The Outliers

Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 8:31am

In any naturally occurring population there is some degree of variation between individuals within that group. When the variation is genetic, then the subtle differences between individuals can sometimes equip a few of them to survive better than others- for example, a small number of moths born with slightly more pigmentation of a color which makes them harder to spot by predators. If that difference has enough of an effect on their inclusive fitness to allow them to pass on their genes differentially, then that trait will be slightly more common in the next generation. If this happens for a long enough period of time, the entire nature of the population will change. This is what is familiarly known as natural selection.

This dynamic is not confined only to genetic inheritance, and in some cases can apply to variations in behavior as well. Within any large group of individuals there will be a wide range of differences in behaviors, values, goals, comportment, strategies, etc. Find something that people do, and if you study it closely enough you will quickly realize that there is great variety in how different individuals choose to go about doing that thing. Some may even choose not to “do that thing” at all! What is interesting is that, through the exceptional power of our brains, human beings do not have to wait for thousands of years for these differences to slowly work their way through the genetics of the population- if they can observe that behavior X is beneficial to those who have adopted it, they can also choose to adopt it, often with great rapidity. When large numbers of people suddenly start doing something that only a few had done previously, this is called a preference cascade.

A preference cascade is a uniquely human phenomenon. It happens, in part, because we are NOT purely rational actors, always weighing costs/benefits and choosing based on this analysis. Instead, we are intensely social creatures and tend to be influenced to a great degree by what others around us are doing. In normal times people look around, observe how most others are behaving, and copy that behavior themselves. This usually works fairly well as an adaptive strategy because the totality of individuals can usually be assumed to be doing just fine, so if we do what they do, we assume we will be just fine too. Additionally, activities that are perceived to be outside the mainstream often carry a degree of social or cultural stigma, thus imposing some costs on the people who adopt them – there are significant negatives to being perceived as the “weirdo” because you are behaving differently or deviating from the accepted. So most people just do the “usual” thing and don’t think much about it… right up until they observe their peers suddenly doing something differently. Then they quickly perceive not only that it is “OK” to do that thing but they also will not be acting alone if they do it, and a preference cascade ensues.

University of Tennessee Professor Glenn Reynolds has written about the phenomenon of the preference cascade over the years, and in this article he gives two interesting examples of it in action. Reynolds writes:

(Prior to 911), the people who didn't have flags on their cars weren't necessarily unpatriotic - but displaying a flag on one's car was associated with particular political and social categories that aren't especially popular on campuses. After 9/11,enough people started flying flags to make other people feel safe about doing it too. Now you can see a lot of flags on the cars in that garage. Have people become more patriotic? Maybe. But more likely they've just become more willing to show it. This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don't realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it - but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way. This works until something breaks the spell, and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers - or even to the citizens themselves. Claims after the fact that many people who seemed like loyal apparatchiks really loathed the regime are often self-serving, of course. But they're also often true: Even if one loathes the regime, few people have the force of will to stage one-man revolutions, and when preferences are sufficiently falsified, each dissident may feel that he or she is the only one, or at least part of a minority too small to make any difference.

Understanding the dynamics behind the preference cascade is particularly important for gold and silver. If we think about the behavior that we call investing, we can quickly discern that at present, people who place a portion of their savings into physical gold and silver are “Outliers” in terms of investing behavior among the general public. The vast majority of people who invest do so in equities (through 401k’s, trading accounts, mutual funds, etc), and many own bonds or own funds that invest in bonds, as well. The idea of investing your saved wealth in physical gold and silver outside the system is still a practice that is comparatively rare. This makes all of us at TFMR unusual exceptions to the norm… we are the odd outliers within the larger population of investors.

So far so good… but I think a key insight comes from understanding WHY there are a comparatively small number of gold and silver investors, and more precisely why such an outstanding, traditional investment vehicle is now considered so outside the mainstream. When one considers how precious metals are portrayed and discussed, however, it makes perfect sense, particularly when one thinks about who, precisely, controls that mainstream narrative. You can tell what a power structure fears most by observing the energy and resources they deploy against that thing, and the ‘thing’ the fiat currency regime fears most intensely is a preference cascade to real money.

