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Are Markets Awakening to Reality? Gold, Silver, Bonds Higher; Stocks, Oil Lose Momentum As Argentina Approaches Default, US April Job Losses 20.5 Million
Friday, May 8, 2020, 9:01 am ET
Stocks, bonds, oil and precious metals all had their ups and downs on Thursday, as the focus early was on stocks, which put on impressive gains, only to give half of them back in afternoon trading.
Oil was higher in early trading, spiking to $26.27 a barrel for WTI crude before collapsing all the way down to $23.13.
With a turn right after noon, money began to flow away from riskier assets and into safe havens, with bonds, gold, and silver all being bid as the day wore onward.
Silver started the day at $14.81, languished early, and finished sharply higher, at $15.36. Gold was also cold in the morning, but found its legs later, moving from Wednesday's NY close of $1684.10 to finish at $1718.00.
Treasuries were bought with unusual gusto on the long end. The yield on the 5-year note moved from 0.37% to 0.29% on the day, the 10-year yield went from 0.72% to 0.63%, and the 30-year dropped 10 basis points, from 1.41% to 1.31%. The curve flatted out by 10 basis points, 121 bips covering the entire complex.
All of this activity was against a backdrop of 3.2 million initial unemployment claims, bringing the recent total to 33 million over the past seven weeks.
April non-farm payrolls were also on the mind, with the number - expected to be a record for one month - due out Friday morning.
Argentina (silvery) is about to default on $65 billion of its foreign debt today, Friday, May 8, as bondholders and the government are at loggerheads over a restructuring, though the government appeared to be willing to make some concessions late Thursday. A harder deadline comes May 22, when the country could enter certain default, as a grace period for $500 million of interest payments comes to an end. The clock is ticking for the nation that has defaulted on debt eight times previously.
Argentina could be the doomsday clock the financial world is watching. Other nations are sure to be on the brink of debt default and currency crises after weeks and months of lockdowns, supply chain breakdowns, social unrest, and deaths caused by COVID-19.
Is this the beginning of the end of the stock market rally and a rush to the safety of hard assets? The Dow popped above 24,000 intraday, but it's been unable to surpass the seven-week high of 24,633.66, which is roughly a half retrace of the March pullback. Another failure at this level would signal a short-term selling condition.
Just moments ago, the BLS reported April non-farm payrolls, registering a loss of 20.5 million jobs, pushing the unemployment rate to 14.7%.
With COVID-19 continuing to cause dislocations in everything from meat distribution to pro sports to education, the debate over whether this economic maelstrom will eventually result in a sharp rebound or a long, drawn out recession or even a depression.
Siding with the sharp rebound are those who gave up the ghost back in March with lockdowns, the government, media, and most of the financial community following the lead of the Federal Reserve.
Naysayers, viewing the global economy at a severe breaking point with no good solutions, include James Rickards, Mike Maloney of goldsilver.com, Peak Prosperity's Chris Martenson, Peter Schiff (a fiat money perma-bear and gold perma-bull) and others.
Greg Mannarino, the Robin Hood of Wall Street adds some perspective:
At the Close, Thursday, May 7, 2020:
Deflation, Inflation, Hyperinflation, Signal to Noise Ratio, Gold, Silver, and the End of the Dollar
Thursday, May 7, 2020, 7:26 am ET
Everything that has happened so far was predictable.
The worldwide government response to the COVID-19 pandemic was as easy to see for cynics and skeptics as the eventual lying that would take place. First, back in January and early February, the federal government told the public that the threat to Americans from the coronavirus that was ravishing China was minimal. Gradually, that advice was replaced by travel restrictions to and from mainland China, then to and from Europe, until finally, infections and deaths from the virus began to multiply in America.
By mid-March and into the first days of Spring, the veil had been lifted and the virus was spreading rapidly across the United States, thanks to millions of international travelers on ships and airplanes that had been allowed to come and go as they pleased through the winter. Individual cases turned into clusters and clusters to severe outbreaks, especially in New York City, not surprisingly a hub for international travel.
