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The McDonalds Economic Index

International Commentary

Business news readers are not only continually bombarded with various “indices” concocted by the Corporate Media, but we are regularly having new ones inflicted upon us. The purpose of these contrived numbers is obvious.

Any/every economic index is (supposedly) “derived from” economic fundamentals, while hiding the raw data from us upon which the index is based. This makes these indices wonderful propaganda tools. Much like many forms of “processed food” strip-out most/all of the food-value of the raw material which went into them, the same is true (in economic terms) with these indices.

I thus offer readers a refreshing change: an economic index which actually means something. Presenting the “McDonalds Economic Index.” The premise behind the index is simple. With McDonalds now being firmly established across the (decaying) economies of the West, and rapidly becoming established in the (dynamic) “emerging economies” of much of the Rest of the World; McDonalds sales now provide a useful snapshot of overall global economic health.

Note that unlike regular food consumption, purchases at McDonalds are discretionary. They will rise when the economy is robust, and sag as the economy slows. The one weakness in this “index” is that like all other retail sales data (and most economic data in general) it does not strip-out inflation from its sales numbers, so we will have to make that adjustment ourselves.

What also makes the McDonalds Economic Index useful (for all Western-centric readers) is that it reports its sales with a clear Western perspective. Sales are broken down into three regions: the U.S. (5% of the world’s population); Europe (5% of the world’s population); and APMEA (“Asia/Pacific, Middle East, Africa”) – i.e. the Rest of the World.

Of course such a classification makes sense from a corporate perspective. It separates its divisions into the already-saturated U.S. market (which presumably includes Canada); the nearly-saturated European market; and McDonalds’ still-growing, Rest-of-the-World operations.

In October, McDonalds reported something which it had not done for nine years: a drop in overall global sales. However, not only was there an overall decline, but there were large declines in all three regions.  Sales fell 2.2% (month-over-month) in the U.S. and Europe, and 2.4% in the APMEA region.

As noted previously, this is a drop in sales revenues, and thus does not factor-in soaring inflation. As I’ve mentioned in several recent commentaries, as recently as the month of July the World Bank was reporting global food-inflation increasing by 10% in one month alone.

As a low-margin food producer, McDonalds is forced to pass along that inflation to its customers in the form of higher prices. While I doubt very much that McDonalds has hit its customers with any sort of across-the-board 10% increase in menu prices in October, clearly food-inflation would have forced prices higher by at least a couple percentage points on average – effectively doubling the (real) size of this one-month plunge.

 

Black Friday Mirage Hides U.S. Retail Depression

US Commentary

Every year it’s the same “song and dance” from the U.S. propaganda machine. Right after the “Black Friday” post-Thanksgiving shopping-orgy in the U.S.; the numbers will be twisted to supposedly show that the U.S. retail sector is strong-and-healthy. That’s immediately followed by a rousing chorus of “happy days are here again.”

Then, once the dust settles after the holiday shopping season (and few of the Sheep are paying attention), it will quietly announce another disastrous year for U.S. retailers. What is so pathetic about this sham is that not only does this song-and-dance never change, but it’s all based upon the same transparent lie.

That lie concerns inflation. All “inflation” is produced by the money-printing of bankers. Indeed the term itself originated as short-hand for “inflating the money supply”; which is precisely what all money-printing does. However, that topic has been covered previously for interested readers.

Where inflation closely relates to retail sales is that any/all retail sales statistics are only relevant if inflation is totally stripped-out of any calculation. Reporting that consumers paid higher prices for goods tells us absolutely nothing about the health of U.S. retailers – which is the raison d’etre for this statistic.

Instead, the propaganda machine does precisely the opposite. Not only does it refuse to subtract inflation out of its “retail sales” calculation; but it refuses to even acknowledge its perversion of this statistic when it reports its data.

Here it’s important to note to readers that when I use the term “inflation” that I’m referring to actual inflation in the real world, and not the hyper-absurd U.S. “consumer price index.” One could write an entire book about how the U.S. government has systematically severed all ties between this statistic and the real world, however a single anecdote will suffice.

In the same month (this summer) that the World Bank was reporting global food prices soaring at an annualized rate of 120%, and Asian governments were meeting to discuss “the global food-price crisis”; the U.S. government proclaimed that inflation in the U.S. was (literally) 0%.

Zero percent inflation in the U.S.; 120% inflation in “the world.” You do the math.

Here another important point must be made. More than ever food-price inflation is “inflation.” Obviously for the billions of people around the world living in poverty and near-poverty, that reality has always been totally apparent. However, for the first time since the Great Depression that Truth has migrated to the West.

