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POSTED ON August 3, 2011  - POSTED IN Key Gold Headlines

Gold Mining Commanding a Premium
Financial Post – Gold, like oil, is getting harder and harder to find. That is the conclusion of a recent report by Clarus Securities. Employing data from the Society of Economic Geologists, analyst Laurie Curtis finds that deposits yielding high quantities of gold per ton of ore extracted peaked in the 1980s. The cost of discovery, in particular, has nearly quintupled to $47 an ounce in 2009, up from $10 an ounce during the 1980s. Higher capital expenditure and a steadily increasing gold price will be the only way for supply to keep up with today’s surging demand. Read Full Article>>

Gold Standard Emerging as World Order Unravels
The Telegraph – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, international business editor of The Daily Telegraph, writes that with Japan and the West likely at debt saturation, gold is making a comeback to its historical role as an anchor of stability in a sea of liquidity. Squabbling politicians in Washington and Brussels make for good theater, but generate little confidence in the eyes of investors as regards the medium- to long-term resilience of the purchasing power of their respective fiat currencies. No alternative asset class exists that is capable of absorbing the impending wave of wealth on the lookout for safekeeping. With the post-Bretton Woods global monetary order growing increasingly threadbare by the day, a new gold standard is just over the horizon, forecasts Mr. Evans-Pritchard.
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Swiss Mull Re-Linking Franc to Gold
MarketWatch (WSJ) – The Swissie has performed admirably over the course of past three years as the flight to quality has taken center stage. But for the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), a strong, resilient Franc is not enough, and certainly does not equate with a bulletproof Franc backed by solid gold. Later this year, the Swiss Parliament, which decoupled the Franc from gold as recently as the year 2000, is expected to debate the introduction of a parallel Gold Franc. The little Alpine nation still holds almost as much bullion as gargantuan China. Per capita, it is #1, with $6K in gold per person – six times the amount per person held by the US.
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POSTED ON August 1, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Peter Schiff

Perhaps the debt ceiling should be renamed the “national debt target,” for it seems Washington is always trying to reach it. One could say it’s their only reliable, time-tested achievement. And without fail, upon reaching their national debt target, they promptly extend it further in order to discover how quickly it can once again be attained!

While I have little doubt that the ceiling will be raised, my readers have been curious as to the implications for gold in each of the debt and “default” scenarios possible after August 2nd. This month, I’ll outline how each outcome could affect the price of gold and silver.

Bearish Gold Case #1: Debt Ceiling Not Raised – Enough Cuts Made to Avert Default

My readers know that this scenario is actually what the US government should do. The debt ceiling should not be increased and massive cuts must be made. We know this outcome is extremely unlikely – it would require not only a resolute steadfastness to sound money, but also a 180-degree change of philosophical beliefs by the majority of Congress (and the American public) overnight.

Yet in our fantasy world, if this did occur, it would be bearish for gold. It would mean the US government was shrinking, that debts were being paid, that the entire US economy was becoming more solvent and viable. Gold would be less important to own, as the risk of both currency crises and sovereign debt crises would be lower.

Bearish Gold Case #2: Debt Ceiling Raised – Federal Budget Balanced

If the debt ceiling is raised in order to avert imminent default, but the spare time is used to truly bring the federal budget into balance, the US economy might still be saved. But when I say “balanced,” I mean it. This would mean not only eliminating the entire $1.5 trillion deficit, but also leaving enough of a surplus to cover all outstanding debt and unfunded liabilities. For perspective, Senator Rand Paul’s proposal to but $500 billion a year, widely considered more radical than landing a man on Mars, would only address 1/3 of the annual deficit – it would take cuts many times that for the US to return to solvency.

But let’s be optimistic: if the budget could be balanced, then the fact that the debt ceiling was being increased yet again would not be so awful. Since the US government’s fiscal policies would be completely reversed, we could expect to start seeing a strengthening of the dollar (so long as Bernanke stopped the printing presses too) and a weakening of gold and silver.

