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Discovery Silver Reports Cordero PEA with US$1.2B Post-tax NPV, 38% IRR & 2.0 Year Payback

Discovery Silver Corp. (TSX-V: DSV, OTCQX: DSVSF) (“Discovery” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce…

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This article was originally published by Resource World

Discovery Silver Corp. (TSX-V: DSV, OTCQX: DSVSF) (“Discovery” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce results from its Preliminary Economic Assessment (“PEA” or “the Study”) on its 100%-owned Cordero silver project (“Cordero” or “the Project”) located in Chihuahua State, Mexico.

Study highlights include (all figures are in USD unless otherwise noted):

  • Excellent project economics: Base Case after-tax NPV5% of $1.2 B (C$1.5 B) and IRR of 38% (Ag – $22.00/oz, Au – $1,600/oz, Pb – $1.00/lb and Zn – $1.20/lb).
  • Exceptional silver price leverage: Upside Case after-tax NPV5% of $1.9 B (C$2.4 B) and IRR of 55% (Ag – $27.50/oz, Au – $1,880/oz, Pb – $1.10/lb and Zn – $1.45/lb based on one-year trailing 90th percentile prices).
  • Large-scale, high-margin, long mine life asset: 16-year mine life with average annual production of 26 Moz AgEq at an AISC of $12.35/oz AgEq.
  • Low capital intensity: initial development capex of $368 M; attractive NPV-to-capex ratio of 3.2x.
  • Rapid payback: post-tax payback of 2.0 years for Base Case and 1.4 years for Upside Case.
  • Technically robust study: 99% of tonnes processed in the PEA mine plan are in the Measured & Indicated category; process design and metallurgical recovery estimates are based on the Company’s comprehensive 2021 metallurgical testwork program.
  • Silver-dominant revenues: silver represents +60% of the net smelter return in the first five years of the mine life and +50% of the net smelter return over the life of mine, in-line with the senior/mid-tier silver producer group.

Taj Singh, President and CEO, states: “With annual AgEq production averaging more than 26 Moz over a +15-year mine life we believe this PEA clearly positions Cordero as a Tier 1 silver asset. This impressive scale of production is achieved through modest development capex of $368 M and returns excellent margins with AISC averaging less than $12.50/AgEq oz over the life of the mine. These costs highlight the benefits of existing local infrastructure, excellent metallurgy, and a straight-forward open pit mine with excellent grades and a low strip ratio.

“Importantly, the outstanding metrics demonstrated in the PEA are supported by a mine plan with more than 99% of tonnes in the Measured and Indicated category, and a simple and conventional process design based on our detailed metallurgical testwork program completed earlier this year. This provides us with a huge head start as we look ahead to the delivery of a Prefeasibility Study on Cordero in 2022.

PEA SUMMARY:

Study support:

  • The Study is based on the updated Mineral Resource Estimate (“Resource”) press released on October 20, 2021 (see Appendices for Resource details), and the Company’s comprehensive metallurgical testwork program described in our press release dated September 7, 2021.
  • The PEA project team was led by Ausenco Engineering Canada Inc. (“Ausenco”), an industry leader in cost-effective design and construction. Ausenco was supported by AGP Mining Consultants Inc. (“AGP”) and Knight Piésold and Co. (USA) (“Knight Piésold”).

Project Economics:

Sensitivity of the Project’s expected after-tax NPV, IRR and payback at different commodity price assumptions is outlined in the table below:

  • Base Case price assumptions: Ag = $22.00/oz, Au = $1,600/oz, Pb = $1.00/lb, Zn = $1.20/lb
  • Upside Case price assumptions: Ag = $27.50/oz, Au = $1,880/oz, Pb = $1.10/lb, Zn = $1.45/lb based on one-year trailing 90th percentile prices

After-Tax Free Cash Flow:

Production & Costs:

Annual production over the LOM is expected to average 26 Moz AgEq with production averaging over 33 Moz AgEq when fully ramped up (Years 5 – 12); this positions Cordero as one of the largest silver mines globally.

LOM Production & AISC:

Note – Au/Pb/Zn production is shown on an AgEq basis based on: Ag = $22/oz, Au = $1,600/oz, Pb = $1.00/lb and Zn = $1.20/lb

OPERATIONS:

Mining:

The mine plan incorporates accelerated stripping as well as stockpiling of low-grade material in order to optimize the grade profile over the LOM.