One in six Americans must now subsist on government “food stamps” in order to feed themselves properly(?). Tens of millions of other Americans struggle barely above that threshold. This is the inevitable result of the more-than-50% decline in wages for the Average American over the past 40 years, or (in other words) a greater-than-50% decline in their standard of living. Food-inflation is inflation.

By any conservative measurement, inflation across the West now rages somewhere between 10 – 20%. Here even the eminent John Williams of Shadowstats.com is guilty of failing to fully factor-in this reality in his own calculation of the (real) U.S. inflation rate. Mr. Williams only assigns food prices an ordinary weighting in his own inflation calculation, when (as I just explained) food-inflation must now be over-weighted in any inflation calculation.

 

Silver’s Smoking Guns, Part III: Market Paradox

Silver Commentary

In Part I and Part II of this series, readers were presented with two dimensions of the great Silver Paradox. Despite having the best investment fundamentals of any commodity today, and arguably the best fundamentals for any commodity in history; silver hasn’t been so under-produced since it was discovered in the New World nearly 600 years ago, and it has never been so under-owned.

Along with establishing that silver is under-owned (by a factor of at least ten) and under-produced (by at least a factor of two); we also saw it conclusively established that silver was grossly under-priced. As we will see in this installment, it is the relentless suppression of the price of silver which is at the root of silver being both under-produced and under-owned.

Much has been written on this subject previously, by myself and others. However, any discussion of price-manipulation in the silver market must begin with the relentless sleuthing of noted silver authority, Ted Butler. It was his shocking discoveries in the silver market which originally attracted the attention of small numbers of far-seeing Contrarians, as well as other commentators such as myself.

Among Mr. Butler’s revelations were the outrageous/absurd short positions in the silver market of a handful of bullion banks. Five of these banks hold approximately 80% of the global short position (year after year), in the world’s largest silver market (the Comex) – another smoking gun. Furthermore, the magnitude of these short holdings is grossly disproportionate to the size of short positions in any other commodity market – another smoking gun.

Even more outrageous, the largest of these short positions (held by JP Morgan) is always roughly twice as large as the size of the Hunt Brothers long position in the silver market; when they were charged and convicted of silver-manipulation. This goes well beyond a mere “smoking gun”, and a more accurate metaphor would be to refer to it as a Smoking Cannon.

The banksters tell us they are “hedging” for anonymous clients with these short positions, and the blind/deaf/dumb CFTC vacuously parrots that drivel. This excuse is nonsensical on many levels. Hedging is an activity done to protect an entity from a sudden, severe price-reversal (lower) in the market. However, as noted in Part I, relentless price-suppression in the silver market had already taken the price of silver to a 600-year low (in real dollars).

Precisely what sort of “sudden, severe reversal” were these banksters hedging against with the price of silver already at a 600-year low? Silver priced below $4/oz was one of the most one-way bets in the history of commodities. Any objective analysis of that market would have indicated that silver clients required much less hedging than in any other commodity market – not much, much more. This multiplies the perversity of the grossly disproportionate short position, and totally negates the lies of the bullion banks.

   

Silver’s Smoking Guns, Part II: Investment Paradox

Silver Commentary

The world of investing is ruled by a single principle: “buy low, sell high” – or at least it should be. In order to squeeze as much money as possible out of the Chumps (i.e. small retail investors); the predatory Corporate Media has turned these “investors” into momentum-chasing traders, and the principles of investing have been thrown out the window.

Nowhere is this more apparent than through an examination of the silver market, and the perverse parameters of investment in this sector. In order to put the Golden Rule of buy low/sell high into action, we need to know how to determine when we are buying low – because once we have bought low, selling high is simply a matter of patience.

This presumes (of course) that as an investor we have done our “due diligence” in researching companies/sectors; and identified an investment opportunity with strong (future) fundamentals. We would not have been following the Golden Rule had we bought shares in Kodak as the world was in the process of switching from camera film to digital photography. We would have been buying low and (eventually) selling lower; or in relative terms buying high and selling low.

Conversely, referring back to Part I of this series; we have already ascertained that silver has large/growing demand, and it was conclusively demonstrated that silver is priced well below its fair-market value. On this basis alone, the silver sector would seem like a good destination for one’s investment dollars, but we have not completed our due diligence.

That still only covers demand and price parameters of this market. To get a more clear/complete picture of fundamentals we also need to focus on supply. Again referring to the first installment, we learned that silver is alone among major commercial/industrial metals in that the majority of supply is produced not via “primary mining” but as a byproduct of other metals mining.