However, this is just as much of a pipe dream as the first scenario. No government in history has dug itself out of the hole we now face without defaulting. If Congress even tried to enact a plan like this, people would be rioting in the streets over their lost entitlements. And we’d suddenly have millions of unemployed soldiers. Not exactly a recipe for peace and prosperity.

Bullish Gold Case #1: Debt Ceiling Not Raised – US Defaults on Treasury Debt

This is the scenario that President Obama and Secretary Geithner are threatening. They claim that if the debt ceiling is not raised, they will have to immediately begin defaulting on Treasury interest payments. This is rather unlikely, as interest payments make up only 10% of spending, but let’s say they stop paying anyway.

If they do this, market interest rates for US debt would skyrocket, meaning the only buyer left at rates the Treasury could afford would be the Fed. In other words, if they default on August 2nd, QE3 will start on August 3rd. Of course, a default would be absolutely devastating to the dollar and a boon for gold and silver. Global confidence in the invincibility of the United States would be shattered, and the underlying problem of excessive spending would still remain to be addressed.

Another interesting scenario would be if Congress didn’t raise the debt ceiling and the Treasury just kept borrowing anyway. It’s not like the Executive Branch follows laws scrupulously nowadays. What if they just ignored it? Someone could challenge the act in federal courts, but the odds are often in the President’s favor. In this case, gold and silver might experience less of an initial spike, but their long-term prospects would be elevated as the world recognized that we were one step closer to becoming a banana republic.

Bullish Gold Case #2: Debt Ceiling Raised – Symbolic Cuts in Spending

This scenario is by far the most likely outcome of the debt talks in Washington; they will raise the debt ceiling and make spending cuts which sound substantial, but which only mange to slow the accumulation of new debt.

The plans on the table suggest cutting a couple trillion in cumulative spending over the next decade. In other words, they propose cuts that only reduce deficits by about 10-20%; they do nothing to reduce actual debt levels. So if these talks are successful, then instead of a $1.5 trillion deficit each year, perhaps we only suffer a $1.2 trillion deficit. Meanwhile, the debt continues growing. This is “success” in Washington.

Clearly, this is bullish for precious metals. It means more of the same – more spending, more debt, and necessarily more money-printing.

The Empire Has No Ceiling

Over the past 50 years, the US debt ceiling has been raised over 70 times. In other words, there is no ceiling at all – it is as fictitious as the idea that central planning works, or that the US has anything resembling a “free market.”

So, I guess it stands to reason that regardless of the debt ceiling increase, it is likely that the US will be downgraded by one or more ratings agencies. The effect will be massive because the world’s largest pension, mutual, and sovereign wealth funds typically mandate investment only in AAA-rated securities. A downgrade of US debt means those funds must immediately sell off their primary reserve asset. The effect of this cannot be overstated, and gold would be the first and best refuge for an onslaught of orphaned capital.

Despite gold once again hitting new highs, I can only recommend my readers continue to keep a healthy portion of their portfolio in precious metals. Given the sad realities of the US fiscal and monetary situation, it’s prudent to assume that nothing will be solved by August 2nd.

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POSTED ON August 1, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Peter Schiff

By supposedly compromising to raise the debt ceiling, Congress and the President have now paved the way for ever higher levels of federal spending. Although, the nation was spared the trauma of borrowing restrictions, the actual risk of default existed solely in the minds of Washington politicians. But the real crisis is not, nor has it ever been, the debt ceiling. The crisis is the debt itself. Economic Armageddon would not have resulted from failure to raise the ceiling, but it will come because we succeeded in raising it. This outcome falls along the lines that I had forecast (See my commentary, “Don’t Be Fooled by Political Posturing” from July 9th).

Both parties are now pretending that the promised cuts in spending outweigh the increase in the debt limit. But the $900 billion in identified cuts are spread over a decade and are skewed toward the end of that period. There are an additional $1.4 trillion in cuts that the plan assumes will be identified by a bi-partisan budget committee. But similarly empowered panels in the past have almost never delivered on their mandates.

