Gold Reacting To Anxiety, Says ECRI Chief

Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of the influential Economic Cycle Research Institute, has said he’s sure the economy is “rolling over” but can’t definitively call it a recession yet.  Today he adds that the elevated price of gold signals anxiety more than inflation concerns. ECRI has a good track record as a trend predictor, from all accounts. On the other hand, it’s also true that gold is hitting new highs and the financial media has to put a good spin on that. Wall Street doesn’t like physical gold, because whenever it dominates the news stories, it undermines the stock and fund selling on which the Street mainly depends. Continue reading

Gold, Silver, and “Suspicious Foreigners”

Mark Mitchell comments on the CFTC hearings and the manipulation of trading of gold and silver derivatives (read IOUs):

“Maguire added: “What’s going to happen, if you’re an Asian trader, or a non-Western trader, who has no loyalty, or doesn’t care about homeland security or anything else, who says, now wait a minute, if I can establish in my mind that there is 100 ounces of paper gold, paper silver for example, for each ounce of real silver, than I have a naked short situation here that I can squeeze and they can go on the spot market which is basically a foreign exchange transaction, short dollar, long silver to any amount they want – billions, trillions — whatever they want, and they can take this market, squeeze this market, and blow it up…”

In other words, the problem isn’t just that criminal naked short sellers manipulate the metals market downwards. It is that they have created a condition where a foreign entity can merely demand delivery of real metal to induce a massive “squeeze” that sends the price of metals skyrocketing, putting huge downward pressure on the dollar. Meanwhile, says Maguire, with prices rising, “for 100 customers who show up there is only one guy who is going to get his gold or silver and there’s 99 who will be disappointed, so without any new money coming into the market, just asking for that gold and silver will create a default.”

This would be a point, except…except..

1. This kind of fraudulent activity in the markets in the West is going to be seen by most foreigners as a direct act of financial aggression against them, not just domestic market participants. You can’t admit that your entire market system is rigged in favor of US and European banks, and then expect that the rest of the world is just going to stand there and not retaliate in some way…with justification.

Turnabout is fair play. Defense is not offense.

2.  I doubt that Chinese, Saudis or any other foreigners are interested in squeezing the dollar, since they are the primary holders of dollars. In international markets, the dollar is still the reserve currency and most people save in it. Nor is the American middle class, loyal or disloyal, going to want a weaker dollar. They earn their money in dollars. The only people likely to attack the dollar are speculators, who will do it because they see a gain to be made from it. And the people most likely to do it successfully are the same people who are involved in manipulating it in the first place...the corrupt bankers and financiers who’ve got the most to gain in this and the least to lose.

Nothing that Paulson, Greenspan, Geithner, Summers, or Bernanke have been doing adds up to anything like a “strong dollar” policy. They’ve done everything but shout “bail” to dollar holders.

Hedge Fund Lobby Steps Up The Lobbying..

The hedge fund lobby is stepping up the..er… whining and dining in DC, says, Crain’s:

“With all the political and media focus on healthcare reform over the past few months, the financial industry enjoyed a brief respite from attacks and, as would be expected, spent its time and money wisely.

The hedge fund lobby, called the Managed Funds Association, doubled its spending during the last three months of 2009, according to data recently released by the Federal Election Commission. The MFA strategically sprinkled more than $1 million around Washington in the fourth quarter, compared to just $520,000 spent during the same period in 2008.”

Apparently, the hedgies don’t mind registering. What they’re kicking at are some other things:

1. Treating compensation as regular income (with its higher tax rate) rather than capital gains (with its 15% tax rate)

2. The banning of proprietary trading by banks, until now a lucrative source of income, the so-called Volcker rule.

The part I found really interesting in the Crain’s piece is that industry CEO Richard Baker apparently thinks there is a “growing alignment between hedge funds and millions of Americans.”

Oh yeah.

That would be that trader-activist mystique thing where Loeb, Paulson, and Chanos are really doing it for the little guy…….the money is just a side dish.

Um. Yeah. I get that.