  • The mine plan was completed by AGP and is based on a detailed mine design that incorporates mining dilution, safety berms and haul roads.
  • Mining rates over the life of the mine are relatively steady at 60 to 70 Mtpa.
  • The ultimate pit contains 719 Mt in total consisting of 228 Mt of mill feed and 491 Mt of waste for an average strip ratio of 2.2:1. The strip ratio is relatively even over the LOM.
  • Pit slope designs were based on an assessment by Knight Piésold that was supported by two geotechnical coreholes in the North Corridor and logging of core from two exploration coreholes in the South Corridor.

Processing:

Processing was broken into two phases to optimize the capital efficiency of the project.

  • Phase 1 throughput (Year -1 to Year 4)
  • Oxides: mined during the preproduction period and are crushed through the Phase 1 crushing plant and stacked on the heap leach from Year -1 to Year 3 at a throughput rate of 5 Mtpa. After Year 3 the Phase 1 crushing plant is dedicated to processing higher-value sulphide material with remaining oxide material processed as uncrushed ‘run-of-mine’ (“ROM”) material via heap leaching.
  • Sulphides: crushing, grinding and flotation circuit is constructed in Year -1 and processing occurs at a nameplate rate of 7.2 Mtpa from Year 1 to Year 4. During this period the mine plan focuses on high-grade material from the Pozo de Plata zone.
  • Phase 2 throughput (Year 5+)
  • Sulphides: two identical crushing, grinding and flotation circuits from Y5 onwards with total throughput of 14.4 Mtpa

  • Process design
  • Oxides: three-stage crushing (targeted crush size of 8 mm), agglomeration, heap leaching and refining in Year -1 to Year 3 and ROM dump leaching and refining in Year 4 to Year 6 to produce Ag-Au doré bars
  • Sulphides: three-stage crushing, grinding (targeted grind size of 200 micron) and flotation to produce Pb and Zn concentrates

Head grades:

The mine plan focuses on feeding higher grades to the mill earlier in the mine life:

  • Year 1 – 4: processing of higher-grade oxide material from the South Corridor and sulphide material predominantly from the Pozo de Plata zone
  • Year 5 – 12: processing of higher-grade sulphides from the NE Extension and the South Corridor

Year 13 – 16: processing of lower-grade material stockpiled during Year 1 to Year 12

Note – Phase 1 and LOM Oxide tonnes/grades include tonnes processed on the heap leach in Year -1

Recoveries:

  • Oxides: recoveries were based on coarse bottle roll tests and preliminary results from column leach tests completed in 2021. Recoveries average 56% for Ag and 63% for Au for crushed feed and 36% for Ag and 35% for Au for uncrushed ROM feed.
  • Sulphides: recoveries were based on the 2021 metallurgical test program which included lock-cycle tests and examined metal recoveries to the silver-lead concentrate and the silver-zinc concentrate at varying head grades for each of the major geological rock types at Cordero. Metal recoveries to the two concentrates are summarized below:

Tailings Management Facility (TMF):

  • The TMF design was completed by Knight Piésold and is based on a conventional thickened tailings dam facility of downstream construction type.
  • The TMF is located directly west of the open pit. The design incorporates five dam lifts over the LOM.
  • Total capacity of the TMF is 179M m3 (252 Mt); this is significantly greater than the estimated volume requirement of 142M m3 based on the PEA mine plan.
  • An evaluation of using a dry-stacked tailings facility will be completed as part of pre-feasibility work.

CONCENTRATE TERMS:

Metal Payable:

  • Cordero is expected to produce clean, highly saleable concentrates with minimal penalty elements as established in the 2021 metallurgical test program.
  • Industry standard payables and deductions were applied to the Pb and Zn concentrates as per the table below. A metallurgical balance summary is included in the Appendices.
  • Approximately 85% of the Ag reports to the Pb concentrate where higher payabilities are received.

