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Mar 14, 2013

One CFTC member talks down, another talks up probing gold, silver fixes: GATA | THE GATA DISPATCHES March 14, 2013.

One CFTC member talks down, another talks up probing gold, silver fixes

How London's Gold and Silver Prices Are 'Fixed'
By Veronica Brown
Thursday, March 14, 2013

LONDON -- London's gold and silver markets face the possibility of a probe alongside other benchmarks into price setting, putting a century-old practice under the spotlight after the Libor rigging scandal that exposed widespread interest rate manipulation by banks.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has engaged in "a couple" of conversations about whether the daily setting of gold and silver prices in London is open to manipulation, Commissioner Scott O'Malia said on Thursday, although he said the situation is "fairly immature in its development.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported on Wednesday that the CFTC was examining various aspects of gold and silver price-setting, including whether it is sufficiently transparent.

 "What was stated in that story was more than I think we're doing," O'Malia told reporters at the annual Futures Industry Association conference in Florida on Thursday.

"I think we've had a couple of conversations. We're looking at energy, indexes, prices, how they're set. We'll look at all of the range of index-setting," O'Malia said.

The CFTC declined to provide an official comment, while the chairs of the London Gold Fixing Company and London Silver Fixing Company were not available for comment.

Another CFTC commissioner, Bart Chilton, known as an outspoken proponent of regulation to protect investors and consumers, declined to specifically address the report, saying: "Given the clubby manipulation efforts we saw in Libor benchmarks, I assume other benchmarks -- many other benchmarks -- are legit areas of inquiry."
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) also declined to comment on whether it was looking into gold and silver price setting, but said on Thursday it is feeding into a wider review of price benchmarks run by the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) -- a global umbrella group for markets regulators.
IOSCO is set to publish a report in May with principles on how to compile important benchmarks to avoid rigging.

The setting, or "fix," of the gold price in London dates back to 1919, originally involving NM Rothschild & Sons, Mocatta & Goldsmid, Samuel Montagu & Co., Pixley & Abell, and Sharps & Wilkins. Silver price setting started in 1897.

Currently, gold fixing happens twice a day by teleconference with five banks: Bank of Nova Scotia-ScotiaMocatta, Barclays Bank Plc, Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Bank USA, and Societe Generale. The fixings are used to determine prices globally.

Chairmanship of the gold fixing rotates annually among the member banks.

At the start of each gold price fixing, the chairman announces an opening price to the other four members who relay that to their customers, and based on orders received from them, instruct their representatives to declare themselves as buyers or sellers at that price.

The gold price is adjusted up and down until demand and supply is matched at which point the price is declared "fixed."

The fixings are used to determine spot prices for the billions of dollars of the two precious metals traded each day.

Buyers and sellers can get insight on price changes and the level of interest during the fixing process. They can cancel, increase, or decrease their interest based on that information.

Gold and silver price setting has long been the subject of debate, and the CFTC looked at complaints about the silver market in 2008.

But most believe that the process is transparent.

"The fix is open, consequential, transparent, and has stood the test of time. It's not open to manipulation in the same way as Libor," said Ross Norman, chief executive of bullion broker Sharps Pixley.

* * *

The Economist | Politics this week: Highlights of news coverage from March 9th - 15th 2013.

The EconomistPolitics this week

» Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires, was selected by the cardinals' conclave in the Vatican as the new pope. Pope Francis is the first head of the Roman Catholic church to come from the Americas, and also the first Jesuit. See article»
» Hungary's parliament passed changes to the country's constitution that critics say threaten the rule of law and violate democratic principles. The amendments were proposed by the ruling Fidesz party; the opposition Socialists boycotted the vote. Viktor Orban, the prime minister, had already provoked the ire of the European Union recently by consolidating his power over independent institutions, such as the central bank. See article»
» Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, chose a long-standing ally to be the new head of the Central Bank. Elvira Nabiullina was appointed as Mr Putin's minister for economic development and trade in 2007 and is currently his chief economic adviser, though she has little expertise in banking and finance.
Click Here!
» A general election in Malta was won by the opposition Labour Party with 55% of the vote. It based its campaign on fighting corruption and the need for change after the Nationalists' 15 years in power. The tiny euro-zone country has avoided much of the crisis that struck the region and has a low unemployment rate.
» The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) released eight Turkish soldiers and officials it was holding hostage as a gesture of goodwill in fragile peace talks with Turkey. The negotiations faced a big test at the start of the year when three PKK activists were gunned down in Paris. See article»
» The social democratic Siumut party won an election in Greenland, defeating the socialist government. Siumut has said it will expand mining in the country and overturn a ban on extracting uranium. On some estimates Greenland has one of the largest reserves of rare earths outside China. See article»

