Thursday, October 27, 2011

Euro zone leaders reach debt deal; Gold, Silver demand up/price up $100/oz on week

   In Brussels, European leaders alongside the IMF negotiated with the financial institutions that own Greek debt in the form of bonds. They struck a number of key agreements the main one being a reduction in the value of Greek bond debt by half (banks take on the 50% loss on the nominal value of those bonds) wiping out $100B worth of debt commitments, bringing debt to a more managable level (120% of GDP down from 160%). Some of the insurers affected such as France's Groupama (wrote 2 billion euro worth of CDS) could bear an even greater burden due to their issuance of credit default swaps (CDS contracts) which they'd have to honour if it's determined that a credit event has taken place (unlikely though given that the deal was not forced on either party). CDS contracts on Greek debt stand at $75 billion up 50% since 2009. To woo insurance companies, the EU made available to it a €30B+ credit. Also helping Greece; Government crackdown on corruption which could increase tax revenue by as much as €1.2B in 2011 (will force more businesses to collect taxes on sales).

Just because Greece was taken care of doesn't mean the European situtation has stabilized; Italian bond rates are currently at 6.5% (November 2011, was 5.867% on Oct 27) up from 4.6% in June 2011 meaning that Italy needs to raise €600 billion from private investors over the next three years just to finance its current debt level. In comparison, it was when the ten year Greek bond yield initially hit 8% that Greek debt became unmanageable. To deal with that problem the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) increased its available funds from €440 billion to €1.0 trillion euros (US$1.4 trillion) giving more security to Spain and Italy at least for the next couple years. Problems at the negotiating table remain an issue due to differences between Germany and France. News of the deal pushed the euro to a 7 week high against the US dollar ($1.42). Update: On November 3rd the yield on Greece's 2 year bond topped 100% for the first time.
2010 deficit to gdp ratio by country: UK: 10.4% (government debt is 80% of gdp), Spain 9.2% (Spain's unemployment rate suprassed 20% in 2010, total government debt to gdp ratio is 60%), France 7% (gov debt 81% of gdp), Italy 4.6% (gov debt 119% of gdp, austerity has included cutting back on public holidays). (CBC: TSX, loonie, soar on Europe crisis plan) The budget deficits in most of those countries is a direct result of deflation due to prices being too high/governments of the weak economies having no control over the currency (monetary policy). Also during the week, the EU approved another €130B bailout package.
Here is where Greece is coming from, Last year they had 800,000 civil servents collecting $48,000 annually in full pensions, those pensioners became eligible for that at age 52. New austerity measures are likey to impact those people significantly. European banks typically leverage about 80 times (debt used to acquire additional assets), that puts the EU in a more preciarious situation than the United States (40 times leverage). More info Buyers of Greek Bonds Choose only 1 of 4

Update - A new problem has since been acknowledged: The European Stability Fund is having a difficult time attracting investors. Canada has already said no to investment while China has "no concrete plans". The Fund recently delayed a €3B bond sale citing market conditions.

Gold is up again! Gold soared by 1.4% to $1,747.70 (after reaching a one month high of $1,728.11/oz, up half a percent before the day even began) as demand remains strong in China (high inflation, economic uncertainty, real estate bubble) and the rest of the world where many still view the EU's most recent deal as only a temporary fix that doesn't solve the root of the problem. SPDR Gold Shares added 16.645 tonnes over the last three sessions. Silver was up 5.77% or $1.80. There's also a temporary slowdown in demand from India (Diwali festival of lights festivities are ongoing; Diwali is a five day festival however the entire event including other festivities runs from the middle of October to the middle of November, most of its gold demand came in preparation for the festival) and Thailand (recovering from the worst floods in fifty years). In India, gold trades on the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) where the price is commonly listed per 10 grams. Indian gold demand was up 38% in the second quarter of 2011 and 29% in the last 12 months. Just to give you an idea of how unprecedented the price of gold is today; Over history, the last bull market high was $850/oz.

If, as many suggest, the People's Republic of China lets the RMB increase in value relative to the USD, that will weaken demand for gold in the short term as investors see the new exchange rate as a sign of economic stability but in the long run, the stronger RMB will increase Chinese demand for Gold due to its greater purchasing power. Also, a stronger RMB will raise Chinese import demand, indirectly increasing Gold demand from abroad too.
Platinum group metals increase Platinum was up 2.77% ($44.2/oz) by the end of the trading day Thursday to $1,641.4/oz. Platinum, used in everything from surgical equipment to white gold plating to catalytic converters, is produced at a rate of only 5-6M ounces a year (5-10% as much as gold). South Africa produces 80% of the world's platinum. Spot palladium up 2.78% to $665/oz reaching another one month high (also recorded one month high the day before). Palladium began the year around $799.5/oz but since then has dropped 20%, platinum began the year at around $1770/oz but has dropped 7.8% since.

Other Notes: In the July-September 2011 period the US economy grew 2.5% up from the 2.3% estimate.
Total EU-Canada (ex UK) trade is $50 billion (6% of total Canadian trade). News of the Greek debt deal boosted the exchange rates of a number of currencies against the American dollar however not versus the Chinese Yuan or Japan's Yen (Euro up 2% to US$1.42, Canadian dollar up 1.5 cents to above parity at US$101.02). Many non US currencies actually strengthened versus the euro and dollar (US & Cdn).
Sony buys out its partnership with Ericsson for $1.5B giving Sony complete control over its smartphone business, allowing it integrate more of its products and software. Ericsson will now be able to focus more on its wireless technologies. Total world debt represents about 5X total GNP.

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