October 2, 2022

The Number One Risk of Owning the iShares Silver Trust SLV

Evaluating risk is a part of any investment decision process.  A quick look at the recent past reveals that every asset can fluctuate in value, sometimes very rapidly.  Housing prices declined around fifty percent during the financial/banking crisis that started in 2018.  Commodities are notoriously volatile, subject to wide swings in demand and supply.  Even stocks, which for the past two years have been on a nonstop upside ride can have long stretches without gains or sudden sharp downdrafts.  Stock returns for the decade 2000 to 2010 were just a shade above zero.

Gold and silver, the only currencies to retain value for thousands of years, will continue to shine but will also have periods during which pullbacks will occur.  Holding physical silver in large quantities can be problematic when considering the cost of storage and security.

One alternative to holding physical silver is to purchase shares of the iShares Silver Trust (SLV) which holds physical silver stored by a custodian.  The value of the SLV over time will correlate closely to changes in the price of silver which makes it a relatively good proxy for holding physical silver.

As discussed above, every asset class has risk and owning the SLV is no exception.  If you are of the opinion that the greatest risk to the SLV (and to your personal wealth) is the government, you would be right.

As discussed in the SLV proxy statement, among the various risks of owning the SLV, adverse and/or confiscatory actions by the government is the number one risk of owning the iShares Silver Trust.

Future governmental decisions may have significant impact on the price of silver, which may result in a significant decrease or increase in the value of the net assets and the net asset value of the Trust.

Generally, silver prices reflect the supply and demand of available silver. Governmental decisions, such as the executive order issued by the President of the United States in 1934 requiring all persons in the United States to deliver silver to the Federal Reserve, have been viewed as having significant impact on the supply and demand of silver and the price of silver. Future governmental decisions may have an impact on the price of silver and may result in a significant decrease or increase in the value of the net assets and the net asset value of the Trust. Further regulations applicable to U.S. banks and non U.S. bank entities operating in the United States with respect to their trading in physical commodities, such as precious metals, may further impact the price of silver in the United States.

The SLV currently holds approximately $12.25 billion in silver bullion.

No Silver Manipulation Says CFTC After Five Years and 7,000 Hours of Work

proof-silver-eagleThe case has been conclusively settled.  All those paranoid people who have been claiming manipulation of the silver market are wrong according to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

After a five year investigation and 7,000 hours of investigativing silver trading the CFTC says there is no “viable case” for charging anyone with manipulating the silver market.  To prosecute a case the CFTC must prove the intention to manipulate prices along with proof of the actual trades involved in the manipulation.

Casting doubt on the CFTC’s decision was none other than CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton who implied that even if there was manipulation, the standards for proving manipulation are so difficult that a lot of the bad guys are escaping justice.

CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton, a vocal backer of the probe, said the decision shows it remains difficult to mount a case even after the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul eased some restrictions.

“It’s been the most frustrating and disappointing non-policy related item since I joined the CFTC in 2007,” Mr. Chilton said. “Our manipulation standard remains too high a hurdle for regulators to overcome; not enough bad actors are being punished.”

The CFTC has won recent acclaim for aggressive enforcement efforts in markets including interest rates, crude oil and platinum. But even with expanded powers to police derivatives markets stemming from Dodd-Frank, the agency has successfully concluded just one case–In the power market–from trial through appeal in its 39-year history.

The conclusion comes as policy makers reassess the banking industry’s role in commodity markets. The participation by firms such as J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in businesses such as aluminum warehousing and power marketing have been the subject of congressional hearings and enforcement actions this year. The Federal Reserve is expected before 2013 ends to issue new rules governing banking companies’ participation in these markets.

Translation:  Even though the too big to fail banks such as JP Morgan have been found guilty of manipulating everything from the LIBOR rate to the price of aluminum the CFTC can’t find any evidence to prove that they manipulated the price of silver.

