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Message: Ed Steer this morning

Curacao Police Arrest Three Suspects Following Dramatic $11.5 Million gold Bar Heist

"Whatever happens with precious metal prices in 2013...either up or down...is still 100 percent up to JPMorgan Chase et al."

¤ Yesterday in Gold and Silver

As I noted in 'The Wrap' in yesterday's column, not much happened during Far East and London trading...and the smallish rally that began at the Comex open got smacked in short order.

The sell-off ended at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time...and gold traded quietly sideways for the rest of the Friday session. The high and low ticks in New York were $1,663.60 and $1,652.80 spot respectively.

Gold finished at $1,656.30 spot...down $6.60 on the day. Not surprisingly, volume was pretty quiet...around 82,000 contracts.

Silver's price path was somewhat different. The high tick of the day came around 10:00 a.m. Hong Kong time...and for the most part, it was all down hill into the 10:30 a.m. Eastern time low...and from that point, silver regained a bit of its losses going into the close.

Silver's high tick was around $30.35 spot in Far East trading...and the low tick in New York was $29.79 spot.

Silver closed at $30.03 spot...down 11 cents from Thursday. Volume was very quiet at around 20,000 contracts.

As was the case on Thursday, both platinum and palladium went their own ways on Friday as well...

The dollar index opened at 79.66...traded sideways until the London open...and then spiked up to 79.92 just minutes before 10:30 a.m. in London...which was the London a.m. gold fix. From there it rolled over...and fell all the way back down to 79.61 by 9:30 a.m. Eastern time before regaining a few basis points in the close. The index finished basically unchanged on the day...up 1 whole basis point, closing at 79.67. Nothing to see here.

The gold shares rallied a bit at the open...and hit their zenith just a few minutes before 10:00 a.m. From that high, the shares sold off until just before lunch in New York...and then traded mostly flat into the close. The HUI finished the Friday trading session down 0.85%.

Most of the large cap silver shares finished in the red yesterday...and that's reflected in Nick Laird's Intraday Silver Sentiment Index, which closed down 1.46%.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Here's the long-term Silver Sentiment Index to put this past week's activity into perspective.

(Click on image to enlarge)

The CME's Daily Delivery Report...the last one for the December delivery month...showed that 209 gold and 47 silver contracts were posted for delivery on Monday. The only short/issuer in both metals was Merrill...and by far the largest long/stopper in both was the Bank of Nova Scotia, with 168 contracts in gold...and 39 contracts in silver.

The CME also posted the First Day Notice numbers for the January delivery month...and they were interesting. They showed that 677 gold and 299 silver contracts were posted for delivery on January 2, 2013. In gold, the only short/issuer was JPMorgan Chase in its client account and, not surprisingly, the big long/stoppers was the Bank of Nova Scotia with 647 contracts of the total. In silver, the only two short/issuers were JPMorgan Chase in its client account [150 contracts] and the Bank of Nova Scotia with 149 contracts. The lion's shares of these contracts [260] were stopped by JPMorgan Chase in its proprietary [in house] trading account. The link to the complete Issuers and Stoppers Report is here...and it's definitely worth spending some time on.

For the December delivery month, there were a total of 3,253 gold contracts delivered...along with 3,922 contracts in silver.

There were no reported changes in GLD or SLV...and no sales report from the U.S. Mint.

Over at the Comex-approved depositories on Thursday, they reported receiving only 50,834 troy ounces of silver...and shipped 713,199 troy ounces of the stuff out the door. The link to that activity is here.

The Commitment of Traders Report didn't provide any surprises. In silver, the Commercial net short position finally declined by a very chunky 8,631 contracts, or 43.2 million ounces. The Commercial net short position is now down to 233.5 million ounces of silver.

As of the Tuesday cut-off for this report, the 'Big 4' traders were short 239.3 million ounces of silver...over 100% of the Commercial net short position shown in the last line of the previous paragraph. On a net basis, these four traders are short 48.9% of the entire Comex silver market.

