Why the Gold and Silver Futures Market Is Like a Rigged Casino

The most corruptible, lopsided pricing mechanism.

By Clint Siegner, a Director at Money Metals Exchange, and cross-posted from WOLF STREET:

A respectable number of Americans hold investments in gold and silver in one form or another. Some hold physical bullion, while others opt for indirect ownership via ETFs or other instruments. A very small minority speculate via the futures markets. But we frequently report on the futures markets – why exactly is that?

Because that is where prices are set. The mint certificates, the ETFs, and the coins in an investor’s safe – all of them – are valued, at least in large part, based on the most recent trade in the nearest delivery month on a futures exchange such as the COMEX. These “spot” prices are the ones scrolling across the bottom of your CNBC screen.

That makes the futures markets a tiny tail wagging a much larger dog.

Too bad. A more corruptible and lopsided mechanism for price discovery has never been devised. The price reported on TV has less to do with physical supply and demand fundamentals and more to do with lining the pockets of the bullion banks, including JPMorgan Chase.

Craig Hemke of TFMetalsReport.com explained in a recent post how the bullion banks fleece futures traders. He contrasted buying a futures contract with something more investors will be more familiar with – buying a stock. The number of shares is limited. When an investor buys shares in Coca-Cola company, they must be paired with another investor who owns actual shares and wants to sell at the prevailing price. That’s straight forward price discovery.

Not so in a futures market such as the COMEX. If an investor buys contracts for gold, they won’t be paired with anyone delivering the actual gold. They are paired with someone who wants to sell contracts, regardless of whether he has any physical gold. These paper contracts are tethered to physical gold in a bullion bank’s vault by the thinnest of threads. Recently the coverage ratio – the number of ounces represented on paper contracts relative to the actual stock of registered gold bars – rose above 500 to 1

Continue reading the article at WOLF STREET

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