Sen. Bob Corker
 
Bloomberg News

If Western sanctions and diplomacy fail to curb Iran’s nuclear program, Tehran’s use of Turkey to swap oil for gold in recent years may be seen as a primary reason.

U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday quizzed Obama administration officials and outside analysts during a Capitol Hill briefing about why Iran was able to use Turkish banks to skirt sanctions and repatriate as much as $100 billion in oil revenues to Tehran.

The trading scheme is widely seen today as the largest hole that emerged in the West’s sanctions regime against Iran. And U.S. officials are voicing concerns that Iran is developing a similar scheme with Russia to swap sanctioned Iranian oil for outside goods.

The U.S. and Europe have eased some financial penalties on Iran as part of an agreement to scale back Tehran’s nuclear program. But much of the West’s oil and financial sanctions remain in place as global powers seek to permanently end the Iranian nuclear threat through upcoming negotiations in Vienna.

“We saw what happened in Turkey with the gold for oil. We see almost a copycat effort taking place, or being proposed by Russia,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) during a Tuesday hearing on Iran held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Is it your sense that this was an oversight by the Treasury Department, or do you think this was an accommodation relative to the negotiations that were taking place?”

Administration officials didn’t directly address Mr. Corker’s questions. But a top sanctions expert who took part in the hearing said Iran’s ability to access gold through Turkey may be the biggest reason Tehran was able to avoid a balance-of-payments crisis over the past year. He said Iran’s access to foreign-exchange reserves had dwindled to as low as $20 billion in recent months.

“The conclusion of the long saga is that Iran was able to exploit a significant golden loophole, was able to get about $13 billion in gold and over $100 billion in illicit financial transfers and ultimately blow a major hole in the international financial sanctions regime,” said Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative Washington think tank.

“I think we didn’t crack down on Turkey and perhaps that is because of President Obama’s partnership with Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan. My fear is that on the Iran-Russia deal we will face the same situation,” he said.

Administration officials privately said they were in regular discussions with Mr. Erdogan’s government about Iran’s use of Turkish banks to swap oil for gold. And they said they warned executives at Halkbank, a large Turkish state bank, that they risked facing sanctions for its trade with Iran.

Obama administration officials said Tuesday said they have also been warning Russian officials against making good on a Moscow plan to swap Iranian oil for Russian goods.

Secretary of State John Kerry talked about the plan with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, at a security conference in Germany last weekend, they said. “My sense is that it’s not moving forward,” Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman testified at the Senate hearing Tuesday.

Follow @wsjwashington on Twitter

More:

Congress Eases Standoff With White House Over Iran Sanctions

Iran Talks May Extend Beyond Six-Month Goal

U.S. Ambassador to Russia to Step Down


Did you see Senator Corker's slip of the tongue? This is, according to the Senator, an almost copycat oil for gold trade TAKING PLACE, or rather BEING PROPOSED by Russia. No big deal, you say... It was a simple slip of the tongue, and the good Senator hastily corrected himself. I offer a different point of view. The Senator was very quick to amend his choice of words, because he'd inadvertently let the cat out of the bag. 

Let's see if we can shed some more light on the situation.


2) 

Russia backs return to Gold Standard to solve financial crisis

Russia has become the first major country to call for a partial restoration of the Gold Standard to uphold discipline in the world financial system.

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Arkady Dvorkevich, the Kremlin's chief economic adviser, said Russia would favour the inclusion of gold bullion in the basket-weighting of a new world currency based on Special Drawing Rights issued by the International Monetary Fund.

Chinese and Russian leaders both plan to open debate on an SDR-based reserve currency as an alternative to the US dollar at the G20 summit in London this week, although the world may not yet be ready for such a radical proposal.

Mr Dvorkevich said it was "logical" that the new currency should include the rouble and the yuan, adding that "we could also think about more effective use of gold in this system".

The Gold Standard was the anchor of world finance in the 19th Century but began breaking down during the First World War as governments engaged in unprecedented spending. It collapsed in the 1930s when the British Empire, the US, and France all abandoned their parities.