Ted said that JPMorgan's short position is very close to 30,000 contracts...so of the 239.3 million ounces held short by the 'Big 4'...JPM Chase is short close to 150 million ounces of that...and I'd guess that the Bank of Nova Scotia would be short around 50 million ounces or more as well. So it's really not the 'Big 4'...it's really the 'Big 2'.

On a net basis, the '5 through 8' traders are short an additional 11.5 percentage points of the Comex short position in silver, so in total, the 'Big 8' are short over 60% of the Comex silver market.

Of the 37 traders holding short positions in this week's COT Report...two of them are short about 41% of the entire Comex silver market. Any questions so far?

In gold, the Commercial net short position declined by 14,470 contracts, or 1.45 million ounces. The Commercial net short position is now down to 18.77 million ounces, the lowest it's been for quite a while.

The 'Big 4' traders are short 11.77 million ounces of gold, or 33.4% of the entire Comex gold market on a net basis. The '5 through 8' traders are short an additional 14.4% of the Comex gold market on a net basis. Adding these two numbers, the 'Big 8' are short 47.8% of the entire Comex gold market.

Could we go lower in price from here? Sure, as the precious metals markets are still 100% within the clutches of JPMorgan Chase et al. Ted Butler pointed out that even though JPMorgan's short position in silver has declined from 38,000 contracts down to its current level of 30,000 contracts, their short position back in July was only 14,000 contracts...so there's still room to go. But can they or will they?

The link to the interactive historical COT Reports for silver is here...and for gold, it's here. The pages can be a little slow to load. Also below is Nick Laird's "Days of World Production to Cover Short Positions" of all physically traded commodities on the Comex.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Well, it appears that the silver price manipulation lawsuit against JPMorgan is no more. Yesterday afternoon I received an e-mail from reader Michael Anderson...and in it was contained another e-mail advising him of the following..."Unfortunately, last week the Court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss our case. While this is obviously bad news, we are exploring next steps with the hope that there is some way to revive the case."

I wasn't entirely surprised. There were two things that always bothered me about it. The first was the fact that the lawsuit was filed at the speed of light...the day after CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton gave his famous speech...and the second was the fact that, except at the very beginning, the world's number one silver expert, Ted Butler, wasn't part of the litigation process.

Ted and I spoke on the phone about this for quite a while yesterday...and he's more of an authority on it than I am. But what he did say was that the case, as presented to the courts, was weak...and JPMorgan's lawyers, who are the best money can buy, buried the plaintiffs.

Ted will have much more on this in his weekly commentary to his paying subscribers today...and I'll steal what I can for my Thursday column....which will be the first one of the New Year.

I have the usual number of stories for a Saturday...and I hope you have the time to go through them all over this extended long weekend for most.

¤ Critical Reads

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Wilbur Ross Sees Recession, Warns of 'Greek' Situation

The U.S. economy faces a recession if the nation goes off the fiscal cliff and key tax cuts fully expire at the end of this year, said Wilbur Ross, chairman and CEO of W.L. Ross and Co.

And, in the wake of news the U.S. will hit its debt limit earlier than expected, the billionaire financier warned that the United States could soon face its own “Greek” style debt situation.

Failure to stop automatic tax increases set for Jan. 1 “would obviously have a big negative effect on disposable income and consequently, I believe would put us back into the recession when coupled with the spending cuts that are also part of it," Ross told Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview Thursday.

The moneynews.com interview from Thursday comes in print form...or you can watch the embedded 11:08 minute video interview. It's certainly worth your time...and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for providing our first story of the day. The link is here.

Bank fines top $10 billion this year

From laundering money for Iran, to manipulating interest rates paid by consumers and businesses, to improperly foreclosing on homeowners, misdeeds cost the banks a record of more than $10.7 billion in fines this year.

When UBS agreed earlier this month to pay U.S. authorities $1.2 billion for manipulating Libor, it capped a record year for bank fines. And the total includes only what the banks paid to U.S. and state authorities, not billions more these global banks also agreed to pay European regulators.

Slightly more than half of the fines were related to improper mortgage practices, and most of that money was earmarked to provide help to the victims.

