Gold Delivery Problems at COMEX?

posted by Nima

April 16, 2009 · Posted in General Economics 

In spite of some false suspicions and statements, a good case for holding physical gold by SeekingAlpha.com’s Avery Goodman:

On Tuesday morning, gold derivatives dealers, who had sold short in the face of a fast rising gold price, faced a serious predicament. Some 27,000 + contracts, representing about 15% of the April COMEX gold futures contracts remained open. Technically, short sellers are required to give “notice” of delivery to long buyers. However, in reality, buyers are the ones who control the amount of gold to be delivered. They “demand” delivery of physical gold by holding futures contracts past the expiration date. This time, long buyers were demanding in droves.

In normal times, very few people do this. Only about 1% or less of gold contracts must be delivered. The lack of delivery demand allows the casino-like world of paper gold futures contracts to operate. Very few short sellers actually expect or intend to deliver real gold. They are, mostly, merely playing with paper. It was amazing, therefore, when March 30, 2009 came and passed, and so many people stood for delivery, refusing to part with their long gold futures positions.

On Tuesday, March 31st, Deutsche Bank (DB) amazed everyone even more, by delivering a massive 850,000 ounces, or 8500 contracts worth of the yellow metal. By the close of business, even after this massive delivery, about 15,050 April contracts, or 1.5 million ounces, still remained to be delivered. Most of these, of course, are unlikely to be the obligations of Deutsche Bank. But, the fact that this particular bank turned out to be one of the biggest short sellers of gold, is a surprise. Most people presumed that the big COMEX gold short sellers are HSBC (HBC) and/or JP Morgan Chase (JPM). That may be true. However, it is abundantly clear that they are not the only game in town.

Closely connected institutions, it seems, do not have to worry about acting irresponsibly, in taking on more obligations than they can fulfill. Mysteriously, on the very same day that gold was due to be delivered to COMEX long buyers, at almost the very same moment that Deutsche Bank was giving notice of its deliveries, the ECB happened to have “sold” 35.5 tons, or a total of 1,141,351 ounces of gold, on March 31, 2009. Convenient, isn’t it? Deutsche Bank had to deliver 850,000 ounces of physical gold on that day, and miraculously, the gold appeared out of nowhere.

He then goes on to rant about the illegality of DB’s likely naked short activities on the COMEX and I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. It is hard to believe that DB could not have silently obtained 8500 contracts somewhere on the open and liquid gold market with little to no trouble.

About 4 months ago Antal Fekete wrote (note the highlighted part):

Be that as it may, the Brave New World of irredeemable currency sans the paper gold factory at Comex will be an entirely different world from what we have been used to for the past 36 years. I highlight the differences as I see them. This should be helpful in the long run, even if this backwardation is temporary and gold futures trading will return to normal, since permanent backwardation is ultimately unavoidable.

Item 1: Barrick and other gold producers that still have an open hedge book will go bankrupt.
Item 2: Other gold miners will, one after another, stop selling gold altogether, and go into hibernation.
Item 3: Junior gold mines will put off starting production indefinitely. They will consider their gold ore reserves in the ground a safer store of value than paper money in an insolvent bank.
Item 4: The closing of the gold window at the Comex will furnish an excuse for other issuers of paper gold including the bullion banks to declare bankruptcy fraudulently.
Item 5: GLD and other joint depositories of gold will be under enormous pressure to default and let the owners of the ETF shares hold the bag. Let them sue for the gold. They won’t get it: their contracts give them no right to physical gold. They will get small change, in paper. The principals will cut up the gold pie among themselves. No crumbs will trickle down to shareholders.
Item 6: Even allocated and segregated metal account gold is not safe. The temptation on the account providers to default will be irresistible. They are not going to release the gold until expressly ordered by the courts, and will make sure that no gold will be left by then.
Item 7: Central banks forfeit their gold under leases due to backwardation, causing an uproar of citizens whose patrimony was sequestered and dissipated in such an ignominious manner.
Item 8: The only market for gold will be the fragmented black markets in various countries each charging a price whatever the traffic can bear. All legal protection of the ownership of and trade in gold will be suspended. The Dark Age will descend on the trading world, just as it did when the Roman Empire collapsed.

I am positive on gold and especially silver, as pointed out many times. I don’t necessarily agree with all these excessively bullish predictions and manipulation paranoias, but I think these metals are a good save haven against the current uncertainties and instabilities and will do reasonably well over time.

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