For an alternate view on silver market manipulation see How the COMEX Crashed the Silver Market and How Wall Street Pros Made Huge Profits On Silver ETF Crash As Small Investors Sold

Gold and Silver Bearish Sentiment Is At Extreme Levels

By:  John Townsend at The TSI Trader.

The usefulness of sentiment’s stealth crystal ball is about to be revealed to the litany of unsuspecting precious metal bears and skeptics who have convinced themselves that gold’s bull market is either over or, at the minimum, in need of lengthy ongoing retesting, restructuring and consolidation.

This article will bring us up to date as to the degree of current bearish sentiment regarding both gold and silver using no fewer than 5 sentiment indicators (with 9 illustrative charts), as well as provide the reader with an opportunity to observe the price outcome of previous bearish extremes using these sentiment indicators.

But first, let’s briefly consider the concept of investor sentiment.

Sentiment extremes, simply put, tell us that there are too many traders at one end of the boat and therefore the boat is about to tip over. Sentiment can strongly suggest that the trade, as some say, has become “crowded”. When someone finally yells “fire” in the “crowded” room there are so many of the market’s participants motivated to get out the same door and in the same direction that most get trampled – unable to reverse their trade fast enough.

Another way of characterizing a sentiment extreme is to say that the trade simply runs out of buyers or sellers, as the case may be. The extreme price momentum in one direction “exhausts” itself of all available ammunition to continue the trend and is sometimes signaled when someone yells “fire” in the “crowded” room, but often comes to a conclusion unrecognized by most traders as price reverses direction in an unassuming manner.

You may have heard comments when a particular market bottoms and then begins to trade higher and then continues to trade even higher yet, despite “bad” news, the assertion that the bullish price movement seems to make no sense – that it cannot possibly be sustained. At this time it appears to nearly everyone the common sense question to ask is how “bad” news that used to cause a market to go into free fall now seems to have absolutely no negative effect? And to observe that as this market continues higher, it always leaves behind those traders stuck in pessimism to declare that the market is “climbing a wall of worry”. That is, the “bad” news continues in the media, yet this particular market’s price reversal continues upwards.

We will begin with the put / call volume ratio of the options trade of the Silver Trust ETF (SLV) and the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD). Charts courtesy of Schaeffer’s Investment Research.

Click on image to enlarge.

The red line in the charts are the ETF’s price movement over the recent 2 years (GLD above, SLV below). The blue line is the put / call volume ratio. This considers the trading day’s volume of puts traded and is divided by the volume of calls traded. Generally, the higher the put / call ratio, the more bearish traders are about the ETF’s likely price movement, while the lower the put / call ratio, the more traders believe the ETF is bullish and going to rally higher.

Click on image to enlarge.

Undoubtedly you have noticed that both charts reveal that the put / call ratio is at the highs of the past two years; meanwhile price is at the lows of the past two years. I will leave it to you to observe the repetitively flip flop relationship between this sentiment indicator and price movement. For me, anyway, this indicator leaves little doubt as to the upcoming direction of GLD and SLV.

Next up is the Hulbert Gold Sentiment Index. This chart courtesy of Mark Hulbert’s Newsletters.

Click on image to enlarge.

This first Hulbert Gold Sentiment Index chart shows us that gold sentiment at present is even more depressed than at gold’s infamous 2008 low.

So there you have it. Sentiment on GLD and SLV options is crazy extreme, Hulbert’s Gold Sentiment Index reveals sentiment is not only more bearish than the 2008 bottom – it’s more bearish than anytime in the past 17 years (at least).

Read complete article here.

Panic Selling Crushes Gold and Silver Prices – Bearish Sentiment Reaches Extreme Levels

goldThe precious metal markets, which have been under a constant drumbeat of negative news and bearish price forecasts for months, sold off sharply today.   Bearish investors seemed to reach the “give up” stage as gold and silver fell below key technical levels.  Panic selling continued to cascade throughout the day as precious metal investors hit the sell button and buyers stepped aside.

