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Stocks Appear Headed for Another Losing Week; Gold, Silver Remain in Buying Range as Protection

Friday, December 9, 2022, 7:14 am ET

As the first full week of the Christmas season draws to a close, the mood is less than cheery for equity investors. As of Thursday's finish, the Dow is down some 648 points (-1.88%), S&P is off by 108 points (-2.66%), NASDAQ is down 379 (-3.31%), and the NYSE Composite has shed 367 points (-2.33%) over the past four sessions.

Recent trading has been choppy and not committed, a condition that may very well maintain through next week, with Tuesday's Novemebr CPI reading and Wednesday's FOMC policy announcement the salient events. Prior to that, today's November PPI report will shed some light on the direction of the attendant CPI and possibly offer a reason for Wall Street punters to place directional bets.

Despite a year that will almost certainly go down as a nasty one, there is still plenty of dough seeking a suitable home in the hands of the largest banks, brokers, and funds. A soft PPI rendering may be enough to encourage some dip buying. There are more than a few tempting bottom-scraping issues out there. Shorts could find themselves wrong-footed in the face of an engineered squeeze, as was the case on the October CPI release (11/10) and Powell's speech at the Brookings Institute last week (11/29). Those of the bullish persuasion have been particularly adept at promoting their case on any news or data, lifting stocks off the lows from October to something of a plateau, the major averages finding support between their respective 50 and 200-day moving averages, with the S&P the prime example of living in a financial DMZ.

For what it's worth, November PPI is expected to drop to 7.20% according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts. October's reading came in at a robust eight percent, but a slowing of such magnitude should have spillover effects down the line to consumers and light up the buy signal to traders. Consumer and retail stocks could see a boost in Friday's session should PPI come in as soft as expected.

Looking further out, it appears that inflation may have peaked, but how long consumer inflation persists at levels over five percent is going to be a focus for the current fourth quarter and into the first half of 2023. Nobody expects inflation to suddenly vanish, but there are significant signs of easing, especially in the "non-core" areas of food and energy. The annual inflation rate in the US slowed for a fourth month to 7.75% in October of 2022, to its lowest since January.

Since June's peak at 9.07%, the annual inflation rate as measured by the CPI has declined, to 8.52% in July, 8.26% in August, and 8.20% in September. Figuring on a decline between 0.25 and 0.50% over the coming six months, a reading of 4.75% by April, 2023 would be most optimistic and suggest the Fed with more wiggle room to pause at the March or May meeting. That seems to be on Wall Street's wish list, goal-seeking a terminal federal funds target rate just below five percent.

Those with a realistic view of the economy may agree with such an assessment, but Chairman Powell and other FOMC members have expressed caution over pausing too soon, promoting the view that the Fed will hit the brakes hard, ending up closer to six percent than four by summer. A terminal rate at which the Fed would pause and eventually pivot back to cutting rates in the second half of 2023 appears to lay somewhere between 5.00 and 5.50%, likely enough to trigger a recession, with which the Fed would then have ample space for aggressive rate cuts.

With the inflation issue within reach of the Fed's policy, the outlook for stocks remains unbalanced. Transitioning from inflation to recession would entail plenty of sector rotation by professionals and a prime stock-picker's market. How well the general economy will perform over the near to mid-term remains a guessing game, given the unease and unpredictable nature of the political and global outlook. There are competing forces in both directions.

Having a somewhat positive outlook on the inflation front and a negative one over a potential recession in the coming year, caution may be advisable through the middle of next week, at least until the Fed's policy statement on Wednesday, November 14.

In the interim, gold and silver should be on the radar, both metals exuding strength via the recent downturn of the dollar versus other fiat currencies (the dollar index). Viewing gold and silver in the context of currencies as opposed to commodities brings a different perspective into play, that being an alternative to holding dollars, a trend that has gained traction since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

Instead of speculating for profit, the metals have a solid record as insurance of keeping profits, i.e., wealth protection, which comes at an opportune, transitional moment.

