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Money Daily has been providing business and financial market news, views, and coverage on a nearly continuous basis since 2006. Complete archives are available at moneydaily.blogspot.com.

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Stocks On Track for Huge Weekly Gains Thanks to Fed's FOMC and Dots; Silver Suppression Continues; Oil, Gas Higher

Friday, March 22, 2024, 9:06 am ET

Now that it appears that the mystics over at the Federal Reserve, with their tea leaves, tarot cards and dot-plots plan to grant Wall Street three wishes, all in the form of 25 basis point cuts to the federal funds target rate (before November), equity enthusiasts embraced the narrative by buying just about anything that had a three or four-letter acronym attached to it.

Gold, Silver, Bitcoin, Oil and a host of other commodities also rallied, though they all failed to follow through to the extent stocks did, especially silver, which has been mercilessly beaten down from close to $26/ounce to as low as $24.59 per the COMEX continuous contract. There's just something about $26/ounce that silver traders absolutely abhor or fear. It's probably the latter, because silver in excess of $26/ounce might cause all cell phones and EVs a price increase of 0.05%, and we just can't have that.

Central banks clearly don’t like silver. They hold none, as opposed to gold, of which they cannot get enough. That’s because silver can and has been employed as currency by the “little people” for thousands of years. If there’s any economic freedom to be found on this planet, it is likely to be found by holding silver.

What's more likely is that silver is being smashed down repeatedly by Chinese intervention, just as the Western alliance of the U.S., UK, and Europe tries to keep gold under wraps. Like everything else, the Western hegemonies have failed to keep gold down sufficiently. The price for an ounce of the kingly metal surpassed $2,200 on the COMEX, peaking out at around $2,231 Thursday.

Stocks, however, continue to set all-time marks on the major indices and are on track for a big positive weekly gain. Through Thursday's close, the Dow is up 1,066 points, the NASDAQ is ahead by 428 (2.68%), and the S&P 500 set another record, up nearly 17 points Thursday and higher by 124 (2.43%) for the week.

Friday's trading may look pretty tame compared to the prior four days, all winners, as traders might be tempted to pull some profits now that stocks are stretched to obscene levels, despite the allure of Dow 40,000. The hats have apparently been printed up and probably will be passed around sometime next week.

Bitcoin seems a bit moribund trading around $64,500, well off its high over $73,000 just a week ago. The grand-daddy of crypto gt a boost on FOMC day (Wednesday), but outflows from the various spot ETFs have been massive the past few days.

Treasuries haven't done much in response to the Fed's seemingly dovish stance. The biggest move was in the two-year note, which saw yield fall from 4.68 to 4.59% on Wednesday, but it moved back up to 4.61% on Thursday.

WTI Crude remains elevated above $81/barrel and that's affecting prices for fuel at the pump. Unleaded regular is up nine cents on average in the U.S. since just Sunday, at $3.55 a gallon. Any further increase may begin to put downward pressure on the general economy, though, as has been shown quite clearly in recent days, stock buyers could care less about the economy as chasing upside momentum and FOMO appears to have taken a firm hold of investor sentiment.

Evidence of the amount money sloshing around and looseness of financial conditions was provided by the IPO of Reddit (RDDT) on Thursday. Priced at $34, the company that is essentially a mammoth online message board got pumped as high as $55, closing at $50.44 for a 48% gain and a market cap of $8 billion.

TGIF.

At the Close, Thursday, March 21, 2024:
Dow: 39,781.37, +269.24 (+0.68%)
NASDAQ: 16,401.84, +32.43 (+0.20%)
S&P 500: 5,241.53, +16.91 (+0.32%)
NYSE Composite: 18,214.12, +84.04 (+0.46%)


Post-Fed, Everything Is Higher; Gold, Silver, Stocks, Interest Rates, Food, Gas, Oil, Bitcoin All Up, But, Three Rate Cuts Assured

Thursday, March 21, 2024, 9:15 am ET

The show goes on.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve's FOMC announced that there would be no immediate change to the federal funds target interest rate, which would stay at its present 5.25-5.50%, right where it has been since June of last year.

There was nothing surprising or unusual about the 2:00 pm announcement. As the show goes, that was more or less the emcee announcing that the main attraction and dancing girls would soon appear. And so they did. Chairman Powell took to the podium and out came the dot-plots.