Treatment/Refining Charges:

  • Treatment and refining charges were based on a review of spot and recent benchmark pricing and are summarized as follows:

Concentrate Transportation:

  • Transportation costs assume trucking of the concentrate via containers to the international port at Guaymas, Sonora, and then shipping via ocean freight to Asia.
  • Estimated transportation costs (trucking, port handling and ocean freight) are $128/wmt for Pb concentrate and $116/wmt for Zn concentrate.

CAPITAL EXPENDITURES:

Initial Capital (for parallel processing of crushed oxides and sulphides)

  • Year -2: construction of on-site infrastructure, power line and the heap leach circuit with capacity of 5 Mtpa to process oxide/transition material (includes a three-stage oxide crushing circuit, heap leach pad/ponds and Merrill Crowe plant).
  • Year -1: first sulphide circuit with a capacity of 7.2 Mtpa (includes sulphide crushing circuit, ball mill and flotation plant) and construction of the TMF including the initial dam lift.

Expansion Capital (to expand plant to 14.4 Mtpa sulphides only)

  • Year 3: addition of second sulphide circuit to expand processing rate to 14.4 Mtpa by the addition of a ball mill and flotation circuit creating two parallel sulphide circuits. The crushing circuit previously used for oxides will be dedicated to sulphides from Year 4 onwards and will not require repurposing.
  • Year 8: expand flotation circuit with additional flotation cells, cyclones, filters and thickeners to accommodate the higher zinc grades from Year 9 to Year 11.

Sustaining Capital

  • TMF: the tailings dam will be completed in five lifts over the LOM at a total capital cost of $110 M ($15 M initial capex plus $95 M of sustaining capex).
  • Other: additional sustaining capex totals $113 M over the LOM and includes sustaining capital for the process plant and mobile equipment and replacements/refurbishments of infrastructure assets.

OPERATING COST ASSUMPTIONS:

Mining:

  • Mining is assumed to be completed by contract mining; estimated mining costs were based on contractor quotes for Cordero received by AGP

Processing and G&A Costs:

  • Processing costs for the heap leach and mill/flotation, and G&A costs were developed by Ausenco from first principles.
  • Sulphide processing costs benefit from a conventional flotation process design and low power costs. The targeted coarse grind size of 200 micron alleviates the need for a SAG mill.
  • G&A costs estimates are based on a small camp and administration office at site. The majority of the work force will be Mexican nationals commuting daily from the local town of Parral. Parral is 25 km south of Cordero and has a population of approximately 100,000. It is the regional government centre in the southern part of Chihuahua State and has a well-established service industry that supports numerous local mining operations.

OPPORTUNITIES:

Work completed during the preparation of the PEA outlined a number of opportunities that have the potential to improve the economic and ESG performance of the project:

  • Mine life extension: there are over 300 Mt of Sulphide Resource that sit outside the PEA design pit but within the Resource pit shell. These resources as summarized below have the potential to extend the mine life and/or increase production levels at higher commodity prices.
Note – the full Resource is provided in the Appendix; further details can be found in the Company’s October 21, 2021, press release.
  • Coarser grind size: metallurgical test work suggests higher recoveries may be achieved at coarse grind sizes (greater than the 200 micron used in the PEA). An evaluation of coarse particle flotation will be completed as part of the 2022 Prefeasibility Study (“PFS”). Coarse particle flotation has the potential to further reduce operating costs and water consumption.
  • Dry stack tailings: an evaluation of using dry stacked tailings to improve ESG performance will be completed as part of the PFS.

TECHNICAL DISCLOSURE:

APPENDIX:

The full release and accompanying appendix with the following supporting information can be found on the Company’s website at https://discoverysilver.com/news/2021/.

Appendix A – Mineral Resource Estimate

Appendix B – After-Tax NPV/IRR/Payback Sensitivities

Appendix C – Pit Optimisation Parameters

Appendix D – LOM Mine Plan Summary

Appendix E – LOM Process Throughput Summary

Appendix F – Simplified Process Flowsheets

Appendix G – Metallurgical Balance Summary

Appendix H – Long Sections / Cross Sections

Appendix I – Site Layout

Appendix J – LOM Production & Cash Flow Schedule

About Discovery:

Discovery’s flagship project is its 100%-owned Cordero project, one of the world’s largest silver deposits. The PEA completed in November 2021 demonstrates that Cordero has the potential to be developed into a highly capital efficient mine that offers the combination of margin, size and scaleability.  Cordero is located close to infrastructure in a prolific mining belt in Chihuahua State, Mexico. Continued exploration and project development at Cordero is supported by an industry leading balance sheet with cash of over C$75 million. Discovery was a recipient of the 2020 TSX Venture 50 award and the 2021 OTCQX Best 50 award.

