May 23, 2024

Silver Prices Will Soar To Record Levels In 2012 – “Record Breaking” Demand For Silver Bullion

Corrections are the norm in any long term bull market and silver is no exception.  The correction that began in May of 2011 and ended in December has set the stage for what will be an explosive move up during 2012 and beyond.

Since hitting the 2011 low of $26.16 on December 29, 2011, silver has climbed steadily, closing on Monday at $33.18, up 17.4% on the year and up 26.8% from last year’s low.  Today’s price should be viewed by long term silver investors as an exceptional opportunity for capital appreciation and wealth preservation.

The underlying fundamentals that will drive silver higher this year include unprecedented demand for both physical silver and silver ETFs, virtually limitless money printing by central banks worldwide to prevent a debt implosion and a growing realization by the public that the Federal Reserve is deliberating and systematically debasing the U.S. currency.

Sales of American Silver Eagle bullion coins by the US Mint may hit an all time record in January.  As of January 30th, the Mint has already sold 6,082,000 bullion coins.  The previous all time record for sales occurred in January 2011 when sales were 6,422,000 ounces.

Last January was atypical in that monthly sales of the Silver Eagles coins tapered off to about 3 million coins per month thereafter and only in September 2011 did sales exceed 4 million coins.  In the three previous years from 2008 to 2010, January sales volume established the baseline of monthly sales for the rest of the year.

For example, in 2009, January sales of the Silver Eagle came in at 1,900,000 coins and average sales for the remaining 11 months averaged 2.44 million coins.  If 2012 follows the pattern of 2008 through 2010, sales of the American Silver Eagle Bullion coins could average 6 million coins per month.  Average silver bullion coins sales of 6 million per month during 2012 would result in a record shattering purchase of 72 million coins, up 80% from last year’s record of 39,868,500 ounces.

American Silver Eagle Bullion Coins
2000 9,133,000
2001 8,827,500
2002 10,475,500
2003 9,153,500
2004 9,617,000
2005 8,405,000
2006 10,021,000
2007 9,887,000
2008 19,583,500
2009 28,766,500
2010 34,662,500
2011 39,868,500

The vast majority of holders in the iShares Silver Trust (SLV)  are solidly committed to owning silver and refused to sell positions during the sharp correction of 2011.  When silver hit a high of $48.70 (London PM Fix Price) on April 28th, the iShares Silver Trust held 11,053 tonnes of silver.  After a rapid and sharp correction to $32.50 on May 12th, the SLV silver holdings declined modestly to 10,516 tonnes as short term speculators and over-leveraged investors sold out at the bottom.

On December 29, 2011, as silver hit its low for the year at $26.16, the iShare Silver Trust held 9,605 tonnes.  A correction from the price high on April 28th to the low on December 29th took silver down by 46.3% but holdings of the iShares Silver Trust declined by a very modest 13.1%.  The vast majority of long term silver investors did not sell out during the correction in expectations of sharply higher prices in the future.

Silver - courtesy


According to Reuters, precious metal dealers are reporting record breaking silver sales and “dollar sales of silver and gold products reached parity in January for the first time in its history – even though bullion costs 50 times more.”  In addition, dealers are selling record number of the Silver Eagle “Monster Boxes” which hold 500 one-ounce coins.

The European Central Bank, which in December lent a massive €489 billion of freshly printed euros to a collapsing banking system may have to provide double that amount (for a total of $1.27 trillion dollars) during the next round of emergency lending scheduled for February.  According to the Financial Times:

European banks are preparing to tap the European Central Bank’s emergency funding scheme for up to twice as much as the ECB supplied in its debut €489bn auction last month, providing further evidence of the sector’s liquidity squeeze.

Several of the eurozone’s biggest banks have told the Financial Times that they could well double or triple their request for funds in the ECB’s three-year money auction on February 29.

The gold to silver ratio, which on a long term historical basis, has been in the range of 16 is now at the bargain ratio of 52, suggesting strongly that silver could outperform gold on a relative value basis.  At a gold to silver ratio of 20, silver would currently be selling at $87 per ounce.

The Sprott Physical Silver Trust (PSLV) just completed a follow on offering of Trust Units in which investors snapped up additional trust units representing about 11 million ounces of silver.

Silver’s rapid price gains during January is a harbinger of what could turn out to be a very good year for silver investors.

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.