As I also explained in that previous piece, that fact alone provides a near-conclusive argument that silver is under-produced. Unequivocal empirical evidence that silver is grossly under-produced can be found merely by looking at the total collapse in inventories. As I have frequently pointed out in previous commentaries, between 1990 – 2005 alone; silver inventories plummeted by 90%. Since 2005, inventory numbers have been falsified through a transparent, record-keeping sham, presumably to cover-up even further erosion of inventories.

Those who have any understanding of markets will realize that this alone is further proof of the long-term/severe under-pricing of silver, since price is the only mechanism which can restore equilibrium between supply and demand.

We have a second way of demonstrating that silver is under-produced apart from the collapse in inventories. Also mentioned in the first part of this series is the fact that gold and silver exist in the Earth’s crust in roughly a 17:1 ratio to each other. This suggests we should also see these metals mined in similar ratios.

However, if we obtain supply numbers for silver (from the Silver Institute) and for gold (from the World Gold Council), we see that over the past decade silver has only been mined at roughly a 7:1 ratio versus gold. This would indicate that silver is currently being mined at less than half the rate it would be mined if the metal was priced at its fair-market value.

 

Silver’s Smoking Guns, Part I: Mining Paradox

Silver Commentary

When a reader (and fellow silver-mining investor) recently expressed his frustrations on our Forum regarding the absurd valuations which most of these miners currently exhibit, I decided it was once again time to try to shed some light (and sanity?) on this subject.

When I began investing in these silver miners many years ago; one of the first anomalies to which I was introduced was that the vast majority of silver produced in the world (more than 75% at that time) was produced as a “byproduct” of other mining. While I immediately recognized that this was an extremely important factoid, at that time I lacked the level of understanding necessary to glean its true significance.

Since that time, the ramifications of these incredible parameters in silver mining are now apparent to me. Sadly, however, this important analytical point does not seem to be as apparent to others. While I’ve covered this subject matter once already in a prior commentary, the lack of general awareness in this area clearly merits repetition of this analysis.

The basic parameters for the mining of metals on our planet are simple and clear. With nearly every commercially-produced metal on the planet, the vast majority of that metal is produced via “primary” mining – mines which “primarily” produce that particular metal. The reason for this should be obvious.

At the large scale at which the modern, global economy operates; the need develops to secure large supplies of these metals. For purposes of both efficiency and a secure supply-chain; it is natural/preferable to seek to develop “copper mines” to meet copper demand, “zinc mines” to meet zinc demand, etc.

We would thus expect all of these commercially/industrially consumed metals to have production models where the vast majority of supply came from primary mining, with the metal which was produced as a “byproduct” (through the primary mining of other metals) being merely incremental to supply.

Indeed, with any/every metal for which there is this commercial/industrial demand, there are only two market paradigms where we would not expect the majority of (new) supply to come from primary mining, but rather as a byproduct of other mining:

a) Metals with a low level of demand, and/or only limited or specialized uses;

b) Metals which are found in either such small quantities or trace amounts that “primary” mining is not commercially feasible.

It is abundantly obvious that silver doesn’t come close to meeting either of those two conditions. With respect to its level of demand and its multitude of commercial/industrial applications; silver is literally in a class by itself.

With its aesthetic appeal (it’s the brightest of all metals) and malleability, it is (along with gold) the world’s best and oldest form of real “money”. On that basis alone there is significant investor demand for silver. Meanwhile, with new patents for silver-based industrial applications outnumbering those of any other metal; industrial demand for silver is large, strong, and growing.

The demand parameters are unequivocal: the majority of silver mined in the world should come from primary silver mining. This leaves the issue of supply. Is silver so rare in quantity and/or purity that primary silver mining is not feasible? Absolutely not.

   

ECB Bond-Buying: The Rape of Europe Continues

International Commentary

In the summer of 2011, I wrote a four-part series entitled Economic Rape of Europe Nearly Complete”. In that extended piece; I detailed how the combination of three malevolent forces was decimating the economies of Europe one-by-one.

Through the relentless fraud/manipulation in Euro debt markets, sadistic “austerity”, and so-called “bail-outs” which just bury these insolvent economies even deeper in debt; the Western banking cabal is systematically looting these nations.

The manipulation of European debt markets was (is) accomplished through the fraudulent rigging of the credit default swap markets; combined with the complicity of the Big Three ratings agencies and the West’s media Oligarchs.

The bankers manipulate credit default swap prices higher, simply by piling-on massive bets that a particular Euro-zone nation will default. The propaganda machine immediately shrieks that “risk” has now increased for this debt market, and then the accomplices in the ratings agencies comply with a ratings downgrade – immediately driving interest rates higher.