In the past month, gold has appreciated more than five percent, while silver is up nine. Gold has recently discovered support in the $1760-1780 range; silver's support area is just above $22/ounce. Seasonality has some effect here, as precious metals always seem to perform better in winter and spring, no matter the underlying economic conditions of the period.

WTI crude oil, its 35% decline (from above $110 to the current $72) since early June a strong headwind and most obvious indicator of an advancing recession, is flashing slack demand and should continue to trend lower into 2023, persisting in a funk through Spring, at least. Lower prices for gas at the pump works in both directions, giving consumers needed relief while also freeing up more disposable cash to spend on other things, like rent, food, utilities, and credit card bills, all of which have shown resistance to price slowdowns. In general, however, a reasonable range between $55 and $65 is likely the sweet spot for all parties.

This week may end up being one of the calmest of the year unless the PPI figure is out of expectation range this morning. Watching the markets glide aimlessly into the weekend may be more productive than attempting to engage with forced trades.

At the Close, Thursday, December 8, 2022:
Dow: 33,781.48, +183.56 (+0.55%)
NASDAQ: 11,082.00, +123.45 (+1.13%)
S&P 500: 3,963.51, +29.59 (+0.75%)
NYSE: 15,399.94, +88.15 (+0.58%)


Price of Oil is Very Important, and It's About to Go Even Lower as Recession is Planned after Holidays

Thursday, December 8, 2022, 8:58 am ET

From the SSDD Department:

What happens when a virus kills 6.6 million people, governments shut down entire populations for long periods, the world's most populous nation is virtually shut down for months on end, a country of 37 million is bombed into oblivion, hundreds of thousands of businesses are closed by regulation or taxation, working from home becomes normalized and cars get 40-50 miles to a gallon of gas?

In addition to all the societal and economic ill-effects, the price of oil goes down. That's why WTI oil is selling for around $73 per barrel, and also why the price of a gallon of gas in the US is approaching $3.00 (from the upside), and why the price hikes and inflation the past 18 months have been largely a result of a) the Federal Reserve increasing the money supply by 50% in 2020; b) stimulus checks, the CARES act, and other wasteful (see: graft, corruption) spending by the US congress and parliaments of nearly every other Western nation; and c) global food-producing companies like Coca-Cola (KO), PepsiCo (PEP), Yum Brands (YUM) and others raising prices by 15-20%, to say nothing of the cartel of energy companies nearly doubling the price of gas and other distillates when there was never a shortage of anything, anywhere.

There were no shortages, anywhere, at any time of anything. It was all engineered to produce inflation, which the Federal Reserve had been begging for over the past 10 years. Well, they got it, and with it, they have credit card use and credit card interest rates at the highest levels ever.

Credit Cards and Other Revolving Plans from All Commercial Banks reached a record $934 billion the week of November 23rd, along with the average interest rate on credit cards hitting 19.14%, the highest mark in the past 37 years, according to Bankrate, just in time for the holidays.

With the Fed looking to raise the Federal Funds rate another 1/2 percent next week, and with more rate hikes planned at least through the start of 2023, the interest rate on credit cards and other variable-rate loans is going to ramp even higher because they are tied to the federal funds rate, the prime rate or some other interest rate controlled by the Federal Reserve.

But, let's get back to the price of oil and gas at the pump, which has been in serial decline since June, when WTI crude reached a high of $122/barrel. A year ago, a barrel went for $72.36 on the NYMEX. This morning it's at $73.66, almost making a round-trip.

While NATO ramped up the conflict in Ukraine, China went on lockdown. Global shipping and commerce has fallen off a cliff. It became difficult to keep the price of oil at nose-bleed levels. Travel was down and the high price of fuel meant people went into a more conservative mode, reducing demand.

The price of oil fell and will continue to fall. Notably, the EU and other nations instituted the bogus "price cap" on Russian oil at $60/barrel when Russian Urals (their main oil product) is selling at just under $55/barrel. Similar to Brent and WTI, Urals peaked in March and again in June and has been falling in price ever since. Russia keeps pumping it out, relentlessly. There's a lot of it.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and her finance cohorts in the EU and UK will claim victory over Russia with their cap on crude, when, in reality, the price was already under their $60 target due to supply and demand.