And talking about side dishes, I hear that Rachel Uchitel’s interests are just aligned with  Joe Six-pack’s too. She isn’t an extortionist and a gold-digger. Oh no. That’s just what it looks like. She’s a conjugal activist. She trying to get Tiger and all those other rovin’ eyes out there to be better husbands…..

Roubini: Significant Risks Of Gold Correction

Downside risks to gold, writes Nouriel Roubini at The Globe and Mail:

“But, since gold has no intrinsic value, there are significant risks of a downward correction. Eventually, central banks will need to exit quantitative easing and zero-interest rates, putting downward pressure on risky assets, including commodities. Or the global recovery may turn out to be fragile and anemic, leading to a rise in bearish sentiment on commodities – and in bullishness about the U.S. dollar.

Another downside risk is that the dollar-funded carry trade may unravel, crashing the global asset bubble that it, with the wave of monetary liquidity, has caused. And since the carry trade and the wave of liquidity are causing a global asset bubble, some of gold’s recent rise is also bubble-driven, with herding behaviour and “momentum trading” by investors pushing gold higher and higher. But all bubbles eventually burst. The bigger the bubble, the greater the collapse.

Gold’s rise is only partially justified by fundamentals. And it is not clear why investors should stock up on gold if the global economy dips into recession again and concerns about a near depression and rampant deflation rise sharply. If you truly fear a global economic meltdown, you should stock up on guns, canned food and other commodities that you can actually use in your log cabin.”

What David Einhorn’s Holding

From Market Folly comes a break down of controversial hedge-fund manager David Einhorn’s portfolio:

Top 15 holdings by percentage of assets reported on his 13F filing

Pfizer (PFE): 7.64%
CareFusion (CFN): 7.32%
Cardinal Health (CAH): 6.86%
Teradata (TDC): 6.56%
URS (URS): 5.78%
Gold Miners ETF (GDX): 5.58%
Wyeth (WYE): 5.35%
Einstein Noah Restaurant (BAGL): 4.97%
EMC (EMC): 4.75%
Aspen Insurance (AHL): 4.22%
Travelers (TRV): 4.04%
Microsoft (MSFT): 3.39%
Everest Re (RE): 3.22%
McDermott (MDR): 3.17%
MI Developments (MIM): 2.93%
Note:

This doesn’t include:

1. Cash
2. Short postitions
3. Non-US equities

Other things to note:

1. Health care holdings, CAH and HNT, both got larger allocations (friend and colleague, Dan Loeb also added HNT to Third Point’s portfolio) and a new position was opened in CFN (CareFusion). Taken together with the fact that the largest holding for both Einhorn and Loeb is PFE (Pfizer), this makes medicine/health their biggest play.

2. Einhorn sold out of energy and upped his stake in MSFT (microsoft) a lot.

3. Besides GDX, Einhorn is also in physical gold, which is one of his largest holdings. It’s invisible in the list above, because it’s not disclosed in 13F filings.

4. Short the rating agencies, credit-sensitive financial institutions and REIT’s with cap rates of 6% and dividend yields of under 5%.

5. Greenlight, like Steve Cohen’s SAC and Soros, is also jumping into the anti-Euro trade, reports silobreaker, citing the Wall Street Journal.

As for Greenlight’s past performance, here’s a chart in percentage terms of Greenlights performance, from Gurufocus:

YR        GL(%)   S&P     Excess Gain

2009     32.1    26.5.    5.6

2008    -17.6   -37      19.4

2007    5.9      5.61      0.3

2006    24.4    15.79    8.6

2005    14.2    4.91      9.3

2004    5.2      12        -6.8

What’s interesting in this chart is Einhorn’s bad showing in 2004 and 2007, years in which most people did well, or at least, stayed out of trouble, since the market was still receiving the benefit of Federal “juicing.” Also notable is  2008, when, had it not been for the controversial and possibly criminal Lehman raid, Einhorn would’ve been even worse off. He would probably have been as much down as the S&P.

Finally, without the johnny-come-lately piling onto gold, last year, 2009, wouldn’t have been a good year for Einhorn, either.