Powell did everything in his limited power to persuade the assembled "journalist" note-takers and mindless scribblers that everything about the economy was well and good, inflation wasn't a big problem, the Fed wasn't political, interest rates would come down soon and Joe Biden never pooped his pants, not even once.

The dots, an integral part of the performance and the one part the throng on Wall Street cheered the most, were outstanding, with no less than nine members of the committee putting their marks in the 4.625% box, effectively telling anyone who cares to observe that the federal funds rate should be at that level sometime in 2024. As far as pleasing their pals on Wall Street is concerned, those nine (anonymous) dotters absolutely nailed it. If today's federal funds rate is 5.375%, three cuts of 0.25% (25 basis points) would put it at 4.625%. Their accuracy is uncanny, and that's without the can or bothering to kick it, again, and again, and again.

This is where the narrative becomes not just fiction, but outright fantasy. Considering that a year ago, many of these same members thought the appropriate federal funds rate for 2024 should be somewhere between 3.875% and 4.625%. Not only that, but fully 10 of them thought the optimal interest rate for 2023 (last year) should be 5.125%, yet here we are a year later, stuck at 5.25-5.50%. These people certainly get paid a lot of money to get things horribly, consistently, and without apology, wrong, yet Wall Street cheers them on like they're the reincarnation of Babe Ruth, calling his shot in the 1932 World Series.

So, when does the Fed plan on making all of our dreams - and their projections - come true? There are eight more FOMC policy meetings this year, so they need to get on the stick pretty soon if they plan on seeing Biden re-elected in November to execute three rate cuts.

The May meeting is probably out, but there's a consensus on Wall Street that the first cut would be at the June 11-12 meeting. OK, fine. Since the Fed normally does cuts or hikes in succession, it can be assumed that they might do another at the July 30-31 exposition and another September 17-18. Mission accomplished. There's no August or October meeting. The November 6-7 meeting concludes conveniently two days after the U.S. general election, bearing in mind that counting the votes could take another few weeks after that.

Fabulous! Everybody will be happy when the Dow reaches 42,000, a dozen eggs are $5.95, a Gallon of milk $7.50 and a 12-ounce sirloin steak $34.95 at the meat department of your local grocery story.

Anybody with a firm grasp of mathematics and economics (yes, all three of you) understands that these rate cuts are largely an impossibility under current conditions. Inflation isn't under control. In fact, it's getting worse. According to the ever-so-reliable BLS, "over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 3.2 percent before seasonal adjustment." It's probably a lot closer to four percent after being seasoned and adjusted.

How will the Fed pull off this magic trick. There are a few theories. One is that they won't cut at all, but will string everybody along for a while longer, maybe through July, until it becomes evident that inflation is about to go ballistic again. Another school of thought, and a very probable one, is that they'll do it despite ample evidence that they've done almost nothing the past year to rein in inflation. Still another believes they'll execute the cuts and the BLS will lie about inflation, adjust it higher, later, which is certainly a possibility.

Just in case anybody's still paying attention, the following is a reminder from Weimar Germany of what can happen if inflation remains a feature of the economy and the Fed does nothing or actually cuts rates when they should be raising them.

From "When Money Dies" by Adam Fergusson:

Before 1914, the credit policy of the Reichsbank had been governed by the Bank Law of 1875, whereby not less than one-third of the note issue had to be covered by gold and the remainder by three-month discounted bills adequately guaranteed. In August 1914 action was taken both to pay for the war and to protect the country's gold reserves. The latter objective was achieved by the simple device of suspending the redemption of Reichsbank notes in gold. The former was contrived by setting up loan banks whose funds were to be provided simply by printing them.

Editor's Note: You can access "When Money Dies" in a 100% free PDF, from idleguy.com at THIS LINK.

Sound familiar? It should, since the U.S. and the entire world abandoned the gold standard in August, 1974, and, since 2000, and especially since 2008 and 2020, the Fed has been handing out massive amounts of funny money to anybody with an outstretched appendage.

While stocks continue to rise (the S&P is up 10% and it's not even the end of the first quarter!), rekindling the favored acronym, TINA (There Is No Alternative), treasuries either haven't gotten the memo or simply refuse to play along, with the long-end of the curve hanging near high yields of the year. Might that oddity signify something about the U.S. Treasury borrowing $1 trillion every 100 days? Blowout federal debt levels implies fewer buyers of bonds at the long end, leaving the Fed and its primary dealer proxies no choice but to monetize it all.

