How Much Will Silver Be Worth if the Dollar Collapses

The potential scenario of a dollar collapse raises questions about the market value of various precious metal assets, including silver. Investors and market observers ponder, “How much will silver be worth if the dollar collapses?” To answer this question, we need to consider different scenarios and possible outcomes from the past. In this article, let’s take a thought-provoking walk into the fictitious world of a depreciating dollar and its effects on the price of silver. 

What We Learnt From The Past

Looking back at the previous downtown of silver in 1978, 1982, 1990, 1998, 2009, and 2011 we can deduce silver value if the dollar collapses. Throughout these downturns, silver’s performance revealed several patterns. 

For example, when the financial crisis of 2008 hit, silver prices fell significantly along with the rest of the market. The selling of assets across several sectors and broad investor concern were the main causes of this.

Silver also showed the ability to function as a haven asset in other situations. For instance, despite inflationary pressures and geopolitical unpredictability, silver’s value significantly increased throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. 

Moreover, similar to gold, silver had a robust recovery following the global financial crisis of 2009, exceeding its prior highs.

These anomalies suggest silver can hold its own amidst political and economic instability. Although most market crashes led to price decreases for silver, these two instances indicate its potential to perform well under challenging circumstances.

You need to consider that silver’s performance is influenced by other factors, including investor sentiment, industrial demand, and the overall economic landscape. The relationship between silver and a collapsing dollar is complex, and the exact correlation and magnitude of silver’s response can vary.

Will the US Dollar Collapse soon?

Predicting the US dollar’s future or when dollar collapses is difficult. Several variables come to play to determine this. They include market mood, monetary policies, geopolitical happenings, and economic statistics.

Experts and economists are yet to provide any information on whether the US currency will soon collapse. Therefore, although there are arguments and worries regarding its stability and potential flaws, it is important to proceed cautiously with such forecasts.

The US dollar predominates in the international financial system and is frequently used as a reserve currency. This is due to essential items like the size and strength of the US economy, the reliability of US institutions, and the liquidity of US financial markets.

However, you need to remember that currencies can fluctuate and experience periods of volatility. Various factors, such as inflation, national debt levels, economic imbalances, and shifts in the global economic landscape, can impact a currency’s value over time. Market conditions and investor sentiment also play a significant role.

To assess the likelihood of a US dollar collapse, you need to closely monitor economic data, geopolitical events, and policy decisions. Getting insights from diverse experts and analyses can form a well-rounded perspective.

How To Protect Your Assets In The Event of The US Dollar Collapse

Investors may be concerned about protecting their investments and maintaining wealth in the case of a probable US currency collapse. While the possibility of such an occurrence is unpredictable, it’s smart to think about techniques to protect your money during economic uncertainty. Here are some necessary measures to consider:

Diversify Your Investment Portfolio

Diversification is a key risk management principle. Invest in various asset types and viable currency alternatives, including equities, bonds, real estate, other commodities, and alternative assets. You may decrease your exposure to any particular currency or asset by diversifying your investments, thereby mitigating losses caused by a sinking US dollar.

Invest in Precious Metals

Historically, precious metals like gold and silver are stable metals and have served as a store of value during currency devaluation or economic turmoil. Consider allocating a portion of your portfolio to physical gold or silver, or invest in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track the performance of these metals. Precious metals can hedge against inflation and provide stability during turbulent times.

Explore Foreign Currencies

Consider diversifying your currency holdings by investing in other currencies. Holding a portion of your wealth in currencies of other countries with strong economies or stable political systems can help mitigate the impact of a US dollar collapse. Consult with a financial advisor to determine suitable currency options and potential risks associated with currency investments.

Focus on Real Assets

Real assets such as real estate, infrastructure, and commodities can offer protection against a declining US dollar. These assets often have intrinsic value and can provide a hedge against inflation. Consider diversifying your portfolio with investments in real estate investment trusts (REITs), infrastructure funds, or commodities like oil, natural gas, or agricultural products.

Maintain Cash Reserves

Cash reserves in different currencies or tangible forms can provide a safety net during a currency crisis. While holding large amounts of cash may have drawbacks due to potential inflationary pressures, having a portion of your wealth in readily accessible cash can help navigate uncertainties and seize potential investment opportunities.

Stay Informed and Seek Professional Advice

Stay abreast of economic news, geopolitical developments, and market trends. Monitor indicators that may signal potential currency risks or economic instability. Consider seeking advice from financial professionals or consultants specializing in risk management and investment strategies. They will help provide a tailored financial strategy for you.

How To Invest In Silver

Silver IRA/ Physical Silver coins

Buying and holding real silver bullion bars, silver coins, or rounds is a requirement for investing in physical silver or Silver IRA (Individual Retirement Account). This process enables precious metal ownership by investors directly.

Advantages of Physical Silver:

  • Tangible Asset: Physical silver has the benefit of being a tangible object that can be kept safely in storage.
  • Privacy: Owning real silver gives you control over your investment and privacy without relying on intermediaries.
  • Collectible Value: Added to their intrinsic metal worth, certain silver coins and silver bars may also have collectible value.

Silver Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

Silver ETFs are investment funds traded on stock market that aim to track the performance of silver prices. 

Advantages of Silver ETFs:

  • Liquidity: Silver ETFs offer ease of buying and selling, similar to stocks, providing liquidity to investors.
  • Diversification: ETFs allow investors to gain exposure to silver without owning physical metal, providing a convenient way to diversify portfolios.
  • Lower Costs: Compared to physical silver, ETFs often have lower costs associated with storage, insurance, and transaction fees.

Silver Mining Stocks

Investing in silver mining stocks involves purchasing shares of companies engaged in silver mining operations. 

Advantages of Silver Mining Stocks:

  • Potential Growth: If silver’s price rises and the company’s operations are successful, mining stocks may offer capital growth.
  • Dividend Income: Some silver miners businesses offer dividends, enabling shareholders to make money while owning the shares.
  • Exposure to Mining Industry: Investing in mining stocks provides exposure to the silver mining industry rather than just the metal itself.

Silver Futures and Options

Investors may make predictions on the silver price without owning any actual silver through futures and options contracts. 

Advantages for Futures and Options:

  • Leverage: Futures and options provide leverage, allowing investors to control a larger amount of silver with a smaller investment..

Silver Bullion Certificates

Banks or financial institutions issue silver bullion bars certificates and represent physical ownership of silver the issuer holds. 

Advantages of Silver Bullion Certificates:

  • Convenience: Bullion certificates offer a convenient way to gain exposure to silver without the need for storage or security concerns.
  • Fractional Ownership: Certificates may allow investors to own fractional amounts of finance silver, enabling smaller investments.

How Much Will Silver Be Worth If the Dollar Collapses?

Determining the exact worth of silver if the US dollar were to collapse is challenging and speculative due to the complex nature of currency dynamics and economic scenarios. However, it is worth considering potential factors that could influence the value of silver in such a scenario:

  • Safe-Haven Demand: In times of currency crises or economic instability, precious metals like silver often attract safe-haven demand. Investors seek to preserve wealth by turning to assets with intrinsic value. This increased global demand could drive up the market price of silver.
  • Inflation Hedge: If the collapse of the US dollar were accompanied by hyperinflation or a significant devaluation, silver could serve as a hedge against inflation. Historically, during periods of high inflation, precious metals have retained their value and even experienced market price appreciation.
  • Market Uncertainty: A US dollar collapse could create significant market uncertainty, affecting multiple asset classes. Silver, as a tangible asset, may be seen as a store of value in such uncertain times, potentially leading to increased demand and price appreciation.
  • Supply and Demand Dynamics: The value of silver will also depend on supply and demand factors specific to the silver market. Factors such as industrial demand, mining production, and investor sentiment can influence the price of silver regardless of currency circumstances.

While silver may have the potential to hold value or appreciate in the event of a US dollar collapse, predicting the exact worth is speculative and subject to various unpredictable factors. Also, it is crucial to consider that a collapse of the US dollar would have far-reaching economic and societal implications, making it challenging to isolate the impact on silver alone

As with any investment, conducting thorough research, consulting with financial professionals, and diversifying your portfolio to mitigate risk and navigate potential economic uncertainties effectively is advisable.

Charlatan Exposed: Silvercorp’s Shorts

This content was saved from the old Metal Augmentor website, in case anyone was still looking for it, with the help of archive.org.

