Precious Metals

Debt Ceiling

Gold and silver spot prices lost ground to a strengthening U.S. dollar last week. The dollar enjoyed its best week in 5 months, as other major world currencies weakened. European central bankers are once again hinting at more stimulus, and the Chinese government cut interest rates for the 6th time in the past year.

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Federal Reserve officials meet on Wednesday, and almost no one expects them to change interest rates. Because of the overwhelming build-up of government and private debt, the economy appears totally unable to withstand higher interest rates.

But expect the usual parsing of officials’ every utterance for clues. It’s already been over nine years since the Fed has raised rates even a quarter point, so don’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department declared a debt ceiling deadline of November 3rd. Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner will try to push through a debt increase before his scheduled departure on Friday (when he’ll likely hand over the gavel to Paul Ryan). If Congress can’t come to an agreement this week, markets could get rattled on the looming possibility of a U.S. default.

It’s a remote possibility, though. Insiders say the Treasury and Federal Reserve could take additional emergency actions to pay the government’s bills well past the Obama administration’s arbitrary cut-off date.351321

As former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said:

“The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default. We can guarantee cash benefits as far out and whatever size you like but we cannot guarantee their purchasing power.”

In other words, the real threat to investors is inflation, not default.

Meanwhile, stock investors must think better looking economic data is coming, as they have been buying. We’ll see if the latest data matches expectations.

Silver Premiums Have Fallen, but the Short-Term Outlook Is Uncertain

With silver prices rising almost 10%, retail buying of physical silver has lessened over the past three weeks – down from the frenetic pace over the past 4 months. That’s allowed premiums on many products to fall toward normal levels. Production backlogs and delivery delays have also been dissipating.

Ask premiums for the Maple Leaf, American Eagle, and Pre-1965 90% silver U.S. coins – the products that saw the sharpest hikes through the summer – are now leading the way down. The respite will help mints and refiners catch up. Dealers are taking the opportunity to replenish inventories.

One fly in the ointment is the upcoming annual halt in deliveries of silver American Eagles. The U.S. Mint is expected to stop production of 2015 dated coins sometime between early and mid-December and change out the dies for the 2016 date. (While private mints only require a few hours to make a switch, the U.S. government requires a few weeks.) So the market can expect a month of no deliveries until a resumption in mid January.

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If dealers cannot build adequate inventory to supply the market during the Mint’s hiatus, we will see upward pressure on premiums once again. January demand for the new year’s coin is also traditionally among the strongest months of the year. That may also push premiums higher.

This adds up to an uncertain outlook for premiums in the short term. Much will depend on what happens to retail demand in the coming months. The extraordinary demand from June through September was based largely on safe-haven buying.

The crisis in Greece has shuffled out of the headlines. Meanwhile, the combination of additional stimulus and the threat of draconian punishment for anyone selling Chinese stocks seems to have stayed the collapse of share prices there.

U.S. stock markets are also recovering from their late September lows. These signals indicate that complacency and the narrative of economic recovery is creeping back into markets. There is no one better at pushing a narrative than officials in Washington, unless it is Wall Street. Their problem, as always, is supporting it with actual facts.

Spot prices will also be a significant factor in bullion demand, of course. Prices have risen well above the recent lows, tempering some interest among bargain hunters. The markets also have some convincing to do before investors trust that the recent recovery actually represents a reversal and the start of a new uptrend.

clint-siegnerClint Siegner is a Director at Money Metals Exchange, the national precious metals company named 2015 “Dealer of the Year” in the United States by an independent global ratings group. A graduate of Linfield College in Oregon, Siegner puts his experience in business management along with his passion for personal liberty, limited government, and honest money into the development of Money Metals’ brand and reach. This includes writing extensively on the bullion markets and their intersection with policy and world affairs.

[Image Courtesy of Wand]

Gold Price News

What gold and silver investors want to know above all is when the bull market will resume. In a very real sense, it already has resumed. Futures market prices aside, evidence abounds that a raging bull market in physical precious metals is now underway.

In the third quarter (ending September 30th), coin demand went through the roof. Mints literally couldn’t keep up with demand. The dysfunctional U.S. Mint rationed deliveries of Silver Eagles, failing to fulfill its mandate under law of keeping the market supplied. Even so, investors bought up a record 18.59 million ounces’ worth of silver Eagle coins in the past 4 months.

Steve St. Angelo of SRSRoccoReport.com compared the 2015 Silver Eagles shortage situation with the infamous 2008 incident. He found the current shortage occurred even as the U.S. Mint produced three times as many Eagles this time around!