By the end of the trading day, gold dropped an astonishing $84 per ounce to close at $1,478, down over 5% on the day and below $1,500 per ounce for the first time since July 5, 2011.   Silver had an even worse day with a price decline of 6.5%, closing down $1.81 per ounce at $25.95.

Analysts had multiple reasons for the huge decline in gold and silver prices including the belief that inflation will remain subdued and the Federal Reserve would begin to slow the pace of monetary stimulus later this year.  In addition, many trend following investors are repositioning out of precious metals into other investment opportunities such as stocks which have appreciated by over 100% since the depths of the financial crisis.  By contrast, gold and silver  have been unable to breach highs reached in mid 2011.

Also weighing on investor’s mind was the fear that the proposed sale of over $500 million of Cyprus gold reserves would further pressure gold prices.  Comments in the Wall Street Journal suggested that other countries may also be forced to sell their gold reserves.

The news about Cyprus “gets people to wonder: Will there be central-bank liquidation of gold when other countries get into trouble?” said Adam Klopfenstein, senior market strategist with Archer Financial Services in Chicago. “Selling gold might be the new caveat for any future [bailout] deals.”

The match that ignited the explosive move to the downside was struck on Wednesday when Bloomberg reported that Goldman Sachs predicted sharply lower gold prices and suggested that investors actually short the gold market.

The turn in the gold price cycle is accelerating after a 12-year rally as the recovery in the U.S. economy gains momentum, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which reduced forecasts for the metal through 2014.

The bank cut its three-month target to $1,530 an ounce from $1,615 and lowered the six- and 12-month predictions to $1,490 and $1,390 from $1,600 and $1,550. Goldman recommended closing a long Comex gold position initiated on Oct. 11, 2010 for a potential gain of $219 an ounce, analysts Damien Courvalin and Jeffrey Currie wrote in a report today.

“Despite resurgence in euro-area risk aversion and disappointing U.S. economic data, gold prices are unchanged over the past month, highlighting how conviction in holding gold is quickly waning,” the Goldman analysts wrote in the report. “While higher inflation may be the catalyst for the next gold cycle, this is likely several years away.”

Goldman cut its 2013 gold estimate to $1,545 an ounce from $1,610, trimmed its 2014 forecast to $1,350 from $1,490, and set year-end targets of $1,450 in 2013 and $1,270 in 2014. Goldman recommended starting a short Comex gold position, targeting $1,450 with a stop at $1,650, the analysts wrote.

Ironically, the biggest worry for gold and silver investors now comes from the precious metal ETFs, which greatly contributed to the precious metals bull market as investors poured billions of dollars in the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) and the iShares Silver Trust (SLV).  If investors in the GLD and SLV initiate panic liquidations, a sharp rebound in gold prices may be wishful thinking despite today’s huge sell off.  According to Goldman Sachs,  “The fall in prices could end up being faster and larger than our forecast, as aggregate speculative net long positions across Comex futures and gold ETFs remain near record highs.”

COURTESY: STOCKCHARTS.COM

COURTESY: STOCKCHARTS.COM

COURTESY: STOCKCHARTS.COM

COURTESY: STOCKCHARTS.COM

The bearish sentiment and price action on gold and silver seemed to have reached extreme levels.  Does anyone hear a contrarian bell ringing?

How To Buy, Store and Sell Gold and Silver

By: GE Christenson

You want to buy silver and gold. There is much to consider!

safe

  • Physical metal or paper promises?
  • From which supplier will you buy it? Price is not the only consideration.
  • Where do you store it? Your sock drawer, a safe, insured and secure vault, or in another country?
  • How do you sell it and when?
  • IRS Rules

 

Physical, ETF, or Paper?

Do you want actual physical silver and gold that you can hold in your hand? If you do, then buy coins or bars and skip ahead.