As I've stated many times in the past, these fines are just licensing fees...part of the cost of doing business. Until someone goes to jail, fines are a nuisance more than anything else. This cnn.com story was posted on their Internet site very early Thursday morning Eastern time...and I thank Washington state reader S.A. for finding it for us. The link is here.

AP IMPACT: Ordinary Folks Losing Faith In Stocks

Andrew Neitlich is the last person you'd expect to be rattled by the stock market.

He once worked as a financial analyst picking stocks for a mutual fund. He has huddled with dozens of CEOs in his current career as an executive coach. During the dot-com crash 12 years ago, he kept his wits and did not sell.

But he's selling now.

"You have to trust your government. You have to trust other governments. You have to trust Wall Street," says Neitlich, 47. "And I don't trust any of these."

Defying decades of investment history, ordinary Americans are selling stocks for a fifth year in a row. The selling has not let up despite unprecedented measures by the Federal Reserve to persuade people to buy and the come-hither allure of a levitating market. Stock prices have doubled from March 2009, their low point during the Great Recession.

This long AP story was posted over at the npr.org Internet site on Wednesday...and is another contribution from Elliot Simon. The link is here.

In 2012, Many Felt the Market Was Rigged

In 2012, investors’ long-harbored suspicion that the stock market was a rigged game became something of a majority opinion.

This year, exasperation over the predominantly electronic mechanics of trading stocks, in which hyper-fast computer algorithms maneuver against one another for fractions of pennies collected over microseconds, boiled over. The level of disgust has gotten broad enough, in fact, that authorities might be prepared to rethink some of the basic rules and processes driving the system.

The opaque and complex structure for trading stocks electronically across dozens of exchanges and alternative networks has long been justified by industry leaders and regulators as the messy but logical result of investor-friendly reforms. Technology has enabled mind-melting speed, unfathomable communications capacity and brutal competition for order flow – all of which have made trading cheaper and faster than ever.

Yet by squeezing out traditional market makers who once collected low-risk, protected profits by mediating among buyers and sellers, rules and technology have tilted the power toward “high-frequency traders.” And in 2012, the fragility produced by so much layered complexity became too obvious, and produced too many market-jarring failures, to be considered merely the price of progress.

This story was posted on the Yahoo! Finance website on the day before Christmas...and I found it yesterday's edition of the King Report. It's worth skimming...and the link is here.

Doug Noland: 2012...the Year in Review: The Fiscal Cliff...Down to the Wire

“Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough.” Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, July 26, 2012

Having singlehandedly altered the course of the European crisis, the Financial Times named Mr. Draghi “FT Person of the Year.” Yet “Super Mario” was anything but acting alone. The emboldened Bernanke Fed soon followed Draghi’s bold pronouncement with its own daring commitment to open-ended quantitative easing (in a non-crisis environment!). All throughout 2012, extraordinary monetary easings were announced by central banks around the globe. I will this evening announce the distinguished 2012 “CBB Thing of the Year” recipient: congratulations to Endless Free “Money.”

In my Issues 2012 piece from early-January, I posited that 2012 was a “Bubble year.” The Bubble might burst, with an expanding European crisis as a probable catalyst. But if it persevered one could expect the potent Bubble to broaden and excesses to intensify. I referred to bipolar outcome possibilities – so-called left and right “tail risks.” With Spain’s 10-yr yields reaching 7.6% and Italy’s approaching 6.6% - along with the euro sinking to almost 1.20 to the dollar - in late-July, the European crisis was indeed spiraling out of control. Capital flight in/from Europe and the emerging markets was becoming a serious issue. A crisis of confidence in the European banking system was in the offing. The world economy was weakening rapidly, and the global Credit system was on the brink of a destabilizing bout of de-risking/de-leveraging.

Doug's year-end review is on the longish side, but his Friday missives are always must reads as far as I'm concerned...and this one is no different. I found it over on the prudentbear.com Internet site last evening...and the link is here.