On Behalf of the Board of Directors,

Taj Singh, M.Eng, P.Eng, CPA,

President, Chief Executive Officer and Director

For further information contact:

Forbes Gemmell, CFA

VP Corporate Development & Investor Relations

Phone: 416-613-9410
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.discoverysilver.com

Qualified Person

The PEA for the Company’s Cordero project as summarized in this release was completed by Ausenco with support from by AGP and Knight Piésold. A full technical report supporting the PEA will be prepared in accordance with NI 43-101 and will be filed on SEDAR within 45 days of this press release. The scientific and technical content of this press release was reviewed and approved by Taj Singh, P Eng., President & CEO, who is a “Qualified Person” as defined by National Instrument 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects (“NI 43-101”).

 

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS:

Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

This news release is not for distribution to United States newswire services or for dissemination in the United States.

This news release does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy nor shall there be any sale of any of the securities in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful, including any of the securities in the United States of America. The securities have not been and will not be registered under the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “1933 Act”) or any state securities laws and may not be offered or sold within the United States or to, or for account or benefit of, U.S. Persons (as defined in Regulation S under the 1933 Act) unless registered under the 1933 Act and applicable state securities laws, or an exemption from such registration requirements is available.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This news release may include forward-looking statements that are subject to inherent risks and uncertainties. All statements within this news release, other than statements of historical fact, are to be considered forward looking. Although Discovery believes the expectations expressed in such forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, such statements are not guarantees of future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those described in forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in forward-looking statements include fluctuations in market prices, including metal prices, continued availability of capital and financing, and general economic, market or business conditions. There can be no assurances that such statements will prove accurate and, therefore, readers are advised to rely on their own evaluation of such uncertainties. Discovery does not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statements except as required under applicable laws.

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Author: Resource World

Precious Metals

Confessions of a Day Trader: Pump up the volume, this one’s in the bank

This week saw the day that APT traded with a 6 in the front. Amazing to think that once they … Read More
The post Confessions of a Day Trader: Pump up…

Each Monday, Stockhead’s resident day trader gives us a peek at the highs and lows of his trading diary and hints at what might be coming this week.

Platform used: Marketech
Round Trip: A round trip is $10 up to $25,000 and then above $25,000, commission is at 0.02% in and at 0.02% out.
Rules of engagement: Never hold any positions overnight (unless forced) and try to avoid any suspensions (if possible). No shorting.
 

Monday January 10

Mmmmm is all I can say about today. Mmmmmm!

Volumes very low. Hard to find anything, though CBA made a classic 11am move and everything else was just bland.

Both APT and FMG allowed me out with just a couple of minutes to go. The results of no profit and $12.00 profit sum up the day.

So, that’s $172 for the day and put in a bit of time and energy to produce that. Mmmmm. Off for a swim and a beer.

Image: Marketech

Recap:
Bought 500 CBA @ 102.66
Bought 600 APT @ 72.27
Sold 500 CBA @ 102.98 ($160.00 profit)
Bought 2,500 FMG @ 20.63
Sold 600 APT @ 72.29 ($12.00 profit)
Sold 2,500 FMG @ 20.63 ($0.00 profit)

Got a text off a mate and this was my reply in blue:

Bitcoin (which I don’t trade but watch) hit $39,500 that night (inflation hedge vs gold, had gold up Bitcoin down) and Friday APT traded down to $69.03.

 

Tuesday January 11

After yesterday’s effort, decide to be a bit more aggressive on size today. CBA broke down below $101.00 a few times today and gave me two opportunities.

Both times left sell limits at $100.98 because if they were going to push back above $101, they would need to take me out first, so for the sake of 2c it is a good strategy to have.

Just put sell limits below key breakout figures as sometimes they can reach that figure and fall back.

Then as I’m laying down with a nice sea breeze blowing through I noticed FMG getting sold down with not long to go. Made a 3c turn on 5000 and could have gone either way, so was a ‘heads or tails’ trade and heads came in!