Well, that's where this chapter ends and another begins. Soon enough, mid-April, companies will start releasing first quarter earnings.

Dow 40,000 here we come. We're all gonna be kinda rich.

At the Close, Wednesday, March 20, 2024:
Dow: 39,512.13, +401.37 (+1.03%)
NASDAQ: 16,369.41, +202.62 (+1.25%)
S&P 500: 5,224.62, +46.11 (+0.89%)
NYSE Composite: 18,130.08, +154.29 (+0.86%)


FOMC Day: Does Wall Street Imitate Lemmings, or Is the Mass Psychosis of Fed-Speak More Akin to Swallows or Geese?

Wednesday, March 20, 2024, 10:53 am ET

As legend has it, lemmings, furry little arctic rodents, purposely leap off of cliffs in droves to their deaths in the ocean below, which is why incidents of mass psychosis often refer to them in deleterious tomes: "They rushed to the electronics department like a pack of lemmings."

Happily, as a 1983 investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation discovered, they do nothing of the sort. Disney filmmakers, in an attempt to amplify the drama in the 1958 documentary, "White Wilderness", actually threw or pushed the lemmings off a cliff and into the sea. (The bastids! They probably go around clubbing baby seals, too!)

Thus, Disney created a wilderness myth that has influenced writers, editors, joke-makers, and opinion leaders for the better part of a half-century, which means the world needs to find a more appropriate metaphor for the madness of crowds. Nature, in its profound wisdom, doesn't provide a rebuttal to Disney's apocryphal story-telling. Plants and animals do not exhibit much in the way of self-abuse. Only humans do that, although herd behavior is quite common in the wild.

In any case, Wall Street, on days in which the Federal Reserve's FOMC disseminates interest rate policy, as they will today at 2:00 pm ET, generally manifests itself in delusional aberrant behavior, sending stocks and bonds and commodity prices swinging wildly up or down in one direction or another, sometimes even both ways.

From the perspective of what are generally assumed to be orderly markets, FOMC days bring out the worst of herd behavior in humans who ostensibly should know better, but, examining market movements on individual days or even longer term, shows that the markets upon which much of the civilized world depends for their future security, play follow the leader to an inordinate degree, whether the decisions to buy or sell on a moment's notice make sense or not, the spectacle now so common as to question the validity of markets themselves.

Take, for example, Tuesday's market melt-up. According to futures prior to the cash open, stocks were haded for the pits, which, to a degree, they did, especially on the S&P and NASDAQ. After a while, however, the Dow Industrials took the lead and momentum-chasers obediently followed, resulting in a banner day for market bulls, also a quite common occurrence.

So, today, when the Oracle of Obfuscation, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, begins moving his lips, traders and speculators will respond in knee-jerking fashion, sending stocks to the high heavens or to the depths of Hades below. It's a common, if not laughable demonstration of group thinking, mass psychosis and hero worship. It ought to be banned.

It's not so much that the Fed will surprise anybody, it's that the collected wisdom of Wall Street hangs on the every word, even when little will change. The FOMC is not going to suddenly arrive at a conclusion that interest rates rates need to be higher or lower. That decision, after all, should be made by markets. Rates, in today's instance, are likely to remain right where they are. All the drama, gnashing of teeth, yield chasing and momentum gathering will be laser-focused on the quarterly economic projections, specifically, the dot-plot, wherein each member of the FOMC predicts the level of the target federal funds rate at various times in the future.

What is appalling about this bad example of fortune-telling is that these predictions are usually well off the mark and revised quarterly to reflect current conditions, expectations, and whatever else can be discerned from studying economic reports, extrapolating data into trends, reading tea leaves, swishing about goat entrails, or dealing tarot cards.

However, Wall Street sharpies will respond in Pavlovian manners. The current thinking is that the FOMC members will revise their dots to higher levels over longer periods, suggesting that interest rates will conform to their consistent mantra of "higher for longer, which unfortunately corresponds to the inflation rate, the wild beast they've managed only to rope, but not corral or domesticate.

The world is unprepared for higher dots over longer periods of time and real world consequences.

Investors may take note and, like the swallows returning to Capistrano find comfort in familiar places. Others may respond more like geese and flock to warmer, more welcome climates.

No matter what, Wall Street and the rest of the world should cease from giving lemmings a bad rap and the Federal Reserve so much underserved attention.


