Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

Le Grand Plan

December 4, 2012

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Le Grand Plan

"I don't want to leave my successor and my children to pay for France's debt."




Nya b'a'n tu'n tjax tk'on chi'l toj twiy, ku'n b'e'x ch'ajila tu'n tx'yan.

"It is not wise to put a basket on your head as you will be eaten by a dog."





"My real adversary has no name, no face, no party. It will never be elected, yet it governs—the adversary is the world of finance."



"You work for 30 years because you think that what you do makes a difference, you think it matters to people, but then you wake up one morning and find out, well no, you've made a little error there..."


THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM... ....................................................3

Putin Strikes a Pose Against "Thieves and Traitors" ...............................................17

China's Monetary Policy Since the Turn of the Century ..........................................18

Greek Debt "Transformed into a Zero-Coupon Perpetual Bond" ................................19

George Osborne Got Mark Carney—at the Cost of his Principles ...............................20

Gold: Solution to the Banking Crisis ................................................................21

Dim Sum Bond Sales Double as New Elite Back Global Yuan ....................................23

GOLDMAN: The Economic Crisis Ends in 2013 .....................................................24

More Greek Myths .....................................................................................25

French Bank Governor Calls for London to Be Sidelined ........................................27

Geithner Joins Boehner to Trade Blame on Fiscal Cliff Talks ...................................28

CHARTS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM... ..................................................30

WORDS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM... ...................................................33

AND FINALLY ................................................................................31

Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

Nestled in the foothills of the French Pyrenees lies a tiny town that boasts a mere 176 inhabitants.


The town centre consists of just two narrow streets, there is little agriculture in the surrounding area, wild orchids grow in abundance, and the air is as fresh and clean as you will find anywhere on earth.

Looking down upon the sleepy little hamlet is the mountain from which the village takes its name. At 1,320 m, Bugarach stands out against the skyline in stark relief to its surroundings, and its shape is eerily familiar to science-fiction fans the world over as many believe it inspired the mountain that Richard Dreyfuss would fashion out of mashed potatoes in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

As tiny as it is, Bugarach has always had an attraction for the... how shall I phrase this? Quixotic exotic quirky dreamy starry-eyed weird. Yes, that's it. Just plain weird.

(UK Guardian): The village has always attracted people with esoteric beliefs, they were here before and they will come afterwards, but this is something quite different," [Jean-Pierre] Delord [mayor of Bugarach] says. This corner of southern France has long been a cauldron of mystic fables and occult conspiracy theories. Nearby Rennes-Le-Chateau, described in the Cadogan Guide as "the vortex of Da Vinci Code madness", is famous for its riddles of hidden treasure and a supposed cover-up of Jesus and Mary Magdalene's married life in France. All around is the countryside of the Cathars, the mysterious and persecuted medieval heretical sect, who have now inspired a local tourism drive. Nostradamus is said to have spent some of his childhood in nearby Alet-les-Bains.

But back to that mountain, which is also something of an oddity to even the most-informed geologists in that somehow the lower layers of rock are younger than those at the top:

It is also host to a bewildering number of caves. Strange sounds from underground and odd light effects at the top have for decades seen the mountain likened not only to a UFO landing pad, but a "UFO underground car park", with regular spaceship vrooming and revving allegedly heard from within. UFO believers often travel here, looking for bits of spaceship amid the mountain rock. It has been claimed that the former French president François Mitterrand came here by helicopter to investigate.

But as kooky as all his seems, in a little over two weeks, Bugarach is likely to be the focal point for all the world's media for the simple reason that it will be literally the only place on earth.

Why? Well, for that you can blame our old friends the Mayans.

According to a prophecy/Internet rumour, which no one has ever quite gotten to the bottom of, an ancient Mayan calendar has predicted the end of the world will happen on the night of 21 December 2012, and only one place on earth will be saved: the sleepy village of Bugarach.

You think "goldbugs" love a conspiracy? Well, the visitors to Bugarach are in a league all of their own:

...rumours of the impact on Bugarach got more outlandish, helped by media that couldn't resist the saga of a rural doomsday. Planes from America were said to have been fully booked for December with passengers who had only bought one-way tickets, hippie cults were claimed to have built bunkers beneath the village, and half-naked ramblers were said to be seen wandering up the mountain in procession, ringing bells. This turned out to be far from true. But as D-day approaches, the rumour has created a heavy atmosphere among villagers, who are keen for all of this—though not the world itself—to end.

Bizarre in the extreme. But perhaps, just perhaps there is some method in this madness, a little foresight in the folly. It could be that this is all part of Le Grand Plan. We will get back to that a little later, but for now let's concentrate on Les Deux Françoises.

The mention of François Mitterand segues nicely into today's topic du jour, which is those lovable funsters in France, specifically their government and the sparkling prime ministers that the French tend to elect in times of crisis.

Mark Twain once said that France is miserable because it is filled with Frenchmen, and Frenchmen are miserable because they live in France. Perhaps that is the reason why they elected l'autre François—M. Hollande—last year. It's hard to say. But this past week, a run-of-the-mill an extraordinary outburst from one of Hollande's cabinet (specifically, the grandly titled Minister of Industrial Renewal, Arnaud Montebourg) harkened back to the dark days of Mitterand's Socialist government of the 1980s.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard takes up the story (but of course he does):

(Ambrose Evans-Pritchard): Thirty years have passed since French President François Mitterrand launched Europe's last great wave of nationalisation, seizing the banks, insurance groups, arms makers and steel industry in the culminating debacle of the Collectivist era.

The whole world has been living in an era of privatisation ever since.

So it seems like a strange step back in time to hear France's minister of industrial renewal, Arnaud Montebourg, threatening a "temporary public takeover" of ArcelorMittal's steel operations in the Lorraine plateau—purportedly to save the blast furnaces of Florange and their 2,500 workers, so sacred in the Socialist Party catechism.

It is even stranger to hear him say "we don't want Mittal in France anymore."

Is it, Ambrose? I don't know...

A little over six weeks ago, France's richest man and head of the LVMH luxury goods empire, Bernard Arnault, announced that he was seeking Belgian citizenship for "personal and business reasons."

This decision—quite coincidentally—came a few days before Hollande's finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, confirmed the trial balloon that had been floated rumours that had been circulating for weeks about France's latest attempts to tax Les Riches into oblivion when, in his budget speech, he announced the decision to raise the top rate of tax in France to a stifling 75% on income over €1 million per year.

I'll say this for Monsieur Moscovici, he's a man of singular confidence:

(FT): Pierre Moscovici, the finance minister, said €20bn of tax increases on business and the well-off and €10bn in savings from a nominal terms freeze in spending next year, plus continued savings over the next four years, amounted to the "biggest effort since the [second world] war".