Up $645 and spent a bit on brokerage but this allowed for smaller turns required to get a profit.

Image: Marketech
Image: Marketech

Recap:
Bought 1,500 CBA @ 100.98
Sold 1,500 CBA @ 101.15 ($255.00 profit)
Bought 1,500 CBA @ 100.82
Sold 1,500 CBA @ 100.98 ($240.00 profit)
Bought 5,000 FMG @ 21.04
Sold 5,000 FMG @ 21.07 ($150.00 profit)
 

Wednesday January 12

Back to finding my ‘zone’ a bit today.

Working out that volumes are not as big as they could be but there’s still some volatility going on.

For example, CBA’s day range was $102.48 to $100.82 and FMG’s was not as dramatic at $21.20 to $20.68, but both have support(ish) levels. CBA $101.00 and FMG $21.00.

Doesn’t really mean anything in the real world but in the stock market world, they get sold down and bought back up.

FMG trade went on longer than I thought and CBA again gave me two opportunities. Go to bed thinking ‘should I up the size even more or will that bring me undone?’

Sipping a nice single malt as I type and contemplate my movements for tomorrow and asking my trading ‘God’ for guidance. Up $775 for the day.

Image: Marketech
Image: Marketech

Recap:
Bought 5,000 FMG @ 20.90
Bought 1,500 CBA @ 101.57
Sold 1,500 CBA @ 101.73 ($240.00 profit)
Bought 1,500 CBA @ 100.99
Sold 1,500 CBA @ 101.18 ($285.00 profit)
Sold 5,000 FMG @ 20.95 ($250.00 profit)
 

Thursday January 13

Pre-market, the news that USA inflation was at a 40-year high got me thinking about gold.

Then out of the blue, CHN opened down and I lined up 4000 to buy and then chickened out and made my order 2000. I thought there maybe something fundamentally wrong as a reason for marking it down.

As it turned out my timing was good but my size was not. Then later on, CBA gave me another opportunity when it fell below $102.00.

Good result for not too much effort today. Plus $585.

Image: Marketech
Image: Marketech

Recap:
Bought 2,000 CHN @ 8.34
Sold 2,000 CHN @ 8.55 ($420.00 profit)
Bought 1,500 CBA @ 101.98
Sold 1,500 CBA @ 102.09 ($165.00 profit)

 

Friday January 14

Well today was the day that APT traded with a 6 in the front. Can you believe it? Amazing to think that once they were par with CBA.

Just shows that a quality dividend payer will always win in the end. Not touching APT now until they become Block on the 20th.

Got a fix on CBA and also MFG. The range on CBA was $102.65 to $100.50. WTF is all I can say and today was all about patience.

Low volume and inflation scares and a Friday and an Australian holiday mode all adding to the volatility.

Up $2635 gross and $2089 net after brokerage (CBA the main culprit). Bring on Monday!

Image: Marketech
Image: Marketech

Recap:
Bought 1,500 CBA @ 100.59
Bought 2,000 MFG @ 19.58
Sold 1,500 CBA @ 100.81 ($330.00 profit)
Sold 2,000 MFG @ 19.65 ($140.00 profit)

The post Confessions of a Day Trader: Pump up the volume, this one’s in the bank appeared first on Stockhead.


Author: Bottom Picker

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Precious Metals

Lundin Gold Sees BMO Reiterate $14 Price Target After Production Beat

On January 10th, Lundin Gold Inc. (TSX: LUG) announced its 2021 full-year production results. The company announced that it produced
The post Lundin Gold…

On January 10th, Lundin Gold Inc. (TSX: LUG) announced its 2021 full-year production results. The company announced that it produced 428,514 ounces of gold, beating their own high range of guidance, which was 420,000 ounces. The breakdown was 289,499 ounces of concentrate and 139,015 ounces of Doré. The company processed 1,415,634 tonnes this year with an average throughput of 4,121 tonnes per day and a recovery rate of 88.6%.

Lundin Gold currently has 9 analysts covering the stock with an average 12-month price target of C$13.69, or a 36% upside to the current stock price. Out of the 9 analysts, 8 have buy ratings and 1 analyst has a hold rating. The street high sits at C$15.50, or a 54% upside from Stifel-GMP. While the lowest 12-month price target is C$11.75.