Thanks to various measures taken by governments worldwide, there is now a global glut of oil on the market, not much difference from earlier this year, when there was never a shortage anywhere. But, because people have no control over the price of anything, it's more expensive.

Heating oil, a primary source in the US Northeast, peaked in June amid warnings about price increases and media encouragements to lock in home heating contracts early. Since then, it's come down from $3.84 a gallon in May to $2.80 at present.

Natural gas hit a 14-year high of $9.38//MMBtu in August, but has fallen to $5.86. Nobody is going to freeze (because there was never a shortage).

According to gasbuddy.com, the national average in the US for unleaded regular 87 was about $3.25 a year ago. The national average today is $3.30, close enough for horseshoes, as the saying goes.

None of this, mind you, is by accident. Oil companies got richer. Politicians got richer. Big corporations got richer. You got screwed. That's how it works in 21st century America, and it's even worse in Europe, Japan, Canada, England, and Australia. Almost everything you need - and many of the things you want - got more expensive and are likely to stay more expensive until the recession that's planned for 2023 commences.

Food prices are coming down. Gas and other forms of energy are already lower and will go lower still because the corporations and the government want you to buy other things. Your pay hasn't gone up very much, though. When the economy is revealed to be tanking, stocks will fall further, layoffs will occur, causing a temporary bounce in stock prices (nothing does more to hike up stock prices like getting rid of employees), but through the second half of 2023, everything is likely to be even worse.

Job losses and layoffs will dominate the headlines. Stocks, which were overpriced to begin with, will continue to slide. There's a long way to go on the downside for the major indices.

You got played. Again.

Edit: Well, talk about killing a narrative. Somebody punched a hole in the Keystone pipeline, and oil spiked $3 a barrel on the news. The folly never ends in clown world.

You don't have to play along. A few simple methods to control your lifestyle can make a world of difference. Here's the short list:

  • Grow at least some of your food at home.
  • Don't eat out often (the food is overpriced and mostly bad).
  • Organize trips to optimize gas use.
  • Buy silver and gold as insurance against any and all government plans to impoverish you.
  • Get out of the stock market and the government-sponsored "savings" plans.
  • Switch your bank account from national banks to local ones, especially credit unions.
  • Stop watching and listening to mainstream media (mostly lies or BS).
  • Never pay sticker price for large purchases.
  • Barter with neighbors, local merchants and service providers as much as possible.
  • Pay in cash. Ask for discounts.
  • Stay as far away as possible from any and all government agencies. They are not there to help you.
  • Remember the Three R's: Reuse, Repair, Recycle.
  • Those are just suggestions. Surely, you have a few of your own.

    Thanks for playing.

    As far as stocks were concerned Wednesday, it was just noise and churn after two big down days. Similar action is expected for the rest of the week. There will be more volatility next week on the release of November CPI (Tuesday) and the Fed's FOMC policy announcement, Wednesday.

    Looking ahead today, Thursday, stock futures have been ramping higher all morning, but European stocks are flat to slightly lower. The only economic data of any importance was initial and continuing unemployment claims, and they were somewhat consequential. Initial claims rose to 230,000 and continuing jobless claims reached 1.67 million, the most since February.

    That data was interpreted as positive (bad news is good news), as the Fed's quest against inflation includes job losses. In Wall Street thinking, job losses equate to lower inflation and a slowing of the Fed's rate-raising policies.