Bibi's in charge
» A coalition government in Israel was set to be formed seven weeks after an election and in time for Barack Obama's visit next week. Binyamin Netanyahu will continue as prime minister. His Likud alliance with Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu will team up with a populist right-wing party led by Naftali Bennett, a more centrist one led by Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni's more moderate party, the only one keen on negotiating with the Palestinians. The biggest religious party, Shas, has stayed out. See article»
» Uhuru Kenyatta, a son of Kenya's first president, won a presidential election, defeating Raila Odinga, the prime minister, who said he would go to court to contest the result, claiming irregularities. Predictions that violence would ensue, as it did after the previous disputed election in 2007, have so far not come true. See article»
» Sudan and South Sudan agreed to restart the flow of oil between them after a break of more than a year. The southern state gets 98% of its revenue from oil.

A challenge to Carlos Slim
» Mexico's government proposed a sweeping reform of television and telecommunications regulations. The plan would give watchdogs broad new powers in order to bring more competition to those highly concentrated industries. See article»
» Nicolás Maduro was sworn in as the interim president of Venezuela after the death of Hugo Chávez. He will face Henrique Capriles, whom Chávez defeated in a vote last October, in a new election on April 14th. See article»
» The Falkland Islands held a referendum on remaining under British rule. All but three of the 1,517 valid votes opted for the status quo. Argentina, which claims sovereignty over the territory, dismissed the vote as irrelevant, since it considers the residents to be colonial settlers. See article»

President Xi
» Xi Jinping was officially appointed as China's president by the National People's Congress. Mr Xi has already taken up the two most important domestic political positions of general secretary of the Communist Party and head of the military commission. 
» China's government rejigged some government ministries. It combined the family-planning commission with the health ministry, seen by some as an indication that it might scrap the controversial one-child policy. And it merged four of the maritime agencies that patrol the waters in the East and South China Seas, which could make it easier for China to assert what it sees as its territorial rights. See article»
» At least 6,000 pig carcasses were dredged from the Huangpu river in Shanghai. The animals were probably dumped from pig farms upstream following an official clampdown on selling diseased meat. The Huangpu provides much of Shanghai with drinking water. See article»
» Ieng Sary, one of four senior leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge government to have been charged with crimes against humanity, died at the age of 87, during his trial. He was foreign minister from 1975 to 1979, when the regime was routed. The international tribunal that was hearing his trial had already suspended the case against his wife; the fear now is that the labyrinthine process will not be able to deliver any semblance of justice.
» The militant Hizb-ul Mujahideen group claimed responsibility for the worst attack in Indian-administered Kashmir for three years. Two gunmen opened fire at a police-training camp in the city of Srinagar, killing at least five people. The region has been tense since the execution last month of a Kashmiri man convicted of plotting to attack India's Parliament in 2001.
» One of the suspects in the gang rape and murder of a student in Delhi that provoked outrage in the city last December was found dead in his cell. Prison officials say he hanged himself. His lawyers and his family claim he was murdered.

» A state judge rescinded New York's ban on selling large sizes of calorie-laden fizzy drinks, just one day before it was due to come into effect. Michael Bloomberg, the city's mayor, had pushed the plan through the board of health as a means of tackling obesity, but the judge ruled that he had overstepped his mark and that only the city council had the power to pass the law. The measure was opposed by the soft-drinks industry. See article»

The Economist | Business this week: Highlights of news coverage from March 9th - 15th 2013.

The EconomistBusiness this week

» Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of China's central bank, said he would be on "high alert" against inflation, after the figure for February jumped to 3.2% from 2% in January. Rising prices have led to political unrest in China in the past, but the government wants also to boost growth after GDP rose by a comparatively sluggish 7.8% in 2012. Industrial production remained weak at the start of this year. Mr Zhou, who is expected to stay on at the People's Bank of China despite reaching retirement age, suggested he would favour a tightish monetary policy.
» Alibaba, China's biggest e-commerce firm, appointed Jonathan Lu, an insider, as its new chief executive. The firm is restructuring and may float on the stockmarket this year. Jack Ma, its founder, is stepping down because, at 48, he considers himself too old to lead the internet company. He will stay on as chairman to guide the young Mr Lu, who is 43. See article»