In BMO Capital Markets’ note, they reiterated their C$14.00 12-month price target and Outperform rating on Lundin Gold, saying that the company had strong fourth-quarter production.

For the fourth quarter Lundin Gold produced 107,900 ounces, beating BMO’s 104,600 ounces, and they note that the companies throughput and recovery rates have been steadily increasing each quarter in 2021.

Though the full year beat was unexpected by many, BMO believes that this was expected due to the strong production at Fruta del Norte with their throughput increasing 4,200 tonnes per day. Additionally, they expect Lundin Gold to come in at their own guidance for all-in sustaining costs.

Lastly, BMO believes that Fruta del Norte has started to accumulate high-grade stockpiles, which has only started in the last quarter or two. They believe that the building “of modest stockpiles as a positive for the mining operation.”

Below you can see BMO’s updated fourth quarter, 2021, and 2022 estimates.


Information for this briefing was found via Sedar and Refinitiv. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

The post Lundin Gold Sees BMO Reiterate $14 Price Target After Production Beat appeared first on the deep dive.



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Author: Justin Young

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Precious Metals

When the Fed is between a rock and a hard place, got gold?

2022.01.05
Inflation is one of the best determinants of gold price movements, because investors buy precious metals (gold, silver, platinum and palladium)…

2022.01.05

Inflation is one of the best determinants of gold price movements, because investors buy precious metals (gold, silver, platinum and palladium) as an inflation hedge when the prices of goods and services are rising faster than interest rates.

Although gold offers neither a yield (bonds, GICs) nor a dividend (stocks and mutual funds), it is considered a smart investment when inflation diminishes an investor’s principal or erodes the purchasing power of a currency.

Gold is even more popular when real interest rates, typically the yield on the US 10-year Treasury note minus the inflation rate, are below zero, like currently.

The reason for this is simple, when real interest rates are at or below 0%, cash and bonds fall out of favor because the real return is lower than inflation. If you are earning 1.6% on your money from a government bond, but inflation is running 2.7%, the real rate you are earning is negative 1.1% — an investor is actually losing purchasing power. Gold is the most proven investment to offer a return greater than inflation, by its rising price, or at least not a loss of purchasing power.

Bond market and gold market observers keep a close eye on US Treasury yields, particularly the benchmark 10-year, because it serves as a proxy for other financial products, such as mortgage rates, and it also signals investor confidence. When there is low confidence in the economy, people want safe investments, and US Treasuries are considered among the safest. Demand for Treasuries bids up their prices and yields fall. Conversely, when confidence returns, investors dump their bonds, thinking they do not need to play it safe. This causes bond prices to sink and yields to climb.

The current 10-year Treasury note yields 1.74% and the December CPI rate of inflation is 7%, making real interest rates minus 5.26% — an ideal environment for gold prices.

Spot gold on Friday climbed to $1,816/oz, at time of writing, corresponding with a lower US Dollar Index (DXY has fallen from 96.32 at the start of January to 95.17 currently) and following the release of December inflation figures.

1-month spot gold. Source: Kitco
1-month US Dollar Index DXY. Source: MarketWatch

Those hoping for a reprieve from the highest US inflation in decades, which many, wrongly imo, attribute to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions (there are in fact a number of reasons why current higher prices are likely to be with us for a long time) were disappointed.

The US Labor Department said that its Producer Price Index (PPI) rose 0.2% from November to December, bringing producer prices to a record-high 9.7%, the biggest calendar-year increase since data was first calculated in 2010, the Labor Department report said.

The same report said US consumer prices increased solidly in December, led by gains in rental accommodation and used cars, culminating in the largest annual inflation rise in 40 years. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) surged 7% in the 12 months through December, which is the biggest year on year increase since 1982.

US inflation rate (CPI)

The US Federal Reserve, whose job is to keep unemployment in check and inflation (the Federal Funds Rate) in the “Goldilocks” zone of 2%, is telegraphing three interest rate increases of 0.25% each (1% at the high end of the range) this year.

The US government produces two main inflation indices, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Personal Consumption Expenditures Index (PCE), and two “core” variations that exclude certain “volatile” goods. All have risen faster and more persistently than the Fed expected.

