Silver ETF Holdings Plunge As Market Selloff Continues, Gold ETF Holdings Show Small Decline

May 5, 2011

The amount of silver held by the iShares Silver Trust (SLV) plunged over the past week as the silver market experienced a major sell off.

Holdings of the SLV declined by 665.94 tonnes on the week.  To appreciate the magnitude of this decline, consider that the total silver  holdings of the SLV at its inception in April 2006 was 653.17 tonnes.  In addition to this week's reduction in silver holdings, the SLV saw a drop of 130.49 tonnes in the prior week.

Holdings of the SLV had recently hit a record high of 11,390.06 tonnes on Monday April 25 as prices soared towards all time highs near $50 per ounce.  Silver held by the SLV Trust has declined by 1,002.8 tonnes or 8.8% from the record high, bringing holdings back to the levels reached on February 10th of this year.

The SLV currently holds a total of 334 million ounces of silver valued at $13.5 billion.  After recently reaching a high of $48.35 the SLV sold off sharply, closing yesterday at $38.27.  The SLV has declined by 21% from its all time high reached five trading days ago on April 28th.

GLD and SLV Holdings (metric tonnes)

May 4-2011 Weekly Change YTD Change
GLD 1,219.94 -9.70 -60.78
SLV 10,387.26 -665.94 -534.31

A multitude of factors, both fundamental and technical were cited for the sharp decline in silver prices including:

  • Five margin increases on silver futures contracts, including two new ones announced on May 4th by the COMEX.
  • Liquidation of silver holdings by a hedge fund run by George Soros.
  • Excessive speculation in silver as indicated by huge volume in SLV trading.
  • Manipulation of the gold and silver markets by large players with short positions..
  • A very overbought market described by some as a "religious fervor" for silver.
  • Profit taking at the technically significant level of $50 per ounce, last reached in 1980.
  • The end of QE2 announced by the Fed last week.
  • Huge record volume in silver futures trading.

In any event, silver has become significantly cheaper in the past week and the fundamental reasons for owning precious metals remain intact (see Why There Is No Upside Limit For Gold and Silver Prices).  Long term investors should welcome the shakeout of day traders and speculators from the silver market and view this as a buying opportunity.

Holdings of gold by the SPDR Gold Shares Trust (GLD) declined modestly by 9.7 tonnes.  Current gold holdings of the GLD amount to 39.2 million ounces valued at $60.4 billion.

The inability of politicians to seriously address the budget deficit and ballooning national debt provide a compelling reason to diversity out of the U.S. dollar and into precious metals.   The dollar is close to all time lows as numerous countries announce their intention to diversify out of dollars to protect their wealth.  The disclosure that Mexico had significantly increased its gold reserves this year highlights the flight from paper currencies.  Based on the fundamentals, long term investors should view a correction in precious metal prices as an opportunity to add to positions.

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