The savings include €2.2bn in a scaled-back defence budget.

Another €2.5bn will be saved in 2013 by limiting the rise in state health spending to 2.7 per cent. Extra tax measures in 2012 will add another €4.4bn.

A total of €10bn will come from extra taxes on individuals and a further €10bn from new taxes on businesses.

Did you see what he did there?

Another €2.5bn will be saved in 2013 by limiting the rise in state health spending to 2.7 per cent.

Extra tax measures in 2012 will add another €4.4bn.

A total of €10bn will come from extra taxes on individuals and a further €10bn from new taxes on businesses.


If nothing else, you have to admire their certainty.

How did the French media react to the loss of one of the prime sources of this guaranteed additional revenue, I hear you ask? Why, in typical fashion:

(Sydney Morning Herald): "Get lost, you rich jerk!" said a front-page headline in the left-leaning Liberation daily, next to a picture of Arnault smiling in front of an overnight travel bag.

Arnault announced in a lawyer's statement he was suing Liberation for public insult over the headline, calling it vulgar and violent.

Leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon told RTL radio that France did not need such "parasites" and Socialist lawmaker Bruno Le Roux said Arnault was "betraying France's recovery".

"When you love France, you don't leave when the weather turns bad!" Harlem Desir, national secretary of the Socialist Party, wrote in a Twitter message.

Union leaders accused Arnault of profiting from French workers only to take his wealth across the border.

"It's immoral when you consider the situation of the workers on whose backs he makes his money," Francois Chereque, head of the CFDT labour union, France's largest, told France 3 TV.

"France, love it or leave it," read a headline on the front page of communist daily l'Humanite.

Now, it is a common argument as to whether tax increases ever result in the increased revenues predicted (personally I believe that they NEVER do), but there's no need to listen to me when we are fortunate enough to have a recent test case to which we can refer; Britain's increase of the top rate of income tax to 50 per cent, which would mean that half of everything earned above a certain threshold would be donated to Her Majesty's government (positively laissez-faire when compared to the new scale being instituted across the channel).

When announced in April 2010, there was a familiar air of certainty afoot:

(BBC): A new 50% tax rate for top earners has come into force at the start of the financial year.

The new rate will affect the 300,000 highest earners in the UK, out of the 29 million people who pay income tax.

It will be levied on taxable incomes greater than £150,000 a year and aims to raise an extra £2.4bn by next year.

The 600,000 people who earn more than £100,000 a year will have their personal tax allowance eroded too, raising £1.5bn for the government.

Bless their hearts.

How did things pan out? Well, this week we found out:

(UK Daily Telegraph): Almost two-thirds of the country's million-pound earners disappeared from Britain after the introduction of the 50p top rate of tax, figures have disclosed.

In the 2009-10 tax year, more than 16,000 people declared an annual income of more than £1 million to HM Revenue and Customs.

This number fell to just 6,000 after Gordon Brown introduced the new 50p top rate of income tax shortly before the last general election...

Far from raising funds, it actually cost the UK £7 billion in lost tax revenue.

Doesn't bode well for our friends in France, I'm afraid, now, does it?

But why do the French government need to raise this extra revenue? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, they are up le creek sans paddle.


Source: Economist

France's 60 million inhabitants generate approximately $40,000 per head in GDP, though the rate of growth in that number has slowed dramatically of late. By any metric, as you can see from the chart above, France—far from being one of Europe's leaders—is becoming something of a drag on the Eurozone. Granted, it doesn't have Spain's unemployment woes or Italy's negative GDP, but for a country that is supposed to do its fair share of the heavy lifting, France's shoulders are looking woefully weak. In fact, upon closer inspection, France would seem to have been punching above its weight for some considerable time with the majority of that firepower coming from—you've guessed it; le gouvernement:

(Economist): In fact, the French economy has been deteriorating for many years and this has simply become more obvious since the arrival of the euro, which precludes the tempting cure of devaluation. Ever since the end of the trente glorieuses, the 30 highly successful years after the second world war, France has come to rely heavily on public spending for growth. As Michel Pébereau, a banker, put it in a 2005 report on the public finances, "each time a new problem has arisen in the past 25 years, our country has responded with more spending." The budget has not been balanced in any single year since 1974.

Public spending in France is an astonishing 57% of GDP, which puts it above every other European country bar Denmark (not represented in the chart below, right), and there are few signs that this number is set to fall in any meaningful way despite the protestations to the contrary of the French government.


Source: Economist

The moment François Hollande celebrated his election (on an austerité platform) in May by cutting the retirement age from 62 to 60, the die was cast, but, amazingly, and due in no part to the Hollande government's efforts, France's borrowing costs have actually narrowed both outright and in relation to Germany, which, in the face of an overtly Socialist government who have shown they mean to spend and keep on spending whilst increasing their revenues through tax increases that will plainly not work, is remarkable.

But this isn't the only problem facing France. Not even close.

Un: Unemployment



France's unemployment rate is above 10% and climbing. In fact, it has hardly dipped below 8%—represented by the dotted green line—in the last 30 years as the chart (left) demonstrates.

Deux: Competitiveness

According to the EC, between 2005 and 2010, France's share of world exports shrank by almost 20%. How bad was that? Well, amongst her Eurozone neighbours, only Greece performed more poorly. Further evidence was provided by the World Bank's "Doing Business" scorecard, which relegated France to 34th place in 2012 (table below). Almost comically, the only category in which France scored highly was enforcing contracts.

A familiar name appears at the top of the list again...


Source: World Bank, IFC

Trois: The bloated public sector

A large part of the 57% of GDP that gets spent by the French government goes into salaries. According to The Economist, France has 90 civil servants for every 1,000 inhabitants, which equates to 22% of the workforce.

Compared to Germany (which has only 50), the French government look like the inveterate profligates that they are. In fact—and to my shame—the only nation that even comes close are "les Rosbifs" across the Channel in Britain who are just below 50%.

So... that is just a soupçon of the problems France faces. What do we get when we add up the various headwinds facing France?

(BBC): The credit ratings agency Moody's has downgraded France from its top rating.

The country's debt has been reduced from AAA to AA1 and has kept its negative outlook, meaning it could be downgraded again.

In a statement, Moody's blamed the risk of a Greek exit from the euro, stalled economic growth and the chances that France will have to contribute to bailing out other countries.

Rival agency Standard & Poor's downgraded France in January.

Moody's said the primary reason for the downgrade had been France's "persistent structural economic challenges" and the threats they pose to economic growth and the government's coffers.