There is a new boiler room operation in town and it doesn’t involve slick-haired Wall Street scumbags with mafia connections but rather anonymous hedge fund managers and shady characters with no permanent homes or the guts to identify themselves. With little industry knowledge and even less common sense, they blindly attack anything that looks to them like a duck (see herehere and here).

Look, here is a duck! Attack!!!

And so these shorts without names or homes have found their latest target, Silvercorp Metals (NYSE/TSX: SVM). Unfortunately for them, this time their target doesn’t walk or smell anything like a duck. In fact, some of the anonymous allegations against Silvercorp are so stupid that they raise questions about all the past allegations the shorts have made against the long parade of Chinese companies listed on U.S. or Canadian exchanges. We all know them so let’s not get into names. What matters is that a “research” outfit by the lofty name of International Financial Analysis & Research Group (IFRA) has supposedly documented information on many of these companies by visiting corporate offices, production facilities and sales outlets along with conducting interviews with competitors, partners and customers. Given their work has now been confirmed as sloppy at best in the matter of Silvercorp, all of their prior work must now also be considered doubtful. We are actually quite shocked to learn of this — as recently as last week we still believed these “investigative” efforts were credible. It sucks to be naive but it’s much worse to remain that way.

At this point Silvercorp and several individuals (see here and here) along with the odd newsletter and broker have already provided a litany of rebuttals to the anonymous allegations. And yet they keep popping up with slight modifications and incessant repetition. Unlike the other rebuttals, we are not going to be nice here and give the shorts undeserved respect or benefit of doubt. We are going to call it instead exactly like we see it in true Metal Augmentor fashion.

First off, however, we don’t believe it is appropriate or productive to paint all short sellers with the same broad brush of manipulation and abuse. Shorts can serve a legitimate purpose in a stock market: to counteract pump and dump operations, to strengthen price discovery, to make sure valuation is reflective of market consensus (for good or bad), etc. Anybody should be able to form and share either a long thesis or a short thesis on a stock. One or the other thesis will eventually turn out to be correct and a free market is an efficient way to arrive at the right answer. The defamatory abuse that is taking place at this juncture, however, is not how a free market should work. Instead, it is exactly how a mob hands out justice: hang first and never ask questions later.

The false allegations that have been made are no different from a pump and dump except in reverse. Actually, there is a difference: a pump and dump is illegal only in securities trading whereas defamation is unlawful in virtually every human interaction. In most countries, you haven’t broken a law if you tell everybody what a great baseball player or poker player your loser nephew is … but if you wrongfully accuse him of being a rapist or a thief, then you are liable for damages arising from his lost reputation. It was only a matter of time before the shorts encountered a nephew who is actually not a loser or a rapist or a thief. Silvercorp be his name.

While it is important that shorts should be tolerated, abusive short-selling practices should be vigorously counter-balanced by seeking redress in court for civil damages as well as by bringing market regulators into the fold. Regulatory changes should restrict the abusive and manipulative aspects of short-sided speculation by, for example, requiring shorts who publish negative information to declare in regulatory filings their positions above a certain threshold level and by forcing these shorts to maintain their positions for a certain period of time so that the accused company has a chance to fully respond. In particular, we believe there are licensed investment professionals and registered investment advisors presently active in the United States who need to lose their credentials for their key roles in this gross abuse of the markets.

Look, we are no friends of companies run by reckless promoters who make selective disclosures, much less fraudsters. We have identified companies in the past that have subsequently gone under primarily as a result of undisclosed risks or negative factors. One company, Sterling Mining, even had a deposit that is geologically very similar to Silvercorp’s Ying property: the Sunshine Mine in the Silver Valley of the Coeur d’Alene Mining District in Shoshone County, Idaho. The problem there was that it was an old mine with most of the silver being left over mainly as side and crown pillars in old stopes while future production was burdened by a 7% NSR royalty. We suggested to management that they conduct exploration with an eye toward making a new discovery while negotiating a buyback of this royalty prior to announcing plans for production. They claimed the royalty would never have to be paid because of their arcane interpretation of the law. The rest was history.

We did all the original legwork to discover the facts in the Sterling Mining case including talking to former mine personnel, reviewing SEC and bankruptcy filings of the prior mine owner — the (also) defunct Sunshine Mining Company — and even pulling property records. Sure enough, those 7% royalty holders came looking for their NSR payments just as Sterling Mining was going into default. In fact that royalty is still pestering Thomas Kaplan’s new Sunshine Silver Mines (page 60).

We are aware of other companies that are still operating despite having some serious skeletons in the closet — and again we identified these problems by conducting original research. So we know how to properly do this stuff … while most of the short sellers are grasping at straws.

Here is a suggestion. The goofballs, hippies and know-it-alls who have piled on to attack Silvercorp should take a look at the historical production that came out of the aforementioned Coeur d’Alene camp (not to mention the current happenings at Hecla’s (NYSE: HL) Lucky Friday) before they pipe up again about the SGX mine in the Ying District having grades that are “too good to be true”. In fact, only a true mining ignoramus would compare a mesothermal vein deposit featuring massive sulfides and silver sulfosalts to a typical silver mine containing unremarkable epithermal veins or worse (from a comparative standpoint), a low grade disseminated silver deposit. These ignoramuses might wish to consult at least the Imiter Mine in Morocco for remarkable grade epithermal silver (about 30 ounces or 1kg/tonne) as well as Tahoe Resources’ (TSX: THO) Escobal and MAG Silver’s (TSX: MAG; AMEX: MVG) Juanicipio. These are among the few comparable vein deposits worldwide with overall silver grades at least as good as the SGX mine, which the shorts claim is misrepresented by the company as 845 g/t. The 845 g/t is actually the measured portion of the high grade resource at 300 g/t cutoff for the SGX mine from 2009. As such, it is basically irrelevant.

In reality, the actual high-grade reserves of the SGX mine in the current mine plan are less than half that number –410 g/t to be precise. Apparently our intrepid mining experts don’t understand the differences between how various resource categories are reported or the distinction between an estimated cutoff grade in a resource block and the actual cutoff grade used for ore reserves in the mine plan.

In the case of the SGX mine, the cutoff grade for measured and indicated resources is 300 g/t silver-equivalent, meaning that the reported resource tonnage is constrained to ore blocks that are at least that grade. There are no economic parameters applied to the 300 g/t cutoff number so it will tend to remain the same over time. By contrast, the economic cutoff grade for proven and probable reserves at SGX is about one-half the resource grade thanks to low mining costs and high silver prices. This is why the average mined grade at SGX doesn’t even look that remarkable for an underground deposit. We’re happy to explain all this to the shorts in a way that even a kindergartner can understand. Unlike the experts purportedly consulted by them, we’ll even try to avoid ridiculous claims like the one where 68 million ounces of “equivalent silver” is supposedly too low (“they should have more resources”) to support a company with even just a $100 million market cap. Our fees are reasonable.

Before moving on from the grades at the SGX mine, let’s look at the pile of rocks the fine folks at IFRA collected from the roadside between the Ying mine and mill.

Wow, what can we say! What an impressive pile of random rocks that probably did not fall off an ore truck! Many of them are clearly weathered with smooth edges or showing signs of air exposure (oxidation of iron sulfides) and as such they do not appear to be the product of very recent mining activity. Our guess would be these rocks are larger fragments from the fill material that was used to construct an all-weather road capable of supporting heavy truck traffic. The rocks could have come from the mine as well — perhaps barren or low grade development material — but they do not appear to be representative of high-grade veins (or even medium-grade ones).

Here is how ore might look like at various grades coming out of a silver-base metal vein (these are from my personal collection and also have some iron staining that would not appear as extensively discolored on freshly mined rock):

Notice a few things. One, the material tends to be angular since it was literally blasted out of whole rock by explosive force. Two, it doesn’t have rounded edges from weathering. Three, it has clear vein textures (bands of different colors) instead of typical rock composition. Four, there is some sparkly stuff representing sulfides (these rocks are high grade overall but there are also lower grade portions). Five, oxidation is in spots and bands confirming this to be vein material. All in all, we’d estimate that 75% or more of the rocks in the IFRA “sample” photograph did not “fall off a truck” that was transporting freshly-blasted ore from the SGX mine to the mill.

Now about those trucks. It is claimed they use 13 tonne “Hercules” models at Ying that cannot possibly carry 30 tonnes of ore … at least according to some random guy they spoke with. Oh brother! The shorts would realize their folly if they actually had any experience with trucks or even just bothered to spend 5 minutes conducting bona fide, unbiased research. Had they done that, they would have been able to recognize the clear difference between a light duty model and a heavy duty one. Things like box size and tire size easily give away the difference. Behind big boxes and big tires are big axles, big frames and big hydraulics. Only the cab remains the same size despite the 30 tonne truck sometimes having a larger engine.