Futures Sink After Nvidia Presentation Disappoints; Wall Street Nervous Over FOMC, Fed's Inflation Hawks, Dot-Plots

Tuesday, March 19, 2024, 9:15 pm ET

In stark contrast to the usual late-session jackery, Monday's closing action was anything of the sort. Stocks gave back much of their early gains in the final 40 minutes.

Particularly disturbing was the trading in Nvidia (NVDA), following Jensen Huang's disappointing keynote speech at the NVDA GTC presentation. The sweetheart stock of AI enthusiasts (high on anime visuals but little else of importance) rose as high as 923 early on, but faded to 884 at the close and continued to retreat after-hours. The AI craze, which had propelled the NASDAQ to a new all-time high a few weeks back, seemed to be losing its luster. Despite a huge upside run at the open, the NASDAQ never really approached the triple top put into play on March 1, March 7, and March 12. Traders sensed a disturbance in the farce.

Following on to Tuesday's futures, the slump continues as equity adherents await Wednesday's FOMC rate decision, one which is unlikely to surprise anybody when the members vote to keep the federal funds rate at the current 5.25-5.50%. What will catch most of the attention are the post-release affairs: Powell's press conference and the infamous dot-plots of the FOMC voters, expected to give some signal as to future direction for interest rates.

Considering how deeply futures were driven down an hour prior to the opening bell, prospects for Fed rate cuts appear to be on the wane. Reliable sources reveal that expectations have been lowered to less than a 0.75% cut in rates this year, the roughly three 25 basis point reductions sharply lower than the 1.50% in cuts expected by Wall Street's confounded intellectuals.

Stocks remain stretched to the extreme. The word on Artificial Intelligence (AI) is souring, the benefits to business about as phony as all the recent hype. Thus far, AI has produced little value to businesses and is probably going to go down in flames alongside last year's promise of Ukraine's counter-offensive. The world has grown weary of false narratives, AI being just the most recent. Wall Street gets a "fail" with a capital F on this one and traders are looking for a way out. It's only a matter of time until the U.S. and Western economies are exposed as the frauds they are. GDP as a measure of economic strength is a poor substitute for real progress. Inflation has made government figures look far better than they truly are for the past two years.

Peering beyond the stock market's hyperbolic ascent, gold, silver, bitcoin and treasuries have been singing a different tune. Bidenomics doesn't pan out. Poking the Russian bear has been an unmitigated disaster for Europe, the U.S. and Britain. Inflation is still not under control. Politicians are seeking excuses for their failures and investors are heading to the exits. It's no surprise that corporate executives have been exercising options and selling stock steadily for the past few months. Revelations that the likes of Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates have been cashing out are less than positive developments.

There's a storm on the horizon and it's looking pretty nasty.

At the Close, Monday, March 18, 2023:
Dow: 38,790.43, +75.63 (+0.20%)
NASDAQ: 16,103.45, +130.25 (+0.82%)
S&P 500: 5,149.42, +32.33 (+0.63%)
NYSE Composite: 17,882.31, +34.21 (+0.19%)


WEEKEND WRAP: Gold Takes a Breather as Silver Soars; Stocks Lose Again; Treasury Yields Higher Along with Gas Prices at the Pump

Sunday, March 17, 2024, 12:16 pm ET

The Ides of March came and went on Friday, and with it the promise of a positive week for stocks. All of the majors were lower on the week, albeit by small amounts, except for the Dow Jones Transportation Average, which continues to sputter and stall, losing 1.40%, its third straight losing week.

Better news was found in precious metals, with silver taking the lead for the week. Politics were a mixed bag, as French president, Macron, found himself trying to defend his recent posturing about sending his country's young men and women to die in Ukraine. For the cause, of course, which he could not define, other than some mumbling about "saving democracy."

U.S. Treasury yields were on the rise, the 10-year note approaching the highs of the year.

Whatever is ongoing with Boeing and United Airlines, warnings should be issued to those living beneath flight paths that they are in falling parts zones. Fliers are advised to check that their seats are firmly bolted to the deck.


Stocks

Triple witching expiry on Friday sent stocks spiraling down into the ether, especially the tech lovelies, the magnificent seven, five of which finished well below recent highs. Microsoft and Amazon remained close to their highs.

Nvidia (NVDA) officially extended its weekly winning streak to 10, with a marginal gain of three points. Amazon (AMZN), which became a Dow component two weeks ago, lost a whole 0.93, though it was the second straight weekly loss for the internet retail giant.