"These include the rigidities in labour and services markets, and low levels of innovation, which continue to drive France's gradual but sustained loss of competitiveness and the gradual erosion of its export-oriented industrial base," Moody's said.

Naturellement, the downgrade didn't go down well with Monsieur Moscovici, France's minister of Objectivity Finance:

"I take note of this decision, and while I deplore it, it doesn't put into question the force of our economy."

Hollande was a little less hyperbolic in his assessment and showed signs of understanding the problems facing his government:

"We must take note [of this], stick to our economic policies, keep on track and understand that we have every interest in improving public finances."

Bravo, François!

Chastened by the Moody's downgrade, the Hollande government were swiftly presented with an opportunity to show how they had taken note of the criticism levelled at them by les Americaines deplorables. That opportunity came in the form of the aforementioned ArcelorMittal. The French reaction at least demonstrated even-handedness of sorts:

(BNN): Global steel giant ArcelorMittal is no longer welcome in France, Minister for Industrial Recovery Arnaud Montebourg is reported to have said by French business daily Les Echos.

The daily reported that the minister has accused the steelmaker of "lying" and "disrespecting" the country.

The crux of the confrontation is the steel multinational's plans, announced in October, to close two blast furnaces at its steel plant in Florange and the 60 days deadline given to the government to find a new owner.

"We no longer want ArcelorMittal in France because they didn't respect France," Arnaud Montebourg told French business daily Les Echos.

Plus ça change indeed.

Threats were immediately made to nationalize Arcelor, but after much scrambling ensued, a deal was struck that would avoid any forced layoffs at the two furnaces at the heart of the dispute.

Phew! Problem solved.

Not quite, as les Americains deplorables struck again within hours:

(UK Daily Telegraph): The eurozone was dealt a fresh blow as Moody's Investors Service downgraded the region's rescue funds and unemployment hit a new record high.

The ratings agency cut its rating on the European Stability Mechanism to AA1 from AAA and maintained a negative outlook. It also lowered the European Financial Stability Facility's provisional rating to (P)AA1 from (P)AAA.

Moody's said its decision was driven by its recent downgrade of France, because the credit risk and ratings of the rescue funds were "closely aligned to those of its strongest supporters".

Naturally, Klaus Regling of the ESM/EFSF disagreed with the decision, calling it "difficult to understand", but, again, the die had been cast. "We disagree with the rating agency's approach, which does not sufficiently acknowledge ESM's exceptionally strong institutional framework, political commitment and capital structure," said Regling.

Really, Klaus?

Having Spain and Italy responsible for providing roughly a third of your capital constitutes an "...exceptionally strong institutional framework, political commitment and capital structure", does it?


Source: ESM

We've been through this before, but just by way of a refresher, the chart (above) shows the commitments pledged to the ESM by the various signatories. As you can see, France is on the hook for one-fifth of the authorized capital (approximately €142.7 billion) of which, thanks to those clever little bunnies in Brussels, only a trifling €16.3 billion will be paid-in capital. When originally conceptualized, there was a rather quaint notion about the ESM that bears repeating:

"...the ESM will be authorized to approve bailout deals for a maximum amount of €500 billion, with the remaining €200 billion of the fund being earmarked as safely invested capital reserve, in order to guarantee the issuance of ESM bonds will always get the highest AAA credit rating."


Folks, wake up! Please?

For Spain to receive, for example, the €100 billion bailout that has been mooted, it will need to contribute its full allotment of paid-up capital (some €9.5 billion) to the ESM in order that the ESM be fully funded and able to disburse the loan to Spain. Spain will likely need to borrow the €9.5 billion to pay into the ESM.

I know, I know. I feel just as stupid writing it as you probably do reading it.

I read this past week that of the full €700 billion committed to the ESM, €292 billion has already been pledged. That would leave a total of €408 billion in the kitty to be doled out to any further problem children—including any Spanish bailout.


But back to our friends in France.

Amazingly, the French 10-year bond has never—NEVER—traded higher and offered a lower yield to those foolish confident enough to decide it warrants a place in their portfolio. The chart below runs from the mid-1700s to 2010 (though yields have declined even further since then) and as you can see, there has never been a better time to have owned French bonds. Similarly, there has also never been a worse time to buy them. And yet... "investors" are doing just that.


Source: BAML

Back in June, one of the smartest investors in the world, Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn, had this to say about the incoming Hollande government:

(Zerohedge): Under the new regime, France is now cozying up to its new anti-austerity, pro-money-printing allies, Italy and Spain. This makes sense when one considers that France's economy is more akin to that of its southern neighbors than it is to the German economy. Strangely, the French bond market hasn't figured this out just yet.

Even more strangely, five months and more appalling economic numbers later, the market still doesn't seem to have figured it out. That, I suspect, will soon change.

The main reason for the capital pouring into French OATs this year has been the fear of a fractious end to the Eurozone. Money fled Europe and rushed into such "safe" havens as Switzerland, Singapore, and Norway, and those central banks recycled their euros into, initially, German Bunds. But the Bund market wasn't large enough to absorb the flows (witness the all-time high prices on German government debt), and so, even though the only way France is still a "core" country in the EU is alphabetically, some of this money has leaked into what is perceived as the "next best thing." That is categorically an error in judgement on the part of those investors.

The great Dylan Grice wrote this week on the subject of safe havens, and, like me, he concludes that government bonds in general are nothing of the sort:

... what constitutes the 'safe haven' changes over time. It's important to remember not only that government bonds aren't always the market's safe haven, but that there will always be a safe haven somewhere. For all the headlines about the billions wiped off stock market values during market routs, that money had to go somewhere. It doesn't just disappear. It will go into whatever the safe haven is, which in normal times will be bonds. But what happens when government bonds themselves fall victim to the primary ills of the day?

This is a far more erudite way of covering the point I tried to make in my recent presentation (the title of which I shamelessly borrowed from Dylan who in turn—though not so shamelessly—borrowed it from Charles Mackay): that government bonds have historically been safe havens, but that investors haven't yet made the mental adjustment necessary to see them for what they are now, which is Ground Zero for the world's ever-ballooning liabilities. Once that adjustment is forced upon them—possibly by the sudden unraveling of the euro despite all those late-night promises we were made—their real current value will quickly become apparent.

But what are the French government going to do about the state of their economy and the Damoclean Sword that hangs over them? It's true that Hollande, with his Socialist Party in control of both parliamentary chambers, has perhaps more power than any French president since de Gaulle, but his cabinet (from Hollande himself to his prime minister and down through most of his ministers) have two levels of experience in either a business or a ministerial context—little and none. The ineffectualness of Hollande's policies has been demonstrated by the polls, which show him to be about as popular in France in 2012 as English soccer fans were in 1998. His current approval rating is 41% after six consecutive monthly declines—not bad for a president who has been in office for a little over seven months. Vive l'indifference!