The truck on the left is apparently the ironically-named light duty “Hercules” while the one on the right is an undeniable beast with muscular tires and a gigantic box in comparison. I wouldn’t quibble with the claim that the lightweight on the left would struggle to carry 30 tonnes — even though we are talking about just a few kilometers between mine and mill at relatively low speeds. The truck on the right, however, is a 30 tonne truck if there ever was one. Such a truck would no doubt be easily capable of transporting 40+ tonnes at slow speeds on dirt roads in its massive box (18 x 7.5 x 6 feet enclosing 20 cubic yards of rock by our estimate). The red trucks on the ferry (see full picture here) are equally massive and are also clearly 30 tonne beasts … obvious to anybody who isn’t blinded by the glitz of the fast and fabulous short-selling lifestyle.

Now let us discuss a slightly-uncomfortable truth. We now know that a 5% equity interest in Henan Found, the Chinese joint venture between Silvercorp and a state-owned enterprise (SEO) we’ll call Henan Non-Ferrous, was sold at an “auction” to an affiliate of the SEO. The “selling” price was approximately US$7 million and so the shorts would have us believe this is a good indicator of the fair value for all of Henan Found. In turn this would mean that the SGX mine might be worth no more than US$100 million. There is only one problem with this hypothesis. This was a very strange auction. There were 3 bidders. Each of these 3 bidders deposited 20 million RMB (almost half the opening bid) and also had to submit an “operating plan” for approval by Henan Non-Ferrous prior to being accepted as a bidder. After all this trouble, the bidders managed to bid up the price all the way to $45.5 million RMB between the three of them. The furious action must have left the 2 losing bidders gnashing their teeth — after all, you don’t often see an auction where the winning bid soars above the opening price by a massive 1%! In fact, we’re pretty sure nothing like this happens outside the competitive bidding process for privatizing state-owned assets in China. Of course China still doesn’t hold a candle to the competitive bidding that took place as the Soviet empire was dismantled in the early 1990′s. In sum total, the auction for 5% of Henan Found had an outcome that was as certain as the sun rising in the East.

There is much more that we could pick apart but we’ll look at just one other thing for now. It has been alleged that Silvercorp cannot possibly have completed the amount of exploration and development work that it claims in prior years given how little all of this work supposedly cost. This is an interesting allegation given that China works from an economic standpoint mainly because costs are so low there. To wit, in fiscal 2011 Silvercorp reported that it spent just US$11.3 million in exploration and development to accomplish the following according to page 8 of the MD&A:

The Ying Mine incurred $11.3 million exploration and development expenditures (FY2010 – $6.7 million). With that, 38,870 metres (FY2010 – 34,816 metres) of tunnel, 38,254 metres (FY2010 – 28,746 metres) of diamond drilling, and 935 metres (FY2010 – 1,387 metres) of shafts, declines and raises were completed. The mine development works completed will effectively sustain the Ying Mine’s production level.

Based on the above, it is claimed by the short sellers that drilling costs at Ying appear “under-reported by 3.9x”. We don’t know how it is possible to determine this about drilling since the shorts’ own surveys of local drilling contractors arrived at an assumed price of 225 RMB/meter (US$35/meter). The total for drilling 38,254 meters would therefore be about US$1.3 million out of the US$11.3 million. Similarly for shafts, declines and raises the shorts’ contractor surveys arrived at an assumed cost of 15,000 RMB/meter (US$2,300/meter) totaling US$2.2 million for the 935 meters.

That leaves 38,870 meters of tunneling or sometimes also known as “drifting”. For some strange reason the shorts use an assumed cost of 6,750 RMB/meter (US$1,053/meter) for this drifting and therefore they arrive at a total cost of US$41 million. But, there is only US$7.8 million left for drifting expenses after deducting drilling and shafting costs of US$1.3 million and US$2.2 million, respectively, from the total exploration and development for the year of US$11.3 million.

Of course once again it never occurs to these shorts that a simple explanation may exist to their big questions and red flags. Indeed, such a simple explanation means that their short thesis is that much weaker so they would rather prefer there isn’t an explanation at all. Let’s ruin their fun anyway, shall we? At under US$200 per meter (US$7.8 million divided by 38,870 meters), the drifting at Ying would indeed be some of the cheapest development work conducted since the old timers who got paid in whiskey and liked it that way. In fact, we don’t doubt that the contract rate for drifting can sometimes be as high as 12,000 to 15,000 RMB — about US$2,000 per meter — in China for a typical production scenario involving major drifts that require access by large mining vehicles.

Silvercorp’s Ying project, however, is anything but typical. Let’s start with the tunnels that are 2 meters by 2 meters. These tunnels are barely tall enough for the average Westerner with a hard hat and just wide enough for two of them to pass each other. One tonne “tricycle trucks” zip back and forth through these claustrophobia-inducing tunnels like ants in a colony. Meanwhile ceilings are only intermittently secured by rock bolts or timbers due to good ground conditions along with the minimal size of the headings themselves. A small crew of miners could advance such a tunnel at the pace of 2 meters a day. At the calculated cost per meter of drift (US$7.8 million divided by 38,870 meters), the combined wages of this crew would be on the order of US$200 per day after expenses, which breaks out to a significant individual amount for the hardest working crew members. Meanwhile the laid-back miners still prefer to be paid in whiskey, like always.

Let’s also consider that the pocket-like nature of the high grade ore shoots requires much of the drifting to be done on the vein itself: the famous refrain of drill for structure, drift for grade. This style of development can result in quite a bit of “development ore” being accumulated while production stopes are being accessed and prepared for mining. The next part is mere speculation but we’ve had personal experience with similar instances of it at other projects. To wit, such “development ore” might not meet the minimum cutoff grade (approximately 160 grams or 5 ounces per tonne silver-equivalent) per the mine plan … but that doesn’t mean it must necessarily go to waste. Indeed at $40 silver, a tonne of such rock contains metal worth about US$200, which as you’ll recall from above is about the same that the entire crew earns during a hard day of work!

Remember also that the miners use one tonne “tricycle trucks” to haul rocks around the mine, meaning that a single load could be worth up to US$200 in metals. And this is the stuff not going to the mill — in fact the mining crews are being paid to keep it out of the mill. Yet it would be safe to surmise that rock with such high value might be going somewhere other than the waste rock pile. For example possibly as a credit against the mining contract: a bonus, profit share or any of a wide range of possible arrangements that are not unique in the annals of mining history. Such netting can make a mining contract rate seem very low, which it is in Silvercorp’s case. In other words, nothing to see here kids, mosey along now.

Unfortunately our little short bashing must come to an end for today … but never fear because we continue to be on the case, correcting wrongs and championing truth wherever the dark forces of market abuse cast their evil gaze.

Charlatan Exposed: Negative Gold Lease Rates

This content was saved from the old Metal Augmentor website, in case anyone was still looking for it, with the help of archive.org.

Much has been made recently about the “negative gold lease rates” derived from the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) statistical gold and silver data. For example, there was coverage here and here late last week claiming that banks are having to lend gold at a loss. This implies that plenty of gold is available for leasing presumably because there is a declining desire to own gold, but in reality it is the reluctance to sell gold outright — including by central banks and despite the ongoing correction — that the market appears to be telegraphing via negative gold lease rates. This is a welcome change from a gold market recently dominated by weak-handed participants (Wall Street types like Paulson, Cramer, etc.) who primarily look to gold for its ability to generate speculative profits during periods of economic instability.

Moreover, we believe the focus on negative lease rates misses the point of the current gold market structure and instead we should be looking at changes in the gold forward rate. The gold forward rate has increased during both the late September and current sell-offs in gold, which probably means that gold is being leased by central banks in order to provide liquidity for the banking system. Importantly, central bank gold is probably not being sold outright despite rumors to the contrary. The implication is that the current gold correction is similar to past events where gold has been used as a liquidity management tool. We should not bemoan such a development since gold’s role as the ultimate form money with no counterparty risk is in fact the best-suited for liquidity management out of all the asset classes.

Alas, we don’t get a good sense of this from reading the financial media or blogs. Consider the following from Bloomberg:

It is quite typical of this time of year that banks look to offload metal in an effort to reduce their balance sheet,” Edel Tully, an analyst at UBS AG in London, said today by phone. “Clearly, there’s the added ingredient this year that certainly some of it is related to funding. I wouldn’t expect that it’s going to blow out considerably more from where we currently are.”

