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May
11

Tax Officials Cite Momentum, Challenges in Tax Revamp

Two US policymakers from opposed ends of the political spectrum on Friday stated thrust is building for a top-to-bottom revamp of the tax code, however the largest question is whether there is political will to get it done.

Mark Prater, a long-time Republican Senate tax counsel and Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department, cited major policy proposals and two years of public hearings and private meetings that have set the foundation for the first rewrite of the code since 1986.

Mazur, who is Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s top policy aide on tax issues, said this year the stars are aligned for tax reform in a way they haven’t been, he and Prater spoke at a legal conference in Washington, at the moment it is just a matter of political will.

The two top tax writing lawmakers expect to push legislation through Congress this year to lower most tax rates and simplify the code that many Americans regard as far too complex.

They may have more political liberty to write a bill as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat, is retiring following this term and House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp a Republican is term-limited as chairman.

President Barack Obama says he backs tax reform, while some have said it does not appear to be high on his agenda.

Mazur accepted there are tons of obstacles, including the divide between the parties on whether the tax reforms should produce more revenue. Democrats generally favor doing this as Republicans do not.

Prater, a tax policy aide to Senator Orrin Hatch the senior Finance Committee Republican, agreed energy is building. One advantage he quoted is the January 1 fiscal deal that lifts taxes on Americans making more than $400,000 a year and also established a budget baseline both parties agree on.

Prater said that the playing field is a lot clearer concerning where we are starting from.

He said on the question of whether a tax renovate should lift revenue, that to me is actually a political question that comes down to what the other pieces of the picture are.

May
11

Precious Metal Fall 1.5 percent on US Dollar Gain, Posts Weekly Plunge

Yellow metal knock down almost 1.5 percent on Friday as a sharp increased in the US dollar against the Japanese yen triggered technical selling, sending the metal to a two-week low.

Bullion slip for a second consecutive day as the yen plummeted to its weakest against the US dollar in more than four years on Friday, a day following the US currency climbed above the 100-yen level. The US dollar rally also weighed on industrial commodities led by crude.

Gold posted a weekly fall of almost 2.5 percent as continued outflows in gold-backed exchange-traded funds more than offset strong physical retail demand following yellow metal’s historic selloff in mid-April.

Precious metal’s sharp losses previous month has intensified a disconnect among funds that sold on dissatisfaction over gold’s under performance and individual investors who could not get sufficient physical gold coins and bars at bargain prices.

Miguel Perez-Santalla, vice president of BullionVault, an online physical gold and silver market it’s all about the greenback strength, that’s where all the fast money is going. He said, I believe this is another opportunity for physical buyers.

Spot gold knocks down as much as 2.5 percent to a low of $1,420.60 per ounce earlier in the session. It was down 1.3 percent at $1,438.51 per ounce by 2:28 p.m. (1828 GMT)

US Comex division gold futures for June delivery settled down $32 at $1,436.60 per ounce, with trading volume almost 10 percent over its 30-day average.

Carlos Sanchez, director of commodities and asset management at CPM Group said yellow metal accelerated losses following sell-stops were triggered below technical support at $1,450 per ounce.

Gold’s failure to break above a $40 trading range in the precedent two weeks suggested sentiment remains weak following the metal plunged to $1,321.35 an ounce on April 16, its lowest in more than two years.

May
4

ECB Cuts Interest Rates, Open to Further Action

The European Central Bank cut interest rates for the first time in 10 months on Thursday and held out the likelihood of further policy action to hold up the recession hit euro zone economy.

Responding to a fall in euro zone inflation well below its target level and growing unemployment, the ECB lowered its main rate by a quarter percentage point to a record low 0.50 percent.

Mario Draghi, ECB President promising to provide as much liquidity as euro zone banks require well into coming year and to help smaller companies get access to credit, also indicated that some policymakers had pushed for a bigger cut.