Consider the vast array of resources deployed today against gold and silver investing. First, we see a regular drumbeat of negative articles, the full weight of the mainstream financial media and legions of writers on financial websites brought to bear to convince people NOT to buy gold and silver. We see variations of the same hackneyed articles year in and year out, regardless of the state of the markets or the price. These constant attempts at shaping opinion and sentiment employ misleading arguments, ignore contrary evidence, and use every rhetorical trick in the book to convince people that gold and silver are “risky” and “speculative” (Anatomy of an MSM Hit Piece on Gold), when the reality is that they the most historically stable stores of value known to man. We also see mainstream brokerage houses issuing sell recommendations year after year, for assets which ironically they never told their clients to buy in the first place (It’s Never a Good Time to Buy Gold). All of these operate within a conventional milieu of financial advisors emphasizing “traditional investments” (i.e. fiat based, fiat supporting) while going out of their way to dismiss gold and silver – think Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger claiming “Civilized people don’t invest in gold” for a fairly standard example. If you think about the totality of the effort used to try and manage the public perception of gold and silver, you start to get a sense of just how intensely these things are feared by the Fed/Finance/Political regime.

But wait, there’s more! Consider, too, the extraordinary energy and enormous wealth deployed against the price of gold and silver over time. Look at the long history of price suppression, from the known and historically established facts of the London Gold Pool (link) to the extraordinary actions of the last five years (The Golden Ostrich, Chris Powell speech on price suppression). I think people in the general public would be shocked at the sheer amount of effort, the degree of secrecy employed, and the vast amount of wealth expended towards suppressing PM prices over time. This, above virtually everything else, makes it crystal clear what an enormous threat that a large-scale adoption of gold and silver by the investing public would be to the current power structure.

Reality, and particularly mathematical reality, has a way of asserting itself. Inevitably, the truth of the real nature of the present system will become apparent to everyday investors. At some point the broader public will look around and grasp that the current system has been siphoning their productivity and labor for generations, and has been doing so well beyond the publicly acknowledged and democratically chosen practice of taxation. They will realize that the “value” of everything they have earned or saved has been remorselessly diminished by the hidden confiscation tax of currency devaluation over time. They will see that as the politicians spend the produce of their labor without limit and the enabling Fed prints to pay those bills, their paychecks buy less and less and the value of their pensions shrink. With every dollar printed and every TBTF bank bailed-out, in every investment they own they are slowly being bled dry. At some point people will wake up and understand that although they are following the rules (and following the herd when it comes to investing advice) they are swimming against the tide, and the tide is winning.

And when this becomes plain to them, people will look around and see that there is a small group of investors who have managed to protect their saved value through physical gold and silver in their possession, and that this has insulated them, over the long term, from wealth confiscation via inflation. And I firmly believe that when this happens, and when the obvious benefits of the behavior of these investing “outliers” becomes crystal clear to the broader population, we will see a preference cascade to end all preference cascades into the metals. That, I think, will really be something to behold.

Then and only then, when the awareness of these things has become so widespread that my idiot neighbor is talking about ASE’s and everyone and their brother is trying to buy gold and silver, will I start thinking about selling some of mine. I hope to do so at a healthy, and possibly ridiculous, profit.

Until that day comes, protect yourself and your wealth in the present. Keep stacking.

About the Author


Feb 24, 2014 - 2:42pm

Motley cruel!

I think it is quite indicative of the FOFOA mindset that you would dismiss the idea of the public at large moving into gold and silver in a preference cascade as "cute". The implication being "only the giants move the gold markets". There is a big difference between "big players move the market" (which i totally agree with) and saying "ONLY big players move the market, and nobody else ever will". This is where I think you are wrong. There is tremendous power in numbers, and even ants can overwhelm an elephant in sufficient quantities.

Look at Chinese demand right now- according to Alasdair McCleod and Koos Jansen, the Chinese public alone has bought, in the last year, the equivalent of more than 100% of total worldwide mining supply for 2013 based on sales through Hong Kong and Shanghai. Just one group of citizens from one country. Fairly quickly this is going to put many of the big players in a tight spot.