The Financial Times story (registration required unfortunately) carried some additional statements and quotes that really do nothing more than confuse gold investors. For example, consider the following:

Gold dealers said that banks — primarily based in France and Italy — had been actively lending gold in the market in exchange for dollars in the past week.

and

Large bullion-dealing banks take gold on deposit from a range of customers such as investors, central banks, and other commercial banks.

These statements and the reporting in general lack the background, substance or context required for many readers to even understand what information is being provided much less draw proper conclusions of their own from the reporting. Izabella Kaminska in the Financial Times blog has made a more serious effort to address the situation by looking at the collateral aspect of gold leasing but we believe it is premature to think about gold as useful collateral today while the gold business remains beholden to standard bullion banking practices as mastered by the likes of JP Morgan.

After all, the latest trend towards gold collateralised bank loans shows in some ways that the market is demanding the recollateralision of credit with gold.

Banks don’t need gold as much as they need cash. They use the gold to get cash. Cash is once again being backed by gold. In the interim, there is less demand for gold as a buy-and-hold asset, and more demand for its use as a funding instrument: collateral.

While we are not told how the gold collateralizing is currently taking place, it may indeed be true that important structural developments in the financial sector could soon mean that gold’s widespread use as collateral and eventually as money might actually not be that far off. If so, it would only be a natural progression for an asset with no counterparty risk in a post-credit-bubble world. Excessive leverage has transformed even the gold swap and leasing business, which by definition is supposed to involve physical metal, into a paper form a number of years ago:

From the research undertaken, it appears that a significant portion of, but not all, gold swaps and gold deposits are undertaken via unallocated gold accounts held with metal account providers.

Simply put, the gold market has become so removed from its physical roots that market participants now pretend that a “metal account” is the same as gold. While the recent reports from Bloomberg, Financial Times and elsewhere offer shreds of truth about this condition amid all the misdirection, they fail to examine underlying developments in the gold market that may change the sorry state of affairs. Izabella Kaminska takes it a step in the right direction by looking at gold as collateral but still doesn’t quite get to the point, which is the possibility that new ways of using gold — such as a collateral backstop in the tri-party repo market as we explain below –  could transform a ticking time bomb into a new gold standard. The gold time bomb takes the form of a possible panic out of paper gold into physical metal when counterparty risk reaches an extreme level whereas a new gold standard would complement modern financial markets by serving as the ultimate asset: gold with mobility and no counterparty risk.

We believe such a radical development could take shape if the most popular paper gold product available today, the LBMA unallocated bullion account, is used increasingly as a source of secured funding between counterparties (such as in tri-party repos) rather than as credit between a bullion bank and its customers. Indeed, if the gold market is left to its own devices, the shunning of credit risk will eventually lead counterparties to demand that gold be provided in the form of risk-free collateral. The LBMA and bullion banks would then have no choice but to establish and market 100% physical backed unallocated gold accounts similar to BullionVault and GoldMoney, except on a grand scale. You heard it here first.

Our goal today is to provide some background information on the gold market so that readers can make sense of these important potential developments instead of getting confused by the misinformation being generated by the financial media and bloggers. Our qualification to address the subject matter comes by way of the extensive work we have done in this area including the seminal Gold and Silver “Leasing” Examined in 2007 that described the historical relationship between gold and leasing and has so far accurately predicted its future (the present) as well. Instead of reprinting parts of that earlier work, we’ll borrow a few concepts from it today while using mostly new material to focus on the present implication of negative gold lease rates and the emerging use of gold as collateral in secured funding.

A Bank by any Other Name …

First, we need to consider the term “bank” and separate it into three constituencies. There are central banks, which coordinate monetary policy and are the only banks that actually own physical gold in any consequential amount.

Then there are commercial banks, which are the banks that take deposits from you and me and make loans. These banks are the ones we normally think of when somebody uses the generic word “bank”. Their involvement in the gold market is quite minimal.

Finally, there are the bullion banks that are basically dealers in physical and paper metal contracts, acting as intermediaries. An intermediary is simply a party that serves as a middleman between customers on opposite sides of a transaction. These customers normally would not be able to find each other when the transaction is over-the-counter (as opposed to an exchange such as COMEX gold futures contracts). Even if they can find each other –  let’s say on Craigslist (yes, that’s a joke) — they may not know enough about each other to trust that the other side will perform under the contract. The bullion bank therefore becomes the counterparty to the opposite sides and uses its own balance sheet to offset or hedge the risks. Bullion banks are also increasingly using tri-party arrangements in which they primarily serve a clearing function and as a custodian of collateral instead of managing the risk on their own balance sheets. We’ll look at that in a bit.

The term “gold dealer” could mean a bullion bank or it could be any company that trades gold on behalf of customers but does not act as an intermediary.

From the above distinction we can already see the sloppy quotes in the Financial Times story. The article mentions that “gold dealers” are talking about “banks” but are those just gold dealers or are they bullion banks? And are the banks the gold dealers talking about commercial banks or central banks? Regardless of what definition we choose, the statement is problematic for reasons we’ll get into shortly.

Fun and Profit with Gold Leasing

But first let’s do a little more background work — figuring out exactly what gold leasing and lease rates are. When leasing gold, the lending party is temporarily exchanging gold for another asset (collateral). It is similar to leasing a car or capital equipment where you get to use it for a period of time in exchange for lease payments while the legal registration (collateral) stays with the lessor. The difference with gold leasing is that the gold is not kept by the borrower but immediately sold in the spot market. Alternatively, the leased gold is delivered against an imminent delivery obligation such as a short sale. But in any case, there is no exchange of cash up front between the lessor and borrower of gold. In effect, the borrower is simply using the gold to get cash or avoid having to pay cash in the case of gold delivered against a maturing short position.

If the lessor of gold were to receive dollars, it would be a gold swap by definition and not a gold lease. A swap is merely an exchange of the cash flows generated by different assets but since gold has no cash flow and cash itself doesn’t generate anything, the gold swap represents an exchange of the underlying assets (gold and cash) themselves. Importantly, central banks do gold swaps mostly among themselves — for example to manage foreign currency positions — and rarely with commercial banks. It is the bullion banks that are typically involved with gold swaps (in the over-the-counter market) but again the counterparty is rarely a commercial bank. As noted earlier, commercial banks are usually not big participants in the gold market with the present situation being an exception.

One reason central banks typically do gold swaps only between each other is because a transaction with a commercial bank or other market participant effectively results in monetary tightening (less currency in circulation since the central bank receives cash under a gold swap) and this can require accommodation elsewhere to avoid a deflationary effect. The solution is therefore for the central bank to lease gold, which is simply an exchange where the “collateral” is something other than cash. And there you have the gold lease in its stark simplicity.

From there things get a bit more complicated — the how of gold leasing– but it is arguably worthwhile for most readers to continue. The substance of the gold lease is predicated on the fact that the central bank or other lessor doesn’t actually need a specific party (borrower) in order to effect a transaction that has the exact same financial result from its own standpoint. Instead of exchanging gold for collateral in a gold lease, the central bank could simply sell its gold in the spot market and concurrently buy the gold back on a forward basis, meanwhile investing the proceeds in an asset that earns interest. The result is exactly the same in both cases: interest is earned on an asset exchanged for gold while exposure is retained to changes in the gold price.

A contract to purchase gold at some future date for a fixed price is called a gold forward contract. The future fixed price, unsurprisingly, is called the gold forward price. The difference between the spot price and forward price is the forward rate, which also represents the gold swap rate. As noted above, a gold swap is simply an exchange of gold for dollars that will be reversed at a future date. When buying gold forward, a market participant will typically contract with a bullion bank. The “bank” part comes into play because theoretically the way the forward contract gets created is that the bullion bank goes into the market and buys gold using its own money. It then theoretically stores the gold until the delivery date specified in the forward contract. In practice, the bullion bank doesn’t actually buy gold in the spot market but rather contracts with a third party that seeks to lock in a future gold price by selling its gold forward.

The way that the forward price is determined, however, is still based on the theoretical approach. Bullion banks that are members of the LBMA are asked to provide their daily gold forward offered rate (GOFO), which presumably represents the rate at which they are willing to do gold swaps with credit-worthy counterparties over various time frames up to one year. This GOFO is the rate that the LBMA publishes under its “Gold Forwards” statistics page and is presumably also what central banks and other prospective lessors of gold would have to pay in lieu of a gold lease in order to temporarily “monetize” their gold holdings while remaining protected against changes in the gold price.