Cromme comes a cropper
» Gerhard Cromme, one of Germany's most prominent businessmen, announced his resignation as chairman of the supervisory board of ThyssenKrupp, a steelmaker, after a revolt by shareholders over several investment failures and scandals. The company has been investigated for price fixing and criticised for funding luxurious jollies for journalists. Mr Cromme's departure is all the more disquieting because he oversaw the drafting in 2002 of Germany's corporate-governance code. See article»
» After Swiss voters approved a measure giving shareholders a say on pay and the European Union moved to curb bankers' bonuses, the German government indicated that it, too, would soon introduce a bill to regulate executive pay. The issue has moved up the political radar in Germany ahead of a general election in September. Angela Merkel, the chancellor, told a newspaper this week: "Exorbitance cannot be allowed in a free and socially minded society."
» In Britain the director-general of the Institute of Directors also waded into the debate, arguing that excessive pay packages make it harder to defend the merits of capitalism. Simon Walker warned banks that they should recognise the damage being done rather than trying to spin the issue as "the proverbial turd that can indeed be polished".

Flight progress
» America's Federal Aviation Administration gave Boeing permission to carry out work on design fixes for the battery systems in its 787 Dreamliner, which has been grounded worldwide after a few safety scares. One of the fixes will improve the insulation around the lithium-ion batteries. Test flights can now proceed, but the FAA stressed that this would be a "first step" in assessing when the Dreamliner can fly again.
» The first ten-year bond sale by Ireland since it was bailed out by the EU and IMF in 2010 was a roaring success and heavily oversubscribed. It issued €5 billion-worth ($6.5 billion) of long-term notes that yielded 4.15%, considerably lower than the yields on comparable Spanish and Italian bonds.
» The pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar for almost three years, driven down in part by poor figures on British manufacturing output. Sterling is the second-worst-performing currency of any big economy this year (after the yen), sliding by 8% against the greenback. See article»
» An investigation by Britain's Serious Fraud Office into the sale of Autonomy, a British software developer, to Hewlett-Packard got off to a confusing start when the SFO said that because it uses software that is made by Autonomy, it would first have to ensure there was no conflict of interest in its inquiry. HP has accused Autonomy's management of "disclosure failures" that overvalued the company prior to its takeover in 2011. Other investigations into the deal have also begun.
» Inditex, the world's biggest fashion retailer, best known for its Zara and Pull & Bear chains, reported a 22% rise in annual profit, to €2.3 billion ($3 billion). The Spanish company now has more than 6,000 stores in 86 countries.

Peeping in digital windows
» Google settled another lawsuit over Street View, this time agreeing to pay $7m to 38 states in America for collecting passwords and other personal details when creating its service. People who monitor online privacy wondered if fines are enough to deter Google and others from mining the rich seam of users' data.
» Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Cambridge published a study that found a person's private traits can be accurately predicted from monitoring their "Like" preferences on Facebook. For example, liking "The Colbert Report" was a strong predictor of high intelligence and "Harley-Davidson" a strong indicator of low intelligence.

Netanyahu Prepares to Accept New Coalition: NYT | Global Update March 14, 2013.

The New York Times International Herald Tribune
March 14, 2013
Compiled 20:45 GMT

Global Update


Netanyahu Prepares to Accept New Coalition

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel planned to sign agreements Thursday with two first-time politicians, ending a six-week struggle to form a government.

Beijing Cautions New Pope on Meddling in China

Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said on Thursday that the Vatican "must stop interfering in China's internal affairs, including in the name of religion."

Critic of Japan's Central Bank Is Expected to Lead It

Haruhiko Kuroda, a Finance Ministry veteran and lover of Greek philosophy, has been charged with turning around an institution reviled for its monetary policy.

Op-Ed Contributor

How SARS Was Contained

The response to the disease marked a turning point in the history of public health.

Slide Show: Bangkok, Where Extremes Coexist

Amid the city's chaos, visitors find charm and character.
News Analysis

Entrenched Troubles at Vatican Await a New Pope

The choice of a New World pope sent messages about the Roman Catholic Church: that its future lies in the global south and that a scholar with a common touch may inspire its faithful.

U.S. General Puts Troops on Security Alert After Karzai Remarks

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. told his top commanders that Western troops were at greater risk of attack after President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan made a string of anti-American remarks.

At Least 18 Killed in Baghdad Attacks

The attacks in the Iraqi capital, apparently coordinated, involved car bombs outside three government ministries, a raid by gunmen and a suicide bombing.