Bloomberg Editorial: Better Nuclear Bombs for a Safer World

Is the U.S. getting ready to wage the Cold War again? If one believes the critics, that’s the aim behind a planned $10 billion modernization of the B61 nuclear bomb, the backbone of the Pentagon’s tactical nuclear arsenal.

Actually, there are some other reasons for the upgrade: to reinforce global deterrence, to provide options against a range of future threats, and to make the U.S. stronger and safer. Achieving those goals is worth the money.

As wonderful as the idea of a world without nuclear weapons is, it isn’t going to be a reality any time soon. For now, the appropriate U.S. approach is to have the smallest arsenal possible, made up of weapons that will deter a weak rogue state -- think North Korea or Iran -- from developing a nuclear capability. Achieving this goal means working with Russia to get rid of as many intercontinental ballistic missiles as possible, while maintaining a small, but effective, core of tactical weapons that, with their limited fallout, could be used with great precision in combat.

The B61’s utility in this regard comes from its so-called dial-a-yield technology, meaning its explosive power can be set at a range of less than a kiloton to several hundred kilotons. (The bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 had a yield of about 15 kilotons.) No other nuclear device comes close in terms of flexibility of reach, power and exactitude.

The Bloomberg editorial board posted this item on the bloomberg.com Internet site on Christmas Day...and I thank Marshall Angeles for sending it our way. It's a must read in my opinion...and the link is here.

Jacques Delors: Britain could leave the European Union

The former European Commission president, who is credited as the architect of the modern EU and the euro, has broken ranks with other European leaders to offer Britain an exit from the Union.

"The British are solely concerned about their economic interests, nothing else. They could be offered a different form of partnership," he told Handelsblatt, a German financial newspaper.

"If the British cannot support the trend towards more integration in Europe, we can nevertheless remain friends, but on a different basis. I could imagine a form such as a European economic area or a free-trade agreement."

This story was posted on the telegraph.co.uk Internet site early Thursday afternoon...and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens. The link is here.

Sweden’s War on Cash Runs Into a Wall – and a Heroic Bank

The war on cash in Sweden may be stalling. The anti-cash movement has been vigorously promoted by major Swedish commercial banks as well as the Riksbank, the Swedish central bank. In fact, for three of the four major Swedish banks combined, 530 of their 780 office no longer accept or pay out cash. In the case of the Nordea Bank, 200 of its 300 branches are now cashless, and three-quarters of Swedbank’s branches no longer handle cash. As Peter Borsos, a spokesman for Swedbank, freely admits, his bank is working “actively to reduce the [amount] of cash in society.”

The reasons for this push toward a cashless society, of course, have nothing to do with pumping up earnings from bank card fees or, more important, freeing fractional-reserve banks from the constraints of bank runs. No, according to Borsos, the reasons are the environment, cost, and security: ”We ourselves emit 700 tons of carbon dioxide by cash transport. It costs society 11 billion per year. And cash helps robberies everywhere.” Hans Jacobson, head of Nordea Bank, argues similarly: ”Our mission is to make people understand the point of cards, cards are more secure than cash.”

As you know, dear reader, the real reason lies elsewhere. This short essay showed up on the lewrockewell.com Internet site yesterday...and I thank Danish reader "Jan" for sending it our way. The link is here.

Outlook bleak as Hollande hails 2013 'battle for jobs'

French President François Hollande has hailed 2013 as the year of the "great battle for jobs". But figures released Thursday show a rise in the jobless rate for the nineteenth consecutive month – and the forecast is for worse to come.

France's faltering economy shed a further 30,000 jobs in November, according to new figures released Thursday, pushing the unemployment rate to its highest level in almost 15 years.

The alarming data, although expected, is another blow to the country’s Socialist government and its president, who called earlier in the day for a collective “mobilisation” to deal with the ongoing employment crisis.

Roy Stephens found this story on the france24.com Internet site on Thursday...and the link is here.

Spain's house prices to fall another 30pc as glut keeps growing

Spain's property slump will deepen for much of the next decade, and tracts of buildings along the Mediterranean coast will have to be demolished, the country's top consultants have warned.