Hollande needs to do something—and fast. He is running out of time to reverse the frantic deterioration his economy is currently undergoing:

(Economist): The biggest concern is not that Mr Hollande will repeat the Mitterrand government's extravagant follies of 1981. Nor is it any longer, as in May, that he refuses to admit that France is in economic difficulty. It is that on this occasion there is so little time for him to act.

In 1981 the economy was growing, the budget deficit was small, the national debt stood at just 22% of GDP and France still had its own currency. Today the economy is at a standstill, the deficit is above the 3% ceiling, the debt is over 90% of GDP and France is in the euro zone. The euro crisis keeps going, and although France is still able to borrow at low cost, market sentiment can switch suddenly.

Trouble. And Hollande is not exactly one to grasp the nettle:

(Economist): Mr Hollande has begun to talk about French competitiveness, though he gave a lukewarm reception to the recent Gallois report on the subject. Despite his campaign calls for less austerity and his (swiftly broken) promise to renegotiate the European fiscal compact, he has repeatedly insisted that he will stick to his target of cutting the budget deficit for 2013 to 3% of GDP and aiming to reach balance in 2017. The budget in late September included just about enough tax increases and (more modest) spending cuts to satisfy the markets.

Acknowledging the issues and then doing nothing about them is a familiar trait—not just of Hollande, in fairness, but of most modern-day politicians—but unless Hollande has a Grand Plan in the works, he is soon going to have to not only face a disgruntled populace but a far more dangerous enemy: an unhappy bond market.

Hollande is falling back on the tried and trusted Socialist recipe of raising taxes rather than cutting spending and, as the mass exodus from Britain has proven (once again), this is hardly a robust plan. The departure of France's richest man for Belgium (accompanied by a typically Gallic farewell from the press) is a warning shot across the bow, and the uproar in the wake of what will surely be seen as a modern-day French F'arcelor is a shake of the lapels and a slap around the face.

So what exactly is Le Grand Plan? Well, I think I have it figured out, and it all comes back to Bugarach.

The way I see things, Hollande has only one viable option left to restore his economy and avoid disaster.

On December 22nd, when the world has ended and the only place left is the tiny village nestled in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, everybody on earth who has survived will be forced to live there and to therefore pay French taxes. At that point, Hollande and his government will be able to raise them to whatever level they deem appropriate to fix their balance sheet, and voilà!

Problem solved.

Just in case, though, they might want to start working on Plan B...


This week's jeux sans frontières begins with a look at Vladimir Putin's posing before moving on to examine Chinese monetary policy since the turn of the century.

We visit Greece (of course) to find out just how far the Eurocrats have managed to kick the can this time, the UK to see the beginning of the backlash over the appointment of Canadian Mark Carney as BoE governor, and Messrs. Sprott & Baker explain why gold is the solution to the problems facing central banks.

Dim Sum bond sales are soaring, Jan Hatzius sounds the all-clear siren (sort of), and we hear all about some new Greek myths.

Doug Short takes a look at inflation as only he can, student loan delinquencies go parabolic, Chinese brokerage accounts are beginning to lay dormant in ever-increasing numbers, and it's time to see just how badly the cost of the Twelve Days of Christmas has been affected by inflation once again.

Eric Sprott has a few thoughts on the silver market, the ECRI's Lakshman Achuthan shows why the SU is already in a recession, and some fool talks to Geoff Candy of Mineweb about China and the gold markets.

Lastly, be sure to stay tuned for this week's "And Finally"... it's a doozy...

Until next time...


First the defense minister had to go, and now Vladimir Putin's agriculture minister is being pushed out on suspicion of corruption. State-run television has begun an aggressive hunt for "thieves, traitors and enemies of the people." The main target, however, seems to be that of improving the Russian president's approval ratings.

The latest stage of the fight against corruption is illustrated by Russian state television with footage from the Côte d'Azur, images of wild parties with black caviar and diamond-encrusted Kalashnikovs. Then the correspondent approaches Hollywood star George Clooney's villa in a helicopter before more villas come into view. Here is where "Moscow's government officials go to be pampered," the show intones.

The station devoted 70 minutes to portraying the country's chronically corrupt and notorious civil servants. They are a "force in gray jackets who can sabotage reforms and are boycotting laws," moderator Arkady Mamontov says.

Usually Mamontov devotes himself to adversaries of the Russian state. He's made a film about Russian human rights activists who supposedly worked with British spies, and has already done three shows about the punk band Pussy Riot, in which he suggested the activists were the paid handmaids of the United States.

But instead of taking on the opposition, this time Mamontov has a member of the power elite in his sights: President Vladimir Putin's former agriculture minister, Elena Skrynnik, who was in his cabinet from 2009 to 2012. She has been accused of nepotism and it is said that those close to her have seen their personal wealth skyrocket. For years, the 51-year-old was the head of the state-run company Rosagroleasing, which was set up to purchase agricultural machinery. But under her aegis, a significant sum of money is said to have slipped away. Mamontov's reporters interview one of the company's workers who named the sum of 39 billion roubles, or around €1 billion ($1.3 billion).

Skrynnik's case is the second corruption affair in just one month to involve a former minister. In early November, Putin made the surprise move of firing Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. Since Serdyukov's departure, hardly a day has gone by without some new revelation about irregularities in defense industry privatization efforts. Broadcasters run stories about the scandal during prime-time and newspapers sympathetic to the Kremlin run them on their front pages. The aim of the campaign? Portraying Putin—who, in his 13th year of power has the worst approval ratings in over a decade—as a dedicated opponent of corruption. In September, just 41 percent of Russians said they trusted the president.

Alexei Mukhin, a political scientist at the Putin-friendly Center for Political Information has spoken of a "cleansing of the elite," and of fine-tuning the image of a "new Putin." Next up, according to Mukhin, could be the head of the Russian Space Agency or the ill-reputed former Health Minister Tatyana Golikova.

Elena Skrynnik, the former agriculture minister, has spoken to the press about her situation, albeit from abroad, a trip she said was approved by Putin. Yes, she was questioned, she said. And yes, she owns a home in France, but she earned it honestly during her time as a businesswoman between 1993 and 2000. Furthermore, under her leadership at Rosagroleasing it "was impossible to steal money."