It was revived as part of fixed dollar system until US inflation caused by the Vietnam War and "Great Society" social spending forced President Richard Nixon to close the gold window in 1971.

The world's fiat paper currencies have lacked any external anchor ever since. It is widely argued that the financial excesses and extreme debt leverage of the last quarter century would have been impossible - or less likely - under the discipline of gold.

Russia is a major gold producer with large untapped reserves of ore so it has a clear interest in promoting the idea. The Kremlin has already instructed the central bank of gradually raise the gold share of foreign reserves to 10pc.

China's government has floated a variant of this idea, suggesting a currency based on 30 commodities along the lines of the "Bancor" proposed by John Maynard Keynes in 1944.



3) 

Exclusive: Russia wants IMF to move ahead on reforms without U.S. - sources

Reuters 
Russia's Finance Minister Siluanov holds a news briefing after a G20 meeting at the start of the annual IMF-World Bank fall meetings in Washington.
Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov holds a news briefing after a G20 meeting at the start of …

By WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian officials are pushing for the International Monetary Fund to move ahead with planned reforms without the United States, which could mean the loss of the U.S. veto over major decisions at the global lender, sources said.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov brought up the idea at a meeting of top finance officials from the Group of 20 nations in Sydney late last month, two G20 sources told Reuters this week.

The failure of the U.S. Congress to approve IMF funding has held up reforms agreed in 2010 that would double the Fund's resources and give more say to emerging markets like China.

The United States is the only country that holds a controlling share of IMF votes, meaning its approval is necessary for any major decision to go forward.

Moving ahead on reforms without Washington would likely require complicated changes to the IMF's rules. But the discussions show the level of frustration within the G20 with the Obama administration's inability to win the needed congressional support.

A third source would not confirm it was Russia that brought up the issue, but said the G20 generally agreed to give the United States until the April meetings of the IMF and World Bank before taking more aggressive measures, a point confirmed by one of the other sources. All three sources spoke on condition of anonymity.

"It was agreed that in the absence of progress by the United States on the 2010 package by the April meeting of the IMF and G20, that there will be formulated a list of 'bad options,' which will allow to move forward in this matter, excluding the opinions of the United States," the third source said.

For a year, the Obama administration has been trying to get Congress to approve a shift of some $63 billion from an IMF crisis fund to its general accounts in order to make good on its 2010 commitment.

The U.S. Treasury is now seeking to attach the funding to a financial aid package for Ukraine that is under consideration in Congress. It argues the reforms would allow crisis-hit countries like Ukraine to borrow more money from the IMF.

"It is imperative that we secure passage of IMF legislation now so we can show support for the IMF in this critical moment and preserve our leading influential voice in the institution," Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told lawmakers on Thursday during a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Ukraine bill may be the administration's best chance of passing the IMF funding shift this year, analysts say.

But a senior House Republican aide said on Wednesday that the House assistance package for Ukraine would not include IMF funding. The Senate said it was still deciding whether to include the IMF in its version of the bill.

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov in Washington and Lidia Kelly in Moscow, additional reporting by Jason Lange in Washington)

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Well, I don't know about you, but my eyes like this broader view of geopolitical fun and games twixt the great and the good. 

See, I didn't know there was all this kind of thing going on in the background. And it's good to get the broadest view possible of the tensions and strains, the potential reasons ffor news which has our communities of experts scratching their heads.

So, what other recent stories have had our greatest minds nonplussed, baffled by the figures, uncomfortable and bewildered by what the data purports, on the surface, to show?


4) Forbes.   23rd February, 2014

CALL SHERLOCK HOLMES: 500 TONNES OF GOLD GOES MISSING IN CHINA.

Last year, China imported and mined far more gold than its citizens and businesses purchased.  Some think there was substantial back-channel hoarding of the metal due to uneasiness over the economy while others speculate that the People’s Bank of China , the central bank, secretly acquired the metal for its foreign reserves.  A few believers of the second scenario argue that Beijing will attack the dollar by soon announcing a new gold-backed currency.