Extraordinary conditions in the silver market are causing the mainstream media to sit up and take notice.

As Reuters reported, “The global silver-coin market is in the grips of an unprecedented supply squeeze, forcing some mints to ration sales and step up overtime while sending U.S. buyers racing abroad to fulfill a sudden surge in demand.”

Record Demand for Coins Sends Premiums Soaring

Record demand for silver coins has driven premiums on virtually all bullion products substantially higher. Some of the biggest premium spikes are being seen on pre-1965 90% silver coins. These premium increases represent real gains in value for holders of physical silver. During periods of elevated premiums, national dealers such as Money Metals Exchange have and will pay prices up to several dollars above spot on buy-backs of most silver products from customers.

Market conditions will eventually normalize. But since this great public buying spree in physical silver was spurred by low spot prices, it may take significantly higher spot prices to lessen demand-driven shortages and backlogs. Buyers who wait for premiums to come down may, in turn, end up having to pay higher spot prices.

Market tightness is less of a problem for gold bullion products. For the most part, supply is keeping up with demand. That’s not to say that gold bullion hasn’t experienced a demand surge of its own. It definitely has. Sales of gold American Eagles surged to 397,000 ounces in the third quarter, up from 127,000 ounces for Q2.

When Will the Physical Bull Market Kick Off a Bull Market in Prices?

Will Q4 produce more explosive demand figures for gold and silver bullion? It’s possible. In the meantime, bullion investors will be looking for evidence that the bull market on the physical side is stimulating a bull market in the spot prices set by highly leveraged futures exchanges.

The price action in gold and silver futures so far this year has been disappointing – and, frankly, baffling from a fundamental standpoint. Metals prices shouldn’t be falling given what’s going on in the world. Central banks across the globe are desperately trying to stimulate weak economies. A worried Federal Reserve backed off on purported plans to raise rates.

Although industrial demand for silver is down, so is mine production (as discussed more fully below).

The falling supply and through-the-roof investment demand for physical gold and silver are more than enough to pick up the slack.

Unfortunately, while fundamentals matter to investors, they don’t matter to the traders and the large financial institutions that have cornered the gold and silver futures markets where paper metal is in ample supply. Several big banks hold outsized short positions on precious metals. The trade has worked out well for them lately, and that’s all they care about.

Shorting precious metals won’t be profitable forever. When the market for gold, silver, or any commodity gets depressed in price for an extended period, the forces of supply and demand start pressuring prices back up. The pressure may build for months before it starts showing up on the price charts.

But eventually, something will break. Artificially low prices encourage increased consumption and discourage production – a veritable recipe for higher prices at some point down the road.

To be sure, low prices for gold and silver have absolutely decimated the mining industry. That means that supplies in the months and years ahead are headed for a decline that will not be easily reversed.

In a recent interview on our Money Metals Weekly Market Wrap, mining industry analyst David Smith talked about an emerging global supply squeeze. He said, “We’re seeing a fairly substantial fall off in production, not just in one country, but in several – in Australia, in Mexico, in Peru, and even in the United States. And most recently Canada. These are very large falloffs in supply production, right at the very moment when demand is going through the roof. Those two things don’t make for lower prices. They make for higher prices…”

Keeping It Simple and Looking Long Term Will Pay Off in the End

These fundamental supply and demand forces will make for higher precious metals prices – perhaps starting in the final three months of 2015; perhaps not until a bit further out on the calendar.

Long-term investors should leave the short-term market timing to day traders. When the stealth bull market in precious metals shifts into a full-fledged bull market on the charts, those who hang on for the ride will do better than most of those who try to trade in and out. And those who own physical precious metals will have more security, and more ways to profit, than those who hold paper contracts.

[Image Courtesy of Wikipedia]

Debt Ceiling

It’s campaign season, and that means non-stop media coverage of candidate polls, quips, gaffes, tweets, emails, controversies, lies, and scandals. It all makes for a good soap opera. Unfortunately, it’s almost all irrelevant in the big picture.

The media prefer to focus on the sideshow rather than the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the looming debt crisis. Nothing that comes out of a pundit’s mouth or a Hillary Clinton email will close the $210 trillion long-term fiscal gap the U.S. now faces.

More immediately, Congress faces a likely debt ceiling debacle in the next few weeks.

First up, Members of Congress are considering full funding for Obama’s budget, and the fiscal year begins October 1st. Not surprisingly, the Obama administration’s new budget calls for spending much more than the federal government will take in. So Congress will need to raise the statutory debt limit within a few weeks in order to make that spending possible.