    Win-Win-Lose (Fed-Stocks-People)

    At the Close, Wednesday, December 7, 2022:
    Dow: 33,597.92, +1.58 (+0.00%)
    NASDAQ: 10,958.55, -56.34 (-0.51%)
    S&P 500: 3,933.92, -7.34 (-0.19%)
    NYSE: 15,311.79, -16.65 (-0.11%)


    Living in a Derivative World with Money Substitutes as Currency and Almost No Good Way Out Because of TINA

    Wednesday, December 7, 2022, 9:30 am ET

    There's quite a lot that we don't know about when it comes to money and finance. Even as ordinary people go about their daily business, people in the know, at the Federal Reserve and even the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) are trying to figure out exactly what's going on in the crazy world of foreign exchange (FX), as this recent article, first published by Bloomerg, entitled, "Huge, Missing and Growing:" $65 Trillion in Dollar Debt Sparks Concern tries to explain.

    Researchers at the BIS are concerned about $65 trillion of dollar debt being held by non-US institutions via currency derivatives. Known primarily as "swaps", the off-balance-sheet transactions are a regular part of doing business internationally and have become a huge headache for people - like at the BIS or in the accounting department of major financial institutions - who desire transparency and rational accounting.

    Most people have never seen a bank's balance sheet, income statement, or an auditor's report of the same, and with good reason: they're far beyond the understanding of the average person and even professional accountants have trouble wading through the pages of numbers, transposed and hypothecated from spreadsheets and interspersed with hyphens, asterisks, and other notations that mostly turn them into oblique black holes.

    When accounting professionals get to the point at which they throw up their hands, as the article suggests, there's a problem, and, more often than not, it's tied to derivatives of some kind. It was derivatives that blew up the financial system in 2008, specifically, the multiple tranches of mortgages piled upon each other in mortgage-backed securities (MBS), credit default swaps (CDS), collateralized debt obligation (CDO), and synthetic CDOs that caused the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Bothers, the demise of Countrywide, AIG, IndyMac, a host of bankruptcies and other financial calamities too numerous to mention.

    A moment to review how this came about, from the film, "The Big Short", is worthwhile:

    All said and (almost) done, the $700 billion TARP bailout engineered by Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson was only the beginning. In the end, the Federal Reserve (two years later) was finally held to account for spreading around more than $21 trillion in loans, grants, gifts, and guarantees to financial institutions around the world, all of it conjured up out of thin air. The planet has been living on borrowed time on "money" which isn't even that, it's a money substitute, or currency, at best.

    It's all fake. We play along because of a gal named TINA (There Is No Alternative). The only real money in the world exists in bars, coins and objects made of gold and silver, and those are not readily employed in the conduction of commerce. For that, everybody should be thankful, because, without gold and silver, there would be scraps of worthless paper, everywhere. For those not paying close enough attention, many of those scraps of paper - t-bills, notes, bonds, and stock certificates - have been rapidly losing value for the past 12 months.

    Everything becomes a lot more visible when a crisis presents itself, and this kind of alarming admission by the BIS indicates that the world is on the cusp of another major crisis, one which will likely dwarf the pain and suffering from the dot-com blowout and the sub-prime crisis combined. This one is going to be about everything, everywhere, but mostly, it's going to be about currencies like the euro, yen, pound, and yes, even the almighty US dollar.

    Households, industry, finance, and governments have built up a mountain of debt more than three times the size of global GDP, all denominated in these wholly unbacked, fiat currencies. On top of that are derivatives of all flavors, measured in quadrillions of dollars. The $65 trillion in off-balance-sheet transactional derivatives is just the tip of the financial iceberg. Below it are trillions and trillions more, just waiting for a counter-party to balk, a nation to default on its obligations, an entire sector (looking at tech companies) to implode and force companies into bankruptcy.

    We're all living in this make-believe fantasy derivative world and time is running out. When the collapse of all fiat currency occurs, there will still be forests, deserts, oceans, gardens, streams, deer, fish, goods, services, gold and silver, and everything will be revalued.

    Hard assets survive. Promises of wealth die. Derivatives, described by Warren Buffet as "weapons of financial mass destruction", are a cancer, slowly devouring healthy and ailing cells in the body of the global economy.

    How the Fed and other financial authorities handle their affairs and those of the world devolves naturally into a Triffin dilemma, the conflict of economic interests that arises when a nation's currency also serves as the international reserve currency.