This month, the China Gold Association released data showing that the country’s consumption of the yellow metal in 2013 reached 1,176.4 metric tons, an increase of 41.4% over 2012.  Yet that tonnage is far less than the total of mine production—428.2 tons—and imports from Hong Kong, 1,158.2 tons.  The discrepancy: 410.0 tons. 

As large as that number is, the real gap was undoubtedly bigger. Beijing does not publish gold trade statistics, and there are substantial volumes entering the country unrecorded, through Shanghai and gray routes, with both the government and the wealthy bypassing established channels.  Analysts, in short, believe China’s “apparent gold consumption” last year was over 1,700 tons, making the unaccounted gold more than 500 tons. 

So where did all that metal go?  Some was used for jewelry that was exported. Bars may have been delivered to Iran to surreptitiously pay for oil and gas. Gold could have been lost in the complicated and opaque accounting system maintained by the Shanghai Gold Exchange.  A small amount was acquired by wealthy—and nervous—Chinese in off-the-books transactions.  Banks were buying for their own accounts.

And then there is the possibility of secret central bank purchases.  Zhang Jianhua, a PBOC official, in December 2011 talked about the institution buying on price dips.  Despite Zhang’s public words, there were reasons to believe the central bank was not in the market then, at least not in a big way. 

In 2013, however, the PBOC may have changed its stance and become a large purchaser.  The price of gold, which had steadily climbed from 2001 to 2012, plunged last year, falling about 28% and creating a buying opportunity for the cashed-up central bank.  China’s gold reserves now stand at 1,054 tons, an official number not updated since April 2009, and most analysts suspect there has been unannounced buying.

Speculation about secret gold purchases gives credence to recent rumors, circulating in big financial houses in New York, that Beijing will soon move to full convertibility of its currency and adopt the gold standard.  The rumors got a boost when Freya Beamish of Lombard Street Research issued a note on February 12 referring to the issue.  “The massive flow of gold into the country does make it seem plausible that they could be moving in the direction of using gold in the effort to internationalize the currency and escape what is seen as a domineering dollar,” she wrote.

The yuan, as the renminbi is informally known, became convertible on the current account in December 1996.  Since then, Beijing has failed, despite official promises to do so, to take the next big step, to make it convertible on the capital account.  Yet there are now compelling reasons for Chinese authorities, in some dramatic fashion, to restructure the country’s money.

Beijing wants its money—not America’s—to be the world’s medium of exchange and store of value.  To achieve these goals, Chinese technocrats have been engaged in a “significant and coordinated promotion” of the use of the renminbi since July 2009, according to Chris Dixon of the Global PolicyInstitute, and they have in fact made progress.  For instance, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, better known as SWIFT, announced that the renminbi was ranked No. 8 for global payments in December.

Beijing has, through some cost to itself, pushed use of the renminbi, but there is only so much progress it can make until the currency becomes fully convertible.  Yet full convertibility could result in “importing instability and undermining development policies and priorities,” as Dixon dryly puts it in a new paper.  The risk, as others would say, is triggering a massive flight of money out of the country, especially during a time of declining confidence in China.

Anne Stevenson-Yang of J Capital Research perceptively points out that if Beijing is thinking of adopting the gold standard, as current rumors tell us, then Chinese technocrats must be contemplating a dual-currency structure. The renminbi would become a local-only currency while the companion international currency would be used for international trade.

Theoretically, this two-currency structure would permit the Chinese central government to have the best of both possible worlds.  The PBOC would have even more control over domestic money while the companion international currency would undermine the greenback.  Could the offshore renminbi dethrone the dollar?  In an era of rapid monetary expansion, who wouldn’t love money backed with the shiny yellow metal? 

Beijing is no stranger to two-currency structures.  The Foreign Exchange Certificate scheme, special currency for use by foreigners inside China, was adopted in 1980 and discontinued in 1995. 

Yet there would be problems inherent in a new gold-standard renminbi.  For one thing, the value of the local renminbi, a fiat currency, would surely fall upon the introduction of a gold-backed one, even though it would presumably be illegal for those in the Mainland—the People’s Republic except the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau—to hold substantial amounts of the new offshore money. 