It’s important to note, the Federal Reserve doesn’t count food and fuel in its regular inflation forecasts, preferring the “PCE inflation” metric. As the name suggests, the Personal Consumption Expenditures price index measures changes in the prices of consumer goods and services. Thus the Fed is deliberately understating the real inflation rate, how they can exclude food and gas prices is beyond comprehension, we all eat, and we all use transportation.

The problem with the Fed’s game plan of a 1% increase in each of the next two years, is it is too dovish for what is required. 

Arguably, rate adjustments of 2% will have little to no effect on skyrocketing inflation.

Yet herein lies the dilemma — anything beyond that could have a very negative impact on the US economy, because each interest rate rise means the federal government must spend more on interest, reflected in the annual budget deficit, which keeps getting added to the national debt, currently at $29 trillion and climbing.

A 0.75% interest rate hike would increase the interest costs per household by $1,400. That will hit the consumer right in the pocketbook, as will higher mortgage rates, car loans and credit cards, which will all go up following the rise in the Federal Funds Rate.

Corporations will also feel the squeeze. The interest on their loans will increase, forcing them to hike prices. Again the consumer pays. In the worst cases, companies will lay off staff, hurting workers and pushing the most vulnerable into severe economic hardship.

The US has borrowed about $6 trillion over the past 2.5 years to fight covid, placing a heavy burden on its finances.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that interest costs were $331 billion in 2021. 

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, each 1% rise in rates would increase interest costs by roughly $225 billion at today’s, end of 2021, debt levels.

We know that the Fed is planning a 1% rate increase this year. We also know that the federal deficit hit $2.8 trillion in 2021, the highest ever, except for 2020, an outlier due to massive coronavirus pandemic spending. For easy math, let’s call it $3T.

2022’s interest costs are calculated as follows: $331B (from 2021) + $225B (+1% rate hike) = $556B. This is without the debt increasing, but we know it’s going to increase, by at least $3T (2021 budget deficit).

The Fed is planning another 1% rate increase in 2023. 2023’s interest costs are calculated as follows:

$556B (from 2022) + $225B (+1% rate hike) = $771B. This is the interest payment due at the end of 2023. But again, this is without any new debt. Let’s add it.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) — both reliable sources — project a deficit of $1.3T in 2022, and every year until 2031. This is the amount per year that will be added to the national debt, currently sitting at $29T.

Here are the total interest costs in 2023: 

If we take the $29T debt and add $3T (2021 deficit) + $2.6T (deficits to end of 2023) = $34.6T, we are increasing the debt by ~20%. 20% of $781B is $156B. $781B + $156B = $937B. So at the end of 2023, interest payments will be almost $1T.

This to me is a very conservative figure. It doesn’t include Biden’s trillion-dollar infrastructure spending package that has been passed, nor additional covid-19 relief measures which are probable, with no sign of the pandemic letting up, two years in.  

Inflation plays a big role here. Consider: even if the supply chain issues get ironed out (a big “if” given that covid appears to have taken on new life as the omicron variant), and that takes care of half the current 7% rate of inflation, there will still be another 3-4% inflation (food, energy transition, wage spiral, and climate crisis) left to deal with.

Let’s suppose the Fed wants to get serious about fighting inflation. Does it really think it can raise rates by a factor of 4, to match 4% inflation?

In 2023, interest costs could amount to $937 billion.

But that only brings rates up to 2%. Doubling the Federal Funds Rate to 4% would mean interest costs of nearly $2 trillion. Where is the government going to find the money?

There are only three choices: issue bonds, raise taxes, or print money. Higher taxes hit the poor and the middle class hardest, and in the United States, 70% of the economy is consumer spending. US household debt is reportedly on the rise, with families across the country more than $15 trillion in the red, according to personal finance app Nerd Wallet, via Twitter. The average household owes a whopping $155,622. 

Next let’s consider the possibility of issuing more bonds. In a previous article we identified the trend of foreign buyers slowing their US Treasury purchases. Instead of foreigners buying T-bills, it is increasingly Americans, including consumers, banks and the biggest buyer of them all, the US Federal Reserve. From 2008, when the Fed balance sheet was ‘just’ $1 trillion, four rounds of quantitative easing, where the Fed engaged in monthly asset purchases of government bonds and mortgage-backed securities, to stimulate the economy, has raised the balance sheet to over $8 trillion. Since the fourth round of QE started in the spring of 2020, the Fed’s total assets have more than doubled.

