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May 7, 2011

GATA | THE GATA DISPATCHES: Why are Silver Forward Rates Negatives Again? / Hathaway: Gold and Silver will Explode Again

If there's no silver shortage, why are forward rates negative again?

By Atlantic Capital Management
West Palm Beach, Florida
Monday, May 2, 2011
Silver finished a very volatile week with significant developments on seemingly every front. There were two margin hikes for the futures market within 48 hours of each other. The Central Fund of Canada (CEF) saw its premium to spot prices (both gold and silver;CEF owns about 50% of its assets in each) disappear completely. As of April 29, 2011, CEF is trading at 2.4% discount to its net asset value in US dollars; a 2.7% discount in Canadian dollars. Sprott Physical Silver Trust (PSLV) also saw its premium to spot fall to about 16% from above 20%.
To some, these moves suggest that silver’s bubble is getting too frothy to continue, as in the Sunday, May 1 plunge. For others, these moves show continued desperation on the part of the COMEX and bullion dealers to shake out weak long contract holders.

While these data points are important in and of themselves, it's the forward market that is more conclusive. Until those calling for a top in silver prices can explain why silver forward rates (SIFO) are once again negative, their argument will be far from convincing. Essentially, negative SIFO rates mean that some investor (or investors) who's short actual metal is paying physical holders a premium to obtain the metal.
In the opaque world of precious metals, forward rates are the foundation for "leasing." Silver shorts that participate in leasing are actually lending cash to the owners of the physical metal. The silver owners then hand over that metal to the cash owners (the shorts) as collateral for the loan.
When the forward market shows negative rates, it means that the cash owners are, instead of earning an interest rate on their loan, paying someone else to borrow it. This is like going to your local bank and having them pay you interest to borrow the bank’s money. The only reason this would occur is if cash owners are being forced to repay or return physical metal that they do not have and are having a lot of difficulty finding the actual metal through other means.
This situation is more common in the repo (repurchase agreements) markets where the same money principles apply. In treasury repos, a specific bond can go "on special" when it has been shorted too far above its actual physical availability. There are even times when special rates go negative -- when the shortage is particularly acute and closing out short positions is extremely difficult. This is an exact parallel to what we are seeing in the silver market.
In January and February 2011, leasing rates jumped as the SIFO curve fell all the way into the negative. These moves were in anticipation of a difficult delivery month of March, where approximately 1,800 contracts actually stood for physical delivery. Although it only represented about 9 million ounces, on an exchange that advertised over 100 million ounces in its vaults and 50 million ready for actual delivery, it took the entire month to service all the contracts. It even went all the way down to the last weekend before all the contracts settled. Not coincidentally, silver prices, including the iShares Silver Trust (SLV), shot higher.
I speculated at that time that the leasing activity in January and February obtained just enough actual metal to deliver through March, but not much more than that. I thought that the large shorts were hoping to discourage enough long investors by getting through March without any kind of COMEX default.
That theoretical hope was extinguished as we approached the first notice date for the May delivery month. The open interest "problem" reappeared with an increased vigor above even March. The COMEX data shows almost 2,200 contracts standing for delivery, about 20% more than March.
The negative SIFO rates confirm that silver dealers underestimated the need and resolve on the long side. From April 6 to April 26, one-month SIFO fell from a high of 40 basis points all the way to minus 4.5 basis points. From April 13 to April 26, one-year SIFO dropped from 19.3 basis points to minus 11.7 basis points. SIFO rates are still negative as of April 28, but have moved back closer to zero.
These machinations in the forward rates have led to a messy futures curve. Normally, since it is derived from forward rates, the curve will have a nice, smooth shape regardless of whether the market is in contango or backwardation. This is due to the term structure of money interest rates. Remember, forward rates really represent a collateralized loan.
When the futures curve shape is nothing like a normal curve, it can only mean that money rates are no longer the primary consideration in setting various term levels. Something else has to be driving the curve or it would result in a money-driven shape. The current futures curve is in contango until December 2011, with a light backwardation from then until May 2012, then almost $1 of backwardation out to December 2015. This hybrid curve, in my opinion, is the most powerful evidence that there is a shortage in physical silver. This is not a curve driven by money rates.
How can silver be in a bubble?
The only answer would have to be some kind of short-squeeze story. If there is squeeze on, then prices would rise into a parabolic blow off. Once the squeeze is executed, the squeezer exits its position and the price collapses (see the Hunt brothers in 1980 and Warren Buffet/Phibro in 1998). There have been numerous rumors making the rounds in the past few weeks of a Russian billionaire playing such a part.
This is a possibility, of course, now that it's becoming clear to a much wider audience that the COMEX is now on its fourth consecutive delivery month of ratcheting degrees of trouble. But this squeeze rumor does not account for all of the actions in precious metals over the past couple of years. How does the squeeze rumor explain the lack of available coins at major mints? It does nothing to explicate why silver dealers continue to have trouble maintaining a supply for retail investors.
In my opinion, if there is a major individual running a silver play, it is entirely derivative of the original trend in place. In other words, the squeezer is taking advantage of a different and even more powerful kind of squeeze that has been running for far longer.
That underlying trend is nothing more than Gresham's Law. In the days of hard currency, when both gold and silver (a bi-metallic standard) "backed" paper money, one metal was almost always given more favorable terms than the other. Typically, the national government, under political pressure from one metal constituency or another, was responsible for the imbalance.
Gresham's Law simply accounted for the actions that inevitably followed the bi-metallic interference, and is one of the few economic "laws" that has a basis in empirical reality. To put it simply, whenever one metal was favored (overvalued) versus the other (undervalued), the overvalued metal would circulate while the undervalued metal would get hoarded.
As an example, if the national price of silver was fixed too high in relation to gold, the silver coinage or silver-backed paper would get circulated by the public and businesses while gold coinage or paper would be hoarded. In unofficial "markets" or transactions, the price of the undervalued metal would rise in relation to the overvalued until some kind of parity resulted. Of course, this would create all kinds of economic and market difficulties and distortions.
If we think of this dynamic in terms of monetary actions from 2009 to 2011, we can fill in the terms for Gresham's Law rather easily. Playing the role of the overvalued, government-entangled currency is fiat dollars. The relative "price" of those dollars has been fixed at a high level by continued and active suppression of interest rates. The alternate means of exchange are precious metals. Since Gresham's Law states that the overvalued currency is circulated, is it any wonder that the relative value of the dollar is falling so dramatically? Conversely, Gresham's Law expects the undervalued substitutes, gold and silver, to be hoarded, which the forward, futures and spot markets all suggest is happening. The recent run in gold, including SPDR's Gold Trust (GLD) shares, also backs this proposition.
The massive amount of dollar holdings outside the US and its reserve status necessarily means that Gresham's Law would occur there first. The fall in exchange value of the dollar is the circulation part, while central banks, including persistent rumors of China and India, buy or hoard as much precious metals as they can. At the same time the concerted effort to remove the dollar's reserve status, which precious metal hoarding is an active part, is simply preparation for the eventual withdrawal of artificial constraints on the dollar's price and the likely painful adjustment that will come with it.
If this is indeed what is occurring, then hoarding of gold and silver will mean that physical availability will continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future. The only way to remedy Gresham's Law is to remove the artificial price fixing. The minutes from the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting show that as an extremely remote possibility.
Unfortunately for those on the short side of silver, every piece of relevant data points to a physical shortage. Worse yet, the longer-term demand for silver is directly related to Fed-controlled interest rates fixing the price of soft, fiat currency too high. Until these imbalances are removed, the shortage will grow. Ancillary movements in the physical funds, CEF or PSLV, nor margin increases will change this.
Movements like last night’s may shake up the long side speculators, but in the end the real capacity for silver and gold prices to rise is equal to the determination of central banks to control the interest rate structure.

