The Premier Silver Resource Website

Live Spot Silver
Silver Market Articles
Silver Discussions at the Forum
Silver Company Links
Silver Market Updates
Silver & Gold Headlines
Silver Stock News
Silver Equity Quotes
Silver & Precious Metals Quotes

Hedging and Leasing Review and Outlook

By: Theodore Butler

-- Posted 21 May, 2003 | | Source:

I started writing this piece intending to follow up on some topics that I have recently written about, and see how the original articles held up in hindsight. One article I felt should be reviewed was, "Barrick's Silver Bombshell" ( In the original article I wrote about Barrick's surprise statement in their 4th Quarter earnings release, and how they announced their intention to close out their silver hedges. I pointed out that such a statement coming from the world's largest known silver hedging short seller was big news. True to their word, Barrick did cover over 12% of their silver hedge in the first quarter, or by six million ounces. At that pace, Barrick could cover their entire silver short hedge in the next 7 quarters. This is good news for Barrick shareholders. Barrick's announcement and subsequent follow-through of close-out of hedge positions in silver and gold was far from unusual in the first quarter.

In fact, the news on silver, but particularly on gold hedge buybacks and close-outs has been consistent; there is an undeniable universal movement in place by the miners to close these short hedges. I know of no miner who has stated an intention to increase gold and silver short hedges. Not coincidentally, the lows in the gold market were made a couple of years ago when the miners, on a net basis, stopped putting on new leasing/forward selling shorts, and began delivering against and buying back existing hedges. Let me state this clearly - while there are many factors influencing the price of gold and silver, none is more important than whether the leasing/forward sale position is expanding or contracting. None. Gold prices went nowhere for years, and then down, starting in 1996 as leasing supplies were dumped on the market, and then started up in 2001, as leasing supplies stopped being dumped on the market. That was no coincidence.

Because the record is so clear as to the impact that leasing has had on prices, and because the mechanical force behind that impact is so compelling in nature, what began for me as a review of recent articles, quickly turned into an analysis of the very first article I had posted on the Internet, some 6 years ago. In fact, it wasn't even an article, but a letter I sent to Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan and then Treasury Secretary Rubin, in which I asked them to ban gold and silver loans, because they were manipulative and fraudulent. (

Why am I strolling down Memory Lane? For a number of reasons. First, you must understand where you've been, in order to appreciate where you may be going. The gold (and silver) forward sale position of the miners is, in my mind, the most important influence on the price. Not to pat myself on the back, but six years ago I was one of the very first to appreciate the price impact of leasing/forward selling. My letter was the very first public explanation of what leasing/forward selling was really all about, namely manipulation and fraud. (If anyone is aware of earlier articles, I would appreciate hearing from you, as it is not my intention to distort the historical record).

Remarkably, while it is true that the metal world has come to examine and report on the impact of leasing/forward selling on the price of gold and silver, and the issue of manipulation is openly discussed and debated, I am astounded by what is not discussed, namely, the nuts and bolts of leasing/forward selling. For instance, we read numerous reports, calculating to the ton, how much hedging was closed out in the previous period, yet no real focus as to why these hedges are being closed out. Or we engage in endless debate as to who can come up with the largest amount of the total of hedged metal, when even the widely accepted lower totals will prove manipulation just as easily.

My point here is that I think most people have missed the essence of leasing/forward selling. Quite simply, that essence is that we have, in plain view, witnessed one of the stupidest and most manipulative financial concoctions ever devised by Wall Street. To discuss leasing/forward selling in any other legitimate terms is preposterous. Let me explain why.

At the heart of my attack on leasing/forward selling, today and six years ago, is that it is not in any way related to legitimate hedging, even though we all refer to it as hedging. Real hedging is a legitimate economic activity that is the very justification for our futures markets. Legitimate hedging is the process employed by real producers and consumers to lock in favorable prices for what they produce or consume, utilizing paper contracts. The real producers and consumers legitimately hedging are transferring risk, via these paper contracts, to speculators who voluntarily assume that risk, in the hope of profit.

That is worlds apart from what happens, and has happened in leasing/forward selling. Understanding the differences between real hedging and this leasing/forward selling scheme we call hedging is the key to determining if the leasing version is legitimate or manipulative. Let me illustrate those differences. First, there is no regard to price in leasing/forward selling, whereas price is the most important motivator in legitimate hedging. Think I'm kidding? Then consider this - the gold mining companies who forward sell with leased material (the hedgers), all had their maximum short position on at the price lows in gold. Only after the price has climbed substantially, is there active and uniform movement to close out these shorts. The exact opposite of buy low, sell high. Opposite of what legitimate hedging would call for. In addition, never in the history of legitimate hedging had it occurred that more than one year's production or consumption was hedged, until metal leasing/forward came along. That was because of common sense and a US commodity law limiting hedging to no more than that. However, bad pricing and dangerously long duration commitments are not the only differences between legitimate hedging and the leasing version.