Apple (AAPL) was up 1.89, but it's down 12% from its high from mid-December. Microsoft (MSFT) was the big winner of the group, gaining 10.20 (2.51%), while Elon Musk's Tesla (TSLA) was the biggest loser, dropping 11.77 points (-6.71%). Meta Platforms (META) was on shaky ground, losing 21.85 (-4.32%). Alphabet Class C (GOOG) share added 5.88 points for a gain of 4.31%.

The week was full of disappointment, especially in the form of February CPI and PPI estimates, each of which signaled inflation re-igniting, the kind of news the rate cut brigade fears most. At best, the Fed might cut the federal funds rate 25 basis points at their June meeting, but it now appears the emerging fear is that the Fed hasn't done enough to quell persistent price inflation in goods and services and will need to resume hiking, which they haven't done since June 2023.

The most disturbing news of the week came from Dollar Tree, which has mismanaged operations through the recent inflation and takeover of Family Dollar. The company announced that it would be closing 1000 stores, most within the next nine months, with more shutting down as leases expire. Even as Dollar Tree has upped the price of all items to $1.25 (Dollar and a Quarter Tree just doesn't have a nice ring to it), Family Dollar stores have suffered slumping margins and mispricing for years. Dollar Tree shares were down nearly 14 percent for the week, most of the losses coming on Wednesday, when the company revealed the disappointment of fourth quarter diluted loss per share of $7.85.

The week ahead features a two-day FOMC policy meeting, culminating Wednesday afternoon with the statement, press conference with Chairman Powell and economic projections, with primary focus on the infamous "dot plots" of the voting members.

Other economic data will be the NAHB Housing Market Index for March, February housing starts and permits, and February existing home sales, which will give Wall Street a little to munch on past the FOMC standing pat on rates. Any more hawkishness from the Fed could be a catastrophe for stocks, which some suggest are still pricing in three to four rate cuts this year.


Treasury Yield Curve Rates

Date 1 Mo 2 Mo 3 Mo 4 Mo 6 Mo 1 Yr
02/09/2024 5.49 5.51 5.44 5.43 5.26 4.86
02/16/2024 5.48 5.51 5.44 5.45 5.31 4.98
02/23/2024 5.49 5.51 5.46 5.46 5.32 5.00
03/01/2024 5.54 5.49 5.42 5.41 5.27 4.94
03/08/2024 5.51 5.48 5.46 5.40 5.34 4.92
03/15/2024 5.52 5.48 5.48 5.41 5.38 5.05

Date 2 Yr 3 Yr 5 Yr 7 Yr 10 Yr 20 Yr 30 Yr
02/09/2024 4.48 4.25 4.14 4.17 4.17 4.48 4.37
02/16/2024 4.64 4.43 4.29 4.31 4.30 4.58 4.45
02/23/2024 4.67 4.45 4.28 4.28 4.26 4.51 4.37
03/01/2024 4.54 4.32 4.17 4.20 4.19 4.46 4.33
03/08/2024 4.48 4.25 4.06 4.08 4.09 4.36 4.26
03/15/2024 4.72 4.51 4.33 4.33 4.31 4.55 4.43

Yields moved significantly higher on longer-dated maturies, with the two-year note up 24 basis points and the 10-year note yield ahead by 22 basis points, the former already at its highest of the year and the latter nearing its highs of the year (4.33%, 2/22/24). The sudden yield burst was no doubt a reaction to higher CPI and PPI projections from February data.

With the PPI estimates somewhat worse than those of the CPI, the assumption that CPI will be reflecting higher prices overall in coming months is a valid one. If CPI continues to increase in March, April, and May, the FOMC might be forced to hike rates further in an effort to slow the economy, though it is unclear that interest rates alone can force prices lower. Large companies dominant in consumer markets are not widely affected by quarter or half percent increases in interest rates. Many of the better-known purveyors are flush with cash, obviating the need to borrow. What higher interest rates will affect are consumer loans for homes (mortgages), autos, and credit card rates, which are already at historic usury levels.

Adding to the Fed's conflicted inflation fight is the U.S. government's penchant for over-spending at every turn. The federal deficit may exceed $2 trillion this fiscal year, with over a trillion dollars spent on servicing the interest on the $34.5 (and growing) national debt. Interest on government debt has already surpassed expenditures for the military, and that's saying something. The United States spends more than a third of the world's total military outlays, more than the next ten countries' military spending combined. Gross over-spending by congress that has persisted for more than 50 years is the major reason inflation remains out of control and why the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar continues to decline. The Fed had best be aware that hyper-inflation may be just around the corner and whatever they do, it now appears that halting their rate increases as of last June was a policy mistake of grand proportions.