By the time congress got around to passing emergency legislation, lockdowns and shelter-in-place recommendations were put into play by governors of the individual states. The legislation contained the usual: massive injections of currency into Wall Street (because we can't have a stock market crash), a pittance for the public, and payments to hospitals for treating patients infected with COVID-19: $13,000 for each patient admitted; $39,000 for each patient put on a ventilator.
Anybody who has been following government and Federal Reserve policy knew that the response would be to throw massive amounts of currency at the problem because that's all they know about how to handle crises.
And here we are. The government is now readying a fourth "stimulus" bill, chock full of more handouts, bailouts, and currency drops. This time, the public gets nothing. States and municipalities are going to get tons of currency to bail out their broken, drained public coffers and keep millions of teachers, cops, firemen, and paper-pushers on the job and their pensions partially funded because having the Fed backstop municipal bonds simply wasn't enough. Hospitals will get more currency. Small businesses will get another tranche of loans, pressing cynics to respond that cities get grants, while businesses have to pay it back.
All of this currency printing and government deficits won't amount to a hill of beans because the transmission mechanism for the velocity of money is broken. Cops, teachers, and firemen will get paid, but they'll be scared to take on new debt and will spend much of their money paying down credit card bills and overpriced mortgages. After another crash to lower levels, the stock market will stabilize.
The US will have deflation, widely, in big-ticket assets like stocks (market crash), bonds (rolling defaults), real estate (forbearance today leads to foreclosure tomorrow), trickling down to things like furniture (no interest for 5, 6, 7 years), cars (rebates, cash back, 0% financing), and appliances (oversupply). Food, especially meat, which is getting a bit pricey right now due to chinks in the supply chain, will not be affected much. Food was the one thing that didn't go up or down much during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was cheap enough so that people didn't starve, though meats were generally considered close to being luxuries, so no worries there, until hyperinflation. Besides, even if you have a tiny back yard, you can grow some vegetables of your own to offset any price rises in meats. Why do you think your mother was always telling you to eat your vegetables? Sometimes there just isn't enough meat.
After six to 18 months of deflation, all the while the Fed printing dollars like maniacs and the government running massive deficits (probably over $8 trillion this fiscal year alone (through September 30), prices will seem to stabilize. By this time next year (2021), many will think the crisis has passed, mostly because that's what they'll be telling you on TV. But, it's just a lull. Inflation will return as all that currency begins to be spent into the economy. As the velocity of money ramps up, the Fed will respond by raising interest rates, but it won't matter. The game is on, with hyperinflation underway, the currency will continue losing value and eventually, there will be a massive default on dollar debt.
Forget, for for a few weeks or a few months what's happening on a day-to-day basis. It's mostly noise. The signal to noise ratio (SNR or S/N), a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise, in today's economy, politics, and society, is very low, meaning the signal is barely transmitting the message as it is being drowned out by the noise.
In terms of decibels, to hear what's really happening in the world, the signal has to be about 60, the level of sound as conversational speech. If the noise is that of a rocket launch (180), the SNR is 0.33 and the noise drowns out the signal. When the SNR gets to above one (1), the signal can be heard. Putting that in perspective, a signal sound of a balloon popping is 125, a toilet flushing is 75, producing a SNR of 1.67. Those are appropriate today, as the balloon popping can metaphorically represent the debt bubble bursting and the toilet flushing the sound of US dollars losing value, going down the drain. That hasn't happened yet, but, as time progresses, the SNR will rise, pass 1.00 and the signal will eventually be loud and clear, one that everybody can hear. That's when inflation proceeds to hyperinflation, with prices rising faster than the Fed can print new currency.
It is at that point that you'll want to have gold, but especially, silver, because it will outperform the currency, just by standing still. Truth of the matter is that gold and silver don't really rise in price. An ounce of silver or a gram of gold is still an ounce or a gram. But the purchasing power of the currency is falling because there's more money circulating. Thus, in a very natural correspondence, gold and silver rise in value as the currency falls, which is why three 1964 dimes (90% silver) can buy more gas at the pump today, in 2020, than in 1964.