RR de Acuña & Asociados expects home prices in Madrid, Barcelona and other major cities to fall a further 30pc in a relentless slide until 2018, but it may be even worse in sunbelt regions where 400,000 Britons either live or own homes.

"The market is broken," said Fernando Rodríguez de Acuña, the group's vice-president. "We calculate that there are almost 2 million properties waiting to be sold. We have made no progress at all over the past five years in clearing the stock," he said.

This Ambrose Evans-Pritchard offering was posted on The Telegraph's website late Thursday afternoon GMT...and I thank Roy Stephens for his third offering in a row. The link is here.

A Development In The Controversial 'Lagarde List' Case Is Causing An Uproar In Greece

On Wednesday, we reported that prosecutors from Greece's SDOE financial crimes unit had turned over the findings of a new probe into the infamous "Lagarde List" of alleged Greek tax evaders to parliament.

The big questions were what the probe would reveal when the findings were made public, and how damning they would be for the political party PASOK, a key partner in Greece's fragile ruling coalition that finds itself at the center of the unfolding scandal.

All of this comes at a time when Greece is involved with tense negotiations with international creditors at the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank in order to secure bailout loans it needs to keep the Greek economy afloat. The disbursement of the loans is contingent upon the current Greek government's ability to impose painful, unpopular austerity measures on the public.

Today...Thursday...there is an uproar in Greece over a report that Giorgos Papakonstantinou, a high-ranking PASOK official who served as Greece's finance minister from October 2009 to June 2011 (and was thus a key player in the euro crisis), deleted three names from the list.

This is another Roy Stephens article...and this one was posted on the businessinsider.com Internet site on Thursday morning. The link is here.

Presidential Election: Czech Voters Yearn for Substance over Scandal

For the first time since the Velvet Revolution, citizens in the Czech Republic will have the opportunity to vote directly for their head of state in two weeks. Former Prime Minister Milos Zeman is in the pole position. His tough-talking style appeals to Czechs who are tired of back room deals and a scandal-plagued leadership.

Since the 1989 Velvet Revolution, the country's presidents have been chosen by the parliament in Prague. But in January, Czechs will elect their head of state directly for the very first time -- and that is good for Miloš Zeman. The candidate presents himself as a man of the people, coarse and direct. Polls show him in the lead, and it seems likely that he will end up in a run-off election against former Prime Minister Jan Fischer.

"I'm in favor of the EU, but against Brussels regulating things like toilets," Zeman says. If he wins, it will bring a different tone to Prague Castle. Poet-President Václav Havel, who was the first to hold the office after the collapse of communism, was given to moralizing speeches. His successor Václav Klaus, the incumbent who is approaching the end of his second term, has tended to be professorial in manner. Zeman, in contrast, is casual and provincial as a matter of principle.

This article showed up on the German website spiegel.de on Thursday...and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens as well. The link is here.

Russia Quietly Announces a Major Shift on Syria

Russia has invited the head of the main Syrian opposition for talks.

The Associated Press reports that foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters today that he has officially contacted the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces through the Russian Embassy in Egypt.

The move is the most overwhelming sign yet that Russia's support for the Assad regime has deteriorated significantly. Russia has been Syria's most important ally in the conflict to date.

Although Moscow has not officially recognized the SNC as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people — as the U.S., U.K., and France have — the invitation signals that Russia recognizes the importance and influence that the coalition holds.

This businessinsider.com story from Thursday is a must read for all students of the "New Great Game"...and it is, of course, courtesy of Roy Stephens. The link is here.

Syrian rebels sidetracked by scramble for spoils of war

Looting, feuds and divided loyalties threaten to destroy unity of fighters as war enters new phase.

It wasn't the government that killed the Syrian rebel commander Abu Jameel. It was the fight for his loot. The motive for his murder lay in a great warehouse in Aleppo which his unit had captured a week before. The building had been full of rolled steel, which was seized by the fighters as spoils of war.

But squabbling developed over who would take the greater share of the loot and a feud developed between commanders. Threats and counter-threats ensued over the following days.