The inverted yield curve has now persisted for more than two years, further evidence of the Fed's inability to control anything, much less the consumer economy nor appetites for debt instruments. With the appearance that the Fed may actually have to raise short-term rates again, normalizing the yield curve would require higher rates at the long end. Who would be interested in a seven percent yield on a 10-year note? Practically everybody.

Meanwhile, Germany, England, and Japan are already in recession, with China, much of the Eurozone and other countries' economies slowing in the third and fourth quarters of 2023. With estimates for 1Q 2024 GDP figures still more than a month out, it's possible that Ireland, Finland, and other countries may be entering technical recessions. With inflation easing in some areas, central banks may begin lowering rates to spur investment and growth, though it's not entirely clear that such measures will be effective under current conditions that include broken down economies, wartime footings, and social disruption.

The Federal Reserve and its central bank cohorts may have tiptoed beyond traditional means of control and into areas that they cannot, threatening the viability of their various fiat currencies, specifically, the yen, yuan, pound, euro, and U.S. dollar. Interest rates and an inverted yield curve may be incidental casualties if central banks themselves reject treasuries and other reserve currencies in favor of gold, which is becoming a real threat to acceptability. Further exacerbating the condition is widespread distrust of institutions by the general public. As confidence wanes public square, how long before the currencies themselves are no longer regarded as safe and fair valuation measures?

Spreads:

2s-10s
9/15/2023: -69
9/22/2023: -66
9/29/2023: -44
10/06/2023: -30
10/13/2023: -41
10/20/2023: -14
10/27/2023: -15
11/03/2023: -26
11/10/2023: -43
11/17/2023: -44
11/24/2023: -45
12/01/2023: -34
12/08/2023: -48
12/15/2023: -53
12/22/2023: -41
12/29/2023: -35
1/5/2024: -35
1/12/2024: -18
1/19/2024: -24
1/26/2024: -19
2/2/2024: -33
2/9: -31
2/16: -34
2/23: -41
3/1: -35
3/8: -39
3/15: -41

Full Spectrum (30-days - 30-years)
9/15/2023: -109
9/22/2023: -99
9/29/2023: -82
10/06/2023: -64
10/13/2023: -82
10/20/2023: -47
10/27/2023: -54
11/03/2023: -76
11/10/2023: -80
11/17/2023: -93
11/24/2023: -95
12/01/2023: -105
12/08/2023: -123
12/15/2023: -154
12/22/2023: -149
12/29/2023: -157
1/5/2024: -133
1/12/2024: -135
1/19/2024: -118
1/26/2024: -116
2/2/2024: -127
2/9: -117
2/16: -103
2/23: -112
3/1: -121
3/8: -125
3/15 -109


Oil/Gas
WTI crude oil ended the week at $80.55, $2.70 higher than the close-out price of $77.85 a week ago.

The closing price in New York is at a four-month high, with indications that the price of crude may go higher still, though that argument is not fully embraced by producers and analysts. With crude higher, however, the price of fuel at the pump remains a front-and-center issue for economies around the world.

Gasbuddy.com reports the national average for a gallon of unleaded regular gas at the pump at $3.46, up another six cents from last week. Since late January, when gas was selling right around $3.00 nation-wide and well lower in most Southern states, gas is up more than 15 percent and it is beginning to exact a toll on consumers.

The Northeast and the West remain the places with the most expensive fuel, with California now at $4.90 inching towards $5.00. Pennsylvania, atop the Northeast, increased another six cents to $3.58. Illinois remains the Midwest outlier, though it was relatively stable, at $3.68.

There are now no states with gas prices under $3.00. Mississippi is the nation's lowest, right at $3.00, followed by Colorado ($3.02), Oklahoma and Texas (both $3.04), Arkansas and Wyoming, both at $3.06.

California, Washington ($4.30), and Nevada ($4.16) added Oregon ($4.04) to the growing $4+ club. Arizona ($3.70) is also elevated, up 13 cents this week. Suppliers will soon be switching over to the more expensive summer blend in a few weeks, so prices may be front-running those expectations.