Disgraced Speaker Boehner Vows to Ram through More Deficit Spending before Exiting

To their credit, fiscal conservatives have just forced Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), a proponent of runaway deficit spending, to announce his resignation. But Boehner is defiantly vowing to ram through Obama’s budget and a higher debt limit before his exit in 30 days.

Meanwhile, the chief Republican in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, recently called efforts to rein in Obama’s spending proposals “an exercise in futility.”

If enough members of Congress raise enough of a fuss, they can still prevent a debt limit increase from going through. But the Treasury Department says the “extraordinary measures” it’s taking will only keep the government funded into November. So the threat of a default are already getting played up by the Obama administration, its apologists, and the media.

But the debt ceiling drama isn’t the debt crisis that Americans should be most concerned about. There is a near 100% chance that the government’s borrowing limit will ultimately be raised – just like it has been every other time Congress faced the specter of default. Despite some tough talk, enough politicians can be counted on to capitulate just in time to spare the country from having a government that lives strictly within its means.

Assuming the debt ceiling is eventually raised, the move will make the coming debt reckoning that much bigger. Officially, the national debt now comes in at $18.1 trillion – about equal to the nation’s total economic output for a year. Adding in all projected unfunded liabilities brings the total to about $210 trillion, as calculated by economist Lawrence Kotlikoff.

Meanwhile, demand for U.S. debt obligations appears to be on the wane. China, formerly the largest holder of U.S. government bonds, recently trimmed back its Treasury holdings by more than $140 billion. It also boosted its gold bullion reserves.

This could be the early stages of a longer-term trend that would not bode well for the bond market. “If Beijing dumped hundreds of billions of dollars of Treasuries, U.S. yields would skyrocket,” warns

Bloomberg View columnist William Pesek.

The world’s largest holder of Treasuries is now Japan. Japan itself is one of the world’s most indebted nations, making its leveraged Treasury position precarious. How much longer will the Japanese be able to continue issuing debt in yen in order to fund purchases of dollar-denominated Treasuries?

And who will be able or willing to fill in the void left by waning demand from Japan and China? Europe is broke, and most of the rest of the world’s countries are too small, too poor, and/or too indebted to be a major financier of Uncle Sam’s massive spending habits. It’s difficult to see private investors flooding into Treasuries en masse without the incentive of significantly higher real interest rates.

The Fed Is Eager to Buy Government Bonds with Negative Real Yields

The problem is that the government’s financing model depends on issuing debt with a negative real yield – which is to say, an interest rate below the actual rate of inflation. The only institution with an outsized appetite for bonds that sport negative real returns is the Federal Reserve (whose balance sheet has swelled from $1 trillion to $4.5 trillion since the 2008 financial crisis). The Fed is Uncle Sam’s lender of last resort and has been the great enabler of runaway debt spending.

Since 1971, the federal government has failed to run a balanced budget 91% of the time. It’s no mere coincidence.

As financial analyst Mike Patton tells Forbes readers, “In July 1971, President Nixon ended the right to convert U.S. currency to gold and caused what became known as the ‘Nixon Shock.’ Without a gold standard, there was nothing to back the dollar, and the door was opened for increased Congressional spending.”

Absent a return to sound money and a gold standard or some other form of independent, objective restraint on Congress and the central bank, there’s little reason to believe a debt crisis can be averted. The temptation to paper over excess spending with excess currency creation is simply too great.

As the debt grows and the currency supply grows along with it – both at higher rates than the rate of economic growth – the debt crisis will likely morph into an epic inflation crisis. Prepare accordingly.

[Image Courtesy of Outside The Beltway]

On Sunday, June 29, the Associated Press ran the following headline: “Greek Banks will not open Monday.”

After a lengthy cabinet session, it was decided that Greek banks would remain closed for 6 working days, along with restrictions on cash withdrawals. In addition, financial sector officials confirmed the Athens Stock Exchange would not open the following week.

ATM withdrawals were capped at 60 euros ($66) per day. Web bill-paying banking was allowed, but moving money out of the country was prohibited. A side notice reported that Greeks could not remove cash from safety deposit boxes.

A Goldseek.com column at the time commented presciently that “the convenience of ease of access to a local safe deposit box can be offset by the fact that governments and banks can lay claim to their contents at the stroke of a pen. It would be unwise to view Greece as an exceptional case.”