Regulators Question Goldman and JPMorgan's Capital Plans

The Federal Reserve said Goldman and JPMorgan would need to resubmit their proposals to pay out billions of dollars to shareholders, citing "weaknesses" in their capital plans while Citigroup and Bank of America got a green light.

UBS Pays Investment Bank Chief $26 Million

UBS awarded Andrea Orcel almost 25 million Swiss francs in deferred cash and shares to compensate him for pay he forfeited upon leaving Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Media Decoder Blog

Chris Hayes to Take Over 8 P.M. Slot on MSNBC

Mr. Hayes, who has been hosting a weekend morning show, will replace Ed Schultz, whose working-class bluster wasn't always a good fit with MSNBC's other prime-time shows.
News Analysis

Google Hastens to Show Its Concern for Privacy

Google executives are realizing that penalties for privacy breaches, like those it acknowledged involving its Street View project, do matter, if only because of the reputational risks.
Bits Blog

Google Puts Android and Chrome Under One Boss

The change signals Google's evolving thinking about its two operating systems and two growing businesses, hardware and mobile.
Bits Blog

Obama Discusses Computer Security With Corporate Chiefs

President Obama is looking for support as he presses for legislation that would give the administration new technological tools and broader authority in the battle against computer attacks.

A Champions League Lacking English Flair

When the quarterfinal draw is held Friday, there will be a Turkish club, an Italian club, some Spanish clubs -- but no Premier League clubs.

Pole Clinches 4th Title

Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland clinched her fourth overall cross-country World Cup title by winning a classical sprint in Drammen, Norway.

Nadal Renews Criticism of Hardcourt Schedule

Since his return from a seven-month layoff because of a knee injury, Rafael Nadal has been particularly outspoken on the detrimental effects of hardcourt proliferation.

Bankruptcy Lawyer Is Named to Manage an Ailing Detroit

Michigan's governor said he was recommending Kevyn D. Orr, a lawyer who has focused on restructuring businesses, to be Detroit's first emergency manager.

In Los Angeles, Focusing on Violence Before It Occurs

Mental health professionals, law enforcement agencies and schools collaborate in one of the nation's most intensive efforts to identify potential perpetrators of violent crimes.

In Ohio Rape Trial, Testimony on a Girl's Drinking

The case against two high school football stars accused of raping a 16-year-old girl could hinge on the argument that the girl was too drunk to consent to sexual relations.
Op-Ed Contributor

When Fear Went Viral

When SARS seized Hong Kong it was attacking not only a vulnerable population but also a fragile economy.
Op-Ed Guest Columnist

Stealing Books for the Poor

In the West, piracy is a matter of intellectual property but in China, the issue is not just legal, but social.

DealBook P.M. Edition March 14, 2013.: Anschutz Calls Off Sale of Entertainment Arm Home |Business Day| Video The New York Times

Thursday, March 14, 2013
Anschutz Calls Off Sale of Entertainment Arm The investment company owned by the billionaire Philip Anschutz has decided to call off efforts to sell the Anschutz Entertainment Group, a sports and live entertainment juggernaut.
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against Prominent Plaintiffs' Lawyer A former junior lawyer at the firm filed a lawsuit against Faruqi & Faruqi on Wednesday, accusing one of its most prominent partners of sexual harassment.
At This Conference, Gensler Is Strictly Ballroom Gary Gensler, a man more at home arguing the fine points of position limits or swaps reform, caught Tuesday Night Fever at the Futures Industry Association's annual conference held in Boca Raton, Fla.
UBS Pays Investment Bank Chief $26 Million UBS awarded Andrea Orcel almost 25 million Swiss francs in deferred cash and shares to compensate him for pay he forfeited upon leaving Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Economic Reports Information to be released on Friday includes the Consumer Price Index for February, industrial production for February and the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for March.
In the United States On Friday, current and former top executives of JPMorgan Chase, along with three regulators, will testify at a Senate panel hearing on the bank's multibillion-dollar trading loss. DealBook will provide a live blog of the hearing.
Overseas On Friday, European Union leaders will meet in Brussels to discuss the debt crisis, bank regulation and other matters.
Quotation of the Day
"He actually looked good up there."
An onlooker on Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, busting a move on the Boca Raton dance floor at the Futures Industry Association's annual conference.


Wall Street at Close Report March 14, 2013.: U.S. stock rally lifts S&P 500 to near record. By kate Gibson, MarketWatch.