Abu Jameel survived one assassination attempt when his car was fired on. A few days later his enemies attacked again, and this time they were successful. His bullet-riddled body was found, handcuffed, in an alley in the town of al-Bab.

This story was posted in The Guardian on Wednesday evening local time...and it's courtesy of Swiss reader B.G. for which I thank him. The link is here.

Caught in a bind that threatens an Asian war nobody wants

THIS is how wars usually start: with a steadily escalating stand-off over something intrinsically worthless. So don't be too surprised if the US and Japan go to war with China next year over the uninhabited rocks that Japan calls the Senkakus and China calls the Diaoyu islands. And don't assume the war would be contained and short.

Of course we should all hope that common sense prevails.

It seems almost laughably unthinkable that the world's three richest countries - two of them nuclear-armed - would go to war over something so trivial. But that is to confuse what starts a war with what causes it. The Greek historian Thucydides first explained the difference almost 2500 years ago. He wrote that the catastrophic Peloponnesian War started from a spat between Athens and one of Sparta's allies over a relatively insignificant dispute. But what caused the war was something much graver: the growing wealth and power of Athens, and the fear this caused in Sparta.

The analogy with Asia today is uncomfortably close and not at all reassuring. No one in 431 B.C. really wanted a war, but when Athens threatened one of Sparta's allies over a disputed colony, the Spartans felt they had to intervene. They feared that to step back in the face of Athens' growing power would fatally compromise Sparta's position in the Greek world, and concede supremacy to Athens.

This is a must read...and especially so for students of the "New Great Game". I thank Washington state reader S.A. for sending me this op-ed piece that was posted on theage.com.au Internet site on the day after Christmas. The link is here.

Storm Photographer Captures What Happens When 'All Hell Breaks Loose'

Nasty thunderstorms send most people running for shelter. Not Mitch Dobrowner. When bad weather starts brewing, the Long-Island born photographer goes chasing after it.

"Photographing a storm is something between a hybrid of shooting a landscape and shooting a sporting event," Dobrowner tell us.

It's not just about paying attention to all the things that make a good photograph — exposure, composition, and focus. It's about having fun "while all hell is breaking loose around me," Dobrowner says of the biggest challenge he faces on the job.

There are some stunning pictures...all black & white...contained in this photo essay that was posted on the businessinsider.com Internet site on Thursday. It has already had 75,000 plus views, so you just have to know that it's worth the trip. It's also courtesy of Roy Stephens...and the link is here.

'Brighter than a full moon': The biggest star of 2013 could be Ison - the comet of the century

A comet discovered by two Russian astronomers will be visible from Earth next year. Get ready for a once-in-a lifetime light show, says David Whitehouse.

At the moment it is a faint object, visible only in sophisticated telescopes as a point of light moving slowly against the background stars. It doesn't seem much – a frozen chunk of rock and ice – one of many moving in the depths of space. But this one is being tracked with eager anticipation by astronomers from around the world, and in a year everyone could know its name.

Comet Ison could draw millions out into the dark to witness what could be the brightest comet seen in many generations – brighter even than the full moon.

It was found as a blur on an electronic image of the night sky taken through a telescope at the Kislovodsk Observatory in Russia as part of a project to survey the sky looking for comets and asteroids – chunks of rock and ice that litter space.

If you're a space junkie like I am, this is an absolute must read. I heard about it when it was first discovered, as there was a short summary of the sighting posted over at spaceweather.com many months ago when it was way beyond the orbit of Jupiter. This is the first main stream media story I've seen about it...and I'm more than happy to post it here. How Ted Butler stumbled on it beats the heck out of me...but I got it from him on Thursday. It was posted on the independent.co.uk Internet site on that day...and the link is here.

Three King World News Blogs

The first blog shows six gold charts from Nick Laird's collection...and it's headlined "6 Shocking Gold Charts Depicting Stunning Western Decline". This next blog is with Egon von Greyerz. It's entitled "2013 - Financial Destruction & How Gold & Silver Will Perform". And lastly is Michael Pento...and it bears the headline "Man That First Spotted QE4 Now Says Gold to Break $10,000".