POSTED ON July 21, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

Michael Pento’s Market Commentary

The debt ceiling debate that has dominated the headlines over the past month has been thoroughly infused with a string of unfortunate misconceptions and a number of blatant deceptions. As a result, the entire process has been mostly hot air. While a recitation of all the errors would be better attempted by a novelist rather than a weekly columnist, I’ll offer my short list.

After having failed utterly to warn investors of the dangers associated with the toxic debt of entities like Enron, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG, as well as the perils of investing in mortgage-backed securities and sovereign debt of various bankrupt countries, the credit ratings agencies (CRAs) have now apparently decided to be more vigilant. Hence, many have offered conspicuous warnings that they may lower U.S. debt ratings if Washington fails to make progress on its fiscal imbalances. But then, just in case anyone was getting the impression that these rating agencies actually cared about fiscal prudence, Moody’s suggested this week that its concerns would be lessened if Washington were to make a deal on the debt. The agency has even suggested that America’s credit could be further improved if Washington would simply eliminate the statutory debt limit altogether. In other words, Moody’s believes that our nation’s problems are more a function of squabbling politicians rather than a chronic, unresolved problem of borrowing more than we can ever hope to repay.

With or without a deal, the CRAs should have already lowered their debt ratings on the $14.3 trillion of U.S. debt. In fact the rating should be lowered again if the debt ceiling IS raised. And it should be lowered still further if we eliminated the debt ceiling altogether. To lower the rating because the limit is NOT raised is like cutting the FICO score of a homeless person because he is denied a home equity loan.

Republicans are making a different misconception about the debt ceiling debate in their belief that they can dramatically cut government spending without pushing down GDP growth in the short term. In a recent poll from Pew Research Center for the People and the Press showed 53% of G.O.P. and 65% of Tea Party members said there would be no economic crisis resulting from not raising the debt ceiling.

They argue that leaving money in the private sector is better for an economy than sending the money to Washington to be spent by government. That much is undoubtedly true. But a very large portion of current government spending does not come from taxing or borrowing, but from printed money courtesy of the Fed. If the Fed stops printing, inflation and consumption are sure to fall. While this is certainly necessary in the long run, it will be nevertheless devastating for the economic data in the near term.

Over the last decade and a half our economy has floated up on a succession of asset bubbles, all made possible by the Fed. Our central bank lowers borrowing costs far below market levels. Commercial banks then expand the money supply by making goofy loans to the government or to the private sector. As a consequence, debt levels and asset values soar and soon become unsustainable. Ultimately, the Fed and commercial banks cut off the monetary spigot, either by their own volition or because the demand for money plummets. The economy is forced to deleverage and consumers are forced to sell assets and pay down debt. Recession ensues. That’s exactly what could happen if $1.5 trillion worth of austerity suddenly crashes into the economy come August 2nd. Although they don’t seem to realize it, this will create huge political problems for Republicans.

And then there is the deception coming from Democrats who argue that we need to raise taxes in order to balance our budget. This is simply not possible. The American economy currently produces nearly $15 trillion in GDP per annum but has $115 trillion in unfunded liabilities. With a hole like that, no amount of taxes could balance the budget. Raising revenue from the 14% of GDP, as it is today, to the 20% it was in 2000 would barely make a dent toward funding our Social Security and Medicare liabilities. Therefore, we need to cut entitlement spending dramatically. But the Democrats refuse to face the obvious facts.

With the Tea Party gaining traction in Congress, and causing nightmares for incumbents, Republicans have little incentive to raise the debt ceiling (although they raised it 7 times under George W. Bush). Democrats aren’t going to reduce entitlements without raising taxes on “the rich” and Republicans aren’t going to raise taxes when the unemployment rate is 9.2%. There’s your stalemate and anyone expecting a significant deal to cut more than $4 trillion in spending by the August 2nd deadline will be severely disappointed. Although there has been some movement by the so-called “Gang of Six” centrist senators in recent days, a substantive deal may be more unlikely than most people think. And even if a much smaller deal can be reached in time, the credit rating agencies may follow through on their promise to downgrade our sovereign debt. The fallout could be devastating to money market and pension funds that must hold AAA paper. But an even worse outcome will occur when the real debt downgrade comes from our foreign creditors, when they no longer believe the U.S. has the ability to pay our bills.