By Kate Gibson, MarketWatch 
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — U.S. stocks advanced Thursday, lifting the S&P 500 index to within 2 points of its all-time closing high, as investors embraced the latest confirmation of an expanding economy.
“It does seem the economy is getting better, and certainly the residential housing market has helped,” said Martin Leclerc, chief investment officer at Barrack Yard Advisors.

Jobless claims drop
Further signs the U.S economic recovery is picking up steam as jobless claims fell to their lowest level in five years.

“The market seems to want to go up with the power of a freight train. We humans can only be bummed out for so long,” Leclerc said of increasing bullish sentiment among investors. 

Stretching gains into a 10th consecutive session, its longest streak in 16 years, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA +0.58% climbed 83.86 points, or 0.6%, to 14,539.14, leaving it with another record close for a eighth consecutive session. 

The S&P 500 index SPX +0.56% rose 8.71 points, or 0.6%, to 1,563.23, leaving it less than 2 points shy of its record close set in October 2007. 

“While the stock market appears somewhat extended short-term and ripe for a minor pullback, the positive economic data flow and dollar strength appear to be encouraging investors to put money to work in stocks,” said Dickson. 

Energy and technology were the top performers among the index’s 10 major industry groups, while health-care companies weighed. 

The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP +0.43% advanced 13.81 points, or 0.4%, to 3,258.93.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index VIX -4.48% , a gauge of the price of employing options as a hedge against declines in the S&P 500, fell 4.7% to 11.28.

For every stock falling more than two rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where 676 million shares traded. Composite volume hit 3.4 billion. Read about rally’s thin volume

Bolstering sentiment, the Labor Department reported initial applications for unemployment benefits declined by 10,000 to 332,000 last week. 

“Jobless claims as a percent of the U.S. workforce have now fallen to a level last seen during the strong expansion phase of the prior two economic expansions,” noted Fred Dickson, chief investment strategist at Davidson Cos. 

Separately, the Labor Department reported a 0.7% jump in producer prices in February, boosted by a rise in gasoline prices. 

Treasury yields rose, with the 10-year benchmark 10_YEAR -0.20% above 2%, and the price of oil climbing, with the crude futures contract for April delivery CLJ3 +0.71% up 51 cents, or 0.4%, at $93.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. 

Reuters Enlarge Image
Apple shares rise ahead of Samsung event.
Apple Inc. AAPL +0.97% rose 1% after a BTIG Research analyst upgraded the consumer-technology company to buy from neutral. 

E-Trade Financial Corp. ETFC -8.21% shed 8.2% after Citadel LLC said it would sell its remaining equity stake.

Men’s Wearhouse Inc. MW -1.76% leapt 19% as the clothing company said it had retained an investment bank to help it explore strategic options for its K&G store chain. 

Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York.


NYT | Politics March 14. 2013 : Boehner Says Election Losses Won't Affect Budget Stance

Speaker John A. Boehner, before meeting with House Republicans and President Obama on Wednesday.

Boehner Says Election Losses Won't Affect Budget Stance

Speaker John A. Boehner suggested on Thursday that candidates and personalities – not Republican proposals on Medicare and spending cuts – contributed to party losses in November.

Party-Line Vote in Senate Panel for Ban on Assault Weapons

The legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, which would also limit the size of magazines, had tenuous prospects before the entire Senate and House.


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Witnesses at a Senate panel investigating sexual assault in the military were, from left, Anu Bhagwati of the Service Women's Action Network; BriGette McCoy, who was raped when she was 18 while with the Army in Germany; Rebekah Havrilla, a former Army sergeant who was raped by a superior officer; and Brian K. Lewis, a former Navy petty officer who was raped by a superior.

Veterans Testify on Rapes and Scant Hope of Justice

Military officials who spoke before a Senate Armed Services panel appeared both chastened and defensive.

Obama Rallies Supporters and Donors to Keep His Campaign Agenda Alive

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A visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is said to be on President Obama's to-do list.

Obama's Israel Itinerary Includes Some Standard Stops, but Not Others

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Supporters of an immigration overhaul, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million people living in the country illegally, in Washington on Wednesday to lobby lawmakers.

U.S. Citizens Join Illegal Immigrants in Pressing Lawmakers for Change

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President Hamid Karzai's statements have drawn criticism within his country and from the United States.

U.S. General Puts Troops on Security Alert After Karzai Remarks

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The Caucus

Obama Says Budget Differences Could Be 'Too Wide' for a Deal

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Is It Too Early for 2016 Polls?

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Video: Budget, Back and Forth
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