If you want to buy and sell easily without taking delivery of actual metal, then perhaps you should invest in an ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) for gold and silver. The fees are minimal; ETFs are convenient and good for frequent trading. The two most popular are GLD and SLV. They are also criticized by many analysts, so I encourage you to also consider PHYS, PSLV, GTU, and others.

If you want paper, then buy options or futures contracts and be careful. When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled – and most of us are merely grass in the world of futures trading.

You Want to Buy Physical Gold and Silver Coins and Bars. Good! Where?

There are many dealers who will sell over the internet and ship to your home or to a secure storage vault. Their prices will vary slightly and so will their terms for payment and delivery. See the partial list and brief comments at the end of this article to get started. There are many other fine dealers in addition to the few examples I have listed.

Storage

More important than where you buy is whether you will buy for delivery to your home, delivery to a secure domestic storage facility, or for delivery to a vault outside of the United States.

Your home – Convenient and close but vulnerable to fire and theft. Your sock drawer is not recommended – buy a safe, hide it, and tell very few.

Safe deposit box at local bank – Secure, less convenient, probably not insured, and vulnerable to a search warrant, court order, and banking shutdown. Use a local bank, not a branch of a huge mega-bank.

Secure storage in the USA – Very secure and safe but may not be close or convenient. Are you comfortable with such storage? If so, then this is an excellent choice. Choose a vault OUTSIDE the banking system.

International Storage – You can store in commercial vaults in London, Canada, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and other locations. The IRS MAY want to be told what you are storing and its value if you are an American citizen and storing internationally. See IRS Rules.

How Do you Sell Your Gold and Silver?

If you are buying for insurance against devaluing paper currencies, perhaps you intend to hold it for a long time or expect to will it to your family. In either case, don’t sell it.

If your gold and silver coins are in your possession, then you can sell via the internet or take them to a local coin store. Most companies that will sell to you via the Internet or a phone call will also buy back at a slight discount to sales price (they have to sell at a mark-up to stay in business). You can also sell on eBay or to private individuals. There probably will be tax implications, so consult with your tax advisor.

When to Sell Gold and Silver?

Again, there is no right answer for everyone. Some will argue that gold and silver are essential insurance against unbacked paper currencies and so should never be sold. Investors may want to hold until they see some large price, say $150 silver and $4,000 gold. Others wish to trade in and out, buying low and selling high. Your choice will help determine if you want paper silver, an ETF, coins, or bars, stored domestically or offshore. It is easy to sell paper or an ETF. It may be less convenient to sell coins and bars that you have stored in a safe deposit box. It probably will be easy to sell gold stored in Switzerland.

Jim Sinclair, legendary gold trader and investor, says buy “fish lines” and sell “rhino horns.” What he means is that markets, especially gold and silver markets, often move too far, too fast, both up and down. The down moves – the fish lines – scare out leveraged speculators and “weak hands” and usually indicate good buy points for long-term investors. When leveraged speculators, hot money, and the public drive the market higher in a parabolic spike upward, the chart looks like a rhino horn, and that often indicates a good time to sell. There will be many more signals, but most of us are overwhelmed by greed and fear, especially panic, and we often miss the signals. In 1929 the “signal” was to sell when shoeshine boys were giving stock tips. Something similar will happen at the next panic high in gold and silver, but that may be years away.

IRS Rules

The IRS has instituted new rules for United States taxpayers. We are now required to report holdings of foreign assets on form 8938 (Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets) and form TD F 90-22.1. Consult with your tax attorney and financial advisor, but the simple interpretation is this:

If you own financial assets in another country worth more than certain amounts, usually you must report these assets on form 8938 with your federal tax return and on form TD F 90-22.1 due June 30 of each year. It is wise to comply with IRS requirements as the penalties can be severe. There may be exceptions that your professional advisor can discuss, but these relatively new requirements may influence your choice of investments and their storage locations.

Alphabetical (partial) list of gold and silver vendors with brief comments on each.

Please do your own research before making a purchase.

