Fifteen weeks, about 3 1/2 months, have passed since the latest Federal Reserve intervention, Operation Twist, was officially announced on September 21. We've now seen several bouts of aggressive Fed attempts to manage the economy following the collapse of the two Bear Stearns hedge funds in mid-2007 about three month before the all-time high in the S&P 500.
It appears that market observers are only very slowly coming around to grasping the fact that what the ECB has done in December does indeed amount to a major dose of monetary pumping. The misunderstandings center mainly on the use of the ECB's deposit facility by banks, which overshadows the far more legitimate debate over whether the commercial banks are going to use ECB funding to play the sovereign debt carry trade or rather 'play it safe' in view of the large amount of bank bonds maturing in the first quarter.
What if we found a product to which consumers have an uncontrollable physical craving? What if consumers bought more of this addictive product as their incomes rose? What if as their incomes rose they demanded higher quality, more expensive to produce versions of this product?
With the S&P 500 heading toward the October lows on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the ever market manipulating central banks just had to do something. The decision was made on Monday, November 28 to provide a stealth bailout for European banks, and indirectly poorly managed sovereigns.
For such a wonderful year for precious metals investors, the final calendar quarter left little to celebrate. Just as people now take for granted that their phones will also take pictures, play music, and surf the internet, many investors have come to expect gold and silver to move up in a straight line.
In 2012, policy makers around the world may be driven by the realization that the theme of 2011 was not a Euro-specific crisis, but simply another stage in a global financial crisis. Central bankers may ramp up their printing presses in an effort to limit “contagion” concerns. As such, the currency markets may be the purest way to take a view on the “mania” of policy makers. Market movements may continue to be largely driven by political rhetoric, rather than company earnings announcements or economic data. We don’t believe this trend will abate over the foreseeable future, especially given the likely leadership changes throughout several G-7 nations.
The demand for American Silver Eagles and Canadian Maple Leaf coins has increased tremendously over the past several years. 2011 will be the first year in which official coin sales will surpass domestic silver production in both countries.
Among the big movers in CDS spreads we have of course Hungary, which has become a new focus of market worries. Otherwise no large moves have occurred (Spain is an exception to that as well, see below), but euro basis swaps have recovered smartly now that end of year related liquidity pressures have eased.
Inquiring minds might be wondering what is the best way forward for Greece. To some extent, the question is akin to asking "would you prefer to lose a one hand and one eye or your left leg?"
I first attended the Canton Trade Fair in October 1976. All Chinese men and women were dressed in blue shirts and blue pants, bicycles were China’s main mode of transportation, Chairman Mao had just died and China’s mantra, “We will continue to support the policies of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung and criticize the policies of Deng Xiao-Ping”, was heard everywhere.