Britain 3 Hours Away from “Going Bust”

This from Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper:

Britain was just three hours away from going bust last year after a secret run on the banks. This wasn’t revealed until Jan 24, 2009 by one of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s ministers.

City Minister Paul Myners disclosed that on Friday, October 10, the country was ‘very close’ to a complete banking collapse after ‘major depositors’ attempted to withdraw their money en masse. The Mail on Sunday has been told that the Treasury was preparing for the banks to shut their doors to all customers, terminate electronic transfers and even block ATM cash withdrawals.

Only frantic behind-the-scenes efforts averted financial meltdown.

‘There were two or three hours when things felt very bad, nervous and fragile,’ he said. ‘Major depositors were trying to withdraw – and willing to pay penalties for early withdrawal – from a number of large banks.’

The threat to the system was so severe that the Bank of England was forced to contact RBS’s creditors in New York and Tokyo to persuade them not to withdraw their funds, but it is not known which other banks faced a run on their reserves. ‘We faced the very real problem of how banks could stop depositors from withdrawing their money,’ a Treasury source said yesterday.

‘The banks themselves were selling their shareholdings, accelerating the stock-market falls, and preparing to shut up shop. Mortgages would have been sold on and savers would have been spooked, to put it mildly. It would have been chaos.’ [link]

What secrets about the US haven’t yet been revealed? How ’bout this for starters? Market Was 500 Trades Away from Armageddon

I re-read the warning from a financial guy I trust, Martin Weiss: Happy (bank) Holidays! In the Nov 28, 2008 post he said:

Banking Meltdown – Is it Possible?
On October 11, 2008, a single statement hit the international wire services that provides more specific clues:

“Intensifying solvency concerns about a number of the largest U.S.-based and European financial institutions have pushed the global financial system to the brink of systemic meltdown.”

This statement was not the random rant of a gloom-and-doomer on the fringe of society. Nor was it excerpted from a twentieth century history book about the Great Depression. It was the serious, objective assessment announced at a Washington, D.C. press conference by the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The unmistakable implication: So many of the world’s largest banks were so close to bankruptcy, the entire banking system was vulnerable to a massive collapse.

And just because things have been relatively calm for a month I don’t believe for a femtosecond our banks are safe now.

Stay vigilant!

US Mint Clamps Down on Gold

U.S. Mint Actions Discourage Gold Ownership [link]

Over the past several months, the United States Mint has announced a series of actions and policy changes that make it more difficult for the average individual to buy gold. There have always been plausible or semi-plausible explanations, but the consequence of each action has been to limit or discourage gold ownership.

August 2008: The US Mint suspends sales of Gold Eagle bullion coins. Sales resume two weeks later on a rationed basis.

September 2008: The US Mint suspends sales of Gold Buffalo bullion coins. Sales resume more than one month later, but only to clear remaining inventory.

October 6, 2008: The US Mint announces that production will be halted for all but one gold bullion coin option.

November 10, 2008: The US Mint announces the discontinuation of numerous gold and platinum numismatic products.

November 24, 2008: The US Mint announces the delayed release of all but one 2009 gold bullion coin option.

January 6, 2009: The US Mint establishes a new pricing policy for gold and platinum numismatic products.

Conclusion?
The series of incremental changes outlined above has resulted in the following situation:

Production was halted for all of the US Mint’s fractional gold bullion and 24 karat gold bullion offerings several months ago. There has been no indication when production might resume.

The only 2009 gold bullion coin available from the US Mint is the one ounce American Gold Eagle. Sales of this single bullion coin offering remain subject to rationing.

The US Mint’s gold numismatic offerings for 2009 have been significantly reduced from the prior year. The remaining product offerings will be priced at prohibitively high premiums under a newly established pricing policy.

Whether or not it was the US Mint’s intention, every significant action they have taken since August has either limited gold availability, eliminated gold product options, or increased the cost of acquiring gold.

Has it all just been a consequence of surging global demand for gold, supply chain mismanagement, and bad timing for policy decisions? Or is there something else going on here?  [more]

Thanks to “Blunt Force Trauma” for the link.

1929 Redux: Ben Battles the Bear

Look at this chart by Mark Lundeen. It compares the 1929 “bear” depression with what’s happening NOW. He synchronized the market tops for both events.

1929 vs 2007

Pithy comments from Mr. Lundeen:

This bear is the most volatile market in the 124 year history of the DJIA.

So why isn’t the DJIA below the 1929/32 bear’s valuation at this same point in time? Well, remember Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke a few months ago kept mentioning all the new tools he had, tools that were not available to “policy makers” in 1929? Funny how quiet he is about his new monkey wrenches as the DJIA keeps dipping below its 8000 line, again and again.

If you and I are puzzled about the lack of a good dead-cat bounce in the DJIA, think how bewildered Bernanke is! He was the acknowledged big-shot expert on the Great Depression bear market.

For years he bragged that he hoped to get a chance at a nasty stock market bear, a real rip-snorter of a bear market. All he needed, he would tell the guys in the FOMC room after few drinks, were some new tools to leverage his genius, and market forces would “cry uncle” PDQ. But that was then, and this is now.

So day after day, Ben goes down in the basement of the Federal Reserved. People walking the hallways of the Fed can hear him pounding all day and long into the night on the pipes of monetary policy. But he is finding out that the damn bear is just too stupid to know when to quit! Poor Benny. [more]