Fed balance sheet. Source: US Federal Reserve

Again the inflation problem is paramount. The incentive for buying a US Treasury bill or bond is gone, the buyer’s purchasing power eroded by inflation. Wolf Street gives us a good explanation.

The current Federal Funds Rate is .08%, but CPI inflation is 7%, giving a real (after inflation) Effective Federal Funds Rate (EFFR) of -6.94%. This is the most negative EFFR since 1954. The real interest rate on savings accounts and Certificate of Deposit (CD) accounts, and the real yield on short-term Treasuries, is similarly -7%. The 10-year yield, which pays better interest, is -5.3% in real terms.

Even junk bonds, considered highly risky compared to Treasuries, have real yields below 0%. As Wolf Richter points out, You have to go to CCC-rated junk bonds – “substantial risk” of default – to get a yield above the rate of CPI inflation. 

It really does beg the question, when foreign countries, individuals and corporations stop buying Treasuries, and Americans finally realize they are losing their T-bill purchasing power to inflation, who is going to buy US debt?

That leaves only one option available to the US government, and that is printing money — which of course, is inflationary — especially if the printing is “helicopter” style as in direct stimulus payments to consumers, which is responsible for a good percentage of the current CPI increase.

The Fed (and the Treasury) is between a rock and a hard place, the Fed can’t raise rates to combat high inflation because doing so will wreck the economy, and imo, the Treasury will soon struggle to find enough buyers for US government bonds because the yields are so low, in all cases negative.

Historically, the way the Fed has handled economic crises is to lower interest rates. We see this in the chart below by Real Investment Advice.

Source: Real Investment Advice

The 10-year rate started out at 4% in 1965 and hit a 57-year peak of >14% during the 1982 Latin American debt crisis. Almost every crisis, including the 2000 dot-com crash, the 2007 sub-prime mortgage debacle, and covid-19, has been followed by an interest rate cut.

Conclusion

In two years time will we look at this chart and see the black line rising, reflecting higher interest rates powering the US economy out of the covid-19 recession? Seems unlikely.

With 7% US inflation climbing faster and it being “stickier” than anticipated, the Fed has few policy options at its disposal. The horrendous yields on US Treasuries make them a poor investment, something foreign investors have already realized and US bond-buyers will surely cotton onto soon as well.

This practically guarantees the continuation of Fed bond buying (QE) despite the much-ballyhooed taper. As for raising rates, we have just proven that the Fed can’t do it, at least not at the levels required to beat 4% inflation, which may be charitable. We are talking about interest costs nearing a trillion dollars per year, when the deficit is accounted for. 

In a recent article, Peter Schiff maintains that the government is using cooked CPI data that understates inflation. If it was using the formula it used in 1982, inflation would be higher in 2021 than it was then, he writes, just over 15%.

The fact is nobody is going to want to buy US debt at 7% inflation, let alone 15%. The Fed will continue to print money, buy bonds and keep interest rates below 1% for as long as it can — probably hoping that inflation will magically melt away — all of which is extremely positive for gold.

Rising geopolitical tensions continue to add to gold’s allure. There are a number of hot spots in the world today that could easily flare up into a conflagration that escalates into a shooting war or even the nightmare scenario of missiles being launched.

They include the ongoing threat of war between North and South Korea that would draw in the United States; tensions between the US, China and its neighbors over Taiwan; and a migrant crisis in Belarus that Ukrainian officials believe is a ruse invented by Russia to stage an invasion of Ukraine, similar to what happened in 2014 when Russian forces annexed Crimea.

There are 100,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s border and on Friday photos were released showing its forces on the move. An alleged Russian cyberattack hit around 70 internet sites including the security and defense council, Reuters reported. Talks between Moscow and Western allies ended Thursday with no breakthrough.

When market participants see Fed rate increases as the hollow threats they are, amid rising and currency-debasing inflation, we expect many will see the light and return to gold.

Richard (Rick) Mills
aheadoftheherd.com
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