In This Week's Issue
• Weekly Snapshot
• Weekly Barometers
• Bang! Bang! Maxwell's Silver Hammer
• Brief Technical Perspective On Silver
• Recommended Video: Lines In The Sand
• U.S. economy adds 244,000 jobs, unemployment rate ticks up to 9% in April (AP)
• Broad selloff in commodities drives bearish moves in oil and silver ETFs (WSJ)
• The Bank of England held interest rates at a record low of 0.5% (Reuters)
• ECB left its key refinancing rate at 1.25%, in line with expectations (WSJ)
• Mexico's central bank bought 93.3 tons of gold worth $4.3 billion (Economist)
• Portugal has reached a deal with the EU and IMF for a €78B 3-year bailout (WSJ)
• U.S. becomes net exporter of fuel for the first time in nearly 20 years (FT)
• India raises key lending rate by 50bps to 7.25% to rein in inflation (FT)
• CME announced an 84% increase in silver margin requirements since April 25 (Bloomberg)
• Silver had its biggest one-day drop in three decades on Tuesday (AP)
• Investors reduced some of their exposure to equities move back into cash in April (Reuters)
• U.S. factory orders rise a better-than-expected 3% as business spending picks up (FT)
• Consumer price inflation in developed economies hit 2.7% in March (OECD)
• U.S. forces have killed Osama bin Laden; markets moved only for a few hours (FT)
Bang! Bang! Maxwell's Silver Hammer
The famous Beatles song came to mind as I reflected on this week's market movements. It was all about commodities in another episode of trader’s nausea but this time, led by some 30% price declines in silver. What lead to the massive selloff will be the topic of endless panel discussions in the days and weeks to come. Take any one of the possible events below and you could have a good enough reason to produce significant price movements. The combination of these events however, not necessarily in this order and magnitude of impact, was a perfect recipe for broader turmoil in the commodities markets.
• Bottoming of US Dollar?
• Bin Laden killed by U.S. forces?
• End of Quantitative Easing 2.0 in June?
• George Soros and other hedge funds exiting silver?
• Much higher margin requirements for silver futures?
• Technical factors, profit taking after parabolic price rises?
• IPO of Glencore, the largest commodity trader - top of the market?
There may be several other factors you can include in this list. For me, it was a much more benign event that led me to pull the trigger on silver the week before. As I opened the Financial Times to start my daily morning briefing, a big glossy brochure popped out advertising silver as “the most indispensable and miraculous metal on Earth.” This was yet another one of those gold/silver “experts” who’s ads have been mushrooming in the media. The brochure featured a shiny embossed replica of a One-Ounce U.S. Silver Eagle along with a quote by an unnamed “leading silver analyst” who called silver: “The best financial asset you can own.”
Granted, your typical FT reader is usually not of the widow and orphan kind, but still...
What timing to tout investors towards a none-the-less speculative investment only to see that investment lose 30% of its value in a week. How much worse it must feel if an average investor, scared by these ads into buying precious metals, losing almost one third of the investment in 5 days. While we cannot deny the fact that the US Dollar has lost much of its luster, we must question the inherent (investment) value of precious metals as well. In particular, one should be wary of parabolic price increases as we discussed last week. To get a different perspective on silver and to appreciate why some exchanges dramatically increased margin requirements in recent weeks, please consider the chart below showing the recent history of actual dollar values of gold and silver futures contracts. For some of the big names in the trading community, the recent rise was too much, too fast, and so they pulled out. Very curious to find out if more investors will take the foot off the pedal next week…
A Brief Technical Perspective On Silver
Silver was the all the rave it seemed until last week. Technicians however, must have been somewhat concerned about the dramatic price changes which seemed to occur rather fast even for traders of volatility-laden commodities. In a span of just a few days, silver fell through several technical support levels. On Thursday, it pierced through the closely watched 61.8% Fibonacci retracement area indicating a trend reversal rather than just a pause in the underlying short-term trend.
To get a better sense of the medium-term trend, please consider the weekly chart below. The sudden rise and fall of silver is more obvious now in the context of the underlying trend channel. Still bad news if you bought silver anywhere above $40 as it appears more likely that silver will return to the trend channel, possibly reaching an area closer to the $30 range. Still, the silver bulls may take some comfort from the fact that the major underlying trend remains intact. This breakout may have just been a brief exaggeration in an otherwise upward trending major bull run. Stay tuned to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Recommended Video: Lines In The Sand
Please consider some interesting perspectives from Barry Ritholtz. Given what we saw in commodities markets this week, you may wish to review his “lines in the sand” on an S&P 500 chart. Enjoy!
Good luck and good investing!
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