He told a news conference after the ECB’s Governing Council met in Bratislava, there was a very, very strong existing consensus towards an interest rate cut. Within that, there was a prevailing consensus for a cut of only 25 basis points.

The ECB was also technically prepared to cut its deposit rate from the current zero percent into negative territory, meaning it would begin charging banks for holding their money overnight.

Such a move could encourage the banks to lend out money rather than hold it at the ECB, although it would also almost certainly have a big impact on banks own operations and major implications for funding and bond markets.

Draghi said the ECB could cope with these, a departure from his prior statements.

There are several unintentional consequences that may stem from this measure, we will address and cope with these consequences if we make a decision to act. And we will again look at this with an open mind and we placed ready to act if needed.

Acknowledging that, the ECB stated it would prime banks with as much liquidity as they need until at least July 2014 and look at ways to enhance lending to smaller companies, which are the lifeblood of Europe’s economies however have been starved of credit in many countries.

May
4

Job Market Resilience Eases Growth Concerns

Employment rose at a quicker pace than expected in April and hiring was much stronger than formerly thought in the prior two months, a sign of flexibility that should help the economy absorb the blow from belt tightening in Washington.

Labor Department said on Friday,non-farm payrolls increased by 165,000 jobs previous month and the unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 percent, the lowest level since December 2008. The job counts for February and March were revised up by a net 114,000.

Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco said that this boosts the case that the US economy will be able to survive the joint headwinds of sequestration and a deepening recession in Europe.

Investors on Wall Street cheered the statistics, which beat economists’ expectations for a 145,000 jobs advance and a steady 7.6 percent reading on the unemployment rate.

US stocks rallied, with the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index closing at record highs. The US dollar vaulted to a one week high against the yen, however Treasury debt prices tumbled.

Payrolls climbed by 138,000 jobs in March, 50,000 more than formerly reported, and job growth for February was revised up by 64,000 to 332,000, the largest growth since May 2010.

However the gains previous month were far below the 206,000 jobs per month average of the first quarter, the newest evidence the economy is cooling even if not as rapidly as earlier feared.

Construction employment dropped for the first time since May and manufacturing payrolls were flat. The length of the average workweek pulled off a nine  month high and a gauge of the overall work effort knock down.

Economists pin the slowdown mainly on higher taxes that took hold at the start of the year and $85 billion in federal government spending cuts known as the sequester, that went into effect at the start of March. Economies overseas have also weakened cutting into US export growth.

However the US economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual pace in the first quarter, statistics on construction spending, retail sales and trade suggested it ended the period with less speed.

May
4

Precious Metal Ends Lower, Copper jumps 7% on US Jobs Data

Yellow metal futures finished with a modest loss on Friday as greater than expected US employment numbers dulled the gold’s safe-haven appeal.

For the week, bullion found support from the European Central Bank’s decision to cut interest rates and from strength in physical demand to end the week 0.7% advanced.

Precious metal for June delivery chop down $3.40 or 0.2%, to settle at $1,464.20 per ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Labor Department said on Friday that the US economy created a net 165,000 jobs in April. The figure surpassed the 135,000 prediction of economists. The rushing in hiring nudged the unemployment rate down to 7.5%, the lowest level since December 2008.

Right before the data’s release yellow metal prices were trading about $13 per ounce higher than Thursday’s close, then following the figures they fell to trade around $10 lower.

Copper futures rallied almost 7% for their biggest one day percent advance in over two and a half years, as the jobs statistics brightened demand prospects for the industrial metal.

The July silver contract added 18 cents, or 0.8%, to end at $24.01 per ounce, climbed 1% from a week ago.

Chintan Karnani, an independent bullion analyst based in New Delhi said that if hiring continues to increase at the current pace for the coming two to three months that would be bearish for safe havens like silver and gold.

He further said only the interest rate cut by the European Central Bank and firm physical gold demand in Asia are supporting gold prices.