That is difficult to believe, however. Oleg Donskich, previously Skrynnik's right-hand man, has a warrant out for his arrest and has left the country. Other suspects include Leonid Novitskiy, Skrynnik's brother. Sponsored by his sister, the cross-country rally driver rose to become the deputy head of Rosagroleasing.

*** der spiegel / link

The past decade has been extraordinary and brought a series of major challenges to China's monetary policy and macroeconomic management. Facing accelerated urbanization, industrialization and strong motivation to achieve fast growth on the part of localities, monetary policy needs to strike a better balance between growth and inflation. With state-owned banks operating in a planned economy and many sub-standard regulatory requirements, financial sector reform has reached the most difficult stage, and the tough tasks of reforming the interest rate and exchange rate regime and building market-based mechanisms have to be handled.

The greater openness as a result of China's WTO membership means that policymakers need to give more consideration to external coordination. Global imbalances triggered by the combination of overconsumption in the U.S. and high savings in emerging Asia have increased the pressure on China to balance the three priorities of reform, development and stability. As China and other emerging economies give more priority to reserve build-up after the Asian Financial Crisis, the subsequent oversupply of liquidity has changed the environment of monetary policy conduct. With the sub-prime crisis in the U.S. evolving into a global crisis, the problem of overheating in the real estate sector has emerged in China, challenging the traditional single-objective monetary policy framework and making it necessary to introduce macro-prudential policies to the toolbox of policymakers. In response to the above challenges, China's monetary policy has focused on inflation control while supporting transition and reform, and has managed to keep both economic growth and prices basically stable.

Meanwhile, major progress has been made in improving the monetary policy framework, economic reform and transition interest rate. Moreover, advances were made to exchange rate regime reform and the macro-prudential policy framework was further improved. The successes of monetary policy and macroeconomic management have been hard won and provide valuable experience for economies in transition. It is thus important to review these practices for the benefit of empirical and theoretical progress in the future.

I. Inflation Controls to Address Overheating

From a global perspective, most central banks have price stability and financial stability as their mandate and directly focus on keeping prices stable in the conduct of monetary policy. The Law on the People's Bank of China (the PBOC) stipulates that the objective of monetary policy is to keep the value of RMB stable to contribute to economic growth. Yet, because China is a transitional economy, compared with our peers, the PBOC pays more attention to the problem of overheating and has always regarded inflation control as a top priority.

*** caixin / link

Assuming the Greek bond buyback goes through as expected (see discussion), the bulk of Greek debt will be held in the form of loans by the "official sector": EU/EFSF and IMF. And the maturity of that debt is getting extended dramatically.

Credit Suisse: - Following the buyback, more than 80% of Greece’s debt will be held by the official sector and seems to be in the process of being—for all practical purposes—transformed into a "zero-coupon perpetual bond". The average maturity on the EU/EFSF loans (which will soon represent 65% of Greek debt) is increased to 30 years, while there is a ten-year grace period. At the same time, the interest rate on the bilateral loans is below 1%, while interest payments on EFSF loans have been deferred by ten years. This is the third time that euro area countries have restructured the maturities and interest rates of their loans to Greece and they seem comfortable to continue doing so.


Source: Credit Suisse, European Commission

Rather than writing down Greek debt principal now, Europe is basically kicking the can (far) down the road. For now this should work well for Greece. The official sector debt not only has "indefinite" maturity, but as Credit Suisse points out, it is also extremely cheap. The new Greek all-in interest expense (including government bonds) as percentage of GDP (event after massive GDP declines) is now below that of the Eurozone as a whole and even below that of the US. Furthermore, the interest on bonds held by the EBK (Eurosystem NCBs) is expected to be returned to Greece.

Whatever the debt-to-GDP ratio is actually achieved by Greece in the next few years will be irrelevant from the government's standpoint. Rolling of debt or debt servicing will simply not be an issue.

CS: - The debt-to-GDP level is indeed very high and we are expecting it to remain high for many years. Naturally, there would be benefits from a much lower debt-to-GDP level, especially from the perspective of market perception. In reality, it is more debatable whether it would make any difference writing off part of the debt for which Greece pays close to no interest and does not have to repay (for the foreseeable future).

*** sober look / link

A man's word is supposed to be his bond. When it comes to George Osborne, a chancellor's word is—well, his word. After presiding over one of the most lamentable economic strategies of any post-war Conservative chancellor—even Black Wednesday had the advantage of leading to an economic recovery—George Osborne has just given us another example of how his word can only be trusted up to a point.

I refer, of course, to the announcement that the next governor of the Bank of England is to be Mark Carney, at present governor of the Bank of Canada.

Just as Osborne's deficit reduction strategy was to have produced a sizeable economic recovery —always a delusion, but we had the chancellor's word for it—now, in desperation, he has gone back on his word about the promised arrangements for appointing a governor of the Bank of England.

In opposition and in government, Osborne made a huge fuss about his brilliant idea that future governors would be appointed for one eight-year term. This would, we were told, be a clever way of avoiding all the inevitable speculation that occurs about whether or not governors serving a five-year term will have their contracts renewed. He also took up the suggestion from his Labour predecessor, Alistair Darling, that, to avoid cronyism, the job should be advertised and those fancying their chances should have to apply.

It was not a great idea to ask people to apply, because at that level there was an obvious danger that some good candidates might not wish to expose themselves to the public humiliation of not getting the job. But the eight-year term always struck me as a bad idea too, because the traditional practice gave ministers the opportunity to rid themselves of turbulent governors, especially if there had been a change of government.

In appointing Carney, Osborne has gone back on both of his commitments. Carney's initial denials of interest in the job were not, as has been reported in some places, what Winston Churchill (a former chancellor) called "terminological inexactitudes", or plain lies. He did not apply. Indeed, he had to be wooed by a star-struck chancellor. In addition, not to put too fine a point upon it, he had to be bribed.

Yes, at a time of a policy of planned penury for the poorest in our society, including shameful cuts in welfare benefits, causing misery for hundreds of thousands of citizens, the salary of the governor of the Bank of England will go up by more than 50% next July, and be accompanied by pension contributions and "relocation and housing expenses".

There seems to be little question of Carney's ability, although, as usual, much of the comment has been well over the top. As Jeremy Paxman said on Newsnight when the editor of the Economist (a friend of Carney's) was lauding the Canadian, "you'll be telling me he walks on water next".

Carney's initial reaction was, according to the Financial Times, negative. He "told UK officials he did not want the strings attached to the job: a central bank with an economy in severe difficulties, a salary much lower than he liked, the need to move his wife and four daughters to Britain, and the prospect of serving an eight-year term".