CME Lowers Gold Margins by 9 Percent

The CME, in a post-closing announcement, proceeded to hike outright margins on a variety of petroleum and freight products, but more importantly just cut the margins on gold by 9%.

Is it that time when the establishment is clearing the path for everyone to rotate out of equities (and/or bonds) into gold, just to set the trap and pull the trapdoor once everyone is once again left holding paper gold? We shall see, but following tonight's selloff, gold is now less than 5% less than stocks YTD. It may well be up to the last trading session of the year to determine who wins in 2012: rock or paper.

This very short piece showed up on the Zero Hedge website shortly after 5:00 p.m. Eastern time...and I thank Elliot Simon for spotting it. The link is here.

Liberty Dollars banned at CSNS Convention

So-called Liberty Dollars, the creation of Bernard Von NotHaus and the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and the Internal Revenue Code, more commonly known by the acronym NORFED, will not be part of the April 24-27, 2013 74th Anniversary Convention of the Central States Numismatic Society in Schaumburg, Ill., according to a statement issued by convention General Chairman Kevin Foley.

“Although this alternative monetary instrument has been available on coin convention bourse floors since its 1998 introduction, and has from time to time been the subject of educational exhibit area displays, the 2011 federal court conviction of Mr. von NotHaus in connection with his role as what one numismatic press outlet characterized as the ‘monetary architect’ of the Liberty Dollar on the basis that the Liberty Dollar is counterfeit, has led us to adopt a policy to exclude such items from our bourse floor and educational exhibit area for our Schaumburg and future conventions,” Foley said.

This article showed up on the numismaticnews.net Internet site on the day after Christmas...and reader Elliot Simon was thoughtful enough to share it with us. The link is here.

Frank Holmes: Readers’ Golden Nuggets Focused on Gold, Resources and Overcoming Negativity

Frank itemizes four of the most popular commentaries over the past year...and the precious metals is covered in Item 3...Love Trade Cools as Central Banks' Gold Demand Heats Up...which is a short scroll down from the top.

It was posted on the usfunds.com Internet site on Friday...and is courtesy of Elliot Simon...and it's his last offering in today's column. The link is here.

Curacao police arrest three suspects following dramatic $11.5 M gold bar heist

Police in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao have arrested seven suspects in connection with the recent heist of 70 gold bars worth an estimated $11.5 million.

Police spokesman Reginald Huggins said Friday that one of the men is from Bonaire, three are from Venezuela and the remainder from Curacao. One of the suspects was later released while the others are still being interrogated, Huggins said.

One of the men arrested is the owner of a local jewelry store, while at least two other suspects were arrested at the jeweler's house.

The arrests occurred Thursday and come nearly a month after masked gunmen pretending to be police stole 476 pounds of gold bars from a fishing boat in Curacao.

This AP story was posted on the foxnews.com Internet site yesterday sometime...and I thank Washington state reader S.A. for our final story in today's column. The link is here.

¤ The Funnies

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¤ The Wrap

There are no market anymore...only interventions. - Chris Powell, GATA

I had been thinking about today's column...the last one of the week, the month...and the year, for the last few days. I was agonizing over what would be an appropriate 'blast from the past' to end the year...and was drawing a mental blank.

That all ended with Roy Stephens' last contribution to today's column...which arrived in my in-box very early yesterday evening. The 'Subject' line..."Heart covers 'Stairway to Heaven'. [VIDEO]...did not make my heart go pitter patter.

It's my belief that there are some songs that are sacrosanct...never meant to be tampered with...and this Led Zeppelin piece from 1971 was definitely in my Top 5 list of "hands off" recordings.

So I was already prepared for the worst when I hit 'play' button on the wimp.com link that Roy had included. But in just the first few bars of Nancy Wilson's guitar intro, I knew this cover song was going to be different...and it was.