In the year 1964, the average retail price of gas in the U.S. was $0.30. So, back then, you could put a gallon of gas in your car with three 1964 (or earlier) dimes. Today, three dimes from 1964 or earlier are worth a silver melt value of about $1.10 each, so, with gas prices currently deflating to around $1.50 a gallon, you could buy more than two gallons of gas, even with silver (and gold) prices being suppressed. That's deflation. One could buy just one gallon and use the other roughly dime-and-a-half to help pay for the increased price of pork or beef. That's inflation. Inflation and deflation can and will occur - in different products or services - simultaneously.
Silver, even under the severe constraints imposed by the futures, central banks, the BIS, and other manipulators, has increased in value 1100% since 1964, an annual, non-compounded return of 16.67%. Try getting that from stocks or bonds. And silver is going higher. Much higher. The price of an ounce of silver in dollars is likely to double in the next few years, then double again, and again, as the dollar is gradually debased, losing all that's left of its purchasing power. Your 1964 dime will buy at least a gallon of gas or the equivalent in bread or beef or whatever items you wish to purchase. It will have value, as precious metals have for more than 5000 years. The dollar, and with it, the pound, yen, euro, yuan, and any other currency not backed by or tethered to a tangible asset (it doesn't have to be gold; it can be anything) will revert to its intrinsic value of ZERO, or close to it because every other country will be going through similar scenarios as the United States.
That's where this is all headed. Price deflation with currency inflation through Spring or Summer 2021, relative calm from 2021 to maybe the beginning of 2023, but likely before then, with inflation ramping up; then hyperinflation for two years before a complete monetary system reset is the only solution. It's not the length of time for these varying processes to occur that's importance, it's the sequence (deflation, calm (some inflation), inflation, hyperinflation) and the ability to spot the subtle changes that matters most.
Completely wrecking a global economy takes time. The Fed's been at it since 1913, and in 107 years have reduced the purchasing power of the dollar by about 97%. The last three percent - and the sopping up of all the malinvestment and toxic assets will take time... about three to four years.
Anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile.
It would be nice if we started listening to the people who have been right rather than the people who have theories.
At the Close, Wednesday, May 6, 2020:
Crashing Companies Slash Dividends; ADP Finds 20 Million Jobs Lost in April; Mortgage Rates at All-Time Lows
Wednesday, May 6, 2020, 9:38 am ET
Wednesday morning, ADP reported a loss of 20,236,000 US private sector jobs in April, a record likely never to be broken again (unless an asteroid hits somewhere along the East or West coast).
Job losses covered the entire spectrum, with 11,274,000 jobs lost by businesses with fewer than 500 employees, and 8,963,000 losses by businesses with over 500 employees. The numbers comfirm what everybody already knows, that the United States and the world at large are at the beginning of a Greater Depression, many metrics having already surpassed the Great Depression of the 1930s.
For the week ending May 1, US residential mortgage applications edged up 0.1% while the interest rate on a 30-year fixed loan fell to its lowest level ever, checking in at 3.4%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Purchase activity remains almost 19 percent below year-ago levels.
Stocks gained on Tuesday, though the rally was shunted late in the day, shaving off roughly two-thirds of the gains in the final hour of trading.
While stocks seem to be always going up in recent days, all rallies have been capped by violent resurges of selling, as was the case on Friday, when the major indices gave back all the gains of the week in one session. Stocks have traded in a relatively stable, narrow range since April 6, after the markets had rebounded smartly off the March lows. The S&P 500, during that span, has fluctuated between a low of 2663 and a high of 2939, the all time high of 3386.15 (February 19, 2020) a fading memory.
COVID-19 and the government response to the outbreak has caused wild swings, anguish, and some recovery, after the Federal Reserve, in conjunction with the US Treasury Department has sought to stabilize equity markets, buying up every losing asset they could find, from junk bonds to munis.
