May 29, 2024

Silver ETF Holdings Increase Slightly In January As The Stealth Silver Advance Continues

Silver has started off the new year with a scorching performance

For the month of January, silver gained $5.42 per ounce closing at $33.60, up 19.2% from the 2011 closing price of $28.18.  January’s gain has more than erased the 8.1% loss on silver during 2011.  Silver has far outperformed gold which closed at $1,738.00 on January 31st, up 10.4% on the month from the 2011 closing price of $1574.50 (all prices from the closing London PM Fix Price).

The large gain in silver’s price has been somewhat of a stealth advance, with little coverage in the press.  In addition, an apathetic response to silver by investors can be seen in the volume statistics and bullion holdings of the iShares Silver Trust (SLV).

Silver holdings of the iShares Silver Trust reached a record 11,390.06 tonnes on April 25, 2011, shortly before silver reached its peak price of $48.70 on April 28th.  The value of silver held by the SLV on April 28th was $17.3 billion compared to its current value of $10.4 billion, representing a decline in both the price of silver and total ounces of silver held by the Silver Trust.

Although silver prices have soared since the beginning of the year, holdings of the SLV have increased only modestly.  At the end of 2011, the SLV held 9,605.79 tonnes of silver compared to 9,608.95 on January 31, 2012, a negligible increase of only 3.16 tonnes.  The small increase in silver held by the iShares Silver Trust indicates that investors are not participating in the silver rally, a very bullish sign from a contrarian point of view.

The silver ETF is structured in a somewhat complicated manner in which authorized participants (AP) buy or sell shares of the SLV depending on the discount or premium of the SLV to the market price of silver.  High buying demand for the SLV results in premium pricing which results in the accumulation of physical silver by the trust due to hedging activity by the APs.

SLV - courtesy

Investor indifference to the silver rally can also be seen in the low volume trading of the iShares Silver Trust.  We are nowhere close to the high volume seen last May that preceded the rapid correction in silver prices.  The low trading volume in the SLV, despite rising prices, is bullish from a contrary viewpoint since it suggests that many investors are still on the sidelines.  As these sideline investors start buying, prices will continue to advance.

Also supporting future price advances by silver is the relentless physical demand for silver as seen in the record purchase volume of the American Silver Eagle bullion coins.  Sales of the silver bullion coin hit at all time record of almost 35 million coins during 2011. Large demand continues in January with the U.S. Mint reporting sales of over 6 million ounces.  2012 could turn out to be a sterling year for silver.

iShares Silver Trust Holdings Continue to Skyrocket

Silver holdings in the iShares Silver Trust (SLV) continued to skyrocket, while holdings of gold in the SPDR Gold Shares Trust (GLD) experienced a modest increase.

The iShares Silver Trust (SLV) holdings increased by 209.54 tonnes in the latest week.  The prior two weeks have seen increases of 189.29 tonnes and 164 tonnes.  Total holdings of the SLV are now 52.49 tonnes higher than at the beginning of the year.  The SLV holds 352.8 million ounces of silver valued at $12.76 billion.

The holdings of silver in the iShares Silver Trust have now exceeded peak holdings reached at the beginning of the year.  Silver has moved relentlessly higher in price since last August.  After a brief price correction in January which brought silver down to the $26 level, silver prices have exploded to more than $36 per ounce, a gain of 38% in less than two months.

Given the huge run up in the price of silver, it is not surprising to see holdings of the SLV increase dramatically.  The SLV is a proxy for investors who chose to invest in silver without the cost and inconvenience of holding physical silver.  Purchasing the SLV allows an investor to take an immediate position in silver and without the markups associated with physically purchasing bars or coins.

The annual expense ratio of the SLV is only 0.5% compared to common markups of 5% to 10% when purchasing physical bullion or coins from a dealer.  The SLV has been wildly popular with investors since it was launched and has provided huge returns to patient investors.   The SLV has risen from below $10 in October 2008 to its closing price today of $35.27 for a gain of over 250%.  A purchase of a thousand shares of the SLV at the low of $9.13 in October 2008 would have resulted in profits of $26,140.

SLV - Yahoo Finance

It has been over 30 years since silver hit its all time high price of $48.70 in January 1980.  Huge investment and industrial demand as well as physical shortages of silver are all factors that could easily push silver to a new all time high.  Silver has been making up for lost time and has dramatically outperformed the price movement in gold.  A reversion to the centuries old gold silver ratio could easily push silver prices towards the $100 per ounce level.

GLD and SLV Holdings (metric tonnes)

9-March-11 Weekly Change YTD Change
GLD 1,217.30 +6.34 -63.42
SLV 10,974.06 +209.54 +52.49

Holdings in the SPDR Gold Shares Trust (GLD) saw a jump in holdings of nearly 7 tonnes on Monday of this week, which is the largest increase in daily holdings seen in the past two months.  The GLD increased holdings by over 6 tonnes for the week after modest declines in the previous two weeks.   Total GLD holdings are still lower than the beginning of the year by 63.42 tonnes.  The GLD currently holds 39.14 million ounces of gold valued at almost $56 billion.

Since its launch in November 2004 when gold was trading at $445 per ounce, the GLD has been an extremely profitable investment.  As the price of silver broke out and hit new highs, gold has still not decisively broken through its trading range in the low $1400’s.   Gold made a strong move up from $1150 last August and has been consolidating sideways since breaching the $1400 level.