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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.
Trump Ramps Up Social Media Battle; Argentina Continues Defaulting; Gold, Silver Premiums Persist
Friday, May 29, 2020, 8:30 am ET
Not that anybody should be concerned, but Argentina defaulted on a $500 million interest payment a week ago, on May 22nd. Money Daily had been covering the story but slipped up and missed the breaking news over the Memorial Day Weekend. No excuse. We blew it. 20 lashes.
Anyhow, it's not over down Buenos Aires way, as representatives from both sides - the Argentine government and a gaggle of international creditors - continue to seek a solution, setting a June 2nd date for a plan to restructure $66 billion of the country's debt. Realistically, this being the ninth time Argentina has defaulted on its obligations and the third time this century, hopes of reaching any kind of deal that satisfies both the creditor and debtor seems well removed from the realm of the possible.
President Trump issued another executive order Thursday afternoon, this one coming after Twitter tagged a couple of his tweets with fact-checks.
The order calls for new regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act "to make it so that social media companies that engage in censoring or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield," Trump said.
The tweets in question concerned Trump's opposition to mail-in ballots in the upcoming November election, which he believes would result in a cascade of fraud. Twitter added some fact-checking language stating that fraud isn't an issue with absentee ballots.
That, and his announcement of a press conference Friday to address growing concerns over China's dispute with Hong Kong (and now India), sent markets tumbling into the red after making small gains in Thursday's session.
Escalating the situation, early Friday morning, Trump tweeted about the ongoing violence in Minneapolis and elsewhere:
Accessing the President's tweet on the Twitter platform brings up the following message: This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public's interest for the Tweet to remain accessible. Beside it is a button that gives the user the option to display the tweet or keep it hidden. That seems to be an exercise in futility on Twitter's part, possibly drawing even more attention to the tweet in question than had they just left it alone and allowed the public to decide and debate its appropriateness.
Twitter continues to dig its own grave because the President certainly isn't going to back down when he has the complete arsenal of the Department of Justice at his disposal. It's become rather obvious to just about everybody that Twitter, along with their social media counterparts, Google, Facebook, and others, that these companies have abused their free reign over what gets published and where on the internet for a long time without any oversight. Having set up their own rules and guidelines they've often trampled on first amendment rights of users, citing their status as private companies as cover for their subjective agenda.
It would appear that President Trump is serious about limiting their ability to shape opinion. It's certain that the issue will end up in the courts and may take years to resolve. Meanwhile, the mainstream TV networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and Fox, and newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post continue to spread half-truths, fake news, and outright lies on a regular basis. Whether the president's wrath extends to limitations or punishments for biased reporting in other areas of the media remains to be seen, but there is sure to be intense focus on the media leading up to the November elections.
Elsewhere, confusion reigns supreme in the precious metals space. Since mid-March there has been a schism between the futures price of gold and the spot price, with the gap sometimes great enough to encourage arbitrage in a relatively risk-free trade. Usually, the spot price is a few dollars below the futures bid, but the spread has widened and exhibited volatile behavior recently. Silver has also joined the party, with spot and futures prices deviating sporadically.
Of course, the spot and futures prices are little more than bookmarks these days compared to the premium prices being paid for actual physical metal on eBay. Gold and silver are both sporting heavy premiums, with gold selling at the one ounce level at $120-180 over spot and one ounce silver going for $23-30 when the spot price has been hovering in the $16-17 range. Silver, probably the most undervalued commodity in the world, has approached 100% premiums in recent days.
As more people become aware of the fraudulent nature of futures trading where major players such as JP Morgan Chase are allowed to flaunt size limits and engage in spoofing, naked shorting, and are never forced to stand for delivery, physical markets are becoming the go-to for investors with serious intentions of protecting their wealth with precious metals.
Yields in the treasury space rose across the curve on Thursday, with the 30-year bond hitting 1.47%, a two-month high. The spread between the 2-year note (0.17%) and the 30 is now 130 basis points, 10 points higher than a week ago. Tighter lending conditions may not be in the Fed's best interests at this time, but the present issue is likely one of supply. The Fed has been begging fiscal authorities (congress and the president) to unleash more stimulus spending so as to facilitate the Fed's monetizing of the debt, spreading its largesse to equity market participants.
If the government isn't going to ramp up deficit spending, the Fed will be looking over its shoulder at rising rates with too little supply coming to market. This is just one of the unintended consequences of massive money printing on a global scale. At some point, with all hands outstretched, there's not enough to go around and a struggle is engaged for the scraps thrown to the market. The Fed is committed to buying everything, but if there's not enough everything around, they risk severe impairment of credit markets.
Congress needs to get on the bandwagon with all due alacrity lest the Fed run out of debt to monetize, jeopardizing the massive stock rally they have recently engendered.
Finally, in spite of the price of oil (once again, on the futures market) having roughly doubled over the past month, and with it, rising gas prices at the pump, there's still a massive glut on the supply side and slack demand against it. WTI crude in the $32-36 range is a resistance level the market will find difficult to overcome. Economies aren't roaring back to life following the global lockdowns, rather, they're reengaging in fits and starts, and not nearly at capacity. The major oil producers have done their level best to halt the price decline, but there's only so much production that can be cut from counties whose very existence relies upon regular selling of crude oil.