In my opinion, the best news for the long term future of this nation is the Republican “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan that just passed the House. It now heads to a much harder hurdle in the Democrat controlled Senate, and if it passes that, to a certain veto from President Obama. At least something so promising got to the table at all. However, I think the country needs some more tastes of brutal reality before such bitter medicine has a chance of going down.

POSTED ON July 14, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Peter Schiff

I have been forecasting with near certainty that QE2 would not be the end of the Fed’s money-printing program. My suspicions were confirmed in both the Fed minutes on Tuesday and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s semi-annual testimony to Congress yesterday. The former laid out the conditions upon which a new round of inflation would be launched, and the latter re-emphasized – in case anyone still doubted – that Mr. Bernanke has no regard for the principles of a sound currency.

POSTED ON July 8, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Peter Schiff

As attention focuses intently on the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling, House Republicans have made a great show of drawing a line in the fiscal sand. They claim that they will not vote for any deal that includes tax increases to narrow the budget deficit. But we all know how the game works in Washington. With the 2012 elections looming the Republican bluster is merely a bargaining chip that they will quickly toss into the pot when they sense a political victory. In fact there are signs that such a compromise is already underway.

POSTED ON July 7, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

Michael Pento’s Market Commentary

Those who take issue with the outlook of Austrian economists in general, and Euro Pacific Capital in particular, have pointed to the persistence of low bond yields as proof that our philosophy does not hold water. We argue that as the United States takes on ever more debt and prints greater quantities of dollars, that buyers of our debt will demand higher rates of interest to compensate for greater risk. In fact, our philosophy leads us to believe that rates would currently be spiking as Washington debates whether to raise the debt ceiling yet again or default on existing debt. Instead, rates are hitting close to multi-year lows. As a result, our critics have found a seemingly valid issue. However, we believe that there are strong market reasons that are holding rates low for now that do not invalidate our central thesis.

Looked at objectively, there are a litany of reasons why rates should be much higher than they are. Official government data from the Labor Department has year over year consumer inflation rising at 3.4%. With the Ten year note offering a paltry 3.1%, negative real interest rates now extend out over a decade! At the same time, total non-financial debt as a percentage of GDP is at the highest level on record and in our view there are no credible projections that show the trend reversing anytime soon. In addition, with the end of quantitative easing, the Federal Reserve will apparently no longer be soaking up 75% of all new Treasury issuance. Given this, does it make sense that yields on Ten Year Treasuries are trading 60% lower than their 40-year average? Forget the flowers, where have all the global bond vigilantes gone?

But, what makes these low yields on U.S. debt even more unfathomable is the current debate over raising the debt ceiling. If a deal to lower the trajectory of debt isn’t reached by August 2nd, we are being told that America could enter into default. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at the bond market. It seems that everyone is convinced the U.S. will never renege on her obligations and that the Democrats and Republicans will come to an agreement with time to spare.

Peter Schiff subscribes to this logic. He believes the bond market is pricing in an increase in the debt ceiling that temporarily lays to rest any fears of default. As a result, he believes that traders are buying bonds now so they can sell into the “positive” news that will result from a debt deal in Washington. However, Peter believes, as I do, that an increase in the debt ceiling is actually very negative for bonds. That means that after the dust settles he expects interest rates to rise dramatically. But that won’t stop the traders from booking a quick profit.

However, I believe there is little to support the belief that a deal will be made. Republicans have very little incentive to agree on a deal that includes tax hikes, which are an essential prerequisite for Democrats to assent to dramatic spending cuts. The Republicans want spending cuts without any tax increases and that’s exactly what they will get if the August 2nd deadline comes and goes. In fact, the Republicans will force a severe dose of austerity upon the American economy, which could be a double-win for the GOP. They may simultaneously balance the budget without increasing revenue and engender a recession that will force the current party out of the White House.