The most important difference between the two is that the leasing version is based upon dumping real metal onto the market. Legitimate hedging is all paper. Real hedgers go long and short paper contracts. There is no provision in any form of legitimate hedging that calls for the short sale of the physical commodity itself. That should be considered absurd. Can you imagine a corn farmer, or an oil company, or feedlot operator borrowing the actual commodity he produces, in massive quantities measuring years of output, and then dumping it on the market and promising to pay it back someday. The whole concept is almost too stupid to explain. Suffice it to say, this practice of short selling and dumping the actual commodity on the market has only occurred in the precious metals' leasing/forward selling version of hedging.

It is this dumping of physical metal that has a profound impact on the metals market. It's one thing for a miner to undermine shareholder value by selling short too low, too much and for too long, but something else entirely if that miner's action manipulates market prices. And there should be no question that the physical quantities involved have been sufficient to drive prices lower when dumped, and lifted prices as they stopped being dumped. For instance, Barrick Gold, which is considered to be the world's largest gold and silver hedger, held over 20 million ounces of gold short at its peak two years ago (just the forward position, not paper options), before they started covering. That's 25 percent of annual world mine production of 80 million ounces a year. (In silver, Barrick was short 10% of world production, at the peak.) Now, I know that Barrick didn't originally sell short the whole 20 million gold ounces in one year. It was spread over years. But, consider that 20 million ounces is usually larger than the entire total COMEX futures open interest, and eight times larger than COMEX warehouse stocks. Remember, the COMEX is the world's largest precious metals exchange, and we’re talking about one company larger than that market. To get a better perspective of the large quantity of actual metal dumped on the market by this one hedger, at the peak, imagine if anyone dumped 25% of annual world oil production on the market. One day's share alone would be 15 million barrels. Now multiply by 365 days. That would be 5.5 billion barrels of oil. It would not matter if such a short sale was spread out over 10 years, the effect on price would be the same, crushing. And if such a large short sale was put on, the covering of such a short sale would cause the price to rise. The first lawsuit that sticks to this angle on the manipulation stands a great chance of success, in my opinion. Remember, this example was based on just one mining company’s hedging, not all mining companies hedging combined, which would be the proper analysis.

The good news is that I think the miners and their financial counterparties and advisors are beginning to understand the real differences between legitimate hedging and the leasing version, and that's why they are collectively moving to close out the their shorts. This is a powerfully bullish, and almost permanent factor in gold (It just hasn't happened yet in silver, but it will). If I'm correct on how stupid and manipulative the leasing/forward selling version of hedging actually is, and if I'm correct about the metals world waking up to that fact, then I can assure you straight out - we are not just witnessing a temporary curtailment in this illegitimate activity, it's never coming back. I'm not saying there will never be hedging in the precious metals again, I'm saying any real growth in hedging in the future will be the legitimate, paper variety. I'm saying we'll never see a rebirth of the stupid hedging that caused real metal to get dumped on the market.

Forget the buybacks and closeouts, it is super-bullish for gold and enough that the miners will never cause leased metal to be dumped on the market, ever again. It is a bullish factor that has caused the price to rise over $100 from the lows and will be a strong tail wind for as far as the eye can see. There are other factors that go into the price of gold, and I'm not considering them here, nor do I think gold goes up every day, forever. My point is that this death of leasing lifts a very real and large weight from gold market.

The bad news is that the death certificate for leasing hasn't been issued yet in silver. But, it is certain to come. The reason the death of leasing hasn't occurred yet in silver, is for a number of reasons, all temporary. For one, while the miners are the big short sellers in gold, in silver the miners are not the big leasing shorts, with some notable exceptions. Instead, fabricators and refiners are thought to be the big leasing shorts, and they have different imperatives than the miners. Probably the main reason we have not yet witnessed the death of leasing in silver, is that the situation is much more critical than in gold. Gold has gone up fairly orderly, as the leasing ends. I don't think that can happen in silver, where we go up orderly when leasing supplies are no longer dumped on the market. I think that's because we still have enough physical gold in the world, at current to higher prices, to satisfy expected demand without having a shortage. In silver, we have documented structural deficits, which means we're already in a shortage, and any stoppage of leasing would shake the market to its core. In other words, when leasing comes to a halt in silver, it will be a giant shock to the system.

What I am saying is that the death of leasing in gold will be repeated soon in silver, only the price impact will be beyond compare. What I am offering as proof is the same logic and analysis that I offered 6 years ago. Come back in a reasonable period of time (hopefully not years) and see if my analysis on silver was on the mark.

-- Posted 21 May, 2003 | |

This article is brought to you in part by Investment Rarities Inc.


Last Three Articles by Theodore Butler

Warnings Ignored
4 September, 2009

The Voice Of The People
25 August, 2009

Walking the Walk
20 August, 2009

Ted Butler - Article Archive List is presented to you by:

© 2003 - 2011, Silver Seek LLC

The content on this site is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and is the property of and/or the providers of the content under license. By "content" we mean any information, mode of expression, or other materials and services found on This includes editorials, news, our writings, graphics, and any and all other features found on the site. Please contact us for any further information.


The views contained here may not represent the views of, its affiliates or advertisers. makes no representation, warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy or completeness of the information (including news, editorials, prices, statistics, analyses and the like) provided through its service. Any copying, reproduction and/or redistribution of any of the documents, data, content or materials contained on or within this website, without the express written consent of, is strictly prohibited. In no event shall or its affiliates be liable to any person for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided herein.