Despite the gargantuan lifting by the Fed, stocks are still being stung by first quarter earnings releases showing how disruptive just two to three weeks of partial shutdown (late March) had on the bottom line of various companies.
One of the latest casualties is Disney (DIS), which posted first quarter earnings (fiscal second quarter) of 60 cents against expectations for 91 cents after the closing bell Tuesday. The company, which owns a variety of media and entertainment assets, including movies, ABC, ESPN, Disneyland, DisneyWorld, and other theme parks around the world, also found it necessary to eliminate its semiannual dividend of 88 cents per share for the first half of their fiscal year (October-March). Instead of paying out the $1.6 billion to shareholders, the company will keep the cash for itself, ostensibly to cover ongoing expenses.
Profits at the "magic kingdom" fell 90% year-over-year.
Putting it bluntly, the Mouse in the House just screwed over a large swath of investors expecting a payout on the dividend. Imagine the frustration and angst of not only seeing the stock fall from an all-time high of 161 (November, 2019) to as low as 85 in March, but now to have what was thought to be a guaranteed dividend denied. The stock is trading right around 100 per share as of Tuesday's close.
Also cutting its dividend, Wendy's Co. (WEN) reported Wednesday that its first-quarter net income declined 54.9 percent to $14.4 million from last year's $31.9 million.
Earnings per share were $0.06, down 57.1 percent from $0.14 a year ago. Adjusted earnings per share were $0.09, compared to prior year's $0.14. The company - which reported flat to declining same-store sales across all markets and a number of outlets running out of beef patties on Tuesday - lowered its dividend for the second quarter from 12 cents per share to 5 cents per share, payable on June 15, to shareholders of record as of June 1.
On Tuesday, shares of rental car company Hertz (HTZ) fell more than 14% after it disclosed that it received approval from its lenders to continue negotiations through May 22 to "develop a financing strategy and structure that better reflects the economic impact" of COVID-19. The company, which operates rental car business, many located at airports around the country, is on the ropes and close to filing Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy.
Shares of the company, which had reached a 52-week high of 20.29 on February 20, have slid to three dollars in May, closing at 3.01 on Tuesday.
Also on the ropes are retailers Nordstrom (JWN), closing 16 stores permanently, and J. Crew (private), which filed for chapter 11 on Tuesday. Neiman Marcus is reportedly close to chapter 11, and rumors that JC Penny's is in talks with lenders are circulating. An avalanche of store closings, restructurings, and bankruptcies are expected in the sector over the next few weeks and months.
Amid all the chaos, most analysts still insist that major banking firms, such as Bank of America (BAC), wells Fargo (WFC), Citi (C), and JP Morgan (JPM), are all well enough capitalized to survive cascading defaults in commercial real estate, residential real estate, consumer brands, lines of credit, credit cards, student loans and other funding vehicles.
Others are not so certain, expecting rather that the entire edifice of global debt is about to become torn down amid a worldwide pandemic and depression resulting in the collapse of fiat currencies, governments, and central banks.
Whatever your individual outlook, it may be wise to amplify that to the downside by orders of magnitude.
At the Close, Tuesday, May 5, 2020:
The Fraud Continues: States Defy Feds' Phony Recommendations; Treasury Self-Dealing With Federal Reserve; Remdesivir Fake Medicine
Tuesday, May 5, 2020, 9:47 am ET
The levels of fraud and corruption at the highest echelons of government, business, finance, medicine, and media are astonishing.
A few examples:
FEDERAL GUIDELINES FOR RE-OPENING STATES
States are quickly moving forward on reopening their cities, countries, stores, and service businesses after as much as seven weeks of virtual lockdown and social distancing recommendations from the federal government have rendered their economies little more than zombified, debt-ridden vestiges of the recent past.
The governors of the individual states were provided guidelines by the feds to follow as protocol for safe re-openings, including a declining number of new COVID-19 cases reported over a 14-day period. No state has achieved that metric, though more than 40 are already at some stage of operational functionality.