I believe that bond investors may be hedging their bets. If an agreement is not reached there will be a huge reduction in borrowed money that is printed by the Fed. The result will be a severe reduction in the money supply. This forced deleveraging will bring about a needed round of dramatic deflation like we experienced in the fall of 2008. From my perspective that is the best justification for the current low yields on U.S. debt. Maybe the bond market has it right after all; but reasons completely contrary to those offered by market bulls who see low yields as a sign that all is well on the economic front.

Peter and I may differ on the current psychology of bond investors, but we do believe that once the economy slows in earnest once again, the authorities will not hesitate to reignite the monetary madness thereby punishing bond investors with weaker dollars.

POSTED ON July 6, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Peter Schiff

Imagine a day when you go to buy a quart of milk, ask the price, and the cashier says, “that’ll be a tenth ounce silver.” As the US dollar’s decline accelerates, several efforts around the country are trying to make this vision a reality.

Historically, paying for items in silver or gold was actually quite common. We happen to live in an unusual time and place where generations have grown up trading exclusively in paper. While my parents still used dimes made of silver, we have now gone several decades with no precious metals in any of our official coinage. But this system of money by government fiat is unsustainable.

While the practice of bartering precious metals directly for goods and services has continued on a small-scale over the last few decades, the 2000s saw the beginning of organized efforts to revive gold and silver as money.

POSTED ON July 6, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

The following article was written by Mary Anne and Pamela Aden for the July 2011 edition of Peter Schiff’s Gold Letter.

7

The answer is no. Even though gold is currently under pressure, the major trend remains up and the fundamentals are still very positive.

POSTED ON July 3, 2011  - POSTED IN Key Gold Headlines

Crisis of Confidence in US Dollar Possible: UN
Financial Post – Ban Ki-Moon has just won a second term as UN Secretary-General. Kudos. The eroding value of his tax-exempt salary denominated in US dollars, however, is less cause for celebration. A mid-year review of the world economy by the UN’s economic division points out that a continued decline in the value of the US dollar vis-Ã -vis a basket of other major currencies could precipitate a crisis of confidence, and possibly a collapse. Such an eventuality would with certainty imperil the global financial system. Rob Vos, a senior economist who contributed to the review, explained to Reuters that the brain trust isn’t arguing that a collapse will happen tomorrow, but that the headwinds are fast compounding, and a point of no return could come sooner rather than later.
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EU Facilitates Use of Gold as Collateral
The Australian – The European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs resolved unanimously in late May to permit clearing houses to accept gold as collateral. The decision must still pass muster at the European Parliament and the Council of the EU in July. Nevertheless, the Committee’s harmony of opinion represents a significant shift in political sentiment regarding the utility of gold as a store of value. Since the 2008 financial crisis, investors and financial institutions have clamored for alternative sources of collateral. Traditional collateral assets, such as European government bonds, have seen their credit quality erode.
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Mining Chief Sees $2,000 Gold
The Australian– Richard O’Brien, Chief Executive of the world’s largest gold producer, Newmont Mining, commented on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on East Asia that the price of gold would likely reach $2,000 within five years. Mr. O’Brien said the newfound wealth generated by China’s growing middle class and a devaluing US dollar would underpin the rise. For 2011, however, he forecast the price would likely remain in the $1,500 to $1,600 bracket. At the very least, the mining chief believes gold will remain above $1,000 an ounce for ‘the foreseeable future,’ no matter the state of global markets.
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Utah Legalizes Gold, Silver Coins as Currency
Denver Post – Utah, the rugged “Beehive State,” became the first US jurisdiction to authorize the use of gold and silver coins as currency in late May. The move exempts the sale of precious metal coins from state capital gains taxes. State lawmakers passed the bill to protest Federal Reserve monetary policy, noting that citizens are losing faith in the dollar and deserve alternatives. A groundswell of gold- and silver-backed depository accounts that offer debit-like cards that consumers can use to make purchases is expected. Minnesota, North Carolina, Idaho, and almost a dozen other states are considering similar measures.
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