July the 23rd, market fixing and JP Morgan

It comes as no surprise that JP Morgan, after getting into the commodities and warehousing racket, amongst many many others is being accused of being involved in outright fraud, again! I’ll let Bloomberg explain…

When the Federal Reserve gave JPMorgan (JPM) Chase & Co. approval in 2005 for hands-on involvement in commodity markets, it prohibited the bank from expanding into the storage business because of the risk. Five years later, JPMorgan bought one of the world’s biggest metal warehouse companies.

While the Fed has never explained why it let that happen, the central bank announced July 19 that it’s reviewing a 2003 precedent that let deposit-taking banks trade physical commodities. Reversing that policy would mark the Fed’s biggest ejection of banks from a market since Congress lifted the Depression-era law against them running securities firms in 1999.

“The Federal Reserve regularly monitors the commodity activities of supervised firms and is reviewing the 2003 determination that certain commodity activities are complementary to financial activities and thus permissible for bank holding companies,” said Barbara Hagenbaugh, a Fed spokeswoman. She declined to elaborate.

“When Wall Street banks control the supply of both commodities and financial products, there’s a potential for anti-competitive behavior and manipulation,” Brown said in an e-mailed statement. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan are the biggest Wall Street players in physical commodities.

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Of course, when one is a monopoly the revenues follow easily and flow like champers at a bankers part-ay. The trick, of course, is to keep Congress very much unaware of said monopoly and let the fraud continue.

The 10 largest banks generated about $6 billion in revenue from commodities, including dealings in physical materials as well as related financial products, according to a Feb. 15 report from analytics company Coalition. Goldman Sachs ranked No. 1, followed by JPMorgan.

While banks generally don’t specify their earnings from physical materials, Goldman Sachs wrote in a quarterly financial report that it held $7.7 billion of commodities at fair value as of March 31. Morgan Stanley had $6.7 billion.

On June 27, four Democratic members of Congress wrote a letter asking Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, among other things, how Fed examiners would account for possible bank runs caused by a bank-owned tanker spilling oil, and how the Fed would resolve a systemically important financial institution’s commodities activities if it were to collapse.

It’s good to hear that these questions are finally being asked by the US Congress but I have a question. Why has it taken so long for the illustrious leaders of America to figure out that a company, such as JPM or Goldman Sachs, have used monopolistic behaviour to control the majority of commodity markets, control the price and make vast sums of money from driving prices up? This effects billions of people and is not a free market capitalist system, it is so far from it. So why has it taken so long? It wouldn’t have anything to do with the banks being massive contributors to all political parties and employing armies of lobbyists now would it? I’m getting too cynical in my old age. Just a quick point, the Fed works purely to benefit America’s banks and to provide them with whatever top-line amenities they need and are confident they can pass by under the noses of dumb congressmen paid off and as guilty in said corruption.

Now, “it is virtually impossible to glean even a broad overall picture of Goldman Sachs’s, Morgan Stanley’s, or JPMorgan’s physical commodities and energy activities from their public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and federal bank regulators,” Saule T. Omarova, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill law professor, wrote in a November 2012 academic paper, “Merchants of Wall Street: Banking, Commerce and Commodities.”

The added complexity makes the financial system less stable and more difficult to supervise, she said in an interview.

“It stretches regulatory capacity beyond its limits,” said Omarova, who is slated to be a witness at the Senate hearing. “No regulator in the financial world can realistically, effectively manage all the risks of an enterprise of financial activities, but also the marketing of gas, oil, electricity and metals. How can one banking regulator develop the expertise to know what’s going on?”

Now here is the clincher…..

In February 2010, Goldman Sachs bought Romulus, Michigan-based Metro International Trade Services LLC, which as of July 11 operates 34 out of 39 storage facilities licensed by the London Metal Exchange in the Detroit area, according to LME data. Since then, aluminum stockpiles in Detroit-area warehouses surged 66 percent and now account for 80 percent of U.S. aluminum inventory monitored by the LME and 27 percent of total LME aluminum stockpiles, exchange data from July 18 show.

Traders employed by the bank can steer metal owned by others into Metro facilities, creating a stockpile, said Robert Bernstein, an attorney with Eaton & Van Winkle LLC in New York. He represents consumers who have complained to the LME about what they call artificial shortages of the metal.

“The warehouse companies, which store both LME and non-LME metals, do not own metal in their facilities, but merely store it on behalf of the ultimate owners,” said DuVally, the Goldman Sachs spokesman. “In fact, LME warehouses are actually prohibited from trading all LME products.”

Goldman Sachs, doing gods work and humanity a favor and not like when it was shorting RMBS, when Goldman was merely “making markets.” In the meantime, aluminum prices.

Buyers have to pay premiums over the LME benchmark prices even with a glut of aluminum being produced. Premiums in the U.S. surged to a record 12 cents to 13 cents a pound in June, almost doubling from 6.5 cents in summer 2010, according to the most recent data available from Austin, Texas-based researcher Harbor Intelligence. Warehouses are creating logjams, said Chris Thorne, a Beer Institute spokesman.

In conclusion and just like the repeal of Glass Steagall allowed banks to mix deposit collecting and risk-taking divisions, so did the Fed’s landmark 2003 decision which allowed banks to intermingle financial and physical commodities. While the US government and the public seem largely ignorant and without a care that they end up overpaying billions more to Goldman’s and JPM’s employees which in turn goes on more coke and hookers. Bare in mind that one country where commodities are exceptionally fragmented in their use as both a financial and physical commodity is China. Their growth and figures are questionable but messing with China is a dangerous game to play. Goldman, JPM and BlackRock are brave and have a plan, they have amassed 80% of the world’s copper “on behalf of investors” for non-profit reasons. Looking forward to this was one playing out with all of China’s gold.

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