With the massive debts being carried by these economies, any increase in interest rates automatically makes the economy significantly less solvent, turning this tag-team of fraud into a self-fulfilling prophesy. With the banksters literally capable of manipulating Euro zone interest rates to any number they desire, as a matter of simple arithmetic it is impossible to “bail out” any of these nations – by lending them more money.

The moment more bail-out dollars are released, the banksters immediately drive interest rates even higher. Thus all the bail-out dollars are siphoned-out of the economy in the form of higher interest payments to the Bond Parasites, meaning all that each “bail out” accomplishes is to pointlessly pile on more debt.

Meanwhile, as more and more of every revenue-dollar is sucked out of these economies by the debt-market fraud, Austerity is literally nothing less than economic suicide. In economies already starved for capital, Austerity is the precise equivalent of a doctor putting a severely anorexic patient on a diet.

The empirical evidence is overwhelming. In every European economy which has inflicted Austerity on its population, the rate of economic contraction has accelerated, and the size of the budget deficits has grown larger instead of smaller. Since the entire raison d’etre of Austerity is to (supposedly) shrink these deficits, it is nothing less than deliberate suicide to continue this policy, and serves no purpose except to free-up more dollars to be paid out as interest payments to the Bond Parasites.

With these European governments having no viable plans for excavating their economies from debt, and with the bankers capable of instantly sabotaging any plan with more debt-market fraud (even if there was a plan); lending these economies more money (and calling that a “bail out”) is still more suicidal insanity. All that is accomplished is to increase the size of these debts – and interest payments on those debts – still further.

This systematic looting can only possibly result in the complete bankruptcy and total destruction of each of these economies, as has almost been completed with Greece. Now these Financial Fascists want to both accelerate their economic rape, and to tighten the choke-chains of debt around the throats of these governments.

 

Mining Companies: Why Smaller Is Better

Gold Commentary

Having invested in mining companies for quite a few years now; one of the first lessons I learned was to never touch the large-cap miners. However, before I explain my own reasoning, I want to quote a Bloomberg article from this morning which attempted to cover the same subject:

New Gold Inc. (HGD) Executive Chairman Randall Oliphaunt, who helped build Barrick Gold Corp. into the world’s largest producer of the precious metal, says he prefers running a smaller gold miner than a big one.

Companies that produce fewer than 2 million ounces annually have more opportunities to increase output, said Oliphaunt, who was chief executive officer of Toronto-based Barrick from 1999 to 2003 and joined Vancouver-based New Gold six years later. It’s “very challenging” to expand a large, established gold company, he said…

The problem with this Bloomberg article is that while it goes to great lengths to document the fact that large-cap gold miners are gross under-achievers while the junior and mid-cap gold miners have  provided very attractive rates of return, it never explains why.

Why do smaller gold miners “have more opportunities to increase output”? Why is it “very challenging” for the senior gold miners to grow? It’s very simple: because large-cap gold miners (and large mining companies, in general) have the world’s most-idiotic business model.

All large-cap mining companies have a very simple “rule” they live by: they only want to develop/produce large mining projects. Let’s assume that it is not purely the egos of the suit-stuffers who run these companies which prevents them from getting involved in smaller projects. Why are most large-cap mining companies not interested in developing smaller mining projects – no matter how high the profit margins will be?

There can only be one answer to this question: they focus purely on larger projects in order to have the greatest total output while managing the fewest number of mines. This, in turn, implies a corresponding belief: that the more mines these large-cap miners have to manage, the more things which can go wrong.

The rebuttal of shareholders to this attitude should be automatic: “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” These companies chose to be large-cap corporations. It’s especially easy for mining corporations to spin-off mines – either through outright sales, or simply setting up independent operations. When a corporation decides to become very large, this presumes administrative competence. A competent management team should not tremble in fear at the idea of running twenty, small, very profitable mines rather than five, huge inefficient ones.

This leads us to yet another question: why do smaller mining operations tend to be more profitable and/or efficient? We can answer this question simply by taking a closer look at the development of the mining mega-projects which these large-cap miners covet/demand.

It’s certainly true in mining (as in any other business) that the more outlets you operate, the more things which can go wrong. However, more unique to mining is the reality that as these projects grow in size individually, the number of things “which can go wrong” increases nearly exponentially.

   

U.S. Election 2012: Binary Insanity

US Commentary

Do they replace Tweedle-Dee with Tweedle-Dum; or does Tweedle-Dee get one more chance? This is the eternal question which confronts the binary minds of American voters every election, in their two-party political system which masquerades as a “democracy”.

While we can quibble over semantics, most people would agree that a democracy must demonstrate two qualities in order to be worthy of that term:

a) A government chosen by the people;

b) Whose actions reflect the will of the people.

