December 2, 2008, was a landmark in the saga of the collapsing international monetary system, yet it did not get any mention in the press: gold went to backwardation for the first time ever in history. The facts are as follows: on December 2nd, at the Comex in New York, December gold futures (last delivery: December 31) were quoted at 1.98% discount to spot, while February gold futures (last delivery: February 27, 2009) were quoted at 0.14% discount to spot. (All percentages annualized.) The condition got worse on December 3rd, when the corresponding figures were 2% and 0.29%. This means that the gold basis has turned negative, and the condition of backwardation persisted for at least 48 hours.
According to the December 3rd Comex delivery report, there are 11,759 notices to take delivery. This represents 1.1759 million ounces of gold, while the Comex-approved warehouses hold 2.9 million ounces. Thus 40% of the total amount will have to be delivered by December 31st. Since not all the gold in the warehouses is available for delivery, Comex supply of gold falls far short of the demand at present rates. Futures markets in gold are breaking down. Paper gold is progressively being discredited.
Already there was a slight backwardation in gold at the expiry of a previous active contract month, but it never spilled over to the next active contract month, as it does now: backwardation in the December contract is spilling over to the February contract which at last reading was 0.36%. Silver is also in backwardation, with the discount on silver futures being about twice that on gold futures.
The gold basis is a pristine, incorruptible measure of trust, or the lack of it when it turns negative, in paper money. Of course, it is too early to say whether gold has gone to permanent backwardation, or whether the condition will rectify itself (it probably will). Be that as it may, it does not matter. The fact that it has happened is the coup de grâce for the regime of irredeemable currency. It will bleed to death, maybe rather slowly, even if no other hits, blows, or shocks are dealt to the system. Very few people realize what is going on and, of course, official sources and the news media won’t be helpful to them to explain the significance of all this. I am trying to be helpful to the discriminating reader.
Gold going to permanent backwardation means that gold is no longer for sale at any price, whether it is quoted in dollars, yens, euros, or Swiss francs. The situation is exactly the same as it has been for years: gold is not for sale at any price quoted in Zimbabwe currency, however high the quote is. To put it differently, all offers to sell gold are being withdrawn, whether it concerns newly mined gold, scrap gold, bullion gold or coined gold. I dubbed this event that has cast its long shadow forward for many a year, the last contango in Washington ― contango being the name for the condition opposite to backwardation (namely, that of a positive basis), and Washington being the city where the Paper-mill of the Potomac, the Federal Reserve Board, is located. This is a tongue-in-cheek way of saying that the jig in Washington is up. The music has stopped on the players of ‘musical chairs’. Those who have no gold in hand are out of luck. They won’t get it now through the regular channels. If they want it, they will have to go to the black market.
Gold and silver basis serves as an early warning system and it is signaling the beginning of the end. The end is approaching with the inevitability of the climax in a Greek tragedy, as the heroes and heroines are drawn to their own destruction. The present reactionary experiment with paper money is entering its death-throes.The situation with gold backwardation is, for the money system, like the confrontation of the Titanic (representing the international monetary system) with the iceberg (representing gold and its vanishing basis) as the latter is emerging from the fog too late to avoid collision. The vanishing gold basis and its corollary, the seizing up of the paper money system threatens the world with a Great Depression eclipsing that of the 1930’s.
Once entrenched, backwardation in gold means that the cancer of the dollar has reached its terminal stages. The progressively evaporating trust in the value of the irredeemable dollar can no longer be stopped.
Negative basis (backwardation) means that people controlling the supply of monetary gold cannot be persuaded to part with it, regardless of the bait. These people are no speculators. They are neither Scrooges nor Shylocks. They are highly capable businessmen with a conservative frame of mind. They are determined to preserve their capital come hell or high water, for saner times, so they can re-deploy it under a saner government and a saner monetary system. Their instrument is the ownership of monetary gold. They blithely ignore the siren song promising risk-free profits. Indeed, they could sell their physical gold in the spot market and buy it back at a discount in the futures market for delivery in 30 days. In any other commodity, traders controlling supply would jump at the opportunity. The lure of risk-free profits would be irresistible. Not so in the case of gold. Owners refuse to be coaxed out of their gold holdings, however large the bait may be. Why?
Well, they don’t believe that the physical gold will be there and available for delivery in 30 days’ time. They don’t want to be stuck with paper gold, which is useless for their purposes of capital preservation.
December 2 is a landmark, because before that date the monetary system could have been saved by opening the U.S. Mint to gold. Now, given the fact of gold backwardation, it is too late. The last chance to avoid disaster has been missed. The proverbial last straw has broken the back of the camel.Few people realize that the shutting down of the gold trade, which is what is happening, means the shutting down of world trade. This is a financial earthquake measuring ten on the Greenspan scale, with epicenter at the Comex in New York, where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood. It is no exaggeration to say that this event will trigger a tsunami wiping out the prosperity of the world.