2010 Silver Caper – JP Morgan Chase is Going Down

2010 Silver Caper – JP Morgan Chase Going Down     

JP Morgan Chase appears to be cruisin' for a bruisin'.  Have you heard of Silver Futures Gate?  SFGate, if the allegations are partially true, about their manipulation on Silver, could bring JP Morgan Chase down. 

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J.P. Morgan and the Great Silver Caper
How J.P. Morgan is (allegedly) trying to manipulate the silver market
Eric Fry
Eric Fry

Reporting from Laguna Beach, California…

There's a lot of rumor, buzz, innuendo, chitchat and scuttlebutt about the precious metals markets these days. Most of the chitchat is about J.P. Morgan and silver. Rumor has it that J.P. Morgan has amassed a whopping short position in silver.

The scuttlebutt, according to SFGate.com, is that "J.P. Morgan holds a giant short position in silver. Furthermore, some observers are accusing the bank of acting as an agent for the Federal Reserve in the market…I.e., a lower silver price helps maintain the relative appeal of the US dollar…

"By selling massive amounts of paper silver in the futures market," SFGate continues, "J.P. Morgan has been able to suppress the price of the precious metal. It is believed that these short positions are naked (i.e. they are not backed by any physical silver)."

If the silver price were falling, Morgan's (alleged) short position would be lauded as a stroke of genius. But since the silver price is soaring, Morgan's (alleged) short position looks much less laudable.

"In recent days," SFGate notes, "rumors have been swirling on the Internet that J.P. Morgan's massive short position is about to blow up in its face in the form of an almighty short squeeze and potential COMEX default, as large traders demand physical delivery of silver that COMEX does not have in its vaults."

Based on some of the latest conjecture, Morgan's short position totals a whopping 3.3 billion ounces. If, therefore, the buzz about J.P. Morgan and silver is even half true, the prestigious investment bank could be cruisin' for bruisin'.

For perspective, 3.3 billion ounces is roughly equal to:

1) One third of all the world's known silver deposits;

2) Two times the world's approximate stockpiles of silver bullion;

3) Four times the annual mined supply of silver;

4) 30 times the inventory of silver at the COMEX.

To repeat, short positions – even titanic ones – are no big deal, as long as the price of the underlying asset is falling. But if, inconveniently, it is rising, the spaghetti can hit the fan in spectacular and gruesome fashion.

The silver price is rising…a lot. From less than $10 an ounce two years ago, the silver price has more than tripled. Therefore, if J.P. Morgan does, in fact, hold a 3.3 billion ounce short position, every one-dollar increase in the silver price would produce a loss of $3.3 billion…at least on paper.

Unfortunately, Morgan cannot simply unwind this trade with a couple of mouse-clicks in an E*trade account. The position is too large, both in relation to the world's physical supplies of silver and in relation to the paper "supplies." (Morgan holds almost half of all short positions on the COMEX, which is essentially a "paper market" – participants rarely take delivery of physical silver).

To make matters even more dicey for Morgan, the supplies of physical silver are disappearing rapidly from the marketplace. Increasingly, the kinds of folks who invest in precious metals are also the kinds of folks who distrust intermediaries. These precious metals investors want to know that the shiny stuff is in their personal possession.

Meanwhile, the ETFs that hold precious metals are soaking up massive quantities of physical metal. Over the last 12 months, the silver ETFs around the globe have increased their holdings by nearly 100 million ounces – or almost as much silver as the entire inventory of the COMEX. The trend in gold is identical. 

Total Known ETF Holdings of Silver

Therefore, as a result of soaring demand from both individual investors and ETFs, the physical stockpiles of gold and silver are atrophying in relation to the paper claims on both metals. This is not a pleasant picture for a short seller of silver.

Furthermore, the kinds of folks who tend to buy gold and silver are also the kinds of folks who have contempt for Wall Street…and for Wall Street banks like J.P. Morgan. So it should come as no surprise that a grassroots campaign has formed – the sole purpose of which is to punish J.P. Morgan for its attempted manipulation of the silver market.

