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  • Peak Gold? Goldman Calculates There Is Only 20 Years Of Gold Supply Left

    Late last year, when looking at a Goldcorp slideshow, we noticed something surprising: the gold miner had forecast that 2015 would be the year when gold production would peak among the mining industry.


    To be sure Goldcorp was really just pitching its own balance sheet, and was more focused on its far more levered gold-mining competitors going out of business...

    ... and hence facilitating "peak production" this year as one after another producer is forced to file for bankruptcy, than actually making a statement on how much gold remains to be mined in the ground. Because the last thing even the most healthy gold miner, with the lowest production cost wants, is to face a world in which their primary commodity is running out.

    Which may just be this world.

    According to a report issued by Goldman's Eugene King looking at commodity scarcity, the chart below "shows that there are only 20 years of known mineable reserves of gold and diamonds."

    Some futher observations on gold and scarcity in general from Goldman:

    The combination of very low concentrations of metals in the Earth’s curst, and very few high-quality deposits, means some things are truly scarce. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are the so-called precious metals (and diamonds), and that their value is derived from the fact they are rare.


    Their relatively scarcity, and the market’s belief that new discoveries will be limited, is what drives the price of these super rare commodities. Take diamonds as perhaps the most extreme example. A diamond has very little intrinsic value. Its value is determined by a belief that it is rare and, for a natural diamond, unique.


    Gold has been used as a measure of wealth for more than 4,000 years, as the ancient Egyptians soon worked out that gold was not only shiny and heavy, but rare.

    Of course, this analysis is meaningless in a vacuum: if the "known reserves" of gold plunge in the coming decade, no matter how many gold futures and GLD short sales are conducted by the BIS, the price will have to go up, and it will go up high enough to where a new surge of gold miners will come online and find thousands of new tons of gold reserves around the globe.

    Unless they don't, and Goldman is correct that "peak gold" may have arrived. This will be even more true if over the coming years the long overdue fiat economic panic finally washes over the globe, and a revulsion toward central bank policies forces a scramble into gold whose value (if not price since fiat currencies will be redundant) soars.

    The answer is unclear, but what is certain is that like the price of oil over the past decade and until last fall when price discovery finally became somwhat credible, what happens in the physical realm has absolutely zero marginal impact on the price of commodity which has about 100 ounces in deliverable paper contracts for every ounce in underlying. It will be only after the gold price distortions via the derivative market are eliminated that such trivial price-formation forces as supply and demand are once again relevant.


  • Greek Deputy FinMin Confirms Athens Is "Prepared For Rift" With Europe

    Just days after Greek FinMin Yanis Varoufakis' comments about hoping the Greek people will continue to back the government "after the rift," were played down by Syriza; ekathimerini reports that Alternate Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos on Friday made waves by seeming to confirm that the Greek government was "always prepared for a rift" with its European creditors - "If you don't entertain the possibility of a rift in the back of your mind then obviously the creditors will pass the same measures as they did with the previous [government]," (which perhaps explains why default risks are soaring back to post-crisis highs).


    As ekathimerini reports, alternate Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos on Friday made waves by saying that the Greek government was "always prepared for a rift."

    Tsakalotos, who is the ministry's key official for international economic relations, made the comment during an interview on Star television channel, prompting a flurry of reactions and criticism on social media.


    Tsakalotos was speaking just two days after Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was caught on camera during a visit to Crete on the occasion of Greece's Independence Day telling a citizen that he hoped Greeks would continue to back the government "after the rift."


    Varoufakis' comment was subsequently played down by SYRIZA commentators who said he might have been referring to a possible rift with vested interests in Greece rather than with the country's creditors.


    Apparently in the same vein, Tsakalotos said on Friday, "If you don't entertain the possibility of a rift in the back of your mind then obviously the creditors will pass the same measures as they did with the previous [government]." "We are creating ambiguity with the creditors intentionally because they have to know that we are prepared for a rift, otherwise you can't negotiate," he said.


