April 28, 2011
A week ago we noted something peculiar: in one day, COMEX depository Scotia Mocatta (one of five in the world) saw a 25% transfer of silver from “registered” (or deliverable physical) to “eligible” (or “undefined” – a distinction discussed previously, and also below). We said: “Canada’s largest bullion depository (and one of five total) reclassified a whopping 5.2 million ounces of silver from Registered to Eligible status. In order to get a sense of how big this amount is, which amounts to just under $238 million at today’s fixing price, it represents just over 25% of the total silver stored at Scotia Mocatta, and about 5% of the total silver held across all depositories.” The reason then given was: “due to a reporting reclassification, 5,287,142 t oz was moved from Registered to Eligible.” To our (lack of) surprise, a quick glance at today’s silver holdings at the Comex confirms that the trend of reclassification is continuing unabated, and total “physical” silver across the entire Comex universe has now plunged by almost 20%, or from 41 million ounces to 33 million ounces, in the span of one week! And while last week it was Scotia Mocatta, today it is HSBC and the Delaware Depository, and the reason given: “Adjustments include reporting classifications of t oz that were moved from Registered to Eligible. Please see Special Executive Report reference 5736 for additional information. http://www.cmegroup.com/tools-information/advisorySearch.html#.” And a further drill down reveals the following link. Many have speculated that there could well be a run on physical silver. But for those looking for a smoking gun, this is probably as close as you will get to one, short of JPM actually declaring “force majeure.”
This is from April 20:
And this is from today (link):
As for the detailed reason provided by the CME, we get the following:
A correction to the COMEX Metal Depository Statistics Stock Reports published on April 27, 2011, has been made to reflect a change in the reporting of metal from the Registered category to the Eligible category. This change reflects paper warrants that have yet to be converted to electronic form. The metal represented by these paper warrants, which will now be reported in the Eligible category, will continue to remain eligible for delivery against COMEX futures contracts provided holders of the paper warrants convert them to electronic form.
Exchange metal reported in the Registered category represents troy ounces of metal that meet the contract specifications as defined in the Exchange Rules for which an electronic warrant has been issued.
Exchange metal reported in the Eligible category represents troy ounces of metal that meet the contract specifications as defined in the Exchange Rules for which an electronic warrant has not been issued.
So, a rather odd last minute paper to electronic contract conversion, which mysteriously results in a 20% drop in the physical silver across the entire Comex universe? And this coming at a time when silver is within cents of breaking the all time nominal high? Sure, we’ll buy it. But perhaps the Comex can tell us just how many more such “warrants” exist in the system, and whether when all is said and done, where it says 33,322,807 million ounces of registered silver (where it was 41 million last week), it won’t be zero, or, who knows, negative?
We, for one, won’t wait to find out and demand delivery only when said number hits zero.
And as a reminder for those unfamiliar, here is a distinction between “registered” (real) and “eligible” (somewhat “questionable”), courtesy of SilverAxis
For those who aren’t familiar with the terminology, the registered category of COMEX warehouse bullion stocks generally refers to gold and silver bars against which COMEX warehouse receipts are outstanding. The COMEX publishes these stocks on a daily basis and they can be found here: Silver | Gold. The registered category is the total pool of gold and silver available at any time to meet delivery requirements under expiring futures contracts or to establish initial futures contract positions through a transaction called exchange-for-physicals (I’ll explain this another time). It is important to realize, however, that many parties holding COMEX gold and silver in registered form have no intention of making their holdings available for delivery. By this I mean that such parties are neither (1) holding a short futures position against the warehouse receipt nor (2) willing to sell their registered metal (warehouse receipts) to a party with a short futures position. Indeed, a substantial portion of those holding registered metal would have acquired the COMEX warehouse receipts by holding long futures positions for delivery. In other words, these registered stocks are held for investment and not for commercial purposes.
In comparison, the eligible category of COMEX warehouse bullion stocks generally refers to bullion held in the warehouses that meets the specifications of an acceptable COMEX bar (proper weight, size, purity and refiner) but does not have a COMEX warehouse receipt issued against it. For example, an investor might purchase several 1,000 oz. bars of silver from a dealer and then deliver the bars for allocated storage at a COMEX warehouse. This is a private arrangement and has nothing to do with the COMEX. Unless these bars are officially registered (the easiest way to do this is through the aforementioned exchange-for-physicals), they will remain in the eligible category until withdrawn from the warehouse by the investor. Thus, the appropriate way to treat eligible COMEX warehouse bullion stocks is that they represent metal that could potentially be registered at some point in the future but cannot presently be used to make delivery under a short futures contract.
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