    The world is awash in US dollars, the reserve currency, but even that is being debased, its purchasing power devalued by inflation. The Fed has to fight inflation at home, thus, raising interest rates. Dollars, needed as reserves by other central banks, and by industries and people worldwide, become more expensive, weakening the native currency. This is why, when the Fed eventually does "pivot", deciding that saving the financial system is more important than saving the economy, the final debasing of the global reserve currency begins, but not before other fiat currencies have been wrecked.

    In the meantime, we play along, as said earlier, because of TINA. Saving in gold or silver is insurance for coming out the other side of the eventual disaster, which may take as long as three, four, or even seven more years, though it appears that economic forces are accelerating towards a climax.

    Stocks took another beating on Tuesday, the seventh down day for the major indices in the last eight. The mood is very edgy, and for good reasons, trillions of them.

    At the Close, Tuesday, December 6, 2022:
    Dow: 33,596.34, -350.76 (-1.03%)
    NASDAQ: 11,014.89, -225.05 (-2.00%)
    S&P 500: 3,941.26, -57.58 (-1.44%)
    NYSE: 15,328.44, -146.35 (-0.95%)


    Michael Wilson Changes View Just in Time to be Right; End Game Approaching Rapidly

    Tuesday, December 6, 2022, 8:22 am ET

    Conveniently, Morgan Stanley's Michael Wilson, the world's best market predictor this year, changed his tune from bull to bear on Monday, just in time for a pullback, which anybody with a rudiemtary understanding of markets and mathematics could have seen coming from a mile away.

    Late last week, Wilson was busy explaining how the bear market rally would extend well into December but investors should buy bonds instead. Yes, he really did say that.

    Wilson gets paid mega-bucks for his recommendations. He is lauded today as the Oracle of Delphi would have been back in the days of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato. He cannot be wrong.

    There's no reason not to believe Wilson is correct in his market assumptions and prediction for a December decline. Almost every metric available suggests that the general US and global economy is quite fragile and not poised for expansion approaching the tail end of one of the worst years for stocks, ever.

    Across the globe, stocks have been propped up by forces such as the PPT, NY Fed trading desk, ECB insider traders, the Bank of Japan, bank of England, and other powerful forces not ready to admit stocks are overpriced and overdue for a fall. Their efforts have forestalled the eventual collapse of the stock markets and demise of the bond and treasury market, a much bigger deal than a stock market crash.

    This Morningstar article from September details how badly bond funds have been harmed in 2022. At the bottom of their handy list sits long government bonds (treasuries), down 26.28% near the end of September. While they may have improved somewhat from that level recently, the reason is that the Federal Reserve was snatching up as many long bonds as possible, keeping the interest rate from ballooning out of control, like British gilts nearly did back in September.

    Saving Britain from a nasty bout of fund defaults took a lot of effort from a lot of places. The US Fed was on hand to help out. A similar bond rout is baked into the global cake. As the world gradually decouples from US debt, the Fed is going to have to buy even more bonds, in a fashion similar to how the Bank of Japan operates. On the island nation, there is virtually no bond market. As of June, the central bank owned more than half of long term government bonds. The same thing will happen in the US before long.

    The point is that people like Michael Wilson aren't exactly on a level with Nostradamus when it comes to making predictions. Nearly everybody can see what's coming as the Fed continues to raise interest rates, believing their efforts will slow the rise of inflation. To a degree, Chairman Powell and his cohorts are right, but the same interest rate hikes that slow down borrowing and thus, the economy, will likely lead to a severe recession in 2023.

    Just as the Fed overdid it with QE, ZIRP, and expansion of the money supply in 2020, they will overdo the interest rate increases. Back in the summer, the consensus on the so-called "terminal rate" (the high point for the federal funds rate) was around 4.50-4.75%. In October, consensus had moved up to 5.00%, and now it's widely-held that it will be over 5.00%. By the time the Fed gets around to to the January 31 - February 1 FOMC meeting, six percent will be tossed around. Then seven, etc. The economy goes into an abyss, bonds get fried, and the value of the currency continues its long march to where all fiats go, zero.