Gold and silver will explode again, Hathaway tells King World News

9p ET Friday, May 6, 2011
Dear Friend of GATA and Gold (and Silver):
Tocqueville Gold Fund manager John Hathaway tells King World News tonight that he expects gold and silver to consolidate for a while and then stage another breakout as big as their last. Of what happened this week, Hathaway says, "It's not a trend change. Just take a couple of weeks off and come back to it. The investment thesis is not at all in question here. It's just the dynamics of the market." An excerpt from the interview is headlined "Gold and Silver to Explode Again After Consolidation" and you can find it at the King World News blog here:
CHRIS POWELL, Secretary/Treasurer
Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee Inc.
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MarketWatch | Weekly Roundup: The Weeks top 10 Videos.

Weekly Roundup
MAY 07, 2011

The week's top 10 videos on MarketWatch

By MarketWatch

In case you missed them, here are the 10 most popular videos that appeared on MarketWatch for th week of May 2-6:

Trading Strategies: Stay in May?

While the temptation to sell in May is strong, there are reasons to stick around: from stocks that ignore the summer doldrums, to those that benefit from America's sports obsessions.
 Watch Video Report.

Bin Laden photos, Middle East, markets

Simon Constable and Dennis Berman discuss President Obama's decision not to release photos of Osama Bin Laden after he was killed by U.S. forces. Plus, Middle East reaction to Bin Laden's death, stocks tumble and why should you never pay full price.
 Watch Video Report.

What would happen in China sells U.S. Treasurys

Neither the dollar nor the U.S. economy would collapse if China were to dump Treasury securities, since the Fed owns more of them, and also because the Chinese need to sock dollars somewhere, according to Fundmastery blogger Kurt Brouwer. Jonathan Burton reports. Watch Video Report.

Sell in May? Not so fast

Sell in May? Not so fast. Steve Quirk, head of the Trader Group at TD Ameritrade, says large-cap stocks hold appeal, and suggests buying portfolio insurance while it's cheap. Watch Video Report.

Preventing future ‘flash crashes' all but impossible

Mark Hulbert says research suggests massive stock slumps such as the "flash crash" can't be prevented and remain a rare, but consistent feature of all stock markets. Watch Video Report.

Levee blown up to save Cairo, Ill.