Simply put, the forward rate — also called contango or backwardation if negative — represents the carrying cost of gold in the form of storage, insurance and financing costs. Recall from above the theory that bullion banks buy and store gold for their customers who buy gold forward from them. You and I can probably bury our gold in the back yard or otherwise hide it effectively. Really wealthy owners, institutions, central banks and bullion banks, however, have real costs associated with secure and safe storage. In other words, there is some value in having the right to possess gold at some future date (while holding cash in the meantime) and this value is theoretically based on the costs avoided by not possessing that gold today.

These avoided costs include the aforementioned storage and insurance as well as the fact that funds not tied up in gold can be used to purchase an interest-bearing asset. When interest rates are very low, as they are now, the financing cost — or so-called “opportunity cost” — is minimal and therefore this component of the forward rate tends to approach zero. Since storage and insurance costs are, however, not nominal (they can range from 0.2% to 1.0% per annum of the gold’s value for large holdings), the forward rate as a whole will remain positive. In fact, it would take an extraordinary aversion to counterparty risk — universal recognition that a gold forward contract requires performance by a counterparty to deliver gold at some future date, which might be difficult if not impossible under some circumstances– before the forward rate was to become negative. A negative forward rate is the same thing as backwardation, the elusive and rare market event that is veiled in perhaps even more mystery and confusion than the gold lease. We’ll have to save that interesting topic for another day.

As just mentioned, the central bank would pay the forward rate on gold and earn interest on the purchased asset in the alternative to gold leasing. The reason it doesn’t do this, however, is that an over-the-counter sale of gold would need to be recorded on the books as a disposition while the assets being purchased (using the gold sale proceeds) would also need to be recorded as an acquisition. A gold lease, by contrast, can be treated for accounting purposes as a “non-event” under lenient guidance promulgated by the IMF and BIS. This is because the lease is undertaken with a single counterparty presumably in order to manage monetary reserves and is therefore considered an operating instead of financing activity. Going back to the car leasing example, an operating lease would have a relatively short term resulting in substantial value being retained when the lease expires whereas a capital lease is long-term financing such as a “lease-to-own” arrangement provided to the buyer by the seller (instead of being provided by a bank, which would be a car loan). In any case, a gold lease will allow the gold to be kept on the central bank’s balance sheet while the exchanged collateral can remain off-balance-sheet. The only accounting impact is the receipt of gold leasing income, which we have already seen is based on the difference between the forward rate on gold and the hypothetical interest earned on an equivalent amount of assets.

With the above understanding, we can now make sense of the LBMA statistical tables from which gold lease rates are derived. We simply take the gold forward rate that the central bank would otherwise pay but for the lease and subtract it from the interest rate the central bank would receive from safely investing the proceeds of a gold sale. In a gold lease the two rates are simply netted into a single lease rate.

The interest rate used for the lease calculation is LIBOR, which is the dollar rate at which commercial banks purportedly lend and borrow money between each other on a short term basis. The reasons for using this particular interest rate are simple. First, gold is priced in dollars and the U.S. Dollar LIBOR is a widely-available rate. Second, LIBOR is determined by banks with offices in London where the LBMA is also located. Third, LIBOR is derived by the market itself, unlike for example the U.S. federal funds rate for interbank borrowing set by the Federal Reserve. As such, the USD LIBOR is deemed to be a pretty good approximation for the short term interest rate that can be safely earned from the proceeds of a gold sale. This doesn’t prevent gold leases from being negotiated using rates other than LIBOR and in fact many leases are negotiated at higher rates. As such, the lease rate derived from LIBOR and the gold forward rate should be considered a minimum.

That, in a nut shell, is the gold lease rate. It works essentially the same way for silver as well, except that central banks do not as a matter of course engage in silver leasing. Therefore silver lease rates — including negative rates — are less meaningful than they are for gold.

Negative: The New Positive

As just mentioned, the gold (or silver) lease rate does not represent the actual rate at which lease transactions are being done in the market. The published lease rate is simply an indicated value derived from two related variables, the gold forward rate and LIBOR. These rates can and do move in opposite directions for reasons unrelated to gold leasing activity given that both rates are used in many types of large transactions that dwarf gold leasing.

Indeed, there have been stretches during the past few years when the derived gold lease rate was negative — yet at no time were central banks actually leasing gold at a loss. Since LIBOR is a minimum rate at which prime banks are willing to lend to each other, the actual rate can be significantly higher based on the creditworthiness of the individual bank or borrower along with other factors. In the case of gold being leased to provide liquidity, the assumption must necessarily be that the borrower is desperate and therefore the corresponding rate that it must pay is higher than the minimum a prime bank would pay.

Keep in mind also that the borrower is not just paying the lease rate to the central bank or lender, it also pays the gold forward rate to the bullion bank in order to lock in the price at which it buys back the gold. The total cost is therefore the lease rate plus the gold forward rate, which is just LIBOR plus the credit risk premium. In other words, there are no free lunches. Any borrower that has to pay more than LIBOR to borrow funds using conventional means will also have to pay more than LIBOR to lease and hedge gold as well. Readers are encouraged to explore the observations presented in Gold and Silver “Leasing” Examined for additional insight.

To fully understand the potential implications of the present scenario in the gold market, we need to go over one last thing about gold leasing: why it is done.

From the perspective of the lender (typically a central bank), gold was historically leased as a way to generate income from a monetary reserve asset. Low market interest rates combined with systemic risk during the past few years, however, have obviated the central banks’ desire for returns in favor of capital preservation (such as it is) and monetary stability. Instead, gold leasing in the recent past has been done primarily as a means to provide backdoor liquidity to commercial banks and other parties deemed important for economic stability.

From the perspective of the borrower (typically a bullion bank or its customer, a hedge fund), gold was historically leased as a way to fund a gold carry trade under which excess returns could be earned by using the sales proceeds from leased gold to purchase highly-rated securities meeting the central bank’s collateral requirements. For example, if the lease rate was 2% and the purchased security yielded 5%, the borrower could generate a hypothetical return of 3%.

This return was not risk free since a rising gold price would mean that the borrower has to pay more to buy back the gold then it originally received when selling it, but the borrower could always hedge the gold carry by repurchasing gold using a forward contract and thereby locking in the gold price. As long as the cost of the forward contract is less than 3% using the above example, the borrower could generate a seeming risk-free arbitrage … although delivery of gold under the forward contract and repayment on the purchased security are still subject to credit and counterparty risk.

Recalling from above that the effective borrowing cost of a hedged gold lease is just LIBOR, the fully-hedged gold carry trade is profitable as long as the borrower can use the gold sale proceeds to purchase securities that are no riskier than LIBOR, yet yield more. Alternatively, the borrower could opt to be unhedged (“naked short”) while gold prices are falling and thereby potentially earn not only the full unhedged spread (3% in the above example) but also generate a profit from a lower gold price. In practice, the borrower would just let the unhedged gold lease ride until a rise in the gold price threatened the profit margin. At that point a gold forward contract would be acquired to fix the gold price and the profit would be locked in. This practice resulted in big profits during the gold bear market of the 1990s.

Returns on gold carry trades have plummeted in recent years and therefore leasing has been done primarily by commercial banks as a way to obtain dollar liquidity. To be more precise, the leasing is probably done directly by the bullion banks on behalf of commercial banks for a fee. Instead of pledging the assets acquired with the sale proceeds of gold leased pursuant to a carry trade, the borrower of gold now pledges existing collateral that it could not otherwise sell without incurring a loss. The central bank accommodates the gold leasing by accepting a wide range of collateral that would be otherwise prohibited in conventional funding schemes.

Regardless of the reason why gold is leased, one thing is always in common. The borrower will invariably sell leased gold in the spot market (or deliver it against a short position, which is effectively the same thing) since the gold lease isn’t about the gold but rather the cash that selling it can generate. Recall that the central bank would have done the same thing — sell gold and either use the proceeds to acquire interest-earning assets or to provide cash to the banking system under a liquidity facility — in order to effect a similar financial outcome if the accounting permitted it. Thus the singular outcome of leased gold always being sold should not come as a surprise at all. A weak gold price at the moment shouldn’t be a surprise either, if in fact the general gist of the Bloomberg and Financial Times stories is correct that gold lending is on the uptick.