    Interest on the federal government debt - at $31.4 trillion and rising - will be close to a trillion dollars in fiscal 2023 as bills, notes, and bonds expire and are rolled over at higher rates. This is the stuff of end game nature.

    In closing, here's a prediction with a 100% accuracy rate: all currencies not backed by anything other than gold and/pr silver, eventually fail, their value reduced to intrinsic worth, the cost of printing pictures of presidents and digits on paper or sending electrons over the internet.

    The end is near, but the sinners will not repent, nor will they relent. The Fed will keep raising interest rates and the politicians will continue spending beyond their means in a zero-sum game.

    At the Close, Monday, December 5, 2022:
    Dow: 33,947.10, -482.78 (-1.40%)
    NASDAQ: 11,239.94, -221.56 (-1.93%)
    S&P 500: 3,998.84, -72.86 (-1.79%)
    NYSE: 15,474.79, -292.22 (-1.85%)


    WEEKEND WRAP: Stocks Rally, Gold, Silver Steal Show; OPEC+ Keeps Production Level as G7, Australia Try Price Cap on Russia Oil

    Sunday, December 4, 2022, 10:04 am ET

    Other than Wednesday's explosion to the upside on Fed Chairman Powell's remarks at the Brookings Institute, the week was more subdued than most of recent vintage. There were no threats of nuclear war, to significant terrorism events, and only a few economic reports of significance, though Chicago PMI was much worse than expected, showing contraction across the spectrum. Friday's non-farm payroll reading of 263,000 was a mild upside surprise, which kept the lid on stocks to some degree.

    Stocks

    An impressive run, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose for the seventh time in the last nine weeks, though the latest uptick displayed how overbought the index may be, with a gain of only 0.24%, hardly a ringing endorsement for further positive returns. Up 2.09%, the NASDAQ outperformed its peers and was ahead on a weekly basis for the fifth time in the past seven, along with the S&P 500 and NYSE Composite.

    Stocks began rallying at the start of October. Now two months into the current run, they have exceeded all expectations and are overdue for a significant pullback. Disagreement with the current trend has resulted in massive losses for shorts, though it's readily apparent that based upon earnings, stocks are still overvalued on the whole. The current Shiller CAPE Ratio stands at 29.79, a level just below that of Black Tuesday, the October 29, 1929 date which is often referred to as the start of the Great Depression.

    The coming week is somewhat data-light. Earnings reports in the week ahead include AutoZone (AZO) on Tuesday, Gamestop (GME) Wednesday, and Costco (COST) and Lululemon (LULU) on Thursday.

    Treasury Yield Curve Rates

    Date 1 Mo 2 Mo 3 Mo 4 Mo 6 Mo 1 Yr
    11/04/2022 3.73 4.00 4.21 4.36 4.55 4.76
    11/11/2022 3.71 4.00 4.28 4.36 4.52 4.59
    11/18/2022 3.93 4.23 4.34 4.46 4.61 4.74
    11/25/2022 4.16 4.33 4.41 4.52 4.67 4.76
    12/02/2022 3.91 4.25 4.34 4.52 4.65 4.69

    Date 2 Yr 3 Yr 5 Yr 7 Yr 10 Yr 20 Yr 30 Yr
    11/04/2022 4.66 4.58 4.33 4.26 4.17 4.49 4.27
    11/11/2022 4.34 4.17 3.95 3.89 3.82 4.24 4.03
    11/18/2022 4.51 4.28 3.99 3.92 3.82 4.13 3.92
    11/25/2022 4.42 4.20 3.85 3.78 3.68 3.97 3.74
    12/02/2022 4.28 3.99 3.67 3.61 3.51 3.79 3.56

    For comparison purposes, the last time the 10-year note was this low (3.51%) was September 21. 1-month bills were 2.59% and 30-year bonds were 3.50%. While the long end has complied with the buying spree, pushing the 30-year bond to 3.56 at present, the 1-month stands at 3.91%, and 60-day and 90-day bills are significantly higher, at 4.25 and 4.34, up from 3.06 and 3.31, respectively. Buyers are demanding much higher return rates today, in the face of rampant inflation. They can hardly be blamed for their reluctance to lose money on short-term funding.