Greeks who paid attention were aware months beforehand that a “bank holiday” could be in the cards. But for most people (ourselves included?), there is an inertia in the human condition. It tends to express itself as “deer in the headlights,” a feeling of being overwhelmed, or just plain denial.

According to the Financial Times, “Greek deposits are guaranteed up to €100,000, in line with EU banking directives…” But with few deposits over €100,000 left in the banks after six months of capital flight, an analyst quipped, “it makes sense for the banks to consider imposing a haircut on small depositors as part of a recapitalization… It could even be flagged as a one-off tax.”

One bank spoke of withholding (stealing) at least 30% on deposits above 8,000 euros ($8,800). This is known as a bank “bail-in,” and it’s a scheme that our own FDIC now has at the ready to rob depositors if needed in the next crisis.

Think it can’t happen here? Think again.

The Cyprus accountholder “haircut” two years ago paved the way for what’s taking place now in Greece… and for what could take place HERE in the near future. Many observers regarded Cyprus as a “test case” to see how the public would react – a first attempt for such a procedure in a public setting.

Right into the weekend, politicians and bankers said everything was under control. However, bank employees and others “in the know” were getting their funds out. Then, on Sunday, the powers that be revealed their true intentions – closing for a “bank holiday” and taking “bail in” money from account holders whose balance exceeded a certain amount.

The stated rationale was that most of the money to keep the banks solvent was taken from illegally sourced Russian accounts.

But the recently revealed truth is that much of the penalty theft fell upon British, French, Germans, and Cypriots – many of whom had been building retirement accounts for decades.

Public shock about what happened in Cyprus blew over fairly quickly. Meanwhile, others – the U.S. (2010), Canada (2013), and the EU (2014) – either had already passed similar banking “bail-in” language or proceeded to add it soon thereafter.

Right now, YOUR bank almost certainly limits what you can withdraw per day. It establishes conditions wherein it can refuse to let you have your own money “without good reason.” It even allows for a “bail in” in the event the bank could not otherwise remain solvent.

And banks are now starting to tell customers what they can and cannot keep in a safety deposit box.

Welcome, involuntary shareholders!

You have now become an involuntary “shareholder” in your bank – potentially obligated to help fund their mismanagement through crippling loss of your capital. That a European analyst would dare say in public that “it makes sense for the banks to consider imposing a haircut on small depositors as part of a recapitalization…” should be a shock to your financial core.

In 2013, one of Mexico’s wealthiest industrialists, Hugo Salinas Price (born in Pennsylvania), wrote an open letter to the Greek government suggesting issuance of a one-tenth ounce silver unit. It would circulate alongside the country’s primary currency – be it the euro or a re-issued fiat Drachma. The un-denominated silver coin, which he proposed naming the “Owl,” would have a guaranteed never-to-be- reduced valuation, set daily by the central bank.

Several years ago, Price proposed that Mexico introduce a one-ounce silver coin, the “Libertad.” As with the Owl, it would circulate as a parallel currency to the Peso, priced initially at about 15% over spot. Even though every Mexican state representative voted Si, the central bank refused to mint and issue it!

The best line ever from The Magnificent Seven

Perhaps you’ve seen a 1960 western – now available in stunning Blu-ray format – titled The Magnificent Seven. Starring Yul Brunner, Eli Wallach, Charles Bronson, and Steve McQueen, it chronicles a group of hired gringo gunslingers employed in a Mexican village. They work for little pay in order to rid the town of a band of outlaws who periodically swoop down from the hills, robbing the unfortunates of most of their food and meager finances.

In an immortal line that so poignantly speaks to the coming events for many Americans, the bandit chief, Calvera (Wallach), responds to the Seven’s leader, Chris (Yul Brunner) when he expresses concern about the peasants’ plight:

“If God had not meant them to be shorn, he would not have made them sheep!”

This, folks, may be your fate, lest you take steps soon to acquire sound money in the form of precious metals. That portion of your wealth represents survival insurance – and yes, even potential profit.

Gold and silver are free of counterparty risk and provide protection from the ravages of incompetent, untrustworthy financial houses, cynical politicians, and government agencies at all levels. Like the bandit leader in the movie, all they want from you and yours is “Just a little bit more.”

As the global and domestic situation continues to unravel, will you be an eagle – or a sheep?

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markets crash gold rises
U.S. Investors are on edge following last week’s and today’s sell-off in stocks around the globe. The carnage impacted equity markets in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

Interestingly, the U.S. dollar also weakened. And bonds and gold are getting most of the safe-haven buying.