Bitcoin

This week: $67,382.40
Last week: $69,603.00
2 weeks ago: $62,240.30
6 months ago: $26,764.40
One year ago: $27,007.20

Bitcoin's wild ride the past three weeks hasn't been captured by our cursory weekly reporting, but the rise from $50,747 on February 23 to $73,135 on March 13, and subsequent fall to the current level is notable.

Introduced as a digital "currency" to replace worn out paper money back in 2009, the concept of stability has long been lost in favor of speculation over adoption and hash rates. Now, with Wall Street fully engaged via nearly a dozen spot ETF - to say nothing of other derivative vehicles - price swings are being magnified and trades can easily be substantially in and out of the money in a matter of days or even hours.

As currencies go, bitcoin espouses a few of the important characteristics. It is not by any means easily accepted in trade for anything except other crypto-coins or other currencies, though coin dealers have long embraced crypto, even offering discounts for gold or silver purchases. Bitcoin is a poor store of value. It is too volatile to be of any value in that regard. It is divisible and fungible, but it does not offer anonymity unless extensive measures are undertaken for security, like cold wallets and such.

It still commands attention, however, for better or worse.


Precious Metals

Gold:Silver Ratio: 84.65; last week: 89.16

Per COMEX continuous contracts:

Gold price 2/16: $2,025.50
Gold price 2/23: $2,045.80
Gold price 3/1: $2,091.60
Gold price 3/8: $2,186.20
Gold price 3/15: $2,159.40

Silver price 2/16: $23.48
Silver price 2/23: $23.19
Silver price 3/1: $23.34
Silver price 3/8: $24.52
Silver price 3/15: $25.51

Gold slipped a bit more this week as silver caught up, gaining nearly a full dollar with plenty of movement between the low of $24.30 and the high of $25.59. The gain of 4.04% was overdue, with investors pouring into gold's "poor sister" as the gold:silver ratio approached 90 and India has been purchasing tonnage for its planned solar energy expansion.

As Alasdair Macleod reported this week, while the United States and UK have been actively suppressing the price of gold for decades, China has been doing the same with silver for probably the past 20 years, in support of its burgeoning solar industry. With India now an apparent whale-sized buyer, the inevitability of high-priced silver is appearing on the horizon.

With such information in hand, it may be wise to continue buying silver until the ratio reaches more conventional levels, i.e., 40:1 or 30:1, fully aware that traditionally, the ratio has been 12:1 or 16:1. A massive reordering of economic priorities is well underway. Gold will continue to be bought by central banks, while silver is sought by governments bent on some degree of energy independence. Both will continue to be the pride and prize of individual investors, large and small.

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: 31.00 43.16 37.50 38.75
1 oz silver bar: 30.00 42.88 36.34 34.50
1 oz gold coin: 2,101.51 2,485.00 2,255.90 2,247.38
1 oz gold bar: 2,180.00 2,269.40 2,232.45 2,233.83

The Single Ounce Silver Market Price Benchmark (SOSMPB) remained elevated, and higher than the previous two weeks, dipping to $36.77, a gain of 58 cents from the March 10 price of $36.19 per troy ounce.


WEEKEND WRAP

Worst joke of the week: If the NATO nations seize the $300 billion in frozen Russian assets and use them to arm Ukraine, just think of the loss carry forward Russia would have. They'd never owe the IRS a dime.

With the Fed meeting almost certain to be more of the same, no change in the federal funds rate, the rate cut narrative, like all other contrived realities (Ukraine is winning, Israel isn't committing genocide, elections are not rigged, safe and effective vaccines), is about to keel over and die. A recession in the U.S. is about as likely now as Joe Biden's election was in 2020, meaning that it still could happen, but only with deep state blessing and media running interference propaganda.

With the appearance of further rate increases a distinction that has yet to be realized, stocks could come under even more pressure than they've been the past few weeks.

Turbulence is now a feature of not only Boeing aircraft, but markets generally.

At the Close, Friday, March 15:
Dow: 38,714.77, -190.89 (-0.49%)
NASDAQ: 15,973.17, -155.36 (-0.96%)
S&P 500: 5,117.09, -33.39 (-0.65%)
NYSE Composite: 17,848.08, -38.18 (-0.21%)

For the Week:
Dow: -7.92 (-0.02%)
NASDAQ: -111.94 (-0.70%)
S&P 500: -6.60 (-0.13%)
NYSE Composite: -41.54 (-0.23%)
Dow Transports: -219.59 (-1.40%)


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