August 13, 2022

How Wall Street Pros Made Huge Profits On Silver ETF Crash As Small Investors Sold

The holdings of the iShares Silver Trust (SLV) declined by a substantial 505.10 tonnes from the previous week.  The decline in SLV silver holdings from the all time high of 11,390.06 tonnes reached on April 25th comes in at a hefty 1,448.73 tonnes or 12.7%.  Silver, meanwhile, has declined in price by $8.31 per ounce or 18.3% since April 25th.

Although the price per share of the SLV tracks the price per ounce of silver very closely, the actual bullion holdings of the SLV can fluctuate, sometimes dramatically, from the underlying price movements of silver.  This same situation applies to the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD).

The reason why the physical holdings of the SLV and GLD do not closely track the price of gold and silver is due to the complex mechanism by which Authorized Participants can “create or redeem” shares in the SLV and GLD.  The silver and gold trusts are structured to allow large Wall Street investment firms to act as Authorized Participants to arbitrage against a premium or discount of the SLV or GLD share prices to the underlying net asset value of the Trusts.

Premiums or discounts to the net asset value of the Trusts occur based on normal supply and demand by investors during the course of trading in SLV and GLD shares.  The Authorized Participants routinely reap profits from their arbitrage activities based on the prevailing discounts or premiums .  According to the prospectuses of the GLD and SLV, the Trusts were structured in this manner to allow the price of the GLD and SLV shares to closely correspond to the underlying value of gold and silver bullion.

The Trusts do not directly buy or sell bullion based on investor buy or sell orders for the SLV and GLD.  The Trusts are not structured like a typical mutual fund which liquidates its holdings if there is a surge of investor redemptions.  Changes in the number of Trust shares outstanding and changes in holdings of gold and silver occur only based on the creation or redemption of shares through Authorized Participants.

Premiums or discounts of the SLV and GLD shares to net asset values are normally less than 1% but can expand dramatically when trading is volatile.  For example, on May 2nd, when silver prices were plunging, the shares of the SLV reached a huge discount of 9.87% from the net asset value of silver held by the SLV Trust.  Investors desperately seeking to liquidate their SLV shares caused the value of the SLV to trade at a steep discount to the underlying net asset value of the Trust.

At this point the lucky Wall Street pros who act as Authorized Participants were gladly buying the SLV shares and simultaneously shorting silver bullion, locking in huge profits.  Authorized Participants who arbitraged during this volatile trading profited greatly at the expense of panicky SLV sellers who sold shares of the SLV at $42.79 that were worth $47.51 based on the net asset value of the SLV.  (Pricing data on the SLV share discount was obtained from the iShares Silver Trust web site).

The Authorized Participants who bought SLV shares during the panic sell off then delivered their SLV shares to the iShare Trust and requested that they be redeemed for silver bullion which was then used to close out short positions in silver bullion.  Under this situation, the silver bullion holdings of the SLV decreased since they delivered silver bullion to the Authorized Participants in exchange for redeemed SLV shares.  This is exactly the situation that has occurred during the May silver sell off and it is therefore no surprise that the holdings of the SLV have plunged.

The average investor in the iShares Silver Trust would be hard pressed to understand the “creation and redemption” features of the SLV shares.  Although the SLV can be an easy way for an investor to participate in silver bullion ownership, my investment thesis is to avoid investments that cannot be fully or easily understood.

For investors seeking to establish investments in gold and silver without having to hold the physical metal, the Sprott Physical Gold Trust (PHYS) or the Sprott Physical Silver Trust (PSLV) offer better opportunities.  Both of these Trust hold specific amounts of physical gold or silver which do not change.  Each share holder has an unallocated interest in the precious metals held by the Trust.

All precious metal holdings of the Sprott Trusts are secured not by a bank, as with the GLD, but by the Royal Canadian Mint of the Canadian Government which is responsible for any loss or damage .  The gold or silver backing the Sprott Trusts are specifically allocated by the Mint to the Sprott Trusts.

From a total investment return standpoint, it is also important to note that the shareholders of the PHYS and PSLV are taxed at the capital gains rate of 15% (if held for more than one year) whereas shareholders of the GLD and SLV are taxed at 28%.  For further information see Sprott Physical Gold Trust Advantages Over SPDR Gold Shares Trust.

GLD and SLV Holdings (metric tonnes)

May 25-2011 Weekly Change YTD Change
GLD 1,214.08 +22.74 -66.64
SLV 9,941.33 -505.10 -980.24

Holdings of the SPDR Gold Shares Trust (GLD) increased by a modest 22.74 tonnes from the prior week to 1,241.08 tonnes.   The GLD held 1,280.72 tonnes at the beginning of the year.  The all time record holdings were reached on June 29, 2010 at 1,320.47 tonnes.  The GLD currently holds 39.0 million ounces of gold bullion valued at $59.6 billion.

Speak Your Mind

*