Here is a C&P of Koos latest- Look at all these "cute" little people buying gold in a preference cascade that is sucking up the entire available worldwide mine supply for 2013... I don't think they give a rats ass what the "giants" think of them. And I do not think something like this is impossible (indeed, it's happening right now in China) nor should it be dismissed as negligible.

Who thought this gold rush would come down anytime soon is wrong. It seems the Chinese are in a state to buy all the physical gold that can be supplied. The beauty of internet is that I have a lot of sources in the mainland, and Chinese that live in other parts of the world, that sent me regular updates on what’s happening in Chinese jewelry stores, in the paper gold market, on the SGE and in the Chinese media if they happen to stumble on something newsworthy. Yi Zhang lives in San Fransisco and sent me an email on February 15, 2014:

Hi Koos, these two photos were taken yesterday by my uncle in a gold shop in Beijing. “People are buying gold like groceries” – he told me in Chinese.



Beijing jewelry store 14-02-2014

Beijing jewelry store 14-02-2014

Since the first of February the Chinese have been very aggressive buyers

Swift Boat Vet
Feb 24, 2014 - 2:49pm

Nice Job P4F ! A Question For All ----

I'd sure like posters to offer their best guess as to what percentage of Americans actually invest in phyzz. I'm guessing not more than 2%. Pining, what do you think?


Motley Fool
Feb 24, 2014 - 2:54pm


"There is a big difference between "big players move the market" (which i totally agree with) and saying "ONLY big players move the market, and nobody else ever will". This is where I think you are wrong. There is tremendous power in numbers, and even ants can overwhelm an elephant in sufficient quantities. "

Sure. It would be foolish of me to deny this.

Whilst I was not explicit I was more referring to your concept of Your neighbours waking up to this, meaning those in the west. I do not think this will happen.

From my understanding of the matter the Chinese authorities are mobilizing and incentivizing their citizens to acquire gold turning that ants nest into a 'giant' in its own right, as they seem to understand that what matters is gold inside the currency zone come collapse, not who owns it.

It was oft said of China, beware the sleeping giant.

Ps. Gave you the first hat tip, as you were right to call me out on this point. :)

Feb 24, 2014 - 2:58pm

Percentage of Americans who invest in PMs…

… has simply got to be less than 1%, probably way less, which is what prompted my comment earlier about moving the "you are here" label on that bell curve way further to the right. I would guess that the percentage of Americans who invest in PMs to be at least three, maybe four standard deviations from the norm. Outside of here at TFMR, I've only ever met two other people in my life that had any interest in them.

Even a teensy-weensy percentage adds up to a lot when you take into consideration how many people occupy the United States alone, and keep in mind that people who do buy PMs tend to buy them in hefty quantities.

Motley Fool
Feb 24, 2014 - 3:02pm


Alrighty then.

"So if people above the age of 40 put just 10% of their retirement saving into PMs...."

To me the bolded part is the issue. I don't think that day will ever arrive. The sheeple will continue to feverishly invest in their 401K's and MYRA's and shun the barberous relic.

But, since I cannot know the future, how about a bet. I will bet you one silver ounce that that day does not arrive before collapse? :)

Feb 24, 2014 - 3:15pm

Swifty, Mudshark- estimates

The percentage of people in the US who own at least a little physical is REALLY hard to estimate. One big reason is precisely the stuff I talked about in the article, where it is really discouraged by mainstream pundits etc. so people just don't talk about it. Also, there is a safety concern, so people are also hesitant to discuss this.... you could be surrounded by stackers and never know it (doubtful, but you could!).

Let me come at it a bit differently, however. I was spending alot of time driving around during 2008 and 2009 and to pass the time I listened to a few conservative talk radio shows, both public airwaves and on satellite radio. I haven't listened to any of them in years (so I don't know if this is still the case), but back then there were numerous hosts who had as program sponsors PM affiliates- Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, Rush, Hannity, and Andrew Wilcow, to my knowledge, ALL were selling precious metals through show sponsors back then. Those shows reach 50 million listeners every week. Even if only 1 in 10 conservative voters in the last Presidential election listened to these hosts and stacked at some point in the last five years, that right there would be roughly 10 million... and THAT doesn't account for all the libertarians who, following Ron Paul, also would have stacked as he so often advised. And finally, as we know from commenting here, there are also some Dems or liberal-leaning voters who also stack- they occasionally get mad at the conservatives and libertarians here at the site so we know at least some of them are interested in the metals as well- there has to be a segment of stackers within the ranks of liberal voters, too.