Well, it has to be said that, if nothing else, Carney, who will serve for five years, is a formidable negotiator. Osborne has proved to be putty in his hands. And we have it on the authority of Mrs Carney in the Canadian press that Carney only accepted the job because an opening in Canadian politics has disappeared for the time being.

*** uk guardian / link

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision is an exclusive and somewhat mysterious entity that issues banking guidelines for the world's largest financial institutions. It is part of the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) and is often referred to as the central banks' central bank. Ever since the financial meltdown four years ago, the Basel Committee has been hard at work devising new international regulatory rules designed to minimize the potential for another large-scale financial meltdown.

The Committee's latest 'framework', as they call it, is referred to as "Basel III", and involves tougher capital rules that will force all banks to more than triple the amount of core capital they hold from 2% to 7% in order to avoid future taxpayer bailouts.

It doesn't sound like much of an increase, and according to the Basel group's own survey, the 100 largest global banks will only require approximately €370 billion in additional reserves to comply with the new regulations by 2019. Given that the Spanish banks alone are believed to need well over €100 billion today simply to keep their capital ratios in check, it is hard to believe €370 billion will be enough protect the world's "too-big-to-fail" banks from future crises, but it is indeed a step in the right direction.

Initial implementation of Basel III's capital rules was expected to come into effect on January 1, 2013, but US banking regulators issued a press release on November 9th stating that they wouldn't meet the deadline, citing a large volume of letters (i.e., complaints) received from bank participants and a "wide range of views expressed during the comment period". It has also been revealed that smaller US regional banks are loath to adopt the new rules, which they view as overly complicated and potentially devastating to their bottom lines. The Independent Community Bankers of America has even requested a Basel III exemption for all banks with less than $50 billion in assets,"in order to avoid large-scale industry concentration that would curtail credit for consumers and business borrowers, especially in small communities."

The long-term implementation period for all Basel III measures actually extends to 2019, so the delays are not necessarily meaningful news, but they do illustrate the growing rift between the US banking cartel and its European counterpart regarding the Basel III framework. JP Morgan's CEO Jamie Dimon is on record having referred to Basel III regulations as "un-American" for their favourable treatment of European covered bonds over US mortgage-backed securities. Readers may also remember when Dimon was caught yelling at Mark Carney, Canada's (soon to be former) Central Bank Governor and head of the Financial Stability Board, during a meeting in Washington to discuss the same topic. More recently, Deutsche Bank's co-chief executive Juergen Fitschen suggested that the US regulators' delay was "hurting trans-Atlantic relations" and creating distrust... stating, "when the whole thing is called un-American, I can only say in disbelief, who can still believe in this day and age that there can be purely European or American rules." Suffice it to say that Basel III implementation has not gone as smoothly as planned.

One of the more relevant aspects of Basel III for our portfolios is its treatment of gold as an asset class. Documents posted by the Bank of International Settlements (which houses the Basel Committee) and the United States FDIC have both referenced gold as a "zero-percent risk-weighted item" in their proposed frameworks, which has launched spirited rumours within the gold community that Basel III may define gold as a "Tier 1" asset, along with cash and AAA-government securities.

We have discovered in delving further that gold's treatment in Basel III is far more complicated than the rumours suggest, and is still, for all intents and purposes, very much undecided. Without burdening our readers with the turgid details, it turns out that the reference to gold as a "zero-percent risk-weighted item" only relates to its treatment in specific Basel III regulation related to the liquidity of bank assets vs. its liabilities. (For a more comprehensive explanation of Basel III's treatment of gold, please see the Appendix).

But what the Basel III proposals do confirm is the regulators' desire for banks to improve their liquidity position by holding a larger amount of "high-quality", liquid assets in order to improve their overall solvency in the event of another crisis.

Herein lies the problem, however:...

*** eric sprott & david baker / Full commentary

Dim sum bond sales by Chinese borrowers surged to a four-month high in November as the country's new political elite signalled a commitment to making the yuan a global currency.

Beijing Capital Land, the developer whose shares have risen 94 per cent this year, led a doubling of yuan-denominated debt sales in Hong Kong to 5.5 billion yuan (US$883 million) this month. That's the most since companies sold almost 6.7 billion yuan in July. Corporate dim sum returned 6.6 per cent this year, compared with a loss of 3.2 per cent last year, while similar- maturity domestic company securities returned 4 per cent, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes.

Chinese companies increased sales of dim sum notes after the country's new leaders committed to opening the economy, the yuan strengthened to a 19-year high and borrowing costs fell to the lowest in eight months. Vice Premier Li Keqiang, set to take over as premier in March, pledged last week to liberalize exchange rates, while Party General Secretary Xi Jinping said in his inaugural speech he will open the economy further.

"Supply of dim sum bonds will increase because of the push to internationalise the yuan," said Wee-Khoon Chong, Asia rates strategist at Societe Generale in Hong Kong. "There isn't as much of a yuan-appreciation story so investors will be assessing issuers on their merits. On the other hand, there is no depreciation risk."

Shandong International (Hong Kong) Limited, an indirectly wholly owned subsidiary of toll-road operator Shandong Hi-Speed Group sold 1 billion yuan of 5.8 per cent bonds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

China will "steadily" push forward with the liberalisation of interest rates and currency markets, Vice Premier Li wrote in an article published in the People's Daily on November 21. Yuan capital account convertibility will be achieved "gradually," he wrote.

General Secretary Xi allowed experiments in yuan trading in Hong Kong when he was the top communist party official in charge of the city's affairs. His replacement in that role will be Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang, Hong Kong-based The Standard newspaper reported yesterday, citing a person it didn't identify.

The pace of currency reform is set to accelerate, according to Paul Mackel, HSBC Holdings's head of Asian FX research and Ju Wang, a senior Asian FX strategist at the bank. Full convertibility is likely within five years, they wrote in a research note dated Nov. 29.

"We believe internationalisation of the renminbi is a clear direction and policy of the government," said Samson Lee, head of debt capital markets at BOC International, a unit of Bank of China, referring to the yuan by its alternative name. "The change of government maybe slowed things down a little recently, but I think in the longer term it's definitely going in that direction."

Investor appetite for yuan securities is reviving as the yuan surged to a 19-year high this week.

*** south china morning post / link

Goldman's Jan Hatzius is out with an excellent note that essentially calls for the economic crisis to end in 2013.

The title of the note is The US Economy in 2013-2016: Moving Over the Hump, and the gist is that 2013 will be the last year of sub-trend growth.

Following 2013, the US will see growth above 3%, which is not amazing, but far better than what we've seen since the economy began recovering in 2009.

What's important to understand is that this isn't just based on some vague optimism or a foggy notion of "getting through a current rough patch," but rather a financial balances model that has put Hatzius at the forefront of Wall Street economists in understanding this economic period.