    He added that the new government is intent on backing "those who lost a lot in the crisis, and that we are prepared, if things do not go well, for a rift."


    Prior to his comments, Tsakalotos took part in a meeting with Varoufakis and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

    *  *  *

    So is the plan to bleed the EU for as much as possible for as long as possible... then pull the Grexit "rift" card, pivot to Russia/China? Time is ticking loudly...

  • Will Cash Always Be Trash, Or Will It One Day Be King?

    Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

    When the phantom wealth evaporates and risk assets go bidless, cash will once again be king, for the simple reason there will be so little of it.

    Occasionally it's a good idea to step away from the daily grind to consider the larger issues we all face--for example, the future of the money we earn and the bits we invest in something we hope holds or increases its value.

    At present, cash is trash: cash earns almost no yield, and in some countries it now earns a negative interest rate, meaning it costs you to park your cash in a bank.
    Even cash equivalents such as one-year Treasury bonds pay almost nothing.
    Those who avoided debt and risky assets since 2009 have seen their cash lose value when adjusted for inflation, while those who borrowed to the hilt and bought risk-on assets such as stocks, junk bonds and high-end housing have skimmed monumental gains for doing what the central banks incentivized: borrowing money and buying speculative risk-on assets.
    Correspondent Kevin K. recently sent me a link to a home in the San Francisco Bay Area that was purchased around the crash era (2008-09) for $1.4 million, and sold last year for $2.1 million.
    Assuming a conventional 20% down payment of $280,000, the savvy buyer borrowed $1.12 million at historically low rates and offloaded the house 6 years later for a cool $560,000 profit (assuming a 6% sales commission and closing costs).
    That's a 200% return on the $280,000 cash down payment--a healthy reward for borrowing to the hilt for a mere 6 years.
    Anyone who margined to the hilt in 2009 and rode the stock market higher with borrowed money easily earned returns in excess of 200%.
    Yet how many people did so? Consider this chart of the wealth of U.S. households before and after the Global Financial Meltdown and Great Recession.
    By the look of it, even the top 5%--individuals earning taxable incomes of $120,000 or more, according to the Social Security Administration, or households with total incomes around $350,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (Table F-3. Mean Income Received by Each Fifth and Top 5 Percent of Families, XLS file)--have yet to regain the value of assets owned in 2007, before the Global Financial Meltdown/Great Recession.
    If the top 5% had borrowed/margined to the hilt and dumped all that dough into risk assets, their net wealth would have skyrocketed. Clearly, few did so.
    This suggests those who did margin/borrow to the hilt were in the top 1% or .1%. 95% of 2009-2012 Income Gains Went to Wealthiest 1%Average inflation-adjusted income per family climbed 6% between 2009 and 2012, the first years of the economic recovery. During that period, the top 1% saw their incomes climb 31.4% — or, 95% of the total gain — while the bottom 99% saw growth of 0.4%.
    What would have to happen for cash to be transformed from trash to "cash is king"? The basic answer is: all the risk-on credit/asset bubbles that have richly rewarded those who have speculated with borrowed money will have to implode and be impervious to central bank attempts to re-inflate the bubbles.
    What conditions would have to be present for credit/assets to implode and not recover?
    We are in uncharted territory in terms of the global bubble in credit and risk-on assets, so the answer isn't immediately clear. Here are some possibilities:
    1. Credit growth falters.
    2. Borrowing dries up (despite abundant credit).
    3. A global scramble for cash to pay debt and the costs of lavish lifestyles triggers the liquidation of risk-on assets.
    4. The risk-on assets go bidless, i.e. nobody wants luxury yachts, super-cars, estates, etc. at any price because the value is plummeting.
    5. As phantom wealth evaporates, everyone realizes the collateral propping up the mountains of debt is either impaired or non-existent.

    When the phantom wealth evaporates and risk assets go bidless, cash will once again be king, for the simple reason there will be so little of it. When the opposite of the present dynamic is "impossible," then the "impossible" becomes not just likely but inevitable.