Engineers blow up a levee so that flood waters may begin to recede in the city of Cairo, Ill. The waters are currently over 26 feet above the flood level throughout the city.
 Watch Video Report.

Why low-tech helped in hunt for Osama

Arik Hesseldahl says the fact that Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad didn't have telephone or Internet service, may have aided the U.S. in its efforts to confirm his location.
 Watch Video Report.

New York's taxi of the future

The Nissan NV200 was designed specifically for use as a taxi in New York City and it has now been officially selected for New York's future taxi fleet. Nissan touts the NV200 as the safest taxi ever built, with the most passenger room ever.
 Watch Video Report.

Top celebrity tweets on bin Laden

From Lindsay Lohan's "Go USA" to Jimmy Fallon's "Got Bin Laden" Twitter became on Sunday the celebrity broadcasting center as stars begin to realize they can play middleman in the spread of news. But such tweets should also be taken with caution, some tech experts say.
 Watch Video Report.

Gold's ‘air pocket' comes with bullish excitement

Gold is suffering from a lack of cash coming off the sidelines, and some investors are ready to jump ship from the yellow metal at the first sign of trouble, according to MarketWatch columnist Mark Hulbert. Laura Mandaro reports.
 Watch Video Report.

NYT: Today's Headlines: Top News | Quotation of The Day | U.S. (Video) | Opinion | World | U.S. | Politics | Business | Technology | Sports Arts | New York / Region | Travel | Editorial | On This Day |

Today's Headlines


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Face That Screamed War's Pain Looks Back, 6 Hard Years Later

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BENNO C. SCHMIDT, chairman of the CUNY board, saying it had erred in failing to approve an honorary degree for the playwright Tony Kushner.


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Op-Ed Columnist

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The Washington Post Today's Headlines: Today's Highlights | Politics | Style | Sports | World | Live Discussions | Technology | Business

The Washington Post


Trail to bin Laden began with phone call
When U.S. intelligence officials learned the contents of a telephone exchange, they knew they had reached a key moment in their decade-long search for Osama bin Laden.
(By Bob Woodward)

‘Ganging up’ in the Senate
The Senate has a propensity to form bipartisan “gangs” to come up with a solution to whatever current divisive issue faces the chamber. The problem: They usually don’t work.
(By David A. Fahrenthold)

Unusual quiet from radical groups
Pakistani militants’ reaction to Osama bin Laden’s killing is surprisingly subdued.
(By Karin Brulliard)

Syrians stage widespread protests
Protesters sustaining their seven-week-old revolt against the government despite crackdown.
(By Liz Sly)

Fake ID ring used brutal violence
A Manassas man was a key player in one of the largest, most sophisticated document mills uncovered so far, immigration officials say. The ring, they say, protected its turf brutally.
(By Dana Hedgpeth)

‘Jetman’ puts brakes on Grand Canyon flight

( by FELICIA FONSECA , The Associated Press)

Proposed shark fin ban makes waves

( by ROBIN HINDERY , The Associated Press)

U.S. attorney willing to work Nazi case for free

( by THOMAS J. SHEERAN , The Associated Press)

Huntsman: Public seeks new ‘eyeballs’ in politics

( by John McCormick , Bloomberg News)

AP sources: Documents from raid show Bin Laden was directing senior al-Qaida figures
WASHINGTON — The wealth of information pulled from Osama bin Laden’s compound has reinforced the belief that he played a strong role in planning and directing attacks by al-Qaida and its affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, senior U.S. officials said Friday.
( Associated Press Associated Press , AP)

Brunches here span the globe
Need a break from omelets and pancakes on the weekend? Three Washington establishments — The Source , Kellari Taverna and the Passenger — are expanding the notion of what it means to “do brunch.” [Read more]
( by Tom Sietsema , The Washington Post)

Whatever Happened to ...
... the boy who took his service dog to school?
( by Kris Coronado , The Washington Post)

After WikiLeaks: The military and mental health
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(, The Washington Post)

Weighing the WikiLeaks disclosures
How significant is the damage to national security?
(, The Washington Post)

First Person Singular
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Imagination, passion brought Spanish great Seve Ballesteros fame and restored European golf
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Diamondbacks walk 10, lose 4-3 to Padres in 11 after Bell blows save chance
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Golf great Seve Ballesteros dies at 54
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Rockies can't deliver Jimenez's first win, fall 4-3 to Giants after ace's strong start
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Torii Hunter hits RBI single in 11th inning as Los Angeles Angels nip Cleveland Indians 2-1
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( Associated Press Associated Press , AP)

Indonesian official says passenger plane with 25 people on board crashes in Indonesia's east
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( Associated Press Associated Press , AP)

Costa Rican rescuers find body of third US student swept out to sea
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( Associated Press Associated Press , AP)

Alleged Serb gang swept up by Brazil police, revaling Brazil's growing role as drug corridor
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( Associated Press Associated Press , AP)

Video: Color of Money -- Live Video with Michelle Singletary
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(, vForum)

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Ask Boswell
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Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams retires
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