Market participants, both Chinese and foreign, have proven adept in evading Beijing’s existing capital controls, and it would take them no more than 35 minutes to figure out how to import, store, and use the gold-backed currency in the Mainland.  A black market for the new—and far stronger—renminbi would arise, with people demanding it.  The good money would, for some uses, drive out the bad, and China would end up with two currencies in use at home.  There could be, in a relatively short period of time, something akin to a real-life test of Gresham’s Law.

Despite daunting technical obstacles, reports of China’s imminent adoption of the gold standard just won’t go away.  That may be partly because gold bugs want that to happen, but there is more to the rumors than that.  At this moment, Beijing needs to strengthen its currency, especially as the erosion in the economy becomes more noticeable and capital flight more evident.  A currency underpinned by gold—or the country’s foreign reserves—would go a long way in maintaining confidence. 

-------------------------------------

Curiouser and curiouser! There are, it is true, lots of ways for Gold Bullion to get 'lost', lots of little book-keeping and accounting tricks to suggest it may have gone here, there and anywhere. Transparent markets, market integrity, rules and regulations, and safeguards to prevent that happening, you say. Oh really! Grow up! "L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux" ..(Le Petit Prince) 

This is a truth, long known and exploited by the powerful. It will never change. It's just the way of this world that our human nature is responsible for evolving. So, you may as well get used to the reality of this truth. We only get to see openly what those with power want us to see.


5) 

Chinese Exports Collapse Leading To 2nd Largest Trade Deficit On Record

Tyler Durden's picture





 

Plenty of excuses out there for this evening's collosal miss in Chinese exports (-18.1% YoY vs an expectation of a 7.5% rise) mainly based on timing issues over the Lunar New Year (but didn't the 45 economists who forecast this data know the dates before they forecast?) This is a 6-sigma miss and plunges China's trade balance to its biggest miss on record and 2nd largest deficit on record. Combining Jan and Feb data (i.e. smoothing over the holiday), exports are still down 1.6% YoY - not good for the much-heralded global recovery. Exports to the rest of the BRICs were all down over 20% but no there is no contagion from an emerging market crisis.

 

Even when the trade deficit was last this large, economists were more accurate - this is the biggest miss on record...

 

Seasonally-adjusted the data is stunningly bad...

  • *CHINA FEB. SEASONALLY ADJUSTED EXPORTS FALL 34% MOM
  • *CHINA FEB. SEASONALLY ADJUSTED IMPORTS FALL 0.4% MOM

and non-seaonally-adjusted

  • *CHINA'S FEB. EXPORTS FALL 18.1% FROM YEAR EARLIER (vs +7.5% expectations)

The excuse...

"The Spring Festival factor caused sharp fluctuations in the monthly growth rate as well as the monthly deficit," Customs said in a statement accompanying the data.

 

Chinese traders followed their "business habit" of bringing forward exports ahead of the holiday, and focusing on imports immediately afterwards, it added.

But, our simple question is - didn't they already know this when applying their forecasts? If so - then why a 6-standard-deviation miss?

At least they didn't blame the weather?!!

It seems the massive imports of copper - to act as collateral for all the shadow banking loans - also did not help as imports surged...

*CHINA JAN.-FEB. COPPER, PRODUCT IMPORTS 915,000 TONS

 

All that apparent demand and yet the price is collapsing - not good for the credit unwind

And what does it say about the US that our trade balance with China collapsed MoM...

 

5
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Wow, did you see that? An intensely head-scratching 25% miss by analysts. 2.5% would be a massive miss....25% miss is a mega massive miss. How come? Don't tell me some trade is somehow flying below the radar, or perhaps taking place at a price which Western markets can not see, but which the Chinese have happily paid? What is indisputable is that something very very unusual and baffling to the Western expert analyst eye is going on. But then the Western mind thinks that the rest of the world is going to play by the rules the West has set. The West thinks it implausible that not every fine detail of every trade might fail to be faithfully recorded for its inspection. Only the Sheriff is allowed to cook books in the Western paradigm. Well, looks like the Western mind has been deluding itself!!
Behind the scenes, China is paying for Iranian and Russian Oil with Gild Bullion. And, you want to know something else? Venezuela's getting some of the pie, too.
Oh, come on now... The US doesn't go around vilifying any old Tom, Dick, and Harry. It only vilifies those treading on US toes! 