    With the curve fully inverted to the tune of 35 basis points from 1-month out to 30 years, an internal inversion of some 41 basis points occurs at six-month/one-year. Extending out to the 10-year, the highest-to-lowest inversion is a whopping 118 basis points (1.18%). The buying is focused on five, seven, and 10-year notes, which saw respective drawdowns of 18, 17, and 17 basis points over the course of the week.

    What is troubling about the nature of the curve at this juncture is the longer run effect of higher rates for longer (as Powell pointed out in Wednesday's address at the Brookings Institute) on government funding, most of which is in shorter-dated maturities (four months through 7 years) and will be rolled over at higher rates. The resultant excess interest owed will likely be a mammoth burden in fiscal 2023 and 2024. Estimates of nearly $1 trillion in interest expense alone will produce a deficit that will be difficult for even the most underhanded member of congress to conceal.

    Of course, larger deficits lead to more inflation pressures, the exact opposite of what the Fed is trying to achieve. It's going to be a rough couple of years for Capitol Hill regulars.

    Oil/Gas

    With WTI advancing from $76.55 to $80.34 this week, a bottom may be in place, as the OPEC+ meeting Sunday resulted in no changes to production quotas. On Friday, G7 nations and Australia agreed a $60 per barrel price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil, though it is still unclear how such a scheme will be enforced.

    The price of oil remaining near recent lows, gas at the pump continued to drop, to $3.38, close to the lowest of the year.

    This week's reading from gasbuddy.com is 17 cents lower than last week's $3.55. California still leads the nation, at an average of $4.69, down a whopping 30 cents from last week. Texas and Oklahoma are states with the cheapest fuel, remaining below $3.00, at $2.72 and $2.80, respectively, both down significantly from just last week. Joining them in the sub-$3.00 club are Mississippi ($2.91), Louisiana ($2.90), Georgia ($2.93), Arkansas ($2.89), Missouri ($2.97), Kansas ($2.98), and Tennessee ($2.96).

    Prices remain elevated from Illinois eastward into the Northeast, with Pennsylvania this highest ($3.87). Western states Nevada, Washington, and Oregon join California above $4.00/gallon.

    Crypto

    Bitcoin is currently valued at $16,953.40, up solidly from last Sunday's $16,530.00. The higher price in bitcoin was attributed to Brazil laying out a regulatory framework for trading and use of cryptocurrencies in the country of 216 million. A step in the right direction for bitcoin and other cyrptos, Brazil's acceptance does not make any crypto - including bitcoin - legal tender, but does open up more much-needed positive possibilities, the entire space overrun by scandal of late.

    The sudden jerk forward might portend a move higher, though any such effort would need to see a retest of the recent sub-$16,000 lows and that hasn't yet appeared. Still extremely speculative, bitcoin is best avoided and all other cryptos relegated to purely gambling status.


    Precious Metals

    Gold/Silver Ratio: 77.57

    Gold price 11/04: $1,685.70
    Gold price 11/11: $1,774.20
    Gold price 11/18: $1,752.00
    Gold price 11/25: $1,768.10
    Gold price 12/02: $1,811.40

    Silver price 11/04: $20.92
    Silver price 11/11: $21.80
    Silver price 11/18: $20.97
    Silver price 11/25: $21.67
    Silver price 12/02: $23.35

    Both gold and silver made significant price headway through the week, the gains nicely spread out over the five day span, though Wednesday's outburst clearly the highlight of the trading. Silver's 7.75% spike outperformed gold's solid gain of 2.45%. With the gold:silver ratio still at what is considered an historical extreme, silver appears to be doing what it should, playing catch-up in a big way.