It's not the states which are - in open defiance of the non-binding federal guidelines - committing fraud or demonstrating any kind of corrupt practice, it is the federal government, in their feeble attempt to keep businesses closed down, effectively destroying the American economy by way of suggesting guidelines to which states could not possibly have adhered.
As the federal emergency declaration ended on April 30, at the same time and prior to that date, the federal government was urging more vigorous testing and rushing tests to states, in full knowledge that the tests for coronavirus would result in higher numbers of positive cases. Not only are a majority of states now testing for the presence of the virus, but they are also testing for antibodies, an indicator that the subject - whether showing symptoms or not (mostly the latter) - had the virus and has either recovered or is recovering. By default, those test results will be added to the number of positive cases for COVID-19, on the assumption that the presence of antibodies confirms coronavirus at some past date.
Thus, the federal government will be able to show increasing numbers of infections and possibly assert that states re-opened too soon and should go back to shutdown mode. That's a fraud because the reason for more positive cases appearing in states is due to increased testing and piling on antibody test results, not that the disease is spreading at a more rapid rate.
What will be telling are the number of deaths from the virus. If there are more positive cases appearing, but the number of deaths slows or remains relatively the same, it would be clear that the virus is neither as deadly as previously assumed nor as prevalent in the most at risk segments of the population.
REMDESIVIR AND HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE
It was widely reported last week that a drug developed by Gilead Sciences (GILD), remdesivir, produced positive results in clinical trials and was fast-tracked by the FDA for front-line use by hospitals in treatment of COVID-19, despite there being no evidence whatsoever that the drug produced anything more than a lessening of time to recovery of roughly 30%. There was no reduction in mortality rates or severity of illness. Remdesivir costs about $1000 a dose, which will be paid out by health insurance companies or more likely, the federal government.
Meanwhile, all news and scientific enquiry into the widely-used, generic Malaria treatment, hydroxychloroquine, has been barred from public consumption, despite many studies showing its efficacy in shortening the time of illness, and lessening the severity of illness. It is also being widely used around the world as a prophylactic, along with zinc and vitamins C and D, as a preventative measure. The drug is available widely for about one daller per dose.
The government, medical community, and media have concocted a story wherein the less-effective $1000 a pop drug that doesn't work very well in combating the disease is preferred over the proven-to-be-effective one dollar drug.
This one is simple. Anyone urging people to social distance by six feet is either a fraud or a moron. It's widely known that this coronavirus is transmitted by aerosol, through tiny droplets which can suspend n the air over a distance of up to 29 feet, and it also remains active in ventilation systems, like those on cruise ships, apartment buildings, hospitals, stores, malls, everywhere.
FEDERAL RESERVE AND THE TREASURY
When congress passed the CARES Act and the president signed the $2.3 trillion into law, one provision was $450 billion from the exchange stabilization fund to the Federal Reserve. The Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF) is a U.S. Department of Treasury emergency reserve fund which includes holdings of U.S. dollars (USD), other foreign currencies, and special drawing rights (SDR) funds.
This allowed the Fed to leverage that money 10 times or more in loans or outright bailouts to banks, failing companies, strapped municipalities and other connected entities. It effectively made the US treasury a shareholder in the Federal Reserve, a private bank, putting taxpayer money into the mix.
It was announced on Monday that the Treasury would be issuing $3 trillion of bonds to cover the costs related to the CARES Act and COVID-19. These bonds will eventually end up in the hands of the Federal Reserve, of which the Treasury Department is a shareholder.
In the private sector, this would be known as self-dealing, a crime punishable by a good length of time in prison for the perpetrators and/or a hefty fine and barring from financial markets.
In the case of the Fed and Treasury, it's business as usual. Nobody is questioned on the legality of it and nobody goes to jail. Bear in mind, all of this money is a further debt burden to American taxpayers.
When this news came out Monday morning, stocks erased their sizable losses and ended narrowly positive.