Bottom line, I think it is more widespread than most people think- not counting children, I really think that somewhere between 5 % of all adults own something, and at least three times that number have thought seriously about it. It wouldn't take much in the way of inflation for a big movement to take place, IMO.

Feb 24, 2014 - 3:17pm


Looking at some quick internet stats, it seems the average retirement saving for people in the US 40-60 yrs is about 220k. The top 25 % (25 million people) it is 4 times that, so there is considerable cash available.

So if people above the age of 40 put just 10% of their retirement saving into PMs, that would be around 100 million people, times 20,000. That is 2 trillion dollars, or at current prices the equivalent of 46,400 metric tons. Yearly global mine supply around 2800 tons... so yeah, I suspect that would move the needle just a bit.

Edit- And I agree, Motley- we just don't know how people will react, they may well continue to slumber. I think the pressure will be turned up and they will HAVE to start realizing these things at some point, but I may well be wrong.

Feb 24, 2014 - 3:21pm

Silver bet!

I love it! I'm in!

Hey, we will need to define terms to make a bet like that, and that could be a great discussion! What would constitute proof on either side, in order to "win" the bet? We would have to define collapse and what would constitute a measurable definition of this, define what would constitute a reasonable level of "awakening" and attempted investment in PM's on the public side for the other part of the bet... really interesting to think about, I am not sure how we would do this. Any thoughts?

Feb 24, 2014 - 3:21pm

Silver bet!

I love it! I'm in!

Hey, we will need to define terms to make a bet like that, and that could be a great discussion! What would constitute proof on either side, in order to "win" the bet? We would have to define collapse and what would constitute a measurable definition of this, define what would constitute a reasonable level of "awakening" and attempted investment in PM's on the public side for the other part of the bet... really interesting to think about, I am not sure how we would do this. Any thoughts?

Feb 24, 2014 - 3:24pm

Thanks Pining!!

Great write-up on a subject I've only touched on from time to time. Makes so much sense!.

And frankly, the sheep I know have been been giving me fewer "odd" looks lately, than in the past. I do not; however, associate with clowns.

Feb 24, 2014 - 3:26pm

Questions/information on Sentry PME

last week Levon asked about this investment. Our office met with the company today

Here is some info for mainstreet

We had the liaison in from Sentry Investments today. I asked him to fill me in on the Sentry PME that had been asked about on Mainstreet. For those interested (and this is not financial advice, consult Turd or your local bank teller for that)

The PME is a closed end investment fund. The manager is Kevin McLean, who is probably one of the best PM Managers in North America if not the World. If you are Canadian and don’t want to buy this on the secondary market, the precious metals mutual fund he manages has very similar portfolio holdings.

The yield is a fixed payout per month relative to NAV(net asset value). So as NAV has dropped, the yield has gone up. There is a portion of the investing public that wants or demands a yield and this has been provided thru a fixed monthly payout. The amount is met thru capital gains on sale of shares. The last 4 years has been ROC (return of Capital). They have been giving you your own money back each month.

This closed end fund was developed as a segment of the advising market and the buying public wants an investment that has a symbol listed on the TSX.

It is valued every Thursday.

An observation would be you would be better off buying the precious metals mutual fund and doing a systematic withdrawal plan then buying this closed end fund( but hey, that is not advice)


Feb 24, 2014 - 3:28pm

Another GREAT read!

