Commodities are the only game left in town. This is the one market that Ben can’t effectively control. And this could be his downfall. The real cost of borrowing money is zero if you factor in inflation. This has a win win effect for investors buying futures. In simplified terms, the future price of a commodity future one year out would have a premium. It would be the interest on the money for the term of a year, needed to purchase the commodity on the spot market, plus storage costs over the year before delivery. So a free ride with interest charges, with incidental storage costs and an add in for the volatility cost.
Commodities as a whole are rising in price. A lot of it is inflation related. Since there is no cash return for dollars in the bank; commodity speculation is the new frontier open to abuse. In the futures pit, one trader will sell the future delivery of one million barrels of oil, say for November 2011. At the maturity date for that trade, the seller delivers the oil or buys his contract back. All contracts are matched buyer to seller. If you are speculating, you never want to take delivery. The speculator sells naked contracts for delivery if he believes the price will drop and he buys contracts when he thinks they will increase in value. This person will close out the deal by selling or buying the opposing trade back. Margins are as low as 6 percent. So to control one million in gold, you need 60K in face money.
The commodities market has a valid justification for its existence; it helps take the risk out of business ventures. An airline would buy jet fuel futures a year or two out to limit upside costs. The company is not sure what the future market price will be, but buying a futures contract for later delivery, locks in their costs. If a gold company has production costs of $800 an ounce and plans to produce 1000 ounces of gold, they would sell 10 futures contracts for delivery say 6 months out at $1300 an ounce. This guarantees that they will meet their payroll and keep the bookkeeper happy.
For every 100 futures trades, only 10 are real (a commodity actually changes ownership from one holder to another). All the rest of the transactions are speculation. A problem can arise in the futures market if the prices take off. All of the buyers of gold and silver futures might demand delivery---especially if the price increased dramatically.
The Hunt brothers tried this in the 1980’s and successfully cornered the silver market. They were buying it and taking possession. Needless to say prices took off. The Hunts had a legal corner on the market and it was about to ruin a majority of the Chicago Board of Trade (who were opposite the trade). So the CBOT changed the rules on the Hunt brothers and limited the number of contract that could be held, to 10 million oz and all contracts over that amount, had to be liquidated. Naturally that saved the ass of every scumbag CBOT trader and bankrupted the Hunt brothers.
With a little thought, it doesn’t take much Gray matter to figure out that one can run the futures market with only a small amount of real gold changing hands, and at the same time have several million ounces of contracts being traded daily.
Many people have their gold and silver stored in bullion banks. IMHO, I don’t think even one of those banks could payout on a modest 10% run on the bank. That’s why it takes up to 30 days for delivery when you request it. They have to go out and buy it on the open market.
The question we need to ask is “Have we built a gold and silver bubble, or is this perceived increase in price, a measure of how bad this quantitative easing has gotten?” The futures market could turn into a tar pit if everyone decided to take delivery of their gold and silver.
Bernanke has tinkered with reality. Maybe, its gold and silver’s turn to tinker with Ben’s QE2. Do you know where your gold and silver are? They might not be where you thought they were.
The $20 coin at the left, was in circulation 100 years ago and has kept its value quite well. The old money is no longer in circulation; it's worth quite a lot more than the 20 dollar bill it represents today, go figure.
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