TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
By Ted Butler
Shocking, yet expected. That’s the only way to describe the recent sharp sell-off in silver and gold. Shocking, because of the magnitude and suddenness of the decline, as silver fell more in two days than at anytime in more than 15 years, and there were no real silver world developments to explain it. Expected, because the only reason for the decline should have been understood beforehand by any regular reader here. Yeah, the dealers snookered the tech funds again.
There should be no question as to what just transpired. The dealers held a record net short position in COMEX silver and gold before the sell-off, with the jump to the record short position in gold occurring very quickly and recently. The dealers then engineered prices below the critical moving averages to get the tech funds to sell, which they did in droves, causing prices to collapse. As always, the dealers acted as a single, cohesive unit, or wolf pack.
Think I’m off-base in characterizing the dealers lack of competition between themselves as proof of manipulation? Look up the definition of “free market” in Websters dictionary, and you will find this – an economic market operating by free competition. It is hard to imagine, by Websters own definition, a market more non-free, and therefore manipulated, than COMEX silver.
Since we have resolved the open COT question, namely, would the dealers get overrun or would they cover at lower prices, we now have a new question – are the dealers done covering? I don’t know. I do know the dealers’ record of never having been overrun is intact, for now. But it remains to be seen how much more covering they can do at lower prices.
Unfortunately, the current COT report is of no help. Because of a reported problem at a large brokerage, the latest COTs for all commodities were cutoff as of Monday, and not the usual Tuesday cutoff. Tuesday, of course, showed the largest price decline in gold and silver, and the report should have given us important clues as to the extent of tech fund liquidation and dealer short-covering. A suspicious mind might imagine intentional mischief in the changed cutoff, as silver and gold were the only commodities to experience very large price movements on that Tuesday, but that doesn’t help us at this point. For sure, we did experience significant dealer short-covering on Tuesday and on the following days, but we have to wait for subsequent COT reports to determine how much.
The good news is that silver has become a better buy. Not just because it’s cheaper and has a better risk/reward than it did at the recent higher prices, but because the market structure has improved. Whatever tech fund selling that has already occurred is done. There may be more tech fund selling (and dealer buying) but there is a finite amount that the tech funds can sell. Once we get to the exhaustion of that tech fund selling, we will be presented with the mother of the mother of all buying opportunities in silver. This could take a few days, or weeks, or even conceivably, with the messed up COTs, we could already be there.
While we did get the bone-jarring, disorderly sell-off that I predicted as a strong possibility, no one with fully-paid for silver should have lost their position. This is the most important thing. This is your only protection against the price volatility that is here to stay. That, and putting the forces of the dealers’ manipulation to your advantage by buying more when they create further sell-offs. Whenever, the current downside manipulation is over, you want to be strapped in with as much silver as you can.
That doesn’t mean I intend to focus only on the positive aspects of this recent sell-off. It still is illegal and stinks to high heaven. I, for one, have no intention of abandoning my efforts to expose the controlling dealers for what they really are. I am enclosing a new letter to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, at the end of this piece, which should be very self-explanatory. But, there are also other things that can be done to end the silver manipulation.
A little while back, I wrote an article, “A Modest Proposal”, in which I suggested to the silver miners and resource companies that they withhold a modest amount of production, or buy a modest amount in the case of non-producers, as a way of fighting back against the silver manipulation and to reward shareholders. While I heard from many shareholders, all of whom supported the idea, the mining companies themselves ignored my suggestion. Since I can be persistent, I’d like to revisit the idea.
For the silver mining companies to continue to ignore the idea of withholding, or buying silver, is just plain stupid in light of what has just transpired. The whole world of silver can see the dealer manipulation. The only ones still blind to it are the regulators and the miners. The regulators must stay blind, as they can’t afford to ever acknowledge that they blew it for so many years, after so many warnings. The regulators are not stupid, they just can’t admit to a problem now, under any circumstances. But the miners are different. They can change.
The price of silver is the most important and critical determinant for the earnings and/or valuation of any silver mining or resource company. Every shareholder, and potential shareholder, knows this. There is not a shareholder who would buy or hold shares in any silver company that does not believe silver will increase substantially in price. There would have to be something wrong with a person who bought shares in any silver company if they really thought the price of silver would substantially go down and stay down. Then why are the management’s of silver mining companies so indifferent to the price of silver?
It would be one thing if the predominance of the evidence indicated that silver was in a free market. But that is hardly the case. The long-running structural deficit with no rise in price, the resultant evaporation of world inventories, the epic naked short position, unique to silver among all commodities, the dealer engineered price moves, and the bumbling regulator responses to simple questions, all preclude silver from being in a free market by a reasonable person. Yet the miners pretend not to notice that the most critical component of their financial health is being tampered with. What’s wrong with these people?