People are starting to wonder what the central planners might do in response, or if they may be losing control altogether. It must be discouraging for Chinese officials to see selling continue in stocks despite threats to throw people in jail for dumping shares.

Central planners in Washington and New York are likely share the frustration of their Chinese counterparts. They have long been promising an end to the ultra-loose monetary policy that is now nearly a decade old.  But these stimulus-addicted markets aren’t cooperating!

The probability of U.S. interest rate hikes this fall is now falling a rock. We are once again hearing the familiar call from Keynesian economists, including Paul Krugman, for more stimulus and debt.

They acknowledge the trillions already printed and borrowed haven’t worked – but say it is only because it wasn’t nearly enough.

The Dow Jones index has fallen over 1,000 points in the last few days. At the same time, gold has risen about 4%.

Gold futures had not been benefitting from safe-haven buying in recent months.  But that’s changed in recent days as confidence in worldwide equity markets and the dollar has waned.

Should Investors Wait for Even Lower Gold Prices… or Jump In Now?

Looking at 2015 overall, precious metals have not fared well.  Many people are hesitate to make their first precious metals purchase with the fear prices will fall further.

It’s certainly true that metals recently have not, for the most part, functioned as an attractive alternative to these conventional assets.

That’s largely because gold and silver prices are set in paper futures markets. And these markets are prone to all the same weaknesses: high-frequency trading, bankers manipulating markets in order to cheat their brokerage clients, central bank interventions, and extraordinary leverage.

In other words, prices set there do not fully reflect supply and demand in the real world.

It is understandably tempting to wait for even lower prices before buying.  But with price discovery as broken as it is, relying on price charts alone to make investment decisions is unwise.  The shakier financial markets get, the wiser it looks to diversify out of paper assets including dollars, stocks, and bonds.

Investors should consider what’s going on in the physical market for gold and silver coins, rounds, and bars. The fundamentals in the physical market paint a radically different picture than the paper and electronic markets do.

While a handful of traders may be selling half the annual world production of silver short on the COMEX and other futures exchanges, there is record buying in the physical market.

Mints and refiners are already unable to keep up with demand. This at a time when, according to CNBC and some of the financial press, gold is no more useful than a stupid “pet rock.”  What will happen when mainstream sentiment starts to shift, and some of those “paper bugs” become “gold bugs”?

Investors shouldn’t let a fixation on trying to pick the bottom in prices distract them from the more important mission – diversifying out of paper assets.

We believe those that currently own little or no gold or silver are taking a huge risk by not fixing that problem immediately. Such folks don’t have the luxury of timing the market.

We agree with this insightful analysis at the SRSRocco Report. Investors aren’t going to get advance warning of the next crisis in financial markets. When it happens, most will be caught short.

And by the time it is clear metal prices have bottomed in the paper futures markets, it may be hard, if not impossible, to get actual physical metal.

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Silver Coins

Lower precious metals prices on Wall Street aren’t necessarily bringing lower prices on Main Street.

The retail market for gold and silver coins, bars, and rounds has been swamped with high demand since mid June.  Both the U.S. Mint and the Royal Canadian Mint continue to run into serious issues keeping up with retail silver coin demand.

After selling out in early August, the U.S. Mint resumed deliveries of Silver American Eagles, but it has since been rationing them out.  And this week brings word of new silver supply-chain problems. Mint officials let it be known they are cutting further back on Silver Eagle shipments, reducing them as much as 20% below already insufficient levels.

Dealers already had some catching up to do, and similar news from the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) late last week won’t help either.

RCM officials announced significant “problems” with sourcing silver blanks for production of the Silver Maple Leaf. At least one major wholesaler stopped accepting new orders for the popular coin all together.

The one-two punch of U.S. Mint and RCM rationing and production breakdowns promises to keep buy premiums elevated and cause shipping delays on most government-minted silver coins for the foreseeable future.

Are Delivery Delays and Higher Premiums Reasonable?

Bullion investors watched spot prices fall relentlessly during the month of July and a whole lot of them decided to go bargain hunting. Unfortunately, when they called their dealer to buy silver, they found significantly higher premiums and delivery delays on most items.

Seizing the opportunity to buy silver on the cheap when spot prices fell below $15 per ounce has proven harder than many expected.

Inventory constraints in the marketplace SO FAR are primarily a function of bottlenecks in manufacturing of certain products – not an outright shortage of raw silver grain or bars.