So, is anybody else lending gold other than central banks? Probably very little since the derived negative lease rate does make it difficult for non-central banks to earn much of a premium in excess of LIBOR. It is already difficult enough for banks themselves to determine what risk premium they should charge each other, so non-banks have little chance of getting it right. Recall that central banks themselves are only leasing gold at this point as a backdoor liquidity measure. In any case, anybody looking to generate liquidity right now from gold that it owns would probably not lease it but either swap or sell it outright.

An outright sale of gold could always be hedged by acquiring a gold forward contract. Therefore, even if gold leasing has not experienced a recent resurgence, the increase in the gold forward rate indicates that owners selling gold to generate liquidity still want their gold back once the funding need has abated. The combination of a falling gold price and rising forward rate is quite a bullish feature of the gold market that is lost in the reporting on negative gold lease rates.

So, is anybody else borrowing gold other than the commercial banks in need of liquidity? Probably not, because there is no money to be made from a gold carry trade at this juncture. Since the effective cost of leasing gold exceeds LIBOR when considering the cost of a hedge (gold forward rate), borrowers are likely to look for cash elsewhere.

The Fog Clears

With the above understanding, hopefully you can now go back and pick out the kernels of truth from the confusing and misleading information found in the recent (not to mention future) reporting on gold leasing.

We’ll help get you started by pointing out a few likely truths:

(1) Commercial banks are probably running short on liquidity and as a result LIBOR rates have been rising.

(2) Commercial banks are probably leasing gold from central banks (or more correctly, bullion banks are leasing gold from central banks on behalf of commercial banks). See why we spent time at the beginning on the definition of “bank”.?

(3) Commercial banks that have leased gold are probably not willing to bear any gold price risk and therefore they are buying gold forward, causing the gold forward rate to rise even faster than LIBOR. The result is a larger negative gold lease rate. Under these market circumstances, the negative lease rate says nothing about the supply of gold available for leasing since rising LIBOR is a dollar supply phenomenon while the rising gold forward rate is a forward gold demand phenomenon. Overall this is bullish for gold even if short-term bearish for gold prices.

Now for some of the falsehoods:

(1) “It is quite typical of this time of year that banks look to offload metal in an effort to reduce their balance sheet,” Edel Tully, an analyst at UBS AG in London, said today by phone.”

Although it is not known what “banks” she is talking about, really the only banks that have gold on their balance sheets are central banks. There is neither a typical time of year nor a need for central banks to “offload” gold and in any case leasing doesn’t actually cause any gold to be offloaded. Rather as we have already explained above, central banks are probably leasing gold to add liquidity to commercial banks within their system (“funding” as the UBS lady avers).

(2) “Gold dealers said that banks — primarily based in France and Italy — had been actively lending gold in the market in exchange for dollars in the past week.”

Who are these gold dealers? Clearly not the bullion banks, in which case they really have little clue as to what lending activity is taking place in the gold market. And in any case, it isn’t “banks — primarily based in France and Italy” (implying they are commercial banks) but rather the central banks of France and Italy that are probably leasing gold to the commercial banks so the gold can be sold in the spot market and the cash proceeds used to fund dollar liquidity needs. Once again, there is no exchange of dollars in the leasing transaction itself since that would constitute a gold swap and central banks don’t tend to do that with commercial banks. Instead, what is probably happening is that commercial banks are entering into gold forward contracts to protect against price risk on the leased gold they have sold. This causes gold forward rates to rise and the gold lease rates to turn more negative. Yet the commercial banks are still paying a positive rate for the privilege of leasing gold. This rate is necessarily higher than LIBOR since it must necessarily include the gold forward rate paid to the bullion bank to hedge the gold lease and a risk premium paid to the central bank to compensate it for credit risk. Yet not much gold leasing will take place if the effective cost exceeds LIBOR by a significant amount. That makes gold leasing a “Goldilocks” market where transactions only get done when things are neither too hot nor too cold.

(3) “Large bullion-dealing banks take gold on deposit from a range of customers such as investors, central banks, and other commercial banks.”

This appears to be a non-sequitor, meaning that it doesn’t pertain to the subject matter, which is gold leasing. Fortunately Izabella Kaminska has connected enough of the dots by focusing on the idea of gold collateral, which reveals that “deposit” is really a code word for the LBMA unallocated bullion account.

To understand the unallocated account, first we start with the allocated account. Bullion banks have warehouses whereby they store gold deposited by customers. These are not “deposits”, however, in the legal sense but rather custodial arrangements where the service provided is the safekeeping of collateral — specific gold bars allocated to individual customers: the LBMA allocated bullion account. On the other hand, bullion banks also offer accounts where the customer doesn’t have a claim to specific bars of bullion stored on its behalf but rather a general claim against the issuer of the “metal account”. Moreover, the account issuer does not need to keep all the physical metal in a vault but rather it may be used in the course of the issuer’s business. This is essentially how bank deposits work and therefore the LBMA unallocated bullion account can be thought of as a deposit of gold or other metal.

The reason this distinction matters in the case of gold leasing is that a substantial amount of gold leasing is actually done using LBMA unallocated accounts and not physical gold. While most types of unallocated accounts are claimed to be backed 100% by metal inventory (Kitco pool accounts, Perth Mint certificates, BullionVault, GoldMoney as well as various accounts termed “unsegregated”), LBMA unallocated bullion accounts may have at least part of their backing in the form of paper. This is because unlike Kitco, Perth Mint, BullionVault, etc., the business of the bullion bank that issues LBMA unallocated bullion accounts is not to store or fabricate physical bullion products but rather to act as an intermediary for (paper) transactions in the gold market. In other words, gold in an LBMA unallocated account is used in the bullion bank’s “business”, which is primarily paper, and therefore customers should expect that some of the account backing is paper as well.

For example, a customer may execute a gold swap with a bullion bank pursuant to which the customer’s physical gold is initially stored in an unallocated account and used as the collateral for dollars loaned to the customer. The bullion bank then sells the gold from the unallocated account to replenish its funds and concurrently enters into a gold forward contract with a gold refinery. The forward contract is then used to back the gold liability to the customer. A similar process, though more convoluted, would allow the unallocated account to be used in gold leasing.

Other than the use of unallocated gold for swap, collateral or trading purposes, the only other reason why an owner of gold would seek to “deposit” physical gold with an LBMA member in an unallocated bullion account would be to avoid storage fees associated with allocated gold. It is not know to what extent the LBMA unallocated account is used by customers to avoid storage fees but a significant amount of gold, perhaps several thousand tonnes, has been converted to paper form as a consequence of the bullion banks’ business. The theoretical result is that the paper gold will have to be converted back to physical metal in the future when the customer requests a withdrawal. We say “theoretical” because the gold market may not be able to handle mass withdrawal requests from unallocated account holders should a future monetary crisis make all counterparty risk untenable. In fact, mass withdrawal requests would probably lead to a default in those LBMA unallocated accounts that are not backed by physical metal. At the present time, that would be most if not all of them.

The substitution of unallocated metal for physical in the gold lending as described by Bloomberg and the Financial Times means that some of the statements being made are even further from the actual truth than we’ve demonstrated them to be. In reality, the gold bugs are essentially right that the gold price is falling this time because paper gold is flooding the market. Surely this prospect isn’t what has Ms. Kaminska so excited as she extolls the collateral virtues of gold. In fact, the use of gold for funding purposes has precedence in the annals of modern central banking reserve management, but unlike today, it used to be that only physical gold was given collateral recognition. That even paper gold is given such benefit today is a bastardization of gold’s fundamentals and is no cause for celebration. Still, gold’s role as the ultimate collateral in a risk-averse world should have positive long-term effects in the gold market. We believe this may take place initially in the area of tri-party agreements and central clearing facilities.

Hands Off My Gold

We suspect that all this talk about negative gold lease rates may represent the initial glimmer of recognition that a major development is afoot in the gold market. Pieces of the puzzle are being put together without most people really knowing or understanding what the completed picture looks like. For example, we think what the Financial Times reporter and others are really trying to say is that bullion banks essentially make gold loans by taking physical gold from customers, trade that gold for paper and use the paper as backing for unallocated accounts. Therefore, bullion banks are little different from commercial banks: the first takes deposits in the form of gold and makes gold loans and the second takes deposits in the form of cash and makes cash loans. Neither of them, however, actually retains the underlying assets (gold or cash).

What nobody seems to address, however, is how gold is going to be used in the future now that leasing and other paper-based forms of monetizing gold appear to be on their last dying legs (despite the present uptick). Ms. Kaminska, too, misses the intricacies of this how point and therefore her argument — that gold being increasingly used as a funding source will depress its price — only stands to be correct if gold continues to get sold to generate liquidity in a manner similar to traditional gold leasing (such as happens right now) or in the process of physical gold being converted to paper (the unallocated bullion account).