The summer, if authorities allow free movement, should be affordable, at least as concerns automotive touring.
Friday's trading session opens in a little more than an hour from this posting. With the Dow ahead by nearly 1000 points this week, unless there's a major pullback on Friday, Wall Street will shove another fat week of gains into America's face.
At the Close, Thursday, May 28, 2020:
Thursday, May 28, 2020, 9:26 am ET
Nothing happens in a vacuum.
Violence has broken out in Minneapolis, where four policemen held down and killed George Floyd in broad daylight, one officer holding Floyd down with his knee on his throat, while Floyd, who was already handcuffed, repeatedly said he couldn't breath and onlookers pled with police to ease up on their restraint.
Floyd, 46, was killed on Monday, Memorial Day, in a manner shockingly similar to the death of Eric Garner in New York City, back in 2014. Garner was brought down and eventually killed by cops for supposedly selling "loosies," loose cigarettes.
Floyd's crime has yet to be revealed, though the incident occurred as police were investigating the possible use of counterfeit currency.
Wednesday night, a black man was shot and killed amid setting of fires and widespread looting and vandalism throughout the city.
It's difficult to understand how these Minneapolis police could not have known exactly what they were doing, considering the widespread coverage of the 2014 Garner killing. All four officers have been fired and will likely face charges, though they have not been, even though Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has called for criminal charges to be levied against all four.
The resultant outburst from the frustrated community was to be expected. It's what happen when those in positions of power and authority oppress the public, as has been the case nationally since the outbreak of coronavirus. Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders by governors of almost every state have put people on a razor's edge and all that was needed was a spark - like Floyd's murder - to set the violent pattern in motion.
More violence will follow, as certain as night follows day. American citizens are angry and about to erupt as their freedoms have been limited, their employment vanishing, and their rights overridden.
On Thursday morning, the Labor Department announced that another 2.1 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims. Over the past ten weeks, more than 40 million have filed for unemployment nationally.
Meanwhile, stocks continue to feed off the easy Fed currency to send stocks higher and higher. Whatever the market is doing, as unemployment and the associated distress and anger swells, the optics are not good. Everyday Americans have been railing against the huge disparity in wealth between to top one percent (or 10 percent) and the rest of the country for years. A consistent rally in the face of what looks to be coming depression only adds fuel to the fire. The NASDAQ is within five percent of its all-time high. The S&P is a little more than 10 percent away from its record close back in February.
On Wednesday, stocks gained again, as gold and silver were pounded lower, though both are rebounding prior to Wall Street's opening bell.
Most states are heading into a second phase of reopening their economies, though results have been mixed. It's a near-certainty that the economy will suffer a massive failure for the second quarter, along the lines of a 40% decline in GDP, but for now at least, Wall Street seems content to look beyond that, charging higher, as earnings continue to disappoint.
Equity markets are out of control, now fully functioning under the thumb of the Federal Reserve and their now-$7 trillion balance sheet. This relentless rally off the March lows has huge trouble written into it.
At the Close, Wednesday, May 27, 2020:
Wednesday, May 27, 2020, 8:34 am ET
A few developments in the financial sphere over the holiday weekend were worth noting.
As announced on March 15, 2020, the Board reduced reserve requirement ratios to zero percent effective March 26, 2020. This action eliminated reserve requirements for all depository institutions.
Did anybody see or hear that announcement from the Fed?
It must have been announced via double-secret handshake pinky-swear written in invisible ink on flash paper. Thankfully, Mike Maloney has been keeping tabs on the out-of-control Fed and released the information in a video over the Memorial Day weekend.
Actions by the Federal Reserve concerning currency in circulation evokes memories of this famous South Park clip:
Also developing over the weekend (when nobody was paying attention), the World Health Organization announced a "temporary pause" to clinical trials on hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a treatment for COVID-19, based on a report from the medical journal, The Lancet, on May 22 which had published an observational study on HCQ and chloroquine and its effects on COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalized.
The study included some very sketchy data and besides being "observational", rather then relying on the gold standard: randomized double blind clinical trial, the study looked at patients already hospitalized from COVID-19, when the benefits of HCQ, especially when taken in conjunction with zinc, is effective as a preventative drug and also has shown in various anecdotal cases to be effective as a treatment for asymptomatic people who tested positive for COVID-19 and also those showing early symptoms of the virus.
A Texas nursing home treated patients and staff with HCQ, Azithromycin (Zithromax, Z-Pak) and zinc with amazing results, only one death from 56 residents and 33 staff who tested positive. Great video coverage in this report.
Costa Rica has been using HCQ effectively to combat COVID-19 with exceptional results. Costa Rica's reported fatality rate of 1.2 per 1,000,000 population is one of the lowest in the world.