6) 

Replace dollar with super currency: economist

Updated: 2014-01-29 09:04

By MICHAEL BARRIS in New York, FU JING in Brussels and CHEN JIA in Beijing (China Daily USA)

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The World Bank's former chief economist wants to replace the US dollar with a single global super-currency, saying it will create a more stable global financial system.

"The dominance of the greenback is the root cause of global financial and economic crises," Justin Yifu Lin told Bruegel, a Brussels-based policy-research think tank. "The solution to this is to replace the national currency with a global currency."

Lin, now a professor at Peking University and a leading adviser to the Chinese government, said expanding the basket of major reserve currencies — the dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen and pound sterling — will not address the consequences of a financial crisis. Internationalizing the Chinese currency is not the answer, either, he said.

Lin urged the international community, especially the US and European Union, to play a leading role in currency and infrastructure initiatives. To boost the global economy, he proposed the launch of a "global infrastructure initiative" to remove development bottlenecks in poor and developing countries, a measure he said would also offer opportunities for advanced economies.

"China can only play a supporting role in realizing the plans," Lin said. "The urgent thing is for the US and Europe to endorse these plans. And I think the G20 is an ideal platform to discuss the ideas," he said, referring to the group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 major economies.

The concept of a global "super currency" tied to a basket of currencies has been periodically discussed by world leaders as well as endorsed by 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz. A super currency could also be tied to a single currency, but the interconnectedness of world financial markets and concerns about the volatility that can occur as a result of the system being tied to one currency have made this idea less popular.

Eswar Prasad, a trade-policy professor at Cornell University who also is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said he disagrees that a super currency would protect the global financial system against breakdowns such as the 2008 downturn which plunged the world economy into its most dangerous crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"Flexible exchange rates provide a useful shock absorption mechanism, especially for emerging market economies," Prasaid, a former chief of financial studies in the International Monetary Fund's research department, told China Daily on Tuesday. "More effective financial regulation and improved global governance, along with better fiscal and structural policies, would go much further than a single currency in enhancing global financial stability," he said.

Arguments in favor of a global currency resurfaced during October's US budget impasse, which forced the government to shut down.

"It is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world," a Xinhua News Agency commentary said on Oct 14. The piece argued that creating a new international reserve currency to replace reliance on the greenback, would prevent government gridlock in Washington from affecting the rest of the world.

In March 2009, China's central bank governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, called for the creation of a new "super-sovereign reserve currency" to replace the dollar. In a paper published on the People's Bank of China's website, Zhou said an international reserve currency "disconnected from individual nations" and "able to remain stable in the long run" would benefit the global financial system more than current reliance on the dollar.

On that note, David Bloom, global head of FX research at HSBC, said US monetary policy change "will bring fluctuations for emerging countries' currencies and lead to financial instability".

Chen Wenling, chief economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, a government think-tank, said, "A supranational currency may be a new direction for development of the global financial system. It also requires different countries to cooperate in coordinating macroeconomic policies."

Bloom and Chen both said China needs to play a more important role in global financial governance. But Bloom said it is difficult for international financial organizations to reach a consistent conclusion on how to improve the foreign exchange system.

He said the renminbi is predicted to be stronger this year, even against an appreciating US dollar, and internationalization of China's currency will accelerate when the government decides to further open the capital market.

Michal Krol, a researcher at the Brussels-based European Center for International Political Economy, said he disagrees that US dollar hegemony caused the global economic crisis. The emergence of other currencies, such as the euro, the yuan and the yen, created a situation where an adjustment mechanism needs to be in place, he said.

"I don't think that the largest economies and their currencies are at this moment ready for the introduction of a supranational currency," Krol said. "Neither the EU nor China have financial markets and monetary systems yet that are sound, solid, predictable and well functioning to be the cornerstone for a global system. But, indeed, it is time to formulate the fundamentals for global monetary governance."

