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Why is the Fed tapering?

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Source: Paul Craig Roberts


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By Paul Craig Roberts and *Dave Kranzler

On January 17, 2014, we explained "The Hows and Whys of Gold Price Manipulation." In former times, the rise in the gold price was held down by central banks selling gold or leasing gold to bullion dealers who sold the gold. The supply added in this way to the market absorbed some of the demand, thus holding down the rise in the gold price.

As the supply of physical gold on hand diminished, increasingly recourse was taken to selling gold short in the paper futures market. We illustrated a recent episode in our article. Below we illustrate the uncovered short-selling that took the gold price down today (January 30, 2014).

When the Comex trading floor opened January 30 at 8:20AM NY time, the price of gold inexplicably plunged $17 over the next 30 minutes. The price plunge was triggered when sell orders flooded the Comex trading floor. Over the course of the previous 23 hours of trading, an average of 202 gold contracts per minute had traded. But starting at the 8:20AM Comex, there were four 1-minute windows of trading here's what happened:

8:21AM: 1766 contracts sold
8:22AM: 5172 contracts sold
8:31AM: 3242 contracts sold
8:47AM: 3515 contracts sold

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Over those four minutes of trading, an average of 3,424 contracts per minute traded, or 17 times the average per minute volume of the previous 23 hours, including yesterday's Comex trading session.

The yellow arrow indicates when the Comex floor opened for gold futures trading. There was not any news events or related market events that would have triggered a sell-off like this in gold. If an entity holding many contracts wanted to sell down its position, it would accomplish this by slowly feeding its position to the market over the course of the entire trading day in order to avoid disturbing the price or "telegraphing" its intent to sell to the market.

Instead, today's selling was designed to flood the Comex trading floor with a high volume of sell orders in rapid succession in order to drive the price of gold as low as possible before buyers stepped in.

The reason for this is two-fold: Driving down the price of gold assists the Fed in its efforts to support the dollar, and the Comex is running out of physical gold available to be delivered to those who decide to take delivery of gold instead of cash settlement.

The February gold contract is subject to delivery starting on January 31st. As of January 29th, two days before the delivery period starts, there were 2,223,000 ounces of gold futures open against 375,000 ounces of gold available to be delivered. The primary banks who trade Comex gold (JP Morgan, HSBC, Bank Nova Scotia) are the primary entities who are short those Comex contracts. 

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Typically toward the end of a delivery month, these banks drive the price of gold lower for the purpose of coercing holders of the contracts to sell. This avoids the problem of having a shortage of gold available to deliver to the entities who decide to take delivery. With an enormous amount of physical gold moving from the western bank vaults to the large Asian buyers of gold, the Comex ultimately does not have enough gold to honor delivery obligations should the day arrive when a fifth or a fourth of the contracts are presented for delivery. Prior to a delivery period or due date on the contracts, manipulation is used to drive the Comex price of gold as low as possible in order to induce enough selling to avoid a possible default on gold delivery.

Following the taper announcement on January 29, the gold price rose $14 to $1270, and the Dow Jones Index dropped 100 points, closing down 74 points from its trading level at the time the tapering was announced. These reactions might have surprised the Fed, leading to the stock market support and gold price suppression on January 30.

Manipulation of the gold price is a foregone conclusion. The question is: why is the Fed tapering? The official reason is that the recovery is now strong enough not to need the stimulus. There are two problems with the official explanation. One is that the purpose of QE has always been to support the prices of the debt-related derivatives on the balance sheets of the banks too big to fail. The other is that the Fed has enough economists and statisticians to know that the recovery is a statistical artifact of deflating GDP with an understated measure of inflation. No other indicator -- employment, labor force participation, real median family income, real retail sales, or new construction -- indicates economic recovery. Moreover, if in fact the economy has been in recovery since June 2009, after 4.5 years of recovery it is time for a new recession.

One possible explanation for the tapering is that the Fed has created enough new dollars with which to purchase the worst part of the banks' balance sheet problems and transfer them to the Fed's balance sheet, while in other ways enhancing the banks' profits. With the job done, the Fed can slowly back off.

The problem with this explanation is that the liquidity that the Fed has created found its way into the stock and bond markets and into emerging economies. Curtailing the flow of liquidity crashes the markets, bringing on a new financial crisis.

We offer two explanations for the tapering. One is technical, and one is strategic.

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http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente's Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His books, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available (more...)
 

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