’s eastern borders, troubles in the Mideast are also continuing. There are so many regional conflicts that it’s quite hard to decide which one to begin with, or which one is more important.
 
Let’s start with the conflict that garnered the most international media attention. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict reached a dangerous point in the third quarter of this year as fighting erupted in Gaza. Israeli warplanes pursued a campaign of heavy bombardment into the Gaza territory, while Hamas-led fighters attacked targets inside of Israel.
 
In the meantime, the conflict in Syria only continued to escalate; so much so that the United Nations now estimates that there are more than 7 million Syrian refugees in a conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. At the same time, rebels in Libya have continued disrupting oil supplies amid continued civil strife. Iraq is no better, as fighting has erupted between Sunni and Shia.
 
Troubles in the region are so high that the United Kingdom raised its threat level to “severe,” meaning a terrorist attack on British soil is “likely” as a result of all the regional infighting. Amid the backdrop of all these regional conflicts has been the rise of the terrorist organization ISIS, which is wreaking havoc across the Mideast, and which many are now calling Al-Qaeda 2.0.
 
Aside from a full-fledged world war, the global geopolitical situation could not be bleaker as we move into the fourth quarter. The United States, which has played the role of regional policeman since the end of World War II, decided to retreat from its traditional posture in world affairs earlier this year when it did not act in Syria and allowed events in Eastern Europe to escalate. That policy is now under urgent review as these regional conflicts threaten to push countries into a heightened global conflict.
 
The bottom line is that the geopolitical situation is very bleak, and this will have a direct impact on markets, economies and commodities. As the situation continues to escalate regionally and globally, I expect investors to pile into gold. Gold has stabilized in recent months and may hit $1400 per ounce in the coming weeks. Investors still see gold as a safe-haven asset, especially during times of conflict.
 
I also expect oil prices to increase as regional conflicts create supply-side disruptions in major producing countries such as Iraq, Libya and even Algeria. While demand from Asian countries remains robust, supply is being curtailed due to armed conflict, and this will push prices higher. In this geopolitical storm, investors can find save haven in traditional hard asset commodities.
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Sep 03

Gold & Financial War

Gold Price Comments Off on Gold & Financial War
James Rickards lays out how Russia vs. the West could hit your investments…
 

DURING the Cold War, the United States had enough nuclear missiles to destroy Russia and its economy and Russia had enough missiles to do the same to the United States, writes investment manager and author James Rickards in Addison Wiggins’ Daily Reckoning.
 
Neither adversary used those missiles and the leaders were quite careful to avoid escalations that might lead in that direction. Proxy wars were fought in places like Vietnam, the Congo and Afghanistan, but direct confrontation between the United States and Russia was never allowed to come to a head.
 
The reason was that no matter how devastating a nuclear “first strike” might be, the country under attack would have enough surviving missiles to launch a massive “second strike” that would destroy the attacker. This is what was meant by “mutual assured destruction” or the balance of terror. Neither side could win and both sides would be destroyed, therefore they went to great lengths to avoid confrontation and escalation in the first place.
 
In financial warfare between the United States and Russia, a similar balance of terror exists. It is true that the United States has powerful financial weapons it can use against Russia. The United States can freeze the assets of Russian leaders and oligarchs that can be found both in United States banks and foreign banks that do business in Dollars. The United States can deny Russian access to the Dollar payments system and work with allies to deny Russian access to the SWIFT system in Belgium that processes payments in all currencies, not just Dollars. Many of these tactics have, in fact, been used against Iran and Syria in the financial war that has been going on in the Middle East and Persian Gulf since 2012.
 
But, Russia is not without financial weapons of its own. Russians could refuse to pay Dollar-denominated debts to United States and multilateral lenders. Russia could dump the billions of Dollars of United States Treasury notes they own thus driving up United States interest rates and hurting the United States stock and bond markets.
 
Most ominously, Russia could unleash its hackers, among the best in the world, to crash United States stock exchanges. On August 22, 2013 the NASDAQ stock market crashed for half a trading day and no credible explanation has yet been offered for the crash. Hacking by Syrian, Iranian or Russian cyber warriors cannot be ruled out. This may have been a warning to the United States about enemy capabilities.
 
In short, the United States has no interest in intervening in Ukraine militarily and even its economic response will be muted because of new fears of mutual assured financial destruction emanating from Russia and elsewhere. Putin has thought all of this through and has taken Crimea as his prize.
 
Merely because financial warfare between the United States and Russia will not be allowed to go too far, does not mean that the situation in Ukraine will not impact markets. Stock markets dislike uncertainty of any kind and Russia’s intentions with regard to the rest of the Ukraine outside of Crimea certainly add to uncertainty.
 
Russia’s victory in Crimea may embolden China to assert territorial claims to certain islands in the South China Sea, which will increase tensions with Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United States.
 
There is always the possibility of a financial attack being launched by mistake or miscalculation, which could cause events to spin out of control in unintended ways.
 
Investors may not be able to change this dangerous state of the world, but they are not helpless when it comes to preserving wealth. A modest allocation of investable assets to physical gold will help to preserve wealth in the face of financial war or unexpected catastrophic outcomes.
 