The essence of the model is essentially this chart, which recognizes that private sector surpluses (rising corporate and household savings) is the mirror image of public sector deficits.

The notion that private and public sector deficits offset each other is critical for understanding what we've seen in this downturn, though the framework is still not part of the common parlance. Richard Koo has been writing about this forever. In the academic world, University of Chicago professor Amir Sufi has written a lot about private sector balance sheets, and how they've made this crisis unique.

After 2013, Hatzius writes, the US economy will be getting significant benefits from a relevering private sector (lower savings) with the worst of the fiscal drag coming to an end (it might seem weird to talk about a fiscal drag, when we're running trillion-dollar deficits, but the truth of the matter is that the deficit has actually been shrinking at its fastest pace ever in recent year).


Source: Goldman Sachs

Says Hatzius: update of our financial balances model suggests that grow this likely to improve starting in the second half of 2013. Homebuilding looks set to recover strongly, the corporate sector should start to spend a larger share of its cash flow, and the personal saving rate will probably edge down a little further.

All told, the private sector is likely to deliver an impulse of around 1.5 percentage points to real GDP growth in 2014-2015. Even with a continued drag from fiscal policy, this should result in solidly above- trend growth of 3% or a bit more. This would still not be a very rapid recovery by the standards of past cycles, but it would be clearly better than the 2%-2.5% seen in the recovery so far.

*** business insider / link

When the euro zone rescued Greece in 2010, Germany insisted on enlisting the IMF. Some worried about letting the Washington-based institution meddle in Europe. But Germany wanted the IMF as external enforcer, to impose rigour not only on Greece but also on the soft-hearted European Commission.

More than two years later, the enforcer has at times been Greece's main helper. It has sought to ease the pace of austerity. And it has been at odds with Germany over the hitherto unthinkable: the need to write off some of the billions that Greece still owes.

In a string of late-night meetings in Brussels, Christine Lagarde, the IMF's boss, has injected some common sense into the latest rescue of Greece, finalised this week. Greece has been given more time to reach its budget targets, and the terms of euro-zone loans have been softened. For all the doubts about whether the latest numbers add up, something important has happened: the euro zone has come to accept that Greece cannot bear the burden of its debt, and that creditors will have to take losses.

This is not how it was meant to be. Bringing in the experience of the IMF was intended to safeguard German taxpayers' billions. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, claimed other vulnerable countries would be dissuaded from asking for bail-outs because they would see that "the path taken by Greece with the IMF is not an easy one". Instead the crisis worsened (Cyprus is about to become the fourth country to receive a bail-out) and the European Central Bank has had to step in. On November 28th the European Commission proposed a step-by-step blueprint to fix the underlying flaws of the euro. It includes an embryonic euro-zone budget in the next 18 months and a pooling of euro-zone debt in the next five years. In the long term, it wants a "deep and genuine" economic and monetary union, with a euro-zone budget financed by its own taxes and full-fledged joint Eurobonds.

All this will take time, and difficult treaty changes. Yet the original and unending crisis in Greece is undermining the euro now. Much of the blame must lie with Greece's politicians. But the euro zone has also made mistakes, including a failure to recognise that Greece was bust. This meant Greece was pushed into sharp, depression-inducing austerity (Germany initially insisted on charging punitive interest rates). And euro-zone leaders fell into a costly muddle about Greece's huge debt. When "haircuts" were imposed on private bondholders the euro zone got the worst of both worlds. Much of the benefit was lost because a good part of the debt had been offloaded onto official lenders; and contagion spread across the periphery. Europe's creditors must now confront the question: how much of Greece's official debt needs to be written off?

The IMF has at times been part of this confusion, especially under Dominique Strauss-Kahn (before he was brought down by a sex scandal), who was persuaded to play along with the fiction that Greece was solvent. Under Ms Lagarde it has become more clear-eyed. Though hardly popular in Greece, the IMF has become increasingly outspoken about the damage from excessive austerity. It pushed for Greece to get two more years to reach a big primary budget surplus (before interest payments).

The IMF's toughest struggle has been to convince Germany and others that Greece cannot repay the money it owes. Reckoning debt sustainability is an inexact science. The threshold set for Greece last year, of debt falling to 120% of GDP by 2020, was defined by politics. The IMF thinks that it is still too high. In any case, Greek debt is now forecast to be at 144% of GDP by 2020.

*** economist / link

London should be stripped of its status as Europe's main financial hub and sidelined to allow the eurozone to "control" transactions within the 17-nation bloc, the governor of the Bank of France has said.

Christian Noyer told the Financial Times that there was "no rationale" for allowing the eurozone's financial centre to be "offshore".

"Most of the euro business should be done inside the euro area. It's linked to the capacity of the central bank to provide liquidity and ensure oversight of its own currency," he told the Financial Times in an interview.

"We're not against some business being done in London, but the bulk of the business should be under our control. That's the consequence of the choice by the UK to remain outside the euro area."

Mr Noyer's broadside is one of several outspoken public attacks that have been launched by French leaders on Britain.

Shortly before Standard and Poor's stripped France of its AAA credit rating in January, Mr Noyer said that Britain's rating should be cut before that of France as the UK had "as much debt, more inflation, less growth than us".

Jean–Pierre Jouyet, the head of the French financial regulator, has also described the right–wing of British politics as "the world's stupidest".

EU leaders meet on Tuesday to try to broker a deal on giving the European Central Bank (ECB) sweeping powers to supervise lenders.

The move, which will not include Britain, will be the first step towards creating a banking union under which eurozone countries would eventually provide a common fiscal backstop.

While George Osborne, Britain's Chancellor, backs a union in principle, he has pressed for safeguards to stop the new bloc from forcing its rules on non-members.

Andrea Enria, the head of the European Banking Authority (EBA), has also urged leaders to protect countries outside a union from being sidelined.

Since the creation of the single currency, The City of London has served as Europe's main financial centre.

More than 40pc of euro foreign-exchange transactions are conducted in the British capital, a bigger share than the rest of the eurozone combined.

Set up to coordinate the supervision of banks in response to the financial crisis, the London-based EBA is run by regulators from across the EU and is seen as a possible counterweight to the ECB's new supervisory role.

*** UK Daily Telegraph / LINK

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and House Speaker John Boehner hardened their positions over the fiscal cliff, each blaming the other for a standoff that could lead to more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts in January.

Geithner said Republicans in Congress will be responsible for hurting the economy if they refuse to raise tax rates on the highest-income earners as part of a deal.