"A viral campaign (Crash JP Morgue Video) to buy a physical silver and 'crash' the bank is now spreading like wildfire on the Internet," SFGate reports. "Just Google, 'Crash JP Morgan Buy Silver' [to learn more about it]… Those who wish to participate in squeezing the living daylights out of J.P. Morgan, may want to consider buying physical silver, silver futures and SLV."

Maybe this story about J.P Morgan's short position in silver is mere innuendo. Maybe not. But two facts are irrefutable:

1) J.P. Morgan is already under investigation by the CFTC for manipulating the silver market. "The investigation into the bank can be traced back to November 2009," SFGate reports, "when London metals trader and whistleblower Andrew Maguire contacted the CFTC to report market manipulation prior to it actually occurring."

2) Precious metals investors are increasingly keen to get their hands on physical gold and silver, rather than mere paper facsimiles.

The Daily Reckoning Presents
Investors to Silver: “Let’s Get Physical”
Frank Holmes
Frank Holmes

The scramble for physical gold and silver is intensifying. People increasingly want to own the real thing, and not some paper substitute, all of which comes with counterparty risk. This conclusion is apparent from the fact that the futures prices for gold and silver have moved into "backwardation."

Allow me to explain…

Because gold is money, gold almost always trades in "contango," meaning that the future prices – i.e., forward prices – are higher than the spot price. The percentage difference between gold's spot and forward price is gold's "interest rate." So in this regard, gold is not different from other moneys, except gold's interest rate is lower than those of national currencies.

But supply and demand dynamics also influence the differential between the spot price and forward prices. And this is where our story gets interesting…

If the forward price is lower than spot – a condition called backwardation – you can sell your metal in the spot market, invest the dollars you receive to earn interest, and then buy your metal back in the future at a lower price and profit the difference. But there is another important factor to consider outside the math of this formula.

If you sell your physical metal in the spot market and at the same time agree with someone to buy it back at a future date, you are now holding someone's paper promise instead of physical metal. In other words, you have counterparty risk, which, of course, is avoided when you hold physical gold or physical silver. 

Normally, few people worry about counterparty risk. So bullion dealers and other institutions that deal in the precious metals watch for opportunities to profit from backwardation, with the result that gold rarely trades in backwardation, which explains why the chart below is so extraordinary.

The Backwardation of 6-Month Gold Futures Contracts

Gold for 1-month and 3-months forward has been mainly in backwardation for more than one year. Even more exceptional is that gold 6-months forward has been in backwardation since November 5th. To show how rare this event is, I checked the LBMA database, which goes back to 1989. There is not one instance of 6-month forward gold being in backwardation, which confirms my own experience. I've been trading the precious metals since the 1970s, and I can't recall any time before this year when 6-months forward gold was in backwardation. The current and continuing backwardation is truly incredible.

12-month forward gold is also approaching backwardation. These downtrends make clear that the demand for physical gold is intensifying.

The picture is even starker in silver. Silver 6-months forward has been continuously in backwardation since June 2nd and mainly in backwardation for more than one year. What does it all mean?

In a word, it is bullish. The only way the increasing demand for physical metal can be met is with higher prices. The higher price will at some level entice people to sell their metal and hold a national currency instead.

Some skeptics may argue that there is no backwardation apparent from COMEX settlement prices. Aside from the fact that COMEX recently changed the method to determine settlement prices from a market-driven basis to instead allow a manual override, which now makes backwardation on the posted COMEX settlement prices virtually impossible, one has to first recognize that COMEX is first and foremost a market for paper- gold and paper-silver.

Therefore, a piece of paper can promise virtually anything, without regard to the underlying reality of how physical metal is actually trading. In other words, COMEX shows March futures in contango, when they should in reality be in backwardation. Thus, if you are buying March silver or April gold futures, you are overpaying. This overpayment is no doubt going into the pockets of those banks that are perennially short and use their size to control the paper market. They can, after all, always conjure up whatever paper they want out of thin air, which of course they cannot do with physical metal.

Any way you look at it, the backwardation in gold and silver is a truly rare event and an exceptionally bullish one too. So be prepared for an upside explosion in the price of both precious metals as the scramble for physical metal intensifies even further, and investors increasingly choose to hold the metals themselves, instead of paper promises.


Frank Holmes, 
for The Daily Reckoning




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