Gold dealers reported impressive jumps in April precious metal sales.

Will Rhind, managing director of ETF Securities, a provider of physically backed gold ETFs including the ETFS Gold Trust stated request is mainly being seen by coin/bar merchants and gold dealers (bullion banks) that act on behalf of central banks and other great institutional physical players.

Copper for delivery in July jumped 21 cents or 6.8% to a three-week high of $3.315 a pound. It rose approximately 4% for the week.

 

May
2

Precious Metal Holds Near 1 week Low, ETFs Outflows Persist

Precious metal held near its weakest level in practically a week on Thursday, following declines in holdings of exchange traded funds, equities and other commodities overshadowed the US Federal Reserve’s decision to uphold its loose monetary policy.

Prices fall $225 per ounce between April 12 and 16 on fears of a withdrawal of the Fed’s monetary stimulus and after the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank asked Cyprus to sell reserves as part of a bailout deal.

While the Fed’s money-printing to buy assets could stoke inflation, yellow metal has been overwhelmed by fears of sales by central banks and a fall in global bullion ETF holdings to their lowest since September 2009.

However this is unlikely to be sold on the open market. I consider another central bank will be buying it. China’s physical demand is still strong. This morning they are perhaps keeping a lookout to see where the market is going before purchasing.

Precious metal fell $3.05 per ounce to $1,453.69, having shed more than 1 percent in the previous session its largest daily drop since gold’s historic decline in mid-April. It smash a low of $1,439.74 on Wednesday, the weakest since April 25.

Brian Lan, managing director of GoldSilver Central Pte Ltd in Singapore said that people are more wary as yellow metal has been trading within the same trading band. Moreover, Europe has agreed on a loan deal for Cyprus, and one of the terms state that assets in bullion might be sold.

US gold for June delivery stood at $1,453.70 per ounce, climbed up $7.50.

In its statement subsequent a two-day meeting, the Fed reiterated it would carry on to buy $85 billion worth of bonds each month to support a moderately expanding economy that still has too high an unemployment rate.

Investors are now waiting for US non-farm payrolls report for April scheduled for release on Friday, which will signal the longer term predictions for the Fed’s monetary stimulus.

However instead of rallying on the news, yellow metal tracked other markets lower on renewed doubts over the Chinese and US economies following the latest economic data from both countries elevated doubts about the strength of the global economy.

The US economy is likely to have added 145,000 jobs.

March’s number chop down far short of expectations at 88,000, triggering a sell-off in riskier assets. Precious metal for June delivery added $9.70, or 0.7%, to $1,456 per ounce.

China’s factory sector growth eased in April as new export orders chop down for the first time this year, a private survey showed on Thursday, suggesting the euro zone slump and sluggish US demand may be risks to China’s economic recovery.

May
1

US Miners Union Charts New Course to Save Benefits in Bankruptcy

As mineworkers and retires battle to salvage their allowances and benefits from the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal Corp, lawyers for their union are annoying an unusual gambit and one that may be a test circumstance for workers rights when companies spin off assets.

With a tough road ahead in bankruptcy court in St. Louis, the United Mine Workers of America has brought a similar lawsuit 500 miles away, in West Virginia, the heart of coal country.

That lawsuit is not against Patriot but instead challenges Peabody Energy Corp, which spun Patriot off in 2007 saying the former parent must pay retiree pensions and remunerations if Patriot cannot.

But experts say the lawsuit is a long shot, if successful it could upend how company’s similar Peabody dispose of assets in the future. And, for mineworkers, the lawsuit seeks to preserve a right to lifetime health and pension coverage that dates back to the Truman administration.

The union claims that when Peabody spun Patriot off in 2007, it knew the new company was going to fail. Parting with only almost 16 percent of its assets, Peabody loaded Patriot up with approximately 60 percent of its post-employment benefit liabilities, the union alleges.

Patriot declared bankruptcy in July, and has said it must cut $150 million a year in employment costs to redeem profitability. It is seeking permission this week from a judge in US Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis to impose drastic cuts, which the union has cast as nowhere near fair.

With the odds weighted against workers in bankruptcy court, where their claims are subordinate to the claims of creditors and lenders, the union last drop brought a separate lawsuit against Peabody in federal court in Charleston, West Virginia. The lawsuit also names as a defendant Arch Coal Inc, which in 2005 sold certain units that were ultimately bought by Patriot after its spinoff.

Contacts like Peabody’s, in which it spun off liabilities as well as assets, are not unusual. If the union’s lawsuit is successful, it could set a pattern by allowing workers to keep a company on the hook for the liabilities it tries to offload.

May
1

Yellow Metal Edges Down, Investors Cautious Ahead of Fed

Yellow metal ticked lower on Wednesday on a shortage of physical buying and as investors waited to see if the US Federal Reserve sticks to its stimulus programme to spur the economy, which may lift the metal’s appeal as a hedge against inflation.

Doubts that central banks money printing to buy assets will stoke inflation have been a key driver in boosting precious metal, which rallied to an 11-month high previous October following the Fed announced its third round of aggressive economic stimulus.

The Fed’s policy making committee ends its conference later in the day with a statement that could reflect recent weak economic statistics. Investors also await Friday’s non-farm payrolls data which will signal the longer term predictions for the Fed’s monetary stimulus.

Edward Meir, a metals analyst at futures brokerage INTL FCStone said that accommodative policies are generally seen as supportive for bullion, however as the events of the last few weeks have demonstrated, gold does not always move in lockstep with simple expansion in money supply.

In its place, it seems to pick up steam either as a result of disorder in the financial markets or on the back of higher inflation readings, neither of which seem to be dominant at this particular time.

Gold dropped $1.89 per ounce to $1,474.71 by 0602 GMT, with the market torn between expectations that the Fed will keep its current policy and daily outflows from exchange traded funds, as investors cut their exposure.

US gold futures for June delivery stood at $1,474.20 per ounce added $2.10.

SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s biggest gold backed exchange traded fund, said its holdings dropped 0.19 percent to 1078.54 tonnes on Tuesday, their lowest since September 2009.

However gold has recovered more than half of its $225 loss incurred among April 12 and 16, boosted by strong physical demand, especially in top gold consumers China and India.

The longer term trend has been broken to the downside. This fact is important as in a downtrend the default move of a price is lower in the absence of convincing fundamentals. With fundamentals only neutral, we think certain risk still persists.

Credit Suisse in a report said that with investment flows negative however monetary policy supportive, we consider a neutral fundamental rating is the most appropriate one. In contrast to neutral fundamentals, technical indicators are clearly negative.

Singapore and Hong Kong were closed for a holiday. A rush in buying of gold bars following the recent plunge in prices has led to tight physical supply in Asia.

In other markets, the US dollar eased on Wednesday as investors warily awaited the result of the US Federal Reserve’s policy meeting, although expectations the European Central Bank will cut interest rates on Thursday capped the euro.

Apr
30

Precious metal Down 1 percent; ETF holdings hit lowest Since Sept 2009

Precious metal fell 1 percent on Tuesday, falling into negative territory following some early bargain hunting, however daily outflows from exchange traded funds highlighted investor’s lack of confidence in the gold.

Tim Riddell, head of ANZ Global Markets Research, Asia said that from a technical point of view, while the rebound has been relatively solid it appears to be a more sustained correction of the drop that we saw from late March rather than a turn in trend.

Although yellow metal’s appeal as a hedge against inflation may be burnished by hopes the US Federal Reserve will continue its bond buying programme, flowing stock markets could tempt investors to ditch gold and shift to equities.

Actually what we need to see is a series of closes above $1,505 to take the pressure off, he added that a fall below $1,435 could trigger a favored technical pullback to $1,300 and potentially even as deep as $1,245.