"There's not going to be an agreement without rates going up," Geithner said in a taped interview that aired today on CNN's "State of the Union." Republicans will "own the responsibility for the damage" if they "force higher rates on virtually all Americans because they're unwilling to let tax rates go up on 2 percent of Americans."

Republican Boehner said the White House is wasting time.

"I would say we're nowhere, period," Boehner said on the "Fox News Sunday" program. "We've put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved. But the White House has responded with virtually nothing."

The comments followed a week of political jockeying signaling that post-election optimism over a compromise, expressed by Republicans and President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is fading. Both sides are resuming positions that have defined the debate over higher taxes on the top 2 percent of earners and cuts in government spending. If there's no agreement by the end of this month, the tax increases and spending cuts will start taking effect.

There's "clearly a chance" that there won't be an agreement in time to avert the fiscal cliff, Boehner said on the Fox program.

Geithner appeared on five talk shows today. In the interviews, taped Nov. 30, he challenged Republicans to make a counteroffer to the Obama administration's framework plan.

The Obama plan is to trade $600 billion in cuts for $1.6 trillion in tax increases, primarily targeting families with more than $250,000 in annual income. It also includes $800 billion in assumed savings from the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The ball really is with them now," said Geithner, the administration's lead negotiator on the fiscal cliff, on CNN. "They're having a tough time trying to figure out what they can do, what they can get support from their members for."

Obama's proposal included more new spending than cuts, Boehner told Fox News.

"They wanted to extend unemployment benefits," he said. "They wanted a new stimulus program for infrastructure. They wanted to extend some other tax breaks. And all of this new stimulus spending would literally be more than the spending cuts that he was willing to put on the table."

Republicans may be willing to consider caps to income-tax deductions for the wealthy, among other solutions, Boehner said.

"You could cap deductions at a percent of income," the Ohio Republican said. "That would be one way to get there. You could eliminate certain deductions for the wealthiest in our country. You could do all of that."

While the talks include "the normal political theater" of Washington, the Treasury secretary told NBC's "Meet the Press" that he thinks a deal will be reached before Jan. 1. The president was playing golf today with a group including former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat who negotiated a deficit- reduction agreement with congressional Republicans.

*** Bloomberg / LINK

Charts That Make You Go Hmmm...


Source: Doug Short, Mish Shedlock

These two great inflation charts come to us from Doug Short, via Mike Shedlock, and they demonstrate not only the stupefying increase in the cost of college tuition in the United States, but also give us a fascinating look at the relative increases in the components of the CPI basket. Draw your own conclusions...


Source: Doug Short, Mish Shedlock

Talking of college tuition costs, this month saw the next great bubble get a huge influx of air as the charts below, courtesy of Zerohedge, demonstrate only too clearly:


Source: Zerohedge


Source: Zerohedge

The percentage of dormant trading accounts in China has been rising rapidly over the past year, signalling that the retail public has given up on the Chinese equity market. Such things normally happen just before things turn around. Sober Look elaborates:

In a market with a more diversified investor pool, one would see this retail capitulation as a bullish sign. But there are very few active institutional players in China's domestic market (although the government has been trying to change that by increasing foreign investment quotas.) For now it will take either retail investors coming back or a government action to turn it around. And given the change of the guard in China's leadership, it may take them some time to organize a decisive action.


Source: CEIC, Sober Look

It's that time again, folks, and this year, it's a fairly safe bet that the PNC Christmas Price Index has increased again. But by how much more than CPI? Click below to find out:


Click to View Price Index

Words That Make You Go Hmmm...



The good news is Lakshman Achuthan, co-founder of the ECRI, is convinced that US GDP and the Fiscal Cliff aren't such a big deal. The bad news is, he thinks that's because the US is already in a recession.

The evidence is pretty compelling...


"So I don't know when it (the manipulation) breaks. I was hoping that we would see big physical demand on Comex here for the December contract. We (still) have one more day to find out what it will be, but so far it looks like there might be as many 40,000,000 silver ounces on demand.

Presuming most of that (40 million ounces) is shorted by the bullion banks, they only have about 34 million in their inventory..."

Eric Sprott on the silver market...




This past week I had the chance to chat to Geoff Candy of Mineweb about China's new leadership as well as the effect central bank buying of gold is likely to have on the market. If you have the time, you can listen to it by clicking on the text below my ugly mug...


And finally...



Oh deer!

Folks—I'm afraid she's serious... God bless you, Donna.



Grant Williams

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A walk around the fringes of finance


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Discuss This


We welcome your comments. Please comply with our Community Rules.


Dec. 6, 2012, 2:44 a.m.

As a follow up to poor ol Donna…if you think that was bad check this one out…titled “Gold is not backed by anything”!


Thomas Wolf

Dec. 4, 2012, 5:39 p.m.

That ESM chart is hysterical.
Re: kicking the can, here’s a stocking stuffer for the financial wizards

Graeme Scrivener

Dec. 4, 2012, 1:52 p.m.

I don’t really understand the Dylan Grice comment
” For all the headlines about the billions wiped off stock market values during market routs, that money had to go somewhere. It doesn’t just disappear. It will go into whatever the safe haven is, which in normal times will be bonds.”

Surely there is wealth destruction during a stock market rout. If shares that were valued at say $1000 are sold for $800 then it is only the $800 that is available to be reinvested in a safe haven, leaving wealth destruction of $200.

Dec. 4, 2012, 9:10 a.m.

Its gonna be tough for the French to cut back on the size of the Government today.They would rather move back to the Franc instead.

Dec. 4, 2012, 7:57 a.m.

allways perfect ..thank you
ps in the end of the year i have to give examination ...because i learn better how work system capitalist.
no comment about your analytic show article (i am very small) front of you ..
i am curiose WHO ARE YOU?
some time i think Roubini

Bill Yoe

Dec. 4, 2012, 6:39 a.m.

I would like to point out as a resident of the UK that the Telegraph article to which you refer in this:

(UK Daily Telegraph): Almost two-thirds of the country’s million-pound earners disappeared from Britain after the introduction of the 50p top rate of tax, figures have disclosed.

Actually had a headline that implied that these people had left the country, clearly difficult to prove, if not totally incorrect.  The paper has since been called to task for a misleading ‘lead’.  Any smart rich person merely finds new ways to reallocate income and that was certainly what happened.

You are way too smart to have been seduced by this and to have used it in your your piece.

Lastly, may I say that I do value your opinions, but my God, the articles are soooooo looooong, and there are sooooo many charts.  Perhaps you could consider Hemingway’s principle of
paring down the language and conveying as much as possible in as few words as possible, ...

Many times that has a greater ability to connect with the reader.