  • Are We In A Biotech Bubble? You Decide

    To let everyone’s favorite “diminutive” Fed chair tell it, biotech valuations have been “substantially stretched” for the better part of a year. Despite that, blockbuster M&A deals and IPOs for pre-revenue newcomers have managed to sustain the insanity despite the objections of both bubble-spotting naysayers and some industry insiders like Roche Ventures’ Carole Nuechterlein who recently predicted that “the end is coming.” Earlier this week we saw the sector slide amid a broad market decline and you can count us among those who think the fact that 109 out of the 150 companies in the NBI lost money over the last year is cause for concern given the sector’s absurd outperformance. Credit Suisse has now weighed in on the subject, as a new note out today asks “Are We In A Biotech Bubble?” 

    Here are a few fun facts to kick things off, including the rather astonishing note that biotechs have been the best performing sector for a half decade:

    (a) Since 1/1/2011 the BTK has delivered 204% performance vs. 64% for the S&P500. The BTK is up nearly 400% since the previous peak reached during the mother of all bull markets, i.e. the dotcom fuelled 1999/2000 frenzy. The cumulative market cap of the 5 large caps is $513B currently up from $128B at the beginning of 2011 (and $82B at the beginning of 2001); (b) Biotech was the top performing sector for the last 5 years - 2011-2015; (c) The number of IPO's in 2014 (82 IPOs) has eclipsed the previous peak (67 IPOs) in 2000. There have been 12 IPOs YTD; (d) Multi $B valuations for SMID caps are now the norm. There are currently 44 public biotechs with >$2B market caps (outside the 5 large caps), 1 year ago there were only 26 and in 2011 just 14.

    Ok so to summarize, the space has outperformed the broad market by a count of 3.5:1 over the past four years, is up four fold over a decade that included the worst financial crisis since the Depression, is riding a 5-year reign as the top performing sector, and the number of public companies in the sector with $2B market caps has tripled in four years. That all looks a bit bubblish to us. Not so, says Credit Suisse:

    ...we do not think we are in a "biotech bubble" per se (ok maybe the pendulum has over-swung a little!), but rather in a new era for biotech driven by fundamental changes in large and SMID cap biotech. 

    So basically, “this time is different.” Here’s why according to the bank:

    "Biotech 1.0" is the “Hopes And Dreams Model”– Make great drugs for unmet medical needs (using great science) and sell them thus creating a unique (different to major pharma) infrastructure (high priced drugs with relatively small sales forces). Successful implementation of Biotech 1.0 allows a company to progress (or attempt) to "Biotech 2.0"– The “Nirvana Model” – Next (2nd) gen. blockbusters deliver unprecedented growth and profitability – this is what happened to BIIB, GILD, CELG and to a lesser extent AMGN 2012 to present (Exhibit 9). Biotech 2.0 not only delivered exceptional topline growth that was further leveraged to even higher bottom line growth but a massive improvement in operating margins…


    Bottom line is that companies (both early stage and now even late stage - e.g. RCPT has raised $820M from its 2013 IPO to now) do not have to license/partner products to get them through the development process given the robust financing window. What would have been the take-out for Pharmacyclics if Ibrutinib was not partnered, likewise where would Medivation be trading if Xtandi economics were 100%? 

    Breaking that down, CS appears to be saying that we’re not in a biotech bubble because four companies managed to make it from the aptly named “Hopes And Dreams” stage to the “Nirvana Model” and because in a world where everyone is chasing after any semblance of yield, pre-revenue companies which normally would have needed to partner with a major or go bankrupt, were able to raise money and stay alive. 

