Posts By: Daniel Brown

JPMorgan’s Physical Silver Stash Continues To Grow

S9sGEWmY_400x400Ted Butler, a highly regarded analyst in the precious metals sphere, recently suggested that JPMorgan Chase might own as much as 350 million ounces of physical silver. That’s a shocking number, and even though speculation is rife in Butler’s arguments, the official figure (around 55 million ounces) tells an interesting story. The bank’s bullish stance could bode well for the future of the silver price.

JPMorgan started collecting silver in April 2011, when the metal’s price was just beginning to fall from its high of nearly $50/oz. Before the spike, the bank had virtually zero ounces of physical silver bullion.

5y Silver

A year later, their stockpiles were up to around 15 million ounces and since then, they have more than tripled their stash to 55 million ounces. In a span of just 10 days during April 2015, they had more than 7 million ounces delivered; a huge amount for such a short period of time.

Some have argued that JPMorgan’s behavior in the paper/digital silver market has been malicious and unfair. In a lawsuit, rival investors claimed that the bank was manipulating the price downward to aid their physical purchases. But that lawsuit failed in 2013 and an appeal was struck down in 2014.

When it comes to the facts, however, JPMorgan’s intent is not especially important. The bottom line is that the bank has been amassing a great deal of silver bullion, and that could mean that they expect higher prices before long.

Two essential factors here are JPMorgan’s sheer size and influence. It’s the largest bank in the U.S., and it’s leaders clearly knows their way around Wall Street and the entire financial system. That certainly doesn’t make them immune to mistakes, but their outlook should still mean something to the average investor; if they expect a spike, maybe we should too.

And of course, this begs the question: Why? If JPMorgan is so large, so experienced, and has access to crucial and far-reaching market analysis, then what do they see that’s telling them to buy silver? It could be nothing more than the idea of profiting through manipulation, but there could be more legitimate reasons as well.

Some suspect that JPMorgan anticipates another financial crisis. The bank’s chairman and CEO, Jamie Dimon, even wrote to shareholders recently and noted that “there will be another crisis, and its impact will be felt by the financial market.” He further explained that the crisis could be triggered by any number of events. The cause could be geopolitical issues, rapidly rising interest rates, a commodities collapse, a real estate crisis, a bubble, or something else.

In my own opinion, that anticipation makes a lot of sense. The history of the world’s financial crises alone should indicate that problems will come. Every few decades (or less) we see interest rates go crazy, prices collapse (or spike), currencies evaporate, or entire industries go under. Throughout all of this, silver has certainly fluctuated, but for wise investors, it has never failed. Its reputation as a sound store of value has held strong. It appears that JPMorgan sees silver as security at the very least and as profit if things go well. We might be well-advised to follow suit.

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Swiss Bank Refuses Large Cash Withdrawal

Swiss BankSwiss Bank Baulks

Swiss banks used to be world-renowned. The nation has had a reputation for banking secrecy and international neutrality, making it a relatively safe place to store wealth. Unfortunately, the costs of Swiss banking might soon outweigh those benefits. As negative interest rates continue to permeate the Swiss economy, at least one bank has declined a customer’s request for a large cash withdrawal. This probably occurred at the direction of the Swiss National Bank (SNB).

The negative interest rates took effect at the central bank in January 2015 amidst a failing Russian economy and crashing oil prices. Private lenders have been forced to follow suit. Instead of paying interest on deposits, some now charge customers for the use of their money. This has been a huge blow to the fiscally responsible Swiss. Those with retirement funds and similar investments are now losing money by keeping it in the bank.

Further problems arose when one pension fund manager tried to avoid those losses. He wanted to withdraw his fund’s money from the bank and move it to a separate storage facility. That would save his clients 25,000 Swiss francs per year for every 10 million francs in the fund. Storing cash in an insured vault would still cost money, but it would be far cheaper than keeping it in the bank.

Withdrawal Request Denied

WithdrawalSomewhat unexpectedly, however, the bank denied this request and provided little explanation for the decision. A letter to the fund manager simply stated that his expectations could not be met within the specified time period. Many have speculated that the bank’s actions were spurred by a directive from the SNB. The central bankers might feel that large withdrawals could lead to a cash shortage and cause banks to fail. If that happened, Europe could face an even more serious economic crisis.

At least one banking expert has suggested that the bank’s refusal was clearly illegal. Even if the SNB did issue a directive, it should not have superseded the law. The fund manager’s contract dictated that he should have been allowed to withdraw his money at any time and the private bank should have been legally obliged to honor that request.

In the financial sphere, there are all kinds of deposits, and some do take time to mature, but the pension fund’s account was not like that. It was known as a sight deposit account. The SNB itself defines sight deposits as “Funds which can be transferred immediately and without restriction to another account or which can be converted into cash.” Based on that definition, the bank should not have been allowed to withhold the pension fund’s cash.

Distressing News

Financial FreedomThis news is so distressing to many because Switzerland is supposed to be one of the world’s most economically free countries. (Switzerland is ranked at number 5 and the United States is number 12.) If the Swiss government can start restricting withdrawals on a whim, how much worse could things end up in countries that are less free? This might be an important sign that the global economy is still precarious and securing wealth in trusted, physical assets is essential.

Daniel Brown is the editor-in-chief of You, Me, and BTC. He’s also the “Everything Elf” at Liberty.me.