Those are just the tip of a proverbial iceberg of fraud and deception.
Generally speaking, Americans are gullible, kind, and fairly easy-going. There are elements of the population, however, that understand enough about politics, mathematics, medicine, and the law to be hopping mad. The American public is being defrauded by its own government, business, medical, and business leaders.
When will enough people say, "enough is enough," and demand change or seek retribution?
At the Close, Monday, May 4, 2020:
WEEKEND WRAP: Stocks Flat As States Begin to Reopen; COVID-19 Still Wreaking Havoc on Lives, Markets
Sunday, May 3, 2020, 11:45 am ET
This installment of the WEEKEND WRAP is going to be one of the shortest since the onset of the coronavirus crisis because nothing much of consequence occurred, other than the "breakthrough" with Gilead Science's remdesivir clinical trial.
Turns out, remdesivir, as was already known, has little effect on the virus and doesn't reduce mortality at all. The study was purposely shortened to include only the data that shows the drug reduces the time to recovery by about 30%. Big deal. You take it - at $1000 a dose - and you recover in ten days rather than 14, at a cost of some $6-8000. Yeah, great. Four fewer days with a bad cold and a big pharmacy bill.
Hydroxychloroquine with zinc supplements and healthy doses of Vitamins C, D3, and Quercetin (or red wine, onions, green tea, apples, berries) before infection will likely prevent one from contracting the virus, and, the same combination after infection (if started early) will shorten the duration and severity.
Mainstream media and government won't allow this information to even be considered.
The release of the remdesivir story was timed to coincide with the release of first quarter GDP, which was a very disappointing -4.8 percent. It's worth noting that many mainstream economists, like those from Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, downplayed the first quarter and thought it was going to come in as a positive number, proving, once again, that expert opinions should be treated in a similar manner to online stock touts. Both are better avoided and trusting in your own gut.
Most states have at least partially re-opened their economies, lead by Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and other Southern and some Midwestern states, notably Iowa, the Dakotas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas). Some eight states never actually issued lockdown orders in the first place.
Meanwhile New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, Michigan, California, and others are still operating under lockdown restrictions.
This Wired.com article from April 30 offer some accurate state-by-state reporting.
Stocks finished the week about where they started (see below).
Treasuries closed out the week with the 2-year note yielding 0.20%, the 10-year, 0.64%, and the 30-year, 1.27%. There was limited movement. The 2-year down two basis points, the 10-year up four, and the 30-year up 10. The curve steepened 10 basis points to 117, essentially all driven by the 30-year.
Oil seems to be stabilizing, but at a price that will slaughter some smaller producers. WTI crude finished the week at its high of $19.69 a barrel on the June contract. Predictions are for a sloppy termination of the current contract, though nothing quite like the end of the May contract when oil prices turned negative.
Precious metals continue to be massaged and depressed. Gold futures closed out on Friday at $1700.40 per troy ounce. Silver futures finished at $14.97. The gold/silver ratio stands at 113.6, near a 5000-year high. The sensible move, for investors would be to be buying silver for the foreseeable future, as premiums on both metals are high, though, on a percentage basis, the silver premiums are drastic. It's nearly impossible to purchase silver for under $20 an ounce in quantity. Smaller amounts, such as one ounce coins and bars carry premiums of 70 to 100% or higher, whereas gold premiums are about $130-160, less than 10%.
It's actually far easier to purchase silver than gold, especially on ebay, where delivery delays such as those being experienced by dealers, are cut down to a few days rather than weeks. Delivery delays are slowly abating, but minimum order sizes remain in place at many online dealers.
It appears as though stocks are going to tumble on Monday, as word leaked out that Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company of Warren Buffett, is going to be selling hard into the recent rally. A retest of the March lows could be underway as stocks finished dramatically lower Friday - which happened to be May 1 - wiping out the week's gains.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has failed repeatedly to break through the 50% retrace line off the lows, and that could portend a significant shift in risk assessment.
At the Close, Friday, May 1, 2020:
For the Week: