If Tom from Metal Augmentor
keeps on putting out great stuff like this post on negative lease rates
, then I’ll be out of a (blogging) job.
It is heavy going but a comprehensive discussion of the issue with a dramatic speculation that “The selective collateral nature of the tri-party format may force bullion banks to eventually declare their unallocated LBMA gold accounts as backed by 100% physical bullion.” Other key points if you don’t have the time to read the 8500 word article:
“leasing is probably done directly by the bullion banks on behalf of commercial banks for a fee. Instead of pledging the assets acquired with the sale proceeds of gold leased pursuant to a carry trade, the borrower of gold now pledges existing collateral that it could not otherwise sell without incurring a loss. The central bank accommodates the gold leasing by accepting a wide range of collateral that would be otherwise prohibited in conventional funding schemes”
“An outright sale of gold could always be hedged by acquiring a gold forward contract. Therefore, even if gold leasing has not experienced a recent resurgence, the increase in the gold forward rate indicates that owners selling gold to generate liquidity still want their gold back once the funding need has abated. The combination of a falling gold price and rising forward rate is quite a bullish feature of the gold market that is lost in the reporting on negative gold lease rates.”
“the persistence of negative lease rates could be accompanied by the emergence of something entirely new: The result could be negative gold “lease rates” as gold price expectations may create an entirely new phenomenon: cash borrowed to buy gold for future delivery (what I call “gold bonds”). In effect, this is the equivalent of gold owners forward selling their gold at higher and higher prices, and receiving cash up front to be used for current liquidity needs. The above scenario may appear a lot like the current futures market because it involves leverage but the difference is that “gold bond” transactions are 100% backed by metal.”
A few of comments:
Tom: “From the perspective of the borrower (typically a bullion bank or its customer, a hedge fund), gold was historically leased as a way to fund a gold carry trade under which excess returns could be earned by using the sales proceeds from leased gold to purchase highly-rated securities meeting the central bank’s collateral requirements.”
Bron: This is by far the major use of leased gold, but gold can also be leased by users/manufacturers of gold products to provide physical funding of their work in progress inventories, which does not involve any sale of the leased gold.
Tom: “As just mentioned, the gold (or silver) lease rate does not represent the actual rate at which lease transactions are being done in the market. The published lease rate is simply an indicated value derived from two related variables, the gold forward rate and LIBOR.”
Bron: In support I would say that the Perth Mint has always paid positive lease rates when borrowing gold, although it does so for inventory funding rather than carry trade etc reasons. Note Perth Mint borrows without posting ANY collateral because of the West Australian Government’s AAA rating.
Tom: “a customer may execute a gold swap with a bullion bank pursuant to which the customer’s physical gold is initially stored in an unallocated account and used as the collateral for dollars loaned to the customer. The bullion bank then sells the gold from the unallocated account to replenish its funds and concurrently enters into a gold forward contract with a gold refinery. The forward contract is then used to back the gold liability to the customer.”
Bron: My emphasis on “physical” in that. This sequence of transactions is what fractional bullion banking is. In this case the customer’s metal is “lent” to the refiner.
Tom: “sane market participants will naturally demand that gold as a financial instrument retain its utility as the ultimate collateral for non-recourse funding. Under these circumstances, the appearance of 100% physical backed LBMA unallocated bullion accounts seems like a very good possibility”
Bron: I note that some years ago balances in LBMA unallocated accounts attracted no fee, whereas now there is a very small account fee as % of value. Indication perhaps that bullion banks have had to increase the percentage of physical backing unallocated (and thus need to recover that cost) due to an increase in physical redemption/turnover on those accounts.
The tax plan proposed by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich would add $1.3 trillion to the U.S. budget deficit in 2015 alone, a new analysis shows, complicating his goal of balancing the government’s books. [That’s an understatement, to say the least. –ed.]
The analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center compares the federal government’s take under Gingrich’s proposal with projected U.S. revenue if current tax law ran its course and existing income tax cuts expired as scheduled after 2012.
Here’s the thing: Federal expenditures are always paid for by productive people. Always.
The options for funding are direct taxation, inflation, and debt. The taxing effects of direct taxation are obvious and well-known. The taxing effects of inflation, however, are a little more pernicious because they aren’t felt right away. In fact, some even find inflation to work as a subsidy. However, inflation causes the nominal price of goods to rise, generally before most people see their income rise at a corresponding rate, and the difference between increased prices and increased income is effectively a tax. And then debt is simply taxation deferred, wherein bonds are sold under the implicit promise that the government will pay them later, generally by direct taxation.
The key to actually reducing taxes, then, is to first reduce real spending, elsewise taxes will never truly go down. At best, they will simply be time-shifted. Thus, Gingrich’s tax proposal is nothing more than a farce because tax cuts are not accompanied by spending cuts. And, until taxes and spending are cut in tandem, Gingrich should be viewed only as a slimy charlatan, and nothing more.
In recent months, we’ve had a few slip-ups by the official statistical system in India:
- Yesterday’s IIP release was preceded by a mistake. Mint says: On Monday, the government was guilty of a similar error in its factory output data. Till it corrected the number pertaining to capital goods output, analysts were left scrambling for explanations as to how this had grown 25.5% while overall factory growth had shrunk 5.1%. (The answer: it hadn’t, and had actually shrunk by 25.5%).
- On 9 December, we discovered there were important mistakes in the exports data.
- In December 2010, RBI modified the numbers that it releases about its trading on the currency market.
- In September 2010, there was a mistake in the quarterly GDP data released by CSO.
These examples are part of a larger theme, of problems of the official statistical system. The Indian statistical system is afflicted by three levels of problems:
- The first level is conceptual problems and analytical errors. As an example, the weights of the WPI basket are wrong; the estimation methods used in the IIP are likely to be wrong, etc. Quarterly GDP measurement does not have a demand side (which requires a quarterly household survey, which the government does not know how to do).
- The second level is the lack of rugged IT systems. The production of statistics requires high quality enterprise IT systems. The government does not have the ability or incentive to roll these out. As an example, the September 2010 mistake in quarterly GDP data seems to have come about because quarterly GDP data is produced in a spreadsheet. As with all usage of spreadsheets, this is highly error prone.
- The third level is the problems of truant front-line staff. In a country which is not able to get civil servants to show up at school to teach, it is not surprising that front-line staff of statistical agencies are untrustworthy in going out into the field and filling out survey forms.
The mistakes that we’re seeing are merely a reflection of #2 (the lack of rugged enterprise IT systems). But there is much more going on which holds back the usefulness of official statistics.
Government officials in this field have pinned a lot of hope on the implementation of the report of the statistical commission (headed by C. Rangarajan, 2001
). I am personally not optimistic about this. The report seems to emphasise an incremental agenda of building the statistical system, emphasising the interests of the incumbents. What is required is a ground-up rethink about the statistical system, from first principles, so as to address the three difficulties above.
Turning to the users of official statistics, most economists attach enormous prestige to phrases like GDP, IIP, CPI, etc. But in India, we cannot unthinkingly use some numbers just because they come with the label `GDP’ from some government agency. We have to always skeptically ask first principles questions about how the data is generated. All too often, the standard Indian government data is useless.
In the class of government data that I know of, I feel the CPI is reasonably okay
. The WPI is a fairly useful database about prices but useless as a price index. The quarterly GDP data, IIP, NSSO, ASI are untrustworthy.
Decision makers in government and in the private sector need to struggle with these issues, carefully thinking about what statistics are allowed to influence their decision processes. Academic users of data need to be much more careful about avoiding garbage-in-garbage-out problems.
The Mortgage Bankers’ Association purchase index will be released at 7:00 AM Eastern time, providing an update on the quantity of new mortgages and refinancings closed in the last week.
At 8:30 AM Eastern time, the Import and Export Prices index for November will be released, providing some data that can be used to monitor the threat of inflation.
At 10:30 AM Eastern time, the weekly Energy Information Administration Petroleum Status Report will be released, giving investors an update on oil inventories in the United States.