Big thanks to P4F and all the other contributers, you guys write some very interesting and well though out pieces. keep stacking and keep writing!

bullion only
Feb 24, 2014 - 3:36pm

Maybe some Americans buy bullion

Maybe some Americans buy bullion but with all the we buy gold stores the middle class are being forced to sell whatever jewelry they have to make ends meet. Selling the one insurance policy that will get them through. Such a pity. So the haves get more and the have nots get less and the gap is growing wider and wider. So sad to see people trying to maintain their life style and standard of living when in fact they should be hunkering down and battening down the hatches for the storm that is approaching. Do they not see that the storm clouds will not just pass but will leave a wake of destruction. The slight drizzel they feel not is a harbinger for the torrential downpour and flood to come. Where is that golden life boat? Oh yeah , we sold it last year to take that vacation. Where did we go by the way? RT

Motley Fool
Feb 24, 2014 - 3:43pm

Haha ok

Good points, we would need some stipulations.

Do we agree that dollar hyperinflation is inevitable? Because that would be a good point for measure of collapse. Perhaps the end of the hyperinflation?

As to awakening, that is more tricky to define. How about when the media reaches frenzy state on the need to buy gold, but none can be had for any hyperinflating price? ;)

Your own suggestions are welcome.

Edit : Fwiw, to me losing this bet would also be akin to winning. Whatever breaks the gold market first I am rooting for. :D

Bohemian Pining 4 the Fjords
Feb 24, 2014 - 3:47pm


"...the average retirement saving for people in the US 40-60 yrs is about 220k."

No, I don't believe that. :-) At first, I would look into "median," and not the average. Secondly, I don't believe that the savings would be so high. Savings, that's something what one can liquidate into cash, right? Well, even the net worth 220k per person would be too high! 440k in savings per one household of two retirees? No way.

As for the gold investments, people have some jewelry, one or two coins... I would ask, how many U.S. citizens have more than 5 oz of gold in coins or gold bars, as in investment gold? I think that much less than 1%.


Feb 24, 2014 - 3:51pm

What about this?

If annualized inflation (CPI?) reaches 30% for an entire quarter, you win. If premium over spot for gold or silver at major metals suppliers reaches 30% first, I win? Still not sure this captures the essence of the thing...

Feb 24, 2014 - 4:04pm

Tipping point

Pining 4 the Fjords, excellent article, as I read I thought of this book which has been discussed here before.

I have often wondered what the percentage number is? 5%, 7%, 11% before the avalanche/stampede starts to real money. Some day will will know when the history books are written and the chattering class is wiped out and the middle class is destitute.

As was noted on ZH last week in Grant's article things that make you go hmmmm. I don't want to get wealthy in the reset I want to stay wealthy. (wealth is a relative thing to a little peon like me)


Motley Fool
Feb 24, 2014 - 4:05pm


Hmm. Well, the first measure is tricky. Argentinean inflation is in excess of that at present, yet official statistics has it at what 12%? Though it's not like the US could withstand even 12% inflation.

As to major metals suppliers, fabrication bottlenecks is something to consider, but 30% does seem a hefty premium. What's the highest it has been historically? And do you want to pick a specific supplier perhaps? One like our Rand Refinery, or the Perth Mint?

The essence of the bet is that I do not think the west will be able to save their savings, by converting it too gold, before it evaporates due to inflation, or before gold is revalued overnight.

It is hard to capture that essence in a binary measurable option.

Feb 24, 2014 - 4:20pm

Feb 24, 2014 - 4:27pm

Completely OT, but funny (if it weren't so creepy)

Warren Buffett is voicing his own character in an animated TV series called 'Secret Millionaires Club'. The series was created in 2010-2011, I just saw an episode recently -- so it's still being aired.

"The Secret Millionaires Club is an animated series that features Warren Buffett as a mentor to a group of entrepreneurial kids whose adventures lead them to encounter financial and business problems to solve. The program teaches the basic of good financial decision making and some of the basic lessons of starting a business."

While certainly a better topic for kids programming than many of the other pieces of mindless/detrimental trash that is on the market today, I figured the audience here would get a chuckle out of this one.

Feb 24, 2014 - 4:29pm


The main point of my post was that the gold market is already broken, and we don't need J6P to help break it, but maybe we just have different definitions of when the gold market breaks.

Point taken that maybe I am not J6P. I don't drink anyway, so I guess I don't really buy 6 packs. But yes, I guess the fact that I have been stacking already makes me different from J6p.