Reputable dealers like Money Metals Exchange will only accept orders for precious metals that it already owns and for products it knows it can fulfill. Responsible dealers make commitments to customers up front about when a customer should receive delivery, and then meet (or exceed) those commitments.  And, as frustrating as it might be to do so, prudent dealers will stop selling items that cannot be reliably sourced.

Unfortunately, some dealers operate differently – taking all the orders they can regardless and hoping and praying they can follow through as promised.  That’s risky for both the dealer and the customer.

If your dealer is consistently missing commitments on delivery, or quoting delays significantly longer than other dealers, you should be wondering if the company truly is “selling silver they don’t have.” Shipment in one to two weeks after payment clearing is reasonable given current bottleneck conditions. Anything approaching a multi-month delay at this point should be viewed as unacceptable.

Demand during Price Drops Tends to Force Premiums Up

The physical market for precious metals, unlike the paper futures markets for gold and silver, DOES respond to real-world supply and demand fundamentals. This market is also extraordinarily competitive. Premiums have to be set at fair levels or customers go elsewhere.

One misconception is that higher premiums go straight into the dealers’ pockets. In reality, the wholesale premiums and fabrication costs associated with securing inventory are also rising.

Dealers aggressively bid for scarce inventory and production capacity so their customers can access the supply they want.

In recent weeks, for example, Money Metals Exchange has actively encouraged customers to buy silver rounds, where premiums rose only modestly, and silver bars, where premiums increased only a few cents.

Bargain hunting for bullion investors is best done when the physical markets are quiet and premiums coming down.

Clint Siegner is a Director at Money Metals Exchange, the national precious metals company named 2015 “Dealer of the Year” in the United States by an independent global ratings group. A graduate of Linfield College in Oregon, Siegner puts his experience in business management along with his passion for personal liberty, limited government, and honest money into the development of Money Metals’ brand and reach. This includes writing extensively on the bullion markets and their intersection with policy and world affairs.

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Gold and Silver News

August 5, 2015 – Public demand for gold and silver coins, rounds, and bars suddenly skyrocketed since mid-June – particularly among first-time customers – to multiples of earlier demand levels, according to Money Metals Exchange, a national precious metals dealer in the U.S.

From June 16 to July 31, Money Metals Exchange experienced a 135% surge in gold and silver sales over the prior 45-day period (which was representative of the early months of 2015). Since June 16, the number of first-time customers rose even more dramatically, with 365% more new purchasers than the prior period.

“As the Greece default debacle unfolded in late June, something clicked in investors’ minds, and many have since bought whatever physical gold or silver they could get their hands on,” said Stefan Gleason, president of Money Metals Exchange. “In particular, we experienced a dramatic and unprecedented surge in first-time customers clamoring to obtain the financial insurance that gold and silver represent.”

“Paper” gold and silver prices set by the future markets have fallen since mid-June, and a bifurcation has emerged. The overwhelming demand for actual physical metal has led to significant strains on the supply chain, particularly in silver.

Many government and private mints, including the U.S. Mint and the Royal Canadian Mint, have been unable to keep up with demand and have either temporarily halted silver sales or rationed out their insufficient supply of silver coins.

Private mints have scrambled for raw silver to keep production running at full tilt. Major national depots, such as Los Angeles, have run dry while some users and investors sought physical delivery of silver (and gold) from Comex warehouses.

Premiums (i.e., amount paid above the metal’s melt value) have risen on all silver products except 100 and 1,000 ounce silver bars, and delivery delays have lengthened as suppliers and retailers scramble to fill orders.

“We’re seeing more buying interest than at any time since the 2008 financial crisis. If we see a further spike in demand, the whole supply chain could be cleaned out,” said Gleason. “In that event, customers will face long lead times and limited product choices. Gold supply is showing some signs of strain, but silver could become completely unavailable.”

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With over 50,000 customers and $120 million in annual sales, Money Metals Exchange was recently named precious metals “Dealer of the Year” by global ratings group Bullion.Directory. Money Metals emphasizes the importance of owning physical coins, bars, and rounds but avoiding all high-premium “rare” or “collectible coins.” In addition to helping investors buy and sell precious metals for their IRAs and personal accounts, Money Metals focuses on education through high-quality market commentary and analysis.

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Silver News

If there are words to characterize the precious metals markets for July, it would be “divergences” and “shortages.” There was heavy selling in the leveraged futures market and extraordinary buying demand and shortages in physical coins, rounds, and bars.

