Home > Snow Job in May
It is difficult to express just how warped US markets have become, though, from the movements of the past two trading days, a case can be made that the markets are being guided by forces that are distinctively not based on free market ideology nor statistics that can be trusted within any degree of accuracy.
Taking a look first on the massive downdraft in commodities - mostly silver and crude oil - from Thursday’s trading, one should look no further than the CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange), the overarching body that controls trade in futures, options and various other derivatives.
The CME raised margin requirements - the cost to buy a futures contract - on silver four times in the past two weeks. That resulted in many speculators - generally honest traders working with leverage via margin - to reduce their exposure, thereby taking the price of silver from close to $50/ounce on Friday, April 29, to under $35/ounce by Thursday, May 5.
This really doesn’t require much thought. If it costs more to buy something - in this case a silver futures contract - you either buy less of it or don’t buy at all, waiting until the price is more reasonable. In the case of silver futures contract, a highly inelastic entity (You can’t buy a fraction on one; you must buy a full contract.), one is either in or out. When margin requirements (cost) rise rapidly, many legitimate buyers head for the hills. This is exactly what happened all week, culminating in the final thrust downward on Thursday, May 5, as there were also fewer short contract holders which would have provided some support, having to cover as prices fell. Alas, the shorts were also out of the market due to exorbitant margin costs.
This makes a great deal of sense from a banker’s perspective. Money flowing into either physical silver or gold is money out of circulation, and, more dangerously, into a competing currency. Precious metals compete with all fiat (paper) currencies, insofar as they are considered stores of wealth and mediums of exchange. Thus, when one buys Silver Eagles, silver bars, etc., bankers get worried because the buyer exchanged paper dollars (or Euros or Yen or Reals) for physical metal. And if the price of physical metal and the amount in circulation gets too high, the need for paper dollars is diminished.
Silver, being the "coin of gentlemen," as opposed to gold, "the coin of the realm (or, kings), is a very dangerous commodity to the banker line of thought. If more and more ordinary people - the "little guys" upon whom the banker depends - conduct transactions in silver - the utility of paper money declines, velocity decreases and all of a sudden there’s a liquidity crisis.
This is exactly what the global (mostly in the USA) banking cartel feared as silver approached all-time highs, thus the need for margin hikes to kill the competing currency before it became a real threat.
The same is true for gold, to a lesser degree, as central banks hold gold as a final backstop to their paper currencies, though it is leased out, levered 100-1, and therefore, being a useful conduit for the bankers, not as volatile as silver.
As for oil, what caused Thursday’s sell-off is a little less clear, but again, the CME, which owns the NYMEX, where West Texas Intermediate oil futures (the most popular and widely held) are traded, extended trading range limits from $10 to $20, exacerbating an already decisive decline.
In simple terms, the CME allowed oil to fall though the floor simply by changing the rules in the middle of the day. There’s less concern in the price of oil declining, because lower oil prices are generally good for everybody outside of oil companies and Middle East sovereigns, so less attention was paid to the CMEs quick decision, but it still underscores the levels at which rules will be either broken or amended to accommodate the needs of the powers behind the money (read: the too big to fail banks, the Fed and Treasury Department).
Now to Friday’s fiasco in the Bureau of labor Standards (BLS) non-farm payroll data for April (the establishment survey). While the consensus opinion had been trending toward lowered expectations, the BLS surprised everybody with the announcement of 244,000 new jobs created during the month, 268,000 in the private sector, offset by a loss of 24,000 public sector jobs - mostly municipal and state employees being furloughed.
What’s intriguing about the non-farm payroll data is how the numbers are created, and the use of the word "created" is no accident, because the BLS employs such such extreme and convoluted data manipulation that pure statistics become rather murky. It’s easy to say that our monthly "jobs data" is more a political process than an actual statistical survey with a margin of error in the low single digits. It’s guided by a smallish sample and then amplified by what’s known as the "birth/death model," a number created to reflect the number of businesses opening (birth) and closing down (death).
Does the BLS actually sample bankruptcy and new corporation filings in selected communities and states? No. Does the BLS ever adjust the number for seasonality. No. For accuracy, yes, but not in the month-to-month survey numbers.
So, from where did the 244,000 net new jobs in April come? 175,000 came from the birth/death model. And while some are contending that roughly 62,000 came from the widely-published McDonald’s hiring, the Wall Street Journal begs to differ, stating that McDonald’s hire date was April 19, a week after the BLS survey period.
Taking just the raw data, subtracting out the birth/death figures, the US economy consisting of existing businesses created 69,000 net new jobs - not so hot. If we can believe that a couple hundred thousand newly-minted entrepreneurs joined the business fray and 30 to 40,000 businesses went belly up in the same time frame, we could believe this figure. However, like the missing photo of a dead Osama bin Laden, there’s no proof of these "births" and "deaths," only trust in the BLS, which, by the way, stretched credulity again by proclaiming the official unemployment rate to have risen, up to nine per cent (9%).
That rise correlated to the other side of the BLS coin, the household survey, which showed the number of employed persons to have fallen by 190,000 from the March reporting period to April.
Is it a gain of 244,000 jobs or a loss of 190,000? Who knows? The point is that many decisions are made based upon the BLS data, which, as shown, is more guesswork and massaging of data than trustworthy data, but one wonders if these decisions are based on reality, a perception of reality, or if the reality is being superimposed upon the American public to suit the current narrative of "recovery."
Whatever the case, it seems a shoddy way to run a country’s economy, with dodgy data and questionable maneuvers by those running the exchanges.
It doesn’t snow much in the USA in May, but that surely doesn’t preclude a massive snow job by Wall Street and the federal government and their extensions.
Fearless Rick is the publisher of the blog, Money Daily, where this article originally appeared earlier today.