Coronavirus Treatment: India Expands Use Of Trump's Hydroxychloroquine As WHO Halts Trials
Dr. Chris Martenson, who has no bias or agenda, and has been producing some of the most informative and extensively-researched video reports on the virus since January, offers much more:
Oh, yeah, we can't test HCQ because it's so dangerous... to Big Pharma's bottom line. The generic drug costs roughly 10 cents per dose to produce.
And, in case you missed it, President Trump signed an executive order on May 19, which instructed all federal agencies to...
"address this economic emergency by rescinding, modifying, waiving, or providing exemptions from regulations and other requirements that may inhibit economic recovery, consistent with applicable law and with protection of the public health and safety, with national and homeland security, and with budgetary priorities and operational feasibility."
This was presented earlier on Money Daily, but advisors believe the president's executive order was created to keep federal and state agencies on short leases as regards enforcement of stay-at-home, lockdown, social distancing, and other orders and restrictions on the American public and especially on small business.
The markets on Tuesday were the usual mix of stocks and oil up, gold and silver smashed, bonds flat.
At the Close, Tuesday, May 26, 2020:
Sunday, May 24, 2020, 3:30 pm ET
Spurred by an announcement by Moderna (MRNA) that early trials of a possible COVID-19 vaccine were positive, stocks rode a big Monday rally to better than three percent gains across the major indices. All but the NYSE Composite closed at 11-week highs, the Comp. falling just points short.
The irony of the rally was that Moderna, a company that has never made a single dime of profit (they've lost $1.5 billion since 2016), closed last Friday at 66.68, finished Monday at an even $80 per share, but closed out the week at 69.00. In between, there were some big paydays for insiders. If that wasn't proof enough that the market is a crony capitalist playground, then something's wrong with people's world views.
It was the ultimate slap in the face to the American public by the rich and connected, the one-percenters, who made a show of fake news over something ultimately immaterial. It was a very sad display of fascism in practice.
To make matters even worse, Moderna received up to $483 million in federal funding to accelerate development of its coronavirus vaccine. Governments around the world are throwing money at well-heeled companies working on a vaccine. In the United States, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a federal agency that funds disease-fighting technology, has announced investments of nearly $1 billion to support coronavirus vaccine development and the scale-up of manufacturing for promising candidates. Johnson and Johnson, Sanofi, and GlaxoSmithKline are among about 100 companies being funded for research toward a coronavirus vaccine by countries from Canada, to Singapore, to France.
The US government committed up to $1.2 billion to fund Oxford University and drug maker, AstraZeneca, in a race to produce a vaccine by October, it was announced on Friday.
The quickest a vaccine has ever been developed is four years from phase one trials to working vaccine on the market. No vaccine for a coronavirus has ever been successfully developed. SARS and MERS are variants of coronaviruses. There are no vaccines to protect against them.
This is just the common folly of the age in which we live. Instead of spending time explaining to people how to strengthen their individual immune systems - the best defense against all diseases and viruses - world governments spend taxpayer dollars funding companies that don't need any extra money. It's an incredible waste of capital, but you can bet the executives of the Big Pharma companies (one of Washington's biggest lobbying groups) and high-ranking scientists are making bank on your dollar.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the "official" unemployment figure is 14.7%, with more than 36 million Americans out of work. Wall Street continues to party while Main Street gets the shaft, as usual. Lockdowns and social distancing restrictions have blown a hole in small businesses, many of which will never recover and will be bankrupt within months, if not already.
Malls are going broke. The biggest mall in the country, Minnesota's Mall of America, is two months delinquent on it's $1.4 billion loan. Other mall landlords report collecting less than 25% of rent due from April and May. With June approaching quickly, many retailers will be three months behind on rent payments and subject to lockouts, forced liquidations, and other draconian measures written into their leases.
Bankruptcies are mounting and delinquency notices are flying around everywhere. With retail operations - from clothing stores to hair salons to baseball card shops and everything in between - suffering as a result of the nearly nationwide two-month lockdown, many employees who were furloughed will not have jobs to go back to when everything begins to get back to some semblance of normal. That means extended unemployment for millions, poverty and homelessness set to soar.
The federal government's additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits via the CARES act will run out at the end of July, just in time for back-to-school sales that may not happen because some schools won't be reopening and many colleges are planning to allow only limited on-campus activity, with many classes offered via the internet only.
The world has changed, and is changing, though it doesn't appear to be for the better, at least at first blush.
Gold and silver caught bids on the paper markets this week with gold trading as high as $1756.90 per ounce, closing out at $1732.70 bid. Silver was an even better performer, ripping through the $17 per ounce price on Monday, trading as high as $17.57 per ounce before settling in at $17.19 on Friday.
In the physical market, premiums have begun to ease after an incredible supply-demand tug-of-war. Dealers are still facing shortages of certain items, but on eBay, at least, prices were lower for the week, although still well above spot prices.
Here are the most recent prices (Sunday, May 24) for specific items on eBay:
Item / Low / High / Average / Median
Oil was up, treasuries were fairly flat for the week. It's a beautiful holiday weekend, so we're calling this a wrap, right here.
Get out and get some sun!
At the Close, Friday, May 22, 2020:
For the Week: