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Commodities

Top News

Oil Price Manipulation Awakens Libor, Enron Ghosts

Last July, we warned you that oil prices could potentially be manipulated in similar fashion to the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), and now a recent raid of major oil companies highlights this growing danger to the $3.4 trillion-a-year crude market.

The European Commission last week stormed the offices of Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE ADR: RDS.A, RDS.B), BP PLC ( NYSE ADR: BP), and Statoil ASA (NYSE ADR: STO) as part of the ongoing investigation to find out whether companies are manipulating oil prices and, if so, how long it has been going on and the possible ramifications.

"The commission has concerns that the companies may have colluded in reporting distorted prices to a price reporting agency (PRA) to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products," the EC said in a statement.

Besides major oil companies, big banks are active in the energy market and would likely benefit from any manipulation, David Frenk, director of research at the financial reform group Better Markets and a former commodities analyst, told CNN.

The ordeal has brought back memories not only of last year's Libor scandal but also of the actions taken 12 years ago by Enron to control energy prices.

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Commodities

These Commodities Traders are Hoarding Copper for the Ultimate Profit Play

The only thing that investors have heard recently about the copper market is that there is vast oversupply ahead as evidenced by a buildup in copper warehouse inventories globally.

Inventories at LME (London Metals Exchange) warehouses have risen in excess of 190% since October alone. Inventories are now at levels not seen since 2003 at more than 590,000 tons.

LME inventories are closely watched by traders and economists alike as a key indicator of global economic strength and activity. Normally, such rising levels of copper in warehouses would be a flashing red light warning about economic weakness ahead globally.

According to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), traders have jumped on this inventory number and have accumulated the highest level of net short positions on copper in over six months.

Precious Metals

If You're Worried About Gold Prices, You Need to Read This

When stocks fall by 20% or more from their peak, it's labeled as a "bear market."

With gold prices down 26% from their record close back in August 2011, the "yellow metal" has entered a bear market of its own.

It took an especially ugly day on Monday to get us to that point.

Two days ago, gold prices plunged as much as 9.7% – the biggest decline since 1980 – and continued a sell-off that saw the yellow metal fall by 4.7% last week, including a 4.1% drop on Friday.

The metal has now fallen 26% from its Aug. 22, 2011 settlement record of $1,888.70.

To get some expert insights on this sell-off, I telephoned Peter Krauth, our resident natural resources expert and editor of our Real Asset Returns research service. Peter based himself in Canada to be closer to the miners and natural-resources companies he covers for his subscribers.

I asked Peter for insights on the following three questions:

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Commodities

The Best-Performing Commodity of 2013 is Just Heating Up

Gold and silver are in the midst of an ugly selloff, but the best performing commodity of 2013 continues to ramp up.

Believe it or not, it's natural gas.

After increasing 1.2% Wednesday, natural gas prices now stand around $4.20/mmbtu- up more than 120% from a year ago and almost 30% this year alone.

By comparison, gold prices are down 18% and silver prices are off over 23% since the beginning of 2013.

The good news for natural gas investors is that there are still plenty of reasons why natural gas will continue its recent run.

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Top News

Why the "Smart Money" in Japan is Investing in Gold

Some Japanese investors were thrilled as gold prices swooned this week, because they got a chance at investing in gold at a bargain price. 

Tokuriki Honten Co., the country's second-largest gold retailer, reported Tuesday that Japanese investors doubled their gold purchases this week from the week before.

And Reuters reported how 63-year-old Yujiro Yamashita traveled to Tokyo's Ginza district to buy gold for the first time in 20 years.

Why?

It's thanks to fears stemming from Japan's new monetary easing, known as "Abenomics."

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Commodities

How a Massive Landslide Shifts Copper Supply

The U.S. mining industry was dealt a devastating blow as Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine experienced a pit wall failure causing a massive landslide with rocks and dirt covering the bottom of the mine pit. It's a miracle no one was hurt due to the vigilance of its owner, Rio Tinto.

Brian Hicks, portfolio manager of the Global Resources Fund, is very familiar with the mine, having visited it often. He also has personal ties as both of his grandfathers were once employed by the mine. When Brian saw the photo of the landslide posted on the web, he said the substantial destruction of the collapsed wall and falling rock was apparent, yet the tremendous scale and magnitude of the mine cannot be captured in pixels.

Precious Metals

If You're Worried About Gold Prices, You Need to Read This

When stocks fall by 20% or more from their peak, it's labeled as a "bear market."

With gold prices down 26% from their record close back in August 2011, the "yellow metal" has entered a bear market of its own.

It took an especially ugly day on Monday to get us to that point.

Two days ago, gold prices plunged as much as 9.7% – the biggest decline since 1980 – and continued a sell-off that saw the yellow metal fall by 4.7% last week, including a 4.1% drop on Friday.

The metal has now fallen 26% from its Aug. 22, 2011 settlement record of $1,888.70.

To get some expert insights on this sell-off, I telephoned Peter Krauth, our resident natural resources expert and editor of our Real Asset Returns research service. Peter based himself in Canada to be closer to the miners and natural-resources companies he covers for his subscribers.

I asked Peter for insights on the following three questions:

Energy Investing

Why Oil Prices Aren't Coming Down Despite Big U.S. Oil Boom

The dual promise of the U.S. shale oil boom was that it would reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lower oil prices that would benefit U.S. consumers via cheaper gasoline.

But while U.S. oil production continues to rise, and gasoline consumption continues to fall, gas prices have remained stubbornly high: The national average was about $3.65 last week.

And that trend is expected to continue, with the United States surging past Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer of crude oil as soon as 2020. Meanwhile, U.S. gasoline demand is at its lowest in more than a decade – down to 8.7 million barrels a day.

Facts like that have led some pundits to predict falling oil prices. Last year, some politicians were promising that stepped-up U.S. oil production could lower gasoline prices to $2.50 a gallon.

Frustrated U.S. drivers struggling to cope with high gas prices were eager to believe such promises, no matter how unlikely.

Unfortunately, all that new U.S. oil, while helpful in some ways, will not have much effect on gas prices – either now or in the foreseeable future.

"The problem is that prices are not just reflective of new supplies, either too much or too little," explained Money Morning Global Energy Strategist Dr. Kent Moors. "By focusing only on how much is there, these analysts provide a fundamentally distorted view of the oil market."

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Investing Tips

What Maslow and Rand Would Tell Investors Today (And How It Relates To Gold)

I have always been fascinated by what motivates people. What motivates Tiger Woods to pursue the goal of being the world's greatest golfer?

What's the motivation driving Warren Buffett to continue purchasing companies instead of retiring in Tahiti?

Or how about the motivation behind the trucks allegedly packed with euros parked in front of the Central Bank in Nicosia?

What is most puzzling is the motivation driving investors to buy or sell their equity positions when research shows that holding an investment over the long-term is more successful than timing the market.

As Business Insider puts it, there's "proof that [investors] stink at investing." Its headline is catchy, and the chart shows the evidence, as the average investor has significantly underperformed oil, stocks, gold and bonds in the past 20 years. While, on average, investors returned 2 percent, oil, stocks and gold rose about 8 percent.

After inflation, the average Joe or Jill actually lost money.

Commodities

How to Double Your Money by Investing in Copper

Copper prices are up 170% over the past four years – meaning huge profits for anyone who has been investing in copper.

But now many investors are bailing on the red metal. Prices have slipped about 9% this year, and inventories are soaring.

Copper prices hit an eight-month low today (Wednesday) as slowing economic growth has led speculators to take more short positions on the metal.

Copper inventories also appear to signal low demand. Stockpiles of the red metal in the London Metals Exchange are at the highest level since October 2003.

But what appear to be bearish signals for investing in copper are not the case. Here's what investors need to understand…

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