Edit, By the way, the little 69's are on school vacation this week, and I took them to see "Frozen" this afternoon. The first thing I noticed, of the 20 or so women that were there with their kids, they were all fat. Not just overweight, fat. They all had buckets of popcorn and 32 oz. soft drinks. The second thing I found interesting was the upcoming muppets movie being all about the CIA.

Muppets Most Wanted Official Theatrical Trailer (2014) - Muppets Movie HD
Feb 24, 2014 - 4:33pm


My Mom visited us this weekend. She had been planning to visit since before Christmas, but the Polar Vortex kept her home until this past weekend. You may get a kick out of the fact that she had clipped out a glowing article on what a great guy Warren Buffet is and had saved it for me for two months, thinking she was doing me a great favor by preserving this clipping for me. LMAO. She meant well. It;s the thought that counts.

Motley Fool
Feb 24, 2014 - 4:42pm


"but maybe we just have different definitions of when the gold market breaks."

I'm pretty sure we do. At present I can still buy gold at close to the spot price. Ignoring considerations of the backstory, this to me is functional. The day I can't by gold at close to spot + manufacturing costs I will consider the market broken.

It being sustainable is of course another matter. We agree this state of affairs cannot continue. That it will be broken in the near future does not equate to it being broken right now imo.

"But yes, I guess the fact that I have been stacking already makes me different from J6p."


Feb 24, 2014 - 4:44pm

18 Trillion... and counting...

I found this to be some interesting perspective...

What's the difference between a million, a billion, a trillion?

A million seconds is 12 days.
A billion seconds is 31 years.
A trillion seconds is 31,688 years.

A million minutes ago was – 1 year, 329 days, 10 hours and 40 minutes ago.
A billion minutes ago was just after the time of Christ.

A million hours ago was in 1885.
A billion hours ago man had not yet walked on earth.

A million dollars ago was five (5) seconds ago at the U.S. Treasury.
A billion dollars ago was late yesterday afternoon at the U.S. Treasury.
[Note: this was pre-Obama]

A trillion dollars is so large a number that only politicians
can use the term in conversation... probably because they
seldom think about what they are really saying. I've read that
mathematicians do not even use the term trillion!
Here is some perspective on TRILLION:

Trillion = 1,000,000,000,000.
The country has not existed for a trillion seconds.
Western civilization has not been around a trillion seconds.
One trillion seconds ago – 31,688 years – Neanderthals stalked the plains of Europe.

Feb 24, 2014 - 4:51pm


Excuse me if I don't comment on your article this time.

Can't be arsed.

Feb 24, 2014 - 5:03pm


We certainly wouldn't want you to be arsed, Bollocks. That would be terrible!

Uh, at least I think it would. Or maybe not... wait, is that a bad thing? You Limeys need to learn some English so we can understand what the heck you're saying. So to sum up, if being arsed is a bad thing then I hope you're not arsed. If it is a good thing then I wish you all the arseing you can handle. So to speak.

Feb 24, 2014 - 5:08pm

Too complicated Pining

My brain is about the size of a pea.

I can't be arsed to explain why.

Feb 24, 2014 - 5:16pm


"You Limeys need to learn some English so we can understand what the heck you're saying."

Look up something called "Monty Python" on youtube. You'll find it impossible to understand - but do stick with it. It can be jolly good fun.

ALSO they do a sketch about a parrot which, incredibly, has the line "pining for the fields"in it. How amazing a coincidence is that? Same as your name!

I'd post it here but I can't be arsed.

Feb 24, 2014 - 5:24pm

Ten Stories

10 Stories From The Cold, Hard Streets Of America That Will Break Your Heart

Feb 24, 2014 - 5:27pm

Idiot neighbors

I suppose that they think the same about me, though they are continuing to fly the flag that I have rolled up on a pole and placed in the corner of the basement. It has come to me this past year that for my activist activities these past 5 years, I must keep a low profile for any further activities related to my tea, crumpets, and my country tis of thee, as there are those who see you in a light that paints a black ball around your name and activism. Having not gone anywhere, still here, when the time comes, I hope to be ready for anything the neighbors are not.


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