What Roy had unknowingly stumbled across was a recording of a live concert held at Kennedy Center on December 2nd where, along with the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin...guitarist Buddy Guy, David Letterman, Dustin Hoffman and ballerina Nataolia Makarova...were also being honoured. The concert was aired on national television the day after Christmas.

Heart played a version of Stairway to Heaven with Jason Bonham — the son of deceased Zeppelin drummer John Bonham — that brought Zeppelin singer Robert Plant to tears.

This is an amazing video...and although not the same as the original version...they honoured both the group and the original recording by how faithfully they stuck to the classic version that we all know and love...and I could easily listen to either one all day long.

They showed the three members of the group many times during this video...and you could see in Robert Plant's face, that his entire life was flashing in front of his eyes. I'm sure that none of the band members ever dreamed that they would ever be honoured in this way. It was a wonderful tribute to them...and to the era from which they came.

I know from what I've read on the Internet that the band members had no idea that Heart was going to show up and perform this tribute...and the look on Plant's face when Jason Bonham came on stage is worth watching again and again. It's a tour de force performance by anyone's standards...and after you've watched it, I hope you share those sentiments as well. The link is here...and turn the volume way up! Enjoy...and I just know you will.

It seems almost inconsequential to return to matters regarding the precious metals...however I will do so, but only briefly. If you read my comments in the Commitment of Traders portion of the column further up, you'll know that whatever happens with precious metal prices in 2013...either up or down...is still 100 percent up to JPMorgan Chase et al. It doesn't make any difference about what the dollar is doing, or the economy, the Fed, or how many euros, yen or dollars are being printed...or the price of tea in China. The only questions that matter are...are they done to the downside, or is their more pain to come? If we do rally from here, will they be short sellers of last resort as they've been for decades? I'm afraid that I don't have the answer to that, either.

I suppose a Black Swan could appear...and they could get over run. But as Ted Butler has been saying for more than a decade now...if it does happen, it will be for the very first time.

The one thing I am watching with ever-growing interest at this point is the commitment of the world's major central banks...the U.S., Europe and Japan...to re-ignite inflationary spirits once more, in order to avoid the inevitable deflationary collapse. 2013 will the year that "Inflate...or die" becomes a global phenomenon.

Since they've made their objectives absolutely crystal clear, it's my firm belief that one of the signals they will use is a run-up in the price of the precious metals as a sign to all that inflation, if not hyperinflation, is now stalking the land. The only thing that's unknown is the time line...but that's what I'll be watching for. If this comes to pass, it's also my opinion that 2012 will be the last year that we see a two digit silver price as well.

But as wonderful as that sounds, it falls firmly into the category of "be careful what you wish for"...as the world will become an increasingly unpleasant place to live going forward if all this comes to pass.

Before signing off I'd like to take a moment to salute some of the readers who have made this column what it has become over the years. Even though I write this missive every day, it's just as much your column as it is mine. The graphs, charts, quotes, photos, cartoons, stories that so many have contributed...not only this year, but every year since I started writing this blog...have enriched all of us, me included.

Special thanks go out to Marshall Angeles, Nick Laird, Wesley Legrand, Washington state reader S.A., Dennis Miller, Kevin Cassidy, Matthew Nel, Scott Pluschau, Phil Barlett, Elliot Simon, Ted Butler and Ulrike Marx. Of course at the top of the heap every year is Roy Stephens and, as always, special thanks goes out to him. As one reader pointed out years ago..."Where would you be without Roy?"....indeed!

But not forgotten in all this are two ladies at Casey Research HQ in Stowe, Vermont that keep me on the straight-and-narrow all year long. That would be Dody Day and Veronica Charette...along with Alex Daley at times.

Last, but certainly not least, is lovely Juli Placek. Every morning for four days a week at 5:20 a.m. Eastern time, she drags herself out of a warm bed to take the copy that I've been slaving over for many hours...and sets it up in the format you have before you now. I've lost count of the number of times that she has 'saved' me...and this column...over the years. Juli...I salute you...and thank you.

And I wish you, dear reader, a happy and prosperous New Year...and whatever it brings, we'll get through it together.

See you here at the usual time on January 3, 2013.

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