Despite turmoil surrounding Greece and a huge sell-off in Chinese equities, traders dumped wheelbarrow loads of paper gold and silver. The expected safe-haven buying was concentrated entirely in physical bullion. Spot prices fell relentlessly during the month.

This divergence has been reported recently. But some surprising new data has come to light…

In silver futures, the number of contracts where holders opted to take delivery of the bars rather than “roll” their contracts over, or close the position and take cash, jumped unexpectedly and dramatically in July.

TF Metals Report watches deliveries carefully, and its researchers pointed out some unprecedented occurrences in July. In a typical month, 80 to 85% of contracts still open at expiration wind up in physical delivery of the bars. In July, this number was 135%.

One or more major players “jumped the queue” and took delivery of about 6.5 million more ounces of silver out of COMEX warehouses than anticipated at the beginning of the month.

This drawdown activity was masked completely by what happened to prices. Precious metals bulls are frustrated by the complete detachment between spot prices and physical demand. They’re wondering how that is even possible.

The answer is that as long as only a tiny and manageable number of participants in futures markets for gold and silver actually demand delivery, spot prices can move independently of the fundamentals.

The July data on physical deliveries may be foretelling a change. The pitifully thin inventory of bars held in exchange vaults that back the enormous volumes of paper futures being traded daily may start to matter… and matter a great deal.

If the numbers of contracts where investors stand for delivery get unmanageable, we’ll see the massive leverage built into gold and silver futures start to work in favor of precious metals spot prices rather than against them.

The July data should send a shiver down the spine of anyone with a naked short position on silver, i.e. anyone who doesn’t have physical silver to deliver if a counter-party demands it. Short sellers are counting on being able to settle in cash – or grab silver bars from exchange vaults if necessary.

Mints Scouring America for Raw Silver

The big spike in investment coins, rounds, and bars is almost certainly behind the unusual delivery activity at COMEX warehouses.

Sources indicate mint and refinery demand is largely responsible for this “jumping [of] the queue” and off take of 1,000-ounce bars. The silver is needed for manufacturing into smaller retail products currently in very short supply.

Some major precious metals depots around the country, such as those in Los Angeles, completely ran out of all forms of pure silver last week, and mint owners are scouring the country to lock up the silver they need to keep production running.

The scenario is deeply frustrating for mints that should be having a heyday in this period of high demand.

However, if mints can’t readily get their hands on the raw silver needed for production to run at full tilt, orders could get backed up for weeks or even months.

The retail and wholesale market for silver is tight as a drum and shows no signs of loosening. Another spike in demand may clean it out completely.

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Financial Freedom

In the early 1920s, George S. Clason wrote a series of articles about acquiring and keeping wealth that were passed out by insurance companies to their customers. In 1926, he combined these essays into a book titled, The Richest Man in Babylon. To this day, that book remains in print.

In it, a series of parables highlighted Arkad, the wealthiest man in the area, who rose from poverty after learning from Algamish, the moneylender, lessons of saving and investing.

Also, Dabasir the slave applied these rules to become a wealthy camel trader himself. Dabasir is portrayed as laboriously chronicling his progress, etching it for the record in cuneiform onto clay tablets.

Several millennia later, a Professor Shrewsbury at England’s Nottingham University is asked by archeologists to translate the newly discovered tablets. After doing so, he sees the value of Dabasir’s experience.

Being deeply in debt himself, the Professor and his wife decide to apply these rules.

They contact their creditors, stating they will pay them off on a regular basis. The couple start living within their means and saving a portion each month. In time, they emerge debt free “with money to jingle in their pockets.”

At its core, the set of rules involves dividing your monthly earnings into portions – saving 10% of all you earn; applying 20% to pay off debts; using the remaining 70% to take care of living expenses for you and your family. Then, once you’ve accumulated savings, investing some of it wisely.

“A part of all I earn is mine to keep.”

Perhaps the most important part of this plan is to pay yourself first.

People seldom do this last part, which is probably why most of us fall far short of having enough money to live prosperous lives down the line. The tendency is to take care of everything else first, by which time little or nothing is left to save.

The result is that in the wealthiest nation in the world, tens of millions of Americans arrive at retirement age with little or nothing beyond a bare monthly income expected from Social Security – an expectation that is becoming increasingly problematic.

The timeless lessons of The Richest Man in Babylon also include:

  • Start thy purse to fattening
  • Control thy expenditures
  • Make thy gold multiply
  • Guard thy treasures from loss
  • Make thy dwelling a profitable investment
  • Insure a future income
  • Increase thy ability to earn
  • If you desire to help thy friend, do so in a way that will not bring thy friend’s burdens upon thyself
  • Better a little caution than a great regret

Last month, at a symposium of the NW Liberty Academy in Boise, Idaho, organized by co-founders Elizabeth and Alan Hodge, I had the privilege of making one of the presentations.