Gold is not digital, cannot be wiped out by hackers, and is immune to crashing stock markets and bank failures. Russia has increased its gold reserves 70% in the past five years. China has increased its gold reserves over 200% in the same time period. Do they know something you don’t?
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Aug 28

China Leads "Strong Recovery" in PV Silver Demand

Gold Price Comments Off on China Leads "Strong Recovery" in PV Silver Demand
Global photovoltaic silver demand seen rising 5-10% in 2014…
 

A SHARP turnaround in the global PV market, led by China, is set to boost world silver demand from the solar-cell industry by 5-10% in 2014 according to leading analysts Metals Focus.
 
The photovoltaic industry – which prints conductive silver inks onto PV cells to collect and conduct solar energy as electricity – saw a “hemorrhage of silver use” over 2012 and 2013, data consultancy Thomson Reuters GFMS said in its Silver Survey this spring, published for the US-based Silver Institute.
 
Global over-capacity, plus the loss of those Chinese, US and European government subsidies which had created it, met a drive to replace or reduce the amount of silver used in each cell after the metal hit near-record prices in 2011.
 
2014 in contrast has now seen a “revival” of PV demand, says metals analyst Robin Bhar at French investment and London bullion bank Societe Generale, with the industry “emerging in strong health” according to private consultancy Metals Focus.
 
Indeed, amongst renewable energy sources, says a new report from the International Energy Agency published Thursday, there is a “stronger outlook” for solar than other technologies such as windfarms.
 
“After surging early this decade,” says Bhar at Societe Generale, “demand from the solar industry went through a tough period in 2012 and early 2013…[with] a drop in the pace of new installations globally.”
 
But now, and helping drive a 90% drop in silver stockpiles at the Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE) over the last 18 months, the market “has seen a turnaround, with 2014 on course to see a record amount of additions of Chinese solar capacity.”
 
Export data further suggest that China’s sales of PV cells to foreign buyers have also “risen appreciably,” Bhar adds.
 
“Following a difficult 2012 and early 2013,” agrees London-based consultancy Metals Focus, “the solar industry appears to have emerged in strong health,” with last year seeing a 27% rise in global installations on one estimate.
 
Reviewing PV industry forecasts for 2014, “we would not be surprised to see global installations comfortably hit a new record high,” their report adds, “perhaps exceeding 45 gigawatts.”
 
Total PV capacity worldwide ended 2013 around 140 GW on leading estimates. Thursday’s IEA report says that will rise to 400 GW by 2020 on its baseline forecasts, with potential to reach above 500 GW if “ambitious policy aims” in the Middle East and other regions are put into action. But further drops in unit costs will also be needed.
 
Even as silver prices traded 60% below 2011’s spike to $50 per ounce, thrifting and substitution saw the PV market’s silver demand drop 21% in 2013, according to Thomson Reuters GFMS.
 
That was despite 10% growth in solar cell output, as average silver use was cut from 0.2 grams per cell to 0.14g.
 
Further thrifting in 2014 could cut silver use per cell by another 10%, Metals Focus now estimate – “significant, but pale in comparison to the rate of thrifting that was seen back in 2011.”
 
Totaling 1,260 tonnes, last year’s PV silver demand accounted for some 3.8% of global consumption on GFMS’s data.
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Aug 18

New Cold War? Cold Facts

Gold Price Comments Off on New Cold War? Cold Facts
Commodities fuel a resurgent Russia. So what will “sanctions” mean…?
 

THERE is talk of a new cold war, pitting the United States against the Russian Federation, with Europe being a main battleground where both adversaries’ grievances are playing out, writes Amine Bouchentouf – author of Commodities for Dummies, a partner at Parador Capital LLC, and founder of Commodities Investors LLC – at Hard Assets Investor
 
This was the state of affairs between America and Russia for decades, following the end of World War II up until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many of the battles that were played out in the 1970s and 1980s are now repeating themselves, characterized by periods of “détente” and “escalation” of tensions.
 
We are currently in one of those phases of “escalation,” where both adversaries are digging in their heels and firing “testing shots” to see the reaction of the other. The stakes are high, especially for the commodities markets, particularly the oil and natural gas markets.
 
Vladimir Putin claims that the greatest tragedy of the 20th century was undoubtedly the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ever since Putin came to power, his laserlike focus has been on creating a stronger Russia, flexing its muscles and spreading its influence regionally and globally. Ironically, one of the main factors that allowed him to do this has been the global boom in commodities.
 
Russia is undeniably a resource-rich country and has ridden the commodities boom to the fullest extent, benefiting from the sale of key raw materials such as crude oil, natural gas, aluminum, iron ore, coal and nickel.
 
This natural resource powerhouse saw its cash coffers grow exponentially as countries such as India, China and even Europe consumed and purchased its raw materials. As its commodities sales increased, so did Russia’s influence in world affairs including in military technology, espionage and industry.
 
Russia’s influence kept increasing as the months and years went on. First, Russia’s influence on the crucial Middle East was felt in Syria as Russia supported and backed Bashar Assad with weapons and military intelligence against American-backed insurgents. Assad remains in power while the insurgency is weak, fragmented and uncoordinated.
 
Russia scored another major coup when it lured Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee responsible for the greatest intelligence leak in American history. More than the symbolism of the act (that America’s most-wanted former intelligence officer is living in Russia), the treasure trove of information Snowden is suspected of giving to Russia could be game changing.
 
The Kremlin’s most in-your-face move came on the heels of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, when Russia unilaterally annexed Crimea, a region under the territorial jurisdiction of Ukraine. And to add insult to injury, Russia is sending military personnel and equipment into Ukraine to arm pro-Russian separatists.
 
These same separatists are now suspected of downing a commercial civilian Malaysian Airlines Flight flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur last month. This event seems to have been the last straw for the United States and its allies, and has resulted in the US and EU imposing economic sanctions on Russia.
 
Recently, President Obama announced sanctions aimed mostly at Russia’s oil industry. The thinking at the White House and with its allies is that the administration would like to target the source of wealth that is expanding the Kremlin’s influence: natural resources, primarily crude oil.
 
While the logic is sound, in reality, these new sanctions are going to have very little impact on the Russian economy and therefore Russian behavior in the international scene. When you examine the sanctions closely as released by the Commerce Department, you quickly realize that the sanctions are targeted at future projects aimed at increasing Russian production of unconventional crude supplies, primarily located in the Arctic.
 
The sanctions are aimed at preventing Western-based technology from making its way into Russian hands to develop these fields. In practice, these fields are several years from reaching production (in most cases, five to seven years out) and so will not have any immediate impact on current Russian production.
 
Russia produces about 10 million barrels of oil per day (greater than Saudi Arabia) and exports a vast majority of that. The sanctions do not target this current production; the Brent crude benchmark was little changed as these sanctions were announced.
 
In addition, it’s very relevant to note that Russian gas production was completely left out of the sanctions list – not a coincidence since a material amount of Europe’s gas supplies come from Russia.
 
Russia Oil Production (mmbbl/d)
 
Russia Oil Production (mmbbl/d)
 
The bottom line is that these sanctions will do very little to influence Russian behavior on the world stage. When looked at through the prism of the last two years, these sanctions amount to very little more than a slap on the wrist.
 
For investors and traders, this means that production of Russian commodities (an important factor in the marketplace) will remain intact. Therefore, I would not advise going long crude oil or commodities thinking that the latest sanctions are going to take away critical supply from the market – it won’t.
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Aug 08

Gold Prices at 3-week High on “Ongoing Geopolitical Events” Amid Rising Safe-haven Demand

Gold Price Comments Off on Gold Prices at 3-week High on “Ongoing Geopolitical Events” Amid Rising Safe-haven Demand

GOLD PRICES reached a weekly gain of 2.2% at $1322.55 per ounce Friday morning in London, amid a drop in European and American stock markets and renewed violence in Ukraine and the Middle East.

The US President authorised limited air strikes against Islamic State (formerly ISIS).

Rocket fire from Gaza across the border resumed after a 72-hour ceasefire, so did Israeli air strikes.

Meantime, the Euro versus Dollar briefly touched $1.3400 Friday morning before falling back under this 9-month low last broken at the end of July.

Geopolitical headlines took the fore and not economic data. “Yesterday, a Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down by rebel forces and this started the rally in gold,” writes David Govett at London metals brokerage Marex Spectron. Then, President Obama authorised military strikes in Iraq and this morning the truce in Gaza ended.

“All in all, pretty much a perfect storm for gold prices.”

Gold prices in USD were set to approach the weekend at a three-week high ending a long run of weekly losses.

“Ongoing geopolitical events in Russia/Ukraine and the Israel/Palestine conflict [gave] support to the precious complex,” says the Swiss precious metals refinery group MKS in a note, adding that traders moved out of falling equities into safe haven assets providing gold with a gain of 9.2% in 2014 so far.

Panic in the equity markets, potential US strikes and the Ukraine crisis offered a safe haven-demand for gold, comments Wing Fung Precious Metals in Hong Kong, adding that “gold could climb quickly up to $1325 per ounce.”

Risks are now tilted to the upside,” confirms another analyst in Asia.

However, seeing enhanced volatility short term, Govett believes that when “situations calm down or resolve themselves, the price will come straight back down again.”

Silver lagged behind gold but crept back up and broke the $20 mark Friday morning, a level it kept from June 19 until last Wednesday, after touching seven-week lows earlier this week. Silver prices were on track for a loss of around 1% on the week so far.

The Bank of England kept interest rates at their 5-year record low of 0.5% on Thursday. Going into the weekend gold prices for UK investors were set to gain 1.7% and reach the highs of mid-April, at around £782.55 per ounce.

Another central bank declaration of note: ECB president Mario Draghi confirmed yesterday the European quantitative easing was in preparation.

Gold prices in Shanghai meantime maintained a premium of $1-2 over and above London prices this week amid falling Asian stocks and China’s trade surplus record high.

The physical gold holdings of the giant gold ETF, the SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEArca: GLD), shed more than 2 tonnes Thursday but remained unchanged Friday for a total of 797.654 tonnes.
 

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