US gold for June delivery gave up early increases and stood at $1,461.10, down $6.30.

US gold futures and Cash dropped to almost $1,321 on April 16, their lowest in more than two years, after a fall below $1,500 led to a sell-off which stunned investors, and encouraged them to slash holdings of exchange-traded funds.

Precious metal fell $14.18 per ounce to $1,461.61 by 0617 GMT.  It had increased slightly on Monday on expectations the Fed would keep the pace of its bond buying unchanged at $85 billion a month following less than expected US growth.

The SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s biggest gold backed exchange-traded fund, said its holdings dropped 0.22 percent to 1,080.64 tonnes on Monday from 1,083.05 tonnes on Friday to their lowest since September 2009.

A weak March employment report in the US and other softer signals from the economy seemed to kill off expectations the Fed could taper the pace of bond buying in next months.

Asian shares edged higher on Tuesday, a day after the S&P 500 index ended at an all-time high and as investor risk appetite was bolstered by expectations the European Central Bank and US Federal Reserve the will continue with growth supportive monetary stimulus measures.

The Fed is currently buying longer dated US Treasuries and mortgage backed bonds every month and is expected to vote to keep doing so at the conclusion of a two day policy setting meeting on Wednesday.

Fears that central banks money printing to buy assets will stoke inflation have been a key driver in enhancing gold, which rallied to an 11-month high in October last year subsequently the Fed announced its third round of aggressive economic stimulus.

Apr
29

Precious Gold Rises 1 percent, Holds near One Week High

Yellow metal rose more than 1 percent on Monday and held near its highest level in more than a week as a bounce back in prices from multi-year lows failed to control investor appetite for the gold’s, leading to a shortage in physical supply.

Current bleak US growth statistics that raised expectations the Federal Reserve will keep its current pace of bond buying at $85 billion a month also supported precious metal that is typically seen as a hedge against inflation.

However investors are still roiled by the very recent event of the tumble. The question is how supportable is this physical buying as at the same time, we are still seeing funds flowing out of yellow metal. Retail investors won’t be buying bullion in hundreds of millions of dollars like the funds.

Both cash gold and futures dropped to around $1,321 on April 16, their weakest in over two years, subsequently drop below $1,500 sparked a sell-off that encouraged investors to slash their holdings on exchange traded funds. They touched an 11 day high above $1,484 on Friday.

I don’t consider gold is out of the woods yet, however there’s room for upward correction. One of the reasons why precious metal has plunged so much was the strong signs of US economic recovery.

US gold futures which often give trading cues to cash metal, hit a high of $1,472.20 per ounce. By 0226 GMT, prices stood at $1,469.60 climbed $16.00. Spot gold gain $7.51 per ounce to $1,470.01.

Premiums for gold bars have jumped to multi-year highs in Asia as of strong demand from the physical market, which has led to a shortage in gold coins, bars, nuggets and other products.

In other markets, shares in Asia crept ahead on Monday however the US dollar lost ground to the yen as markets braced for a busy week for economic statistics and central bank policy meetings in the United States and euro zone.

Holdings on the biggest gold-backed exchange-traded-fund ETF, New York’s SPDR Gold Trust continue to drop, which was a sign investors have yet to reinstate their confidence in gold. The holdings are currently at their lowest since September 2009.

The current string of underwhelming statistics will strengthen the hand of the doves at the Fed and temper any talk of tapering back the bond buying programme. The policy setting Federal Open Market Committee will announce its decision at 1815 GMT on Wednesday.

Report by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed on Friday that yellow metal rallied to an 11-month high in October previous year after the Fed announced its third round of aggressive economic stimulus, raising fears the central bank’s money printing to buy assets would stoke inflation, money managers and Hedge funds trimmed their net longs in gold futures and options in the week to April 23 as investors reduced optimistic bets.