But … what if gold has a future in the tri-party or over-the-counter clearing market as a collateral backstop? We note below that efforts are already being made to introduce gold to the tri-party system (though for now using conventional unallocated accounts) while the Chicago Mercantile Exchange among others has introduced over-the-counter gold clearing. Let’s see what this might look like.

Tri-party repos or more generally tri-party arrangements are fundamentally different from the bi-lateral manner in which most over-the-counter derivative transactions in gold and commodities have been intermediated up until now. Recall that an intermediary is simply a financial middleman. In the case of gold , the intermediary (a bullion bank) would execute contracts with different parties who were long and short a series of gold transactions. These transactions, whether for paper or physical metal, are grossed up and offset by the bullion bank with any net exposure carried on its own balance sheet. The intermediary is essentially the counterparty to each transaction and guarantees performance using its balance sheet strength and good name. One counterparty’s loss was another’s gain and the bullion bank made its living netting the two. It basically charged spreads and fees for financial matchmaking.

Balance sheets not being what they used to be, and not to mention the passage of new regulation such as the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, intermediaries are finding it much more difficult to find customers these days who are willing to trust them with performance should extreme market conditions — or customers defaulting en masse — leave balance sheets in tatters. This erosion of trust continues with the recent bankruptcy of MF Global amid allegations the customer funds were misappropriated to cover failed bets on European sovereign debt.

The tri-party arrangement, by contrast, redefines the role of the intermediary (the clearing bank — and you thought we were done with naming different types!) so that it is no longer the matchmaker between customers but rather acts as a clearing agent, administrator of collateral and a funding backstop. In effect, the tri-party format takes over the balance sheet management and financing role from the bullion bank, which can instead focus on being a gold dealer or broker in the conventional sense. The bullion bank can therefore hold physical gold in inventory with little effort and no price risk using a tri-party system while continuing to offer many if not all of the same services that it has traditionally provided to customers.

Importantly, in a tri-party arrangement one party posts the collateral that the other party desires. And that desire for specific collateral is where things could get interesting for the gold market. As mentioned in Gold and Silver “Leasing” Examined, the persistence of negative lease rates could be accompanied by the emergence of something entirely new:

The result could be negative gold “lease rates” as gold price expectations may create an entirely new phenomenon: cash borrowed to buy gold for future delivery (what I call “gold bonds”). In effect, this is the equivalent of gold owners forward selling their gold at higher and higher prices, and receiving cash up front to be used for current liquidity needs.

The above scenario might at first seem a lot like the current futures market because it appears to involve leverage but the difference is that “gold bond” transactions are 100% backed by metal. It’s as if every outstanding futures contract required an equal amount of bullion stored in the COMEX warehouses. Mind you, there is no reason to have regulators force something like this on the market as advocated by some pundits — it will happen when people demand it.

The reason it may happen in the tri-party repo market is because tri-party repos present a menu of collateral choices out of which a bullion account fully backed by physical metal could become an important liquidity stopgap. A major risk in the past (and still present today) is the withdrawal of counterparties when a dealer experiences a sudden departure of customers and a corresponding decline in funds available to run its business. For example, consider the decline in collateral quality in the tri-party book of Lehman immediately before its collapse. Lehman was forced to sell its most liquid assets as it desperately sought cash, but doing so placed increasing pressure on the remaining collateral. At the end little to no funding could be obtained for the lower quality collateral that was left, creating a multi-billion dollar doughnut hole in Lehman’s balance sheet.

The beauty of gold is that it is not very liquid (compared to Treasury securities for example) but it can always be sold for cash. Therefore gold can potentially serve not only as a liquidity management tool for generic tri-party repo dealers but as the main form of collateral (if 100% physically-backed) in the tri-party dealer book of a bullion bank. In both cases, a financial panic that might decimate the collateral value of most other assets could actually enhance that of gold. So instead of withdrawing funds from the dealer’s tri-party account, the customer can continue to post or fund gold collateral according to its needs. Moreover, there is a regulatory push for automatic substitution of collateral in tri-party arrangements in order to avoid liquidity freezing up when the proper collateral is not available. Gold could serve an important role here as the ultimate collateral.

For the above reasons, a tri-party gold market cannot be developed using LBMA unallocated gold accounts issued by bullion banks that are not 100% backed by physical metal. Rather, the selective collateral nature of the tri-party format may force bullion banks to eventually declare their unallocated LBMA gold accounts as backed by 100% physical bullion. Indeed, the very reason for the bullion bank to “use” (sell) physical bullion in the first place — in order to offset risk on the balance sheet and allow simple netting between customers — will no longer exist under the tri-party format because the administrative and clearing role will be assumed by the operator of the tri-party or central clearing facility. True, the alleged desire to suppress gold prices would still be there, but then again why would an entity want to weaken the value of a product (physical gold) that its business increasingly depends upon? Even subservience to a fiat master starts to sound like a lame reason.

Here is part of JP Morgan’s clueless explanation of how it plans to offer tri-party facilities in the gold market as a clearing bank:

And, as clients seek that optimisation, they can now use their gold holdings as collateral within J.P. Morgan tri-party. With the CME and LCH.Clearnet accepting gold as collateral and Swiss Securities Services settling gold as a currency, J.P. Morgan has launched its own initiative to make the most of the yellow metal through the unallocated London gold market.

“Gold is just another asset, says Rivett. “From a collateral management perspective, it is operationally akin to a treasury, a corporate bond, an equity or an ADR. As collateral agent, we manage the book entry movement. Once gold is held in J.P. Morgan’s London account, it is a dematerialised asset that can be moved back and forth.

“Gold in the London unallocated market is relatively straightforward; it is how the markets operated for a very long time. We are quite pleased we have been able to leverage gold as a collateral asset by linking two J.P. Morgan businesses. Clients are looking at all the inventory on their balance sheet and where they can place all of their assets. Although gold is a very high quality asset, it has historically been viewed as relatively immobile. When you are looking at financing and funding, you want to be able to mobilise all of your assets. Being able to use gold as part of your collateral mix is a definite advantage,” he says.

The choice of words by JP Morgan sure does seem nefarious and fails to consider the growing distinction that gold market participants are making between paper and physical gold. There are also plenty of quotes here that Zero Hedge could use to condemn JPM once again as an evil force in the gold market. Thus we think that the lack of outrage or intense coverage of this relatively recent development of tri-party gold facilities in either the financial media or the blogosphere demonstrates the lack of understanding about the gold market that continues to exist on virtually all fronts today.

It may be true that plans to use LBMA unallocated bullion accounts with tri-party repos in the same way as they are currently used in the bullion bank’s business (including gold leasing) could have a negative impact: the gold price is depressed when physical metal is “deposited” as collateral with the bullion bank (that is, sold in exchange for paper). On the other hand, if there is increasing use of gold as collateral in paper form (LBMA unallocated bullion accounts not 100% backed by physical gold) then the magnitude of any eventual panic out of paper and into physical would be that much greater.

The above is certainly what we should expect but … but … but … there are reasons to suspect that the tri-party system will not work with just any old paper gold as already mentioned above. This has to do with why there is growing attention on gold as collateral in the first place: asset quality. If somebody specifically wants gold as collateral in a tri-party arrangement, they will not accept the good credit (or dodgy as the case might be) of a bullion bank. Meanwhile, access to quality assets may perhaps be the only salvation of the credit markets.

Simply put, sane market participants will naturally demand that gold as a financial instrument retain its utility as the ultimate collateral for non-recourse funding. Under these circumstances, the appearance of 100% physical backed LBMA unallocated bullion accounts seems like a very good possibility. The creation of these accounts, or the conversion of existing accounts that are partially backed or unbacked by physical metal, could counteract and even overwhelm the effects of gold-collateralized funding of the type that Ms. Kaminska identifies in her analysis. While there certainly will be gold appearing on the market from time to time in the form of gold leasing or similar funding arrangements, the 300 year history of archaic bullion banking may be coming to an end. If so, it could ironically be JPM that modernizes the gold standard by establishing gold as the premier monetary asset with no counterparty risk and infinite mobility.

Conclusion

We view the potential developments in the tri-party repo and gold markets described above as speculative with few short term effects but major implications in the longer term. There are certainly risks within collateralized lending given the central role it played in the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. Regulatory and other issues remain to be worked out and tri-party customers will need to demand proper gold collateral since JPM and other bullion banks have little incentive to store physical gold given the associated costs. At a minimum, such costs will need to be built into the tri-party structure.

