Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Well, there is the technical point that taking a short position in a futures contract is not an illegal short.

Seeking Alpha: Did the ECB Save COMEX from Gold Default?

On Tuesday morning, gold derivatives dealers, who had sold short in the face of a fast rising gold price, faced a serious predicament. Some 27,000 + contracts, representing about 15% of the April COMEX gold futures contracts remained open. Technically, short sellers are required to give "notice" of delivery to long buyers. However, in reality, buyers are the ones who control the amount of gold to be delivered. They "demand" delivery of physical gold by holding futures contracts past the expiration date. This time, long buyers were demanding in droves.

In normal times, very few people do this. Only about 1% or less of gold contracts must be delivered. The lack of delivery demand allows the casino-like world of paper gold futures contracts to operate. Very few short sellers actually expect or intend to deliver real gold. They are, mostly, merely playing with paper. It was amazing, therefore, when March 30, 2009 came and passed, and so many people stood for delivery, refusing to part with their long gold futures positions.

Wow. See Luis de Sousa's last diary London G-20 meeting: the last chance?
What could happen then if a new coordinated reserve currency fails to emerge? The answer is simple: the US dollar will stop being the world trading benchmark. A period will then unfold during which trading nations won't have a clear worldwide unit to value their goods, much less to store value for future trading. Possibly, some regional currencies might be tried on a geographically limited basis, and another alternative might emerge with a currency for which there isn't much policy to go about: gold. The consequences of such transition will be immense; an Hungarian mathematician called Antal Fekete, claims to already be getting signs in that sense, with gold futures entering backwardation late last year. This is a rather technical issue, way beyond the aims of this simple essay, but with or without backwardation, it is important to know what Fekete foresees [pdf!] in case the present system ceases to exist without a clear replacement
Let me now quote Fekete (PDF):
Tom says that he does not see things evolving in the same catastrophic manner as I do. For example, he believes that "there will always be willing buyers and sellers of gold in some quantity if the price is right." Buyers - si, sellers - no! That's just the whole point. The lack of credibility of irredeemable currency will be such that no one in his right mind will accept it in exchange for gold, the ultimate liquidator of debt. Previously, people were willing to trade their gold because they could always replenish their supply from Comex warehouses. That means, in other words, that the irredeemable dollar could still be used as a liquidator of debt (i.e., gold still has a competitor). But let them close the Comex gold warehouses. This is a quantum jump; it means that the irredeemable dollar can no longer be used to liquidate debt, e.g., debt incurred by those holding short positions in gold futures. It is essential not to belittle the import of this observation.
He's considering a hypothetical scenario in which COMEX ceases to operate.
Tom thinks that I am an alarmist in believing that the permanent closing of the gold window at the Comex will mean a cessation in gold mining, loss of segregated metal deposits, and institutionalized theft of ETF holdings.


I have nowhere said that the end of the fiat money system will follow the closing of the gold window at the Comex in a matter of days. Sure, finance ministers and central bankers will try to "muddle through". It is not possible to predict how long the death throes of fiat money will continue. Tom may be right in suggesting that it will take many years, and claims of an imminent monetary and economic collapse will again turn out to be wrong.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 3rd, 2009 at 08:58:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
taking a short position in a futures contract is not an illegal short
Oops, I was wrong...

Did the ECB Save COMEX from Gold Default? -- Seeking Alpha

It is quite important to determine whether or not Deutsche Bank was bailed out by the ECB because that will answer a lot of questions about allegations of naked short selling on the COMEX. If the ECB knew that its gold would be used as post ipso facto "cover" for uncovered shorting, staffers at the central bank might be co-conspirators. At any rate, if the German bank did sell short on futures contracts without having enough vaulted gold it sold a naked short. It also means that the ECB has facilitated a major rule violation in a jurisdiction (the USA) with which Europe is supposed to have extensive joint regulatory agreements, any number of which may have been violated by this action of the ECB. At the very least, naked short selling is a blatant violation of CFTC regulations, which require 90% cover of all deliverable metals contracts. If the delivered gold came directly, or indirectly, from the ECB, it means that Deutsche Bank's gold short contracts were "naked" at the time they were entered into.
(my emphasis)

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 3rd, 2009 at 09:42:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Err...Who among our leaders were standing firm for tough international standards so recently?  This "intervention" by the ECB could possibly be justified on the grounds of preventing a COMEX fiasco and panic, but failure to proceed against Deutsche Bank on violations of law, if any, can only be seen as concern about "whose ox got gored."

On another point, this underlines warnings I have read about the dangers of trying to hedge one's savings by investing in gold via exchange traded funds vs owning the metal.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Apr 3rd, 2009 at 01:09:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I said elsewhere, one of things a futures market is does is naked short selling.

The writer got his facts wrong. The 90% provision was aimed to rein in scam artists selling "look-alike" contracts off-exchange to mug punters. It's an obsolete provison, because the scam artists have moved on to more lucrative techniques like CDS and CLOs....

There's nothing odd about big dealers like DB borrowing gold from central banks to make exchange deliveries either, although I grant you the size of this delivery is way out of the ordinary.

I wouldn't touch gold with a barge pole. It's been manipulated by the big dealers and Central Banks since for ever.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Apr 3rd, 2009 at 09:48:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Occasional Series