    Should silver return to even 1/30th of the price of gold, it's easy to see how it could be the play of the decade through 2024 and beyond. Prices for precious metals have every right to appreciate wildly against fiat currencies. We are reminded that gold and silver being stable money, it's not so much that they are appreciating but rather that other currencies are being constantly and rapidly debased.

    When the dollar reserve currency finally does nosedive, the glimmer from precious metals will be blindingly obvious to all but the final holdouts of the fiat regime. Eventually, everybody and everything will be swept up by the epochal directive of precious metals, the base of all wealth.

    Not that the metals will go straight up, nor the fiats straight down, but the direction is clearly delineated by recent outpourings of buying and shortages in silver supply, especially, this week's dramatic move taking out a tactical short by TD Ameritrade. It's likely similar action will befall other shorts in the game as the rally progresses.

    Here are the most recent prices for common one ounce gold and silver items sold on eBay (numismatics excluded, free shipping included):

    Item/Price Low High Average Median
    1 oz silver coin: 35.00 49.99 42.48 42.76
    1 oz silver bar: 31.30 49.00 36.82 34.40
    1 oz gold coin: 1,900.66 2,101.73 1,973.75 1,955.81
    1 oz gold bar: 1,880.23 1,967.23 1,900.53 1,895.04

    Silver coins were flying out to dealer hands to collectors and stackers this week, in particular American Silver Eagles, many with premiums approaching 80% or more over spot. Bargains were found in silver bars, though even they, at the low end ($31.30), were roughly $8 over spot, representing a premium of around 30%. The bulk of silver bars had higher premiums, in the 40-50% range and the highest-valued silver coins and bars held premiums in excess of 100%.

    Gold premia was consistent, with coins holding a $60-70 premium over bars. Overall, gold premiums were more reasonable than those of silver, owing to their higher price point. With spot gold reaching beyond $1800 this week, premiums were reasonable, in the 5-9% range.

    Disparaging of fiat currencies in favor of real money - gold and silver - is becoming more and more obvious the deeper central banks and their cohorts inflate, debasing their currencies. More and more people are shifting at least a portion of their allocations into precious metals and away from assets denominated in dollars, euros, pounds, francs, and yen.

    Price suppression on the COMEX and via the LBMA is approaching a breaking point as Western-based fiat currencies fade, the threat of a BRICS+ competing reserve currency comes closer to reality, and central bank gold purchases reach new heights. Considering the level of disdain central banks have towards precious metals in general, and silver in particular, their ramped-up buying suggests a return to some form of asset-backed currency is only a small number of years, if not months, in the future.

    There's a real possibility of a fractured system, with multiple reserve currencies and separate types: CBDCs for the unsuspecting masses and some form of digital gold or asset-based currency for international trade. As gold and silver continue to accelerate toward what should be new record levels over the next 12-36 months, it is going to become of paramount importance to have a substantial allocation to gold and silver, something on the order of 15-50% depending on one's age and risk preference. Retirees would be at the top of that order, as fixed income doesn't exactly work well enough during inflationary times and stores of value would have some preference over income-producing assets, right along with growth allocations.

    When all bubbles burst - and it may take some time to fully deflate both fixed and variable securities markets - is the time to be holding a healthy stash all that shines and that time is not far away.

    The Single Ounce Silver Market Price Benchmark (SOSMPB) was again higher this week, increasing to $39.12, a gain of 67 cents from the November 27 level of $38.45.

    WEEKEND WRAP

    It's the holiday season. Buy some presents, drink some eggnog, watch some football and try to enjoy life a little.

    At the Close, Friday, December 2, 2022:
    Dow: 34,429.88, +34.87 (+0.10%)
    NASDAQ: 11,461.50, -20.95 (-0.18%)
    S&P 500: 4,071.70, -4.87 (-0.12%)
    NYSE: 15,767.02, +5.89 (+0.04%)

    For the Week:
    Dow: +82.85 (+0.24%)
    NASDAQ: +235.14 (+2.09%)
    S&P 500: +45.58 (+1.13%)
    NYSE: +161.34 (+1.03%)


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