Yet the increasing use of gold as a secured funding mechanism in a world devoid of safe assets — witness the downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt by S&P and the threats to downgrade all remaining triple-AAA credit — means that a strong incentive exists for the emergence of physical products that combine gold’s lack of counterparty risk with greater prospects for its use as a means of exchange. This is essentially what BullionVault and GoldMoney have tried to do on a smaller scale. If it can be accomplished on a systematic basis, perhaps using tri-party gold swaps involving 100% backed LBMA unallocated gold accounts, then gold will have finally arrived again at its starting point: money in the functional sense.

Meanwhile we suspect that liquidity needs at commercial banks could continue to result in an uptick in gold leasing activity that is short term bearish, but once reversed should become bullish for gold. A few tens of tonnes (perhaps several hundred tonnes at most although the new Central Bank Gold Agreement effective for 2009-2014 contains no limitations on derivatives activities) of leased gold will need to be repurchased in the spot market during the next few months once liquidity is again being provided to European commercial banks using exclusively conventional means. We would expect such an outcome to be accompanied by declining LIBOR, or at least one that isn’t rising, as well as a falling gold forward rate all other things being equal. The amount of gold involved could easily lead to a $100+ per ounce price rally (assuming it has resulted in a similar decline since the September high due to gold leasing) or even more if the buying takes placed during the seasonally strong late January to May timeframe. Beyond that, any uptick in gold leasing during the months ahead will probably not have long-term negative effects but rather to the contrary given the market’s gradual loss of confidence in paper.

In summary, LIBOR has probably risen recently as a result of tightening in commercial bank liquidity. Banks simply have fewer dollars to loan out to each other. Since central banks themselves do not have a large inventory of dollars, they have likely been relying on leasing some of their gold reserves to the commercial banks as a backdoor liquidity measure. The commercial banks in turn would sell the gold in the spot market and use the dollars to meet their short-term liquidity needs. Such selling would be expected to drive the gold price lower even if the leased gold was in the form of unallocated accounts. At the same time, commercial banks buy the gold back on a forward basis since they are not speculating on the gold price but rather using the gold leasing as a source of dollar liquidity. This places upward pressure on the gold forward rate. Eventually this reverses and gold prices rise while the gold forward rate (and presumably LIBOR as well) fall. And the drumbeat of the gold market goes on.

Questions or comments posted by subscribers at our website will be prioritized but others who would like to ask questions about gold leasing or still need further clarification can contact us by e-mail and we’ll try our best to help.

When Is Bitcoins Macro Top? Industry Player Speculates

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Bitcoin is the digital currency that you can use to buy things. The usage of this currency is increasing day by day. There are many countries which are accepting this currency as one of the legitimate ways to make payments for the purchases made online or offline. The price of bitcoins will increase even in 2021. However the growth is not the same forever. The price of the asset has been pushed to up to USD 42,000 per a coin. The price of the bitcoins has been doubled in the last two months. It has broken the record that was set in 2017. The podcaster Nathaniel Whittemore has expressed the opinion of having a bull market top for this digital currency.

The podcast has been telecasted with the name, the breakdown. If the inflation is what is troubling you, this can be reduced by getting in touch with the money managers and institutions that would be fine with the idea of inflation. You do not have to worry about this. The interesting thing is that bitcoin has gotten back to its feet faster compared to the stock market in the US, which has seen the same kind of decline. After the completion of the third-ever halving event, the macro trend has taken a big leap. The price of bitcoin would increase in 2020. There are many companies who are allocating some capital for these digital assets. The US economic scene plays a critical role in this equation. The government has started to work on many stimulus packages and printed the dollars.

The bitcoin bull markets have come up with the correction in the prices between the bullish outlooks. There is a short term price summit that must be corrected with the macro landscape. The local top would be creating a lot of nervousness among the people. There are many new retail investors who are coming up. This is what is going to happen. Before eight days from the New Year, the price of the bitcoin has risen to 40% as per the data that is collected from TradingView.com data. The speed at which the price of the coin has risen is pretty fast. There are big buyers who have been unlocked. The cap for the bitcoin supply is around 21 million. The age of the asset would be less than 15 years. Many experts call this asset to be a bubble.

Bitcoin and Economic Uncertainty: Patience Is the Name of the Game

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The global economy is going through a major crisis right now. Being the most valuable asset, Bitcoin has also its fair share in the global shift. Crypto experts have been presuming that the Bitcoin will have its breakthrough in the coming days.

But it cannot be seen anytime soon. Although the price increased to a historical mark of $12,000 level, it was not a permanent hike. The market cap of the crypto market is $386.4 billion. This is phenomenal in crypto history.

Since the global economy is under pressure, the demand for crypto has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. People are facing uncertainty around the world but not everyone is willing to invest their hard-earned money in a volatile asset such as Bitcoin.

What About U.S. Dollar?

The U.S. dollar has maintained its position even during the pandemic. As long as the U.S. is considered as a powerful country, the dollar will continue to grow. It is known as the reserve currency throughout the world. Thus, its value will remain constant regardless of what’s happening in the world.

The chances are, the dollar can create a situation of hyperinflation in the future. Because every currency is under risk, major investors like Warren Buffet has started to invest in gold. For major investors gold is a better yet stable option to invest in uncertain times.

Crypto Industry Is Reaching New Heights

Not everyone was assured of the recent success of the crypto market but still, it has flourished even during the pandemic. Some cryptocurrencies have quadrupled in their value while some of them have increased more than 100%.

According to some professionals, crypto is still better than most precious metals like silver as well as oil. The price of oil is decreasing in some countries. Cryptocurrency is also outperforming S&P 500, which is settled at the return of +5.8%. Cryptocurrency, on the other hand, sits at 71.2%.

Future Of Crypto

The crypto market can’t surge overnight. It is too early to say what the future holds for cryptocurrency. Since inflation can occur anytime, and investors will tend to come back to the assets or commodities that are not affected by inflation.

The higher the adoption of crypto, the greater will be the challenges. It is not easy to have a digital wallet or a crypto trading account for most of the people. Crypto market is still in its young phase. Some investors are still unassured of the capability of Bitcoin and other digital assets.

Top 10 Cryptos Outperforming Bitcoin

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Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrencies but other digital coins are also joining the race. The alternative crypto assets are now outperforming the Bitcoin. Altcoins, for instance, has recorded the highest gain in the last few days.

Such altcoins are Stellar (XLM), VeChain (VET), Cardano (ADA), and Chainlink (LINK). While the reported gains for large-cap coins was noticeable but small-cap coins skipped to triple-digit percentage gain.

Top 10 Cryptocurrency Coins

In the past week, some coins have outperformed all the coins including the Bitcoin. These coins are BSV, XLM, ATOM, VET, ALGO, XRP, ADA, LINK, CRO, and ETC. Bitcoin’s gain was just 1.13% during this period.

ATOM topped the chart by gaining a considerable 54.60% price while the price of CRO coin hiked 11.68%. The market capitalization of cryptocurrencies is worth $700 million.

With an increased price of cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin and Ethereum, the demand has also increased. Both retail and institutional consumers are increasing with each passing day. The gain is reportedly the result of Bitcoin halving in May this year.

ATOM and XLM are the first two top-performing assets and the third one is the VET. Some crypto enthusiast guessing that this gain has surged from the participation of VeChain at a major crypto conference. While others think that the Coinbase listing has caused it.

Stellar and Cardano are ready to update their protocols in the coming days. Cardano is set to activate its hard fork on 30 July. The never-ending series of newly launched cryptocurrencies and the protocol updates is what created a hype in the crypto market.

The month of June was record-breaking for Chainlink crypto asset. During this period Chainlink asset surpassed its previous price and reached a height. The asset also achieved its Price Discovery state in the past few weeks. This is the state where an asset surpasses its highest record price. Quite naturally the asset attracted a lot of customers in the meantime.

Why Altcoins Are Becoming Customer’s Favorite?

The first reason for this is the price increase of ETH. It has hiked by 270% in the last four months. Since ETH coincides with altcoin uptrends, the customers are now seen investing in altcoins. The future of altcoins can also be depicted as an altcoin bull run.

The other factor is the protocol upgrades by top cryptocurrencies. Cardano has just launched its Shelley upgrade at the end of July 2020. After the roll-out of Shelley, Cardano will have a decentralized network that is 50-100 times more decentralized than other cryptocurrencies.