    It’s interesting that in the world of biotechs, reaching “nirvana” is apparently when you are able to deliver top-line and bottom-line growth. There’s a name for that magical combination in other sectors as well: it’s called the “Running A Successful Business Model” and as it turns out, really isn't all that uncommon. Also, it’s not entirely clear that a “robust financing window” is something to be especially enthusiastic about. Obviously if a company that otherwise would have went out of business is able to stay around long enough to produce a lifesaving drug by issuing shares that’s great, but as we’ve seen with US shale plays, allowing otherwise insolvent companies to lumber around zombie-like by virtue of a market eager to snap up secondaries and HY issuance isn’t everywhere and always a good thing and it certainly is not a sign that the sector isn’t frothy. In fact, one might easily argue that if people are financing huge risks at non-economic spreads, we’re probably in a bubble.

    In any event, have a look at the following charts and judge for yourself:

    *  *  *

    As a reminder, here are the facts:

    • Below is a chart of the 150 companies that make up the Nasdaq Biotech Index (NBI), broken down by Net Income.
      • Of the 150 companies, in the last 12 months only 41 had earnings, i.e., Net Income, amounting to just under $31 billion
      • Of this $31 billion in earnings, just 5 companies - Gilead, Amgen, Shire, Biogen and Celgene - had net income over $1 billion
      • Just these 5 biotechs represented 83% of all the earnings generated in the NBI
    • 109 companies in the NBI lost money in the last 12 months.
    • In summary: only 41 companies in the index were profitable, which means 72.5% of biotechs lost money
    • 83% of Biotech earnings were generated by just 12% of the companies

    Visually this is shown as follows:

  • Oil Slides As Inventories Trump Iran-Yemen Push-Pull

    Crude oil prices have rallied sharply this week on headlines that a coalition of Sunni-ruled nations initiated airstrikes on Yemen against Shiite Houthi rebels. Goldman's Damian Courvalin notes that this rally reversed the sell-off that occurred in part on the rising odds of a deal with Iran being reached. Courvalin expects both events to have negligible near-term supply impacts, with the build in crude inventories set to continue in 2Q15. Longer term, a deal with Iran could lead to greater OPEC supplies although the timing of the sanction relief remains uncertain. It appears today's weakness indicates a dawning realization that there's still too much...


    Big roundtrip in crude but supply will build...


    YEMEN: While Yemen is a small producer (145 kb/d in 2014), the price rally is driven by fears of potential escalation and the proximity of the Bab el-Mandeb strait. While the conflict points to worsening Shiite-Sunni relations in the region, the near-term potential impact on oil production is limited, with the conflict far from Saudi’s oil fields and limited to targeting the Houthi rebels. While closure of the strait could impact 3.8 mb/d of crude and product flows (2013 EIA estimate), the strait is a transit point rather than a chokepoint. Its closure would keep tankers departing the Persian Gulf from reaching the Suez Canal and the SUMED Pipeline, diverting them around Africa, for an additional 10 to 15 days transit time.

    IRAN: Reports of progress in the negotiations to lift the Iran sanctions increase the odds that a deal may be reached by month end. The pace of relief from US sanctions seems to remain the key unresolved issue given the need for US Congress to vote to permanently lift them. If a deal is reached, a tentative timeline for it to be finalized would be the end-of-June deadline and the lift of sanctions would likely be progressive, contingent on observed progress in implementing the deal. As a result, the impact of any sanctions relief on Iran’s production could potentially not occur until 2H15 or later and could initially be limited to Iran drawing down its floating storage of c. 30 mb if the EU crude import ban and shipping insurance restriction get lifted.

    While sanctions relief could lead Iran production to increase by a few thousand barrels per day initially, a sustainable increase in Iranian production would however only occur gradually given (1) the required investment to reverse the field output restrictions and decline rates, (2) the need for more favorable contracts and signs that sanctions relief are sustainable to attract foreign investment. As a result, we don’t see a deal as dramatically impacting the global oil cost curve but instead contributing to our expectation for gradually rising OPEC production in the New Oil Order. Independently of the sanctions, we expect Iran exports to ramp up in April once India starts its new fiscal year, contributing to the 2Q stock build.

    * * *

    It appears the reality of accelerating production and static storage capacity is starting to overhwelm geopolitical events.

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