The speaker lineup included some free-market luminaries like author Tom Woods as well as several high-ranking public officials in Idaho. One of my favorite presenters was Erik Finman, a 16-year-old entrepreneur, who shared how he dropped out of high school, and through an online company he started – on the margins for now – focuses on giving students the opportunity to “learn by experiencing the world the way they want to.”

My goal was to impress upon high school students and adults both the virtues of and interrelationships between the U.S. Constitution, the legislative process, free markets, private property rights, and personal responsibility.

While presenting my research and conclusions on The Richest Man in Babylon, I passed out a one-tenth ounce .999 fine silver bullion round to each participant.

Watching the look on their faces as they rubbed the silvery sides of the coin between thumb and forefinger replicated what I have seen many times when giving them to people during my mining tours and fishing travels in Canada, Argentina, Mexico, and Bolivia.

The experience starts to awaken a long-dormant understanding as to what has always constituted real value in terms of sound money. Much different than the base metal slugs in our pockets today. More meaningful than what David Morgan of The Morgan Report and author of The Silver Manifesto refers to as the “paper promises” in our wallet which invisibly lose purchasing power by the month and year.

Arkad, The Richest Man in Babylon, and Dabasir the slave can speak to us from the past by parable about the immutable laws of achieving financial security.

But only you can plan, decide, and then… act.

In the process of handling your finances, do you see the value of Algamish’s dictum that “a part of all I earn is mine to keep”?

From your earnings, will you pay yourself a portion first?

No currency in the world has been backed by precious metals since the U.S. government “closed the gold window” in the 1970’s. But the gold, silver, and copper used and saved thousands of years ago by the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Europeans, and North/South Americans who followed them is as relevant today as it was then.

As insurance against the unforeseen… As a vehicle for creating a storehouse of enduring value….

As a way to pay yourself first.

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Greece defaulted at the end of June, and metals investors expected higher prices in July. What we expected isn’t what we got. It isn’t the first or last time markets surprised investors. Do lower spot prices mean precious metals are failing as a safe-haven investment?

Jason Zweig, from the Wall Street Journal, thinks so. He’s deriding gold, calling it a “pet rock.” Given this month’s disappointing price action, he does have a point. But he needs to distinguish the physical rock from the paper rock.

Is gold no more useful than a pet rock?

We could forgive Mr. Zweig for drawing his conclusion if he was he simply looking at the spot (paper) price. To be sure, paper gold and silver are weak.

The “rock” itself is doing something else entirely. There has been a huge demand for physical metal in the past four weeks. Zweig knows it, but he dismisses it in the same condescending way so many on Wall Street do.

Zweig wrote, “gold-bugs… resemble the subjects of a laboratory experiment on the psychology of cognitive dissonance.” The more evidence they get indicating they are wrong, according to Zweig, the more convinced they become they are right. In other words, he thinks the paper markets are rational, but bullion investors aren’t.

Someone should tell Zweig not to be so dismissive of “gold bugs.” Does he know the term includes central bankers who have been adding large amounts to their national stockpiles in recent years?

And how about the state of Texas? There are some folks buying “rocks” that even a reporter with the Wall Street Journal should pay attention too.

Investors are responding to events in Greece and China in a predictable, and imminently rational, way. They are buying bullion. The story that should be investigated is why paper markets aren’t reflecting rising investment demand for the physical metal.

Conspiracy theory has become conspiracy fact. Zweig isn’t acknowledging it, but some others at the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere, certainly are. Major banks have been caught rigging prices in a number of markets, including the gold market.

Central banks routinely intervene in markets such as bonds, equities and metals as just another policy tool.

High frequency trading makes for extraordinary volatility, and flesh and blood traders must worry about front running on any order they place.

And the leverage in the paper markets is breathtaking. Sometimes contracts representing an entire year’s worth of mine production trade in a single day.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a major disconnect between futures and bullion. Coin prices spiked relative to spot prices in the months following the 2008 financial crisis and a handful of times since spot prices began correcting in 2011. Time will tell if the current pergence is temporary or something more permanent.

But one thing is for sure in these uncertain times. The less useful futures markets are, as a gauge of safe-haven buying in precious metals, the less relevant the spot prices published there will become.

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