Worse, while the silver companies management pretend all is well, regardless of what’s happening to the price of silver, the people on the other side, the users, scream bloody murder anytime the price of silver dare lift its head. The users even organized a lobbying group, the Silver Users Association (SUA), to trick the US Government out of its silver, and to badmouth the price of silver at every opportunity. The SUA, as I have previously written, is the only commodity users organization in the world, precisely because silver is the most critical commodity in the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that the silver miners band together as a group to influence the price of silver, like the SUA has done. I think that would be illegal. What I am saying is that the miners don’t have to sit there and take it passively. The SUA and the dealers have declared war on silver, while the miners submit quietly to the shenanigans, just about saying, “thank you sir, may I have another (beating)”.
What can the miners do? They can do plenty. They can stop accepting whatever manipulated prices they are offered by the users and the dealers. They can stand on their own two legs and demand a fair price for their valuable product. They can punish the SUA and the dealer shorts by depriving them of the silver they so desperately need at cheap giveaway prices. There is no law that requires that the miners dump their silver at whatever price the manipulators set. They can withhold silver from the market, until fair prices are offered.
What would happen if any miner broke ranks with the SUA’s and the dealers’ manipulative scheme, and announced they were withholding silver temporarily until they received a minimum of $10/oz? The silver market would go to $10 bid overnight, in my opinion. The dealers are struggling to get real silver to deliver as it is. Why should they be able to steal it from the miners at prices the manipulators decide?
If you’re a shareholder, or potential shareholder, of any silver mining or resource company, and you agree that it’s time for your company to stand up for itself and stop dumping its product at stupid prices, you must communicate with management. Tell them to stop worrying, for a minute, about issuing more shares and options for themselves and to do something for the shareholders by creating value for the shareholders’ product, silver.
The Honorable Eliot Spitzer
State of New York
New York, NY 10271
Dear Attorney General Spitzer:
On September 15, 2003, and subsequently, I wrote to you about a price manipulation in the silver market on the New York Commodity Exchange (COMEX), a division of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). You wrote back to me, thanking me for making you aware of my concerns and that you had forwarded my correspondence to the appropriate members of your staff. For this, I am extremely grateful.
Unexpectedly, as a result of my letter to you, over 3000 investors added their names and comments to an Internet petition imploring you to end this ongoing silver manipulation. This petition was not organized by me, and erupted in a spontaneous and grassroots manner, based solely on the objective analysis and content in my letter.
I am sure you find it extraordinary, as do I, that so many regular people would take the time to familiarize themselves with these complicated issues and join this effort to end the silver manipulation. Considering the narrow overall interest in the silver market, the number of people responding is truly staggerring and must be unprecedented. These regular investors, myself included, are depending upon you to end this crime and punish the manipulators. There is no one else to turn to, as the regulators on the beat, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and management of the NYMEX/COMEX, continue to look the other way, in spite of hundreds of written requests to them by the public (this, in addition to the petition).
The manipulation has evolved exactly as I described it in my letter to you and in my articles on the Internet. The commercial dealers (generally NY financial giants) sell short obscene and uneconomic amounts of paper silver, backed by nothing, then engineer price declines unrelated to any real silver world developments. Current activity in the silver market bears out what I have alleged.
This week, the silver market suffered its largest two-day decline in 15 years, as a direct result of coordinated actions between the NY dealers. These dealers were clearly acting in concert. The 35 dealers in the large trader category held a total net short position of almost 500 million ounces before the sell-off (over three times total world known silver bullion inventories and ten times US annual mine production), with the majority of that net short held by the eight largest traders. For months, they held those shorts as a group, even as silver prices rose, never breaking ranks (with the possible exception of one large trader). There was no competition to cover losing short positions, as would be normal in a true free market.
Then, for no sound economic reason, silver prices suddenly plunged, and this same group of dealers began buying back their shorts in unison. Because these dealers act as one entity, they were careful not to bid aggressively against one another as they covered their short positions. That these same dealers behave like this in many markets does not make this practice legitimate. It just gives you more criminal activity to attack.
It is the lack of competition among the dealers and the ridiculous amounts of paper silver they are allowed to control that enables this manipulation to continue. It is not possible for these dealers to trade as one entity and for the silver market to be considered free. It would take you one phone call to learn the identity of these dealers, and to ascertain if what I am saying is accurate. All you have to ask is if the dealers who covered on the sharp price decline held real silver. If they didn’t, then ask them why they always buy and sell what they don’t own as a tight-knit group. Then think about how non-responsive is their answer and ask your staff to prepare the criminal indictments.
There is no doubt that the law of supply and demand will ultimately trump the manipulators, and the price of silver will be set free. However, in the interim, it is not right, nor legal, for a few manipulators to compromise market integrity and the rule of law and continue to damage US silver producers and innocent investors.