It is abundantly clear that the United States political system fails both of those tests. Undoubtedly, most readers will reject this assertion. They will point to the voting process, and simplistically suggest that the mere act of voting means that whatever government emerges from the process was “their choice.” I disagree.

The 2012 U.S. election provides us the perfect opportunity to analyze the flaws of the U.S. political system because the two candidates are virtual clones of each other (skin colour notwithstanding). In Mitt Romney and Barack Obama; Americans have been given the “choice” between two of the most shameless flip-floppers to ever contaminate the political process.

The sci-fi cartoon comedy “Futurama” took this argument to its literal extreme: an episode featuring an election (in the future) between two actual clones – in a two-party system. The very pertinent point it made was this: if voters’ only choice is between two exact duplicates, in practical terms this clearly represents no “choice” at all.

However, even if this U.S. election was not a contest between two candidates who behaved as virtual replicas of each other, there is another extremely strong argument that the U.S. political system denies the U.S. voter any true “choice”: money.

One of the many unique “qualities”(?) of the U.S. political system is that during (and prior to) election campaigns, the U.S. media spends just as much time covering the race to raise money by the two parties as it does covering poll results. And it spends more time covering both those topics than it does in covering the actual campaign issues.

This in itself is highly revealing. What election “coverage” in the U.S. is now really all about is showing those who are stuffing money into campaign coffers whether they are getting their money’s worth – as evidenced by the poll results. This begs the question: who is stuffing these $billions into the bribe-receptacles of the two political parties? Simply put: the billionaires.

 

Renminbi Relentlessly Replacing Dollar As Reserve Currency

International Commentary

It is no secret that China is replacing the U.S. dollar with its own currency in more and more of its bilateral trading. It’s apparent to all that the renminbi will soon have (at least) a co-equal status with the dollar as the global “reserve currency”. Yet what is rarely if ever discussed in the mainstream media are the enormous economic repercussions of a world suddenly awash with a massive glut of surplus dollars.

In most respects economics mirrors one of the basic principles of physics: for every action there is an equal-and-opposite reaction. If farmers produce a bumper-crop of wheat and supply soars, then the price falls. Similarly, if (for some reason) the demand for wheat suddenly collapsed, the price would also fall – as both a jump in supply and/or a plunge in demand result in the same state: abundant/excessive supply. And the consequence of excessive supply is always a fall in price.

This economic “physics” applies in an identical manner to the world of currencies…eventually. In a global economy ever more corrupted by serial market-rigging; nowhere is this manipulation more blatant than in the world’s forex markets. Indeed, the world’s nations have openly declared that they are all competitively engaged in currency-manipulation; as denoted by the euphemistic term “competitive devaluation.”

For new readers, let me quickly summarize the (for lack of a better word) “principle” behind competitive devaluation. Through destroying the value of one’s own currency, the wages of workers (in real dollars) are driven steadily toward zero, and so (supposedly) this will allow a nation to under-cut its trade partners and export more goods.

The sick joke here is that with all nations destroying the value of their currencies (and the wages of their workers) simultaneously, no nation gains any “advantage” and the wages of workers are being destroyed for no reason whatsoever. This does, however, produce the paradigm of all currencies simultaneously falling in value, only the rate of decline of this paper-destruction varies.

This is why any time we see some talking-head refer to a currency as “rising in value”, it is an implicit admission that the person has no understanding of the global economy. If two people jump off the roof of a 100-storey building at the same time, and (while on the way down) one individual climbs on top of the shoulders of the other; that person hasn’t “risen”, he will merely go “splat” on the pavement a millisecond later.

The collapse in value of our paper currencies is accomplished through our morally/intellectually bankrupt central banks flooding the world with this (un-backed) paper. In other words, the entire global economy is already drowning in an ocean of these paper currencies. It is thus little surprise that these same central banks are now swapping their own paper for gold at the fastest rate on record.

It is in this context that we see a shift taking place where the U.S. dollar as (current) reserve currency is being steadily replaced by the renminbi. Some numbers here are in order. A recent article in China Daily noted that for much of Asia the renminbi is already the reserve currency.

A “renminbi bloc” has been formed in East Asia, as nations in the region abandon the U.S. dollar and peg their currency to the Chinese yuan…

And now seven out of 10 economies in the region – including South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand – track the renminbi more closely than they do the U.S. dollar…

According to the latest report by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, renminbi-denominated trade accounted for 10 percent of China’s total foreign trade in July. The figure was zero just two years ago.

From July 1 to August 31, global payments in the renminbi rose 15.6 percent, according to Swift as payment in other currencies fell 0.9 percent on the average[emphasis mine]

   

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