Pierre Defraigne, executive director of the Madariaga College of Europe Foundation in Brussels, said of Lin's infrastructure proposal, "It is excellent, but the problem is how to implement these plans to link those countries that need such infrastructural construction and those with enough foreign reserves, by using an effective global mechanism."

Contact the writers at michaelbarris@chinadailyusa.com, fujing@ chinadaily.com.cn and chenjia1@chinadaily.com.cn

Li Xiaofei in Brussels contributed to this story.


7) 

Markets hold breath as China's shadow banking grinds to a halt

Fresh loans in China’s shadow banking system evaporated to almost nothing from $160bn in January

China's 100 Yuan, or Renminbi, notes, the largest denomination in Chinese currency
China accounts for half of all the $30 trillion increase in world debt over the past five years Photo: AFP

A slew of shockingly weak data from China and Japan has led to a sharp sell-off in Asian stock markets and the biggest one-day crash in iron ore prices since the Lehman crisis, calling into question the strength of the global recovery.

The Shanghai Composite index of stocks fell below the key level of 2,000 after investors reacted with shock to an 18pc slump in Chinese exports in February and to signs that credit is wilting again. Iron ore fell 8.3pc.

Fresh loans in China’s shadow banking system evaporated to almost nothing from $160bn in January, suggesting the clampdown on the $8 trillion sector is biting hard.

“It seems that rising default risk has started to erode Chinese investors’ confidence,” said Wei Yao, from Societe Generale. “Together with continued regulatory tightening on banks’ off-balance-sheet activity, we are certain this slowing credit trend has further to go and will inflict real pain on the economy.”

Japan’s economy is losing steam as the monetary stimulus from “Abenomics” wears off and the country braces itself for a rise in the consumption tax from 5pc to 8pc. Economic growth slumped from 4pc in early 2013 to 0.7pc in the fourth quarter, while the country racked up a record trade deficit.

The Economy Watchers Survey saw the steepest drop last month since the March 2011 tsunami and is now lower than when Abenomics began. Marcel Thieliant, from Capital Economics, said Japan faces a “sharp slowdown”.

The renewed jitters in China come after the authorities allowed solar company Chaori to default last week, the first ever failure in the country’s domestic bond market. The episode is a litmus test of President Xi Jinping’s new regime of market discipline, though the central bank has been careful to cushion the blow by engineering a fall in interbank interest rates. “Such adjustments are necessary for China in the long run, but are nothing if not risky in the short term,” said Ms Wei.

It is extremely hard to calibrate a soft landing of this kind, and the sheer scale of China’s credit boom now makes it a global headache. China accounts for half of all the $30 trillion increase in world debt over the past five years.

Zhiwei Zhang, from Nomura, said the central bank will be forced to loosen monetary policy this year with repeated cuts in the reserve asset ratio to head off a deeper slowdown.

Nomura said China’s $23bn trade deficit in February masks capital outflows, while data was in any case distorted by the Chinese New Year.

Even so, there are signs that deflationary forces are taking hold in China. Producer prices (PPI) fell by 2pc in February from a year earlier. Haibin Zhu, from JP Morgan, said it is “disturbing” the PPI index has been negative since November, a sign that China is struggling to cope with excess manufacturing plant.

China invested $5 trillion last year, as much as the US and Europe combined. There are already signs that the country is trying to export its over-capacity overseas by pushing down the yuan. If this amounts to a competitive devaluation policy, it risks sending a fresh deflationary impulse across the globe.



What?! Fresh loans in China's shadow banking system evaporated to almost zero?! Bleeding odd! Wonder if anything else could be fulfilling a collateralizing function? Too bizarre a concept? OK, if you say so!

This will do....For now. This post is far too long already. If you like, just think of this as pure speculation, the musings of another Freegold nut, almost) completely disconnected from the firm and unshakably reliable realities of the very very real world.

And continue instead to scratch your head at all this peculiar news, this upsurge in global tensions that appear to preface an inevitable, hopefully mini, war. 

Just keep on scratching your heads. Do not ponder the wisdom that ANOTHER shared, that only Oil is big enough for Gold to hide in. For when it comes to Oil and Gold, anything is possible. I take that piece of wisdom from one who knows!



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