APMEX – Large gold and silver bullion and coins dealer operating out of Oklahoma. They maintain a sizeable inventory and will buy and sell online in several currencies with reasonable commissions. Apmex will “lock-in” a purchase price online and accept a personal check in payment (with delayed delivery). If you wish, they will also arrange for secure storage with a subsidiary company and ship directly to that insured storage facility. Apmex will assist with the purchase of silver and gold for investment in your qualified IRA.

Bullion Vault – Secure insured vault storage in London, Zurich, and New York for both gold and silver. Purchases can be arranged quickly and online in different currencies with low costs for storage and insurance. It is easy to sell or take delivery of your metals.

Global Gold – Secure insured vault storage in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Singapore for both gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. Purchases can be arranged quickly and online with low costs for storage and insurance. It is easy to sell or take delivery of your metals. Ownership is physical and fully allocated.

GoldMoney – Secure insured storage in the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Canada, and Singapore for both gold and silver. Purchases can be arranged quickly and online in different currencies with low costs for storage and insurance. It is easy to sell or take delivery of your metals.

GoldSilver.com – Large gold and silver coin and bullion dealer operating out of California. They maintain a sizeable inventory and will buy and sell online with reasonable commissions. GoldSilver.com will arrange storage in Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, or the USA. You can easily sell your gold and silver holdings or take delivery. They also will assist with purchasing gold and silver coins and bullion for your retirement accounts. If you have time, watch their instructional videos.

Hard Assets Alliance – This is a relatively new company that attempts to meet many needs including convenient gold and silver purchases with secure insured and allocated storage for gold and silver. Silver can be stored in the US but currently only gold can be stored offshore in several countries. Their downloadable information booklet states:

Exempt from US reporting requirements. As a domestic institution, GBI’s US customers are exempt from both the FBAR and Form 8938 filing requirements if offshore metal storage is elected.”

In some circumstances, this exemption from US reporting requirements may be important in your decision-making process.

Lear Capital – Large gold and silver coin and bullion dealer operating out of California. They maintain a sizeable inventory and will buy and sell online with reasonable commissions. Lear Capital will assist with purchasing gold and silver coins and bullion for IRA and 401k retirement accounts.

Liberty Gold and Silver – A smaller gold, silver, and platinum coin and bullion dealer operating out of Oregon. Liberty Gold and Silver will assist with purchasing gold and silver coins and bullion for IRA accounts and can arrange secure allocated storage in the USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and Singapore.

Perth Mint – Located in Australia, the Perth Mint has been in business for over 100 years and is owned by the Government of Western Australia. The mint refines and produces a variety of products, special coins, and commemoratives in gold, silver, and platinum. The Mint receives over 70,000 visitors each year. You can purchase coins and bullion for delivery and arrange for allocated or pooled storage of your metals.

SilverSaver – Secure insured storage in the USA for gold and silver. You can make convenient periodic purchases by direct withdrawal from your checking account. This allows for a signup and forget “dollar-cost averaging” purchase plan. You can also take delivery of your gold and silver or easily sell it back to SilverSaver.

The Ultimate Gold Trust – Gold can be purchased and held in Switzerland. This storage solution is recommended by Julian D. W. Phillips, a frequent commentator on gold and gold storage options. Read his latest article on the safety of offshore storage.

GE Christenson
aka Deviant Investor

Silver’s Biggest Gains Are Yet To Come

I think I am becoming a non-fan of infographics.  Maybe it’s just me, but many infographics are getting way too long and complicated.  With that in mind, the latest infographic on silver from the Visual Capitalist is worth a look – they keep the story focused and simple while explaining the investment facts on silver.

The fact that silver has corrected from its highs of 2011 is meaningless in the long term.  Every major multi-decade bull market will have sharp corrections along the way, especially when manipulated downward as was done by the COMEX in May 2011 (see How The COMEX Crashed The Silver Market).  Long term investors can calmly accumulate silver on sell offs and continue to build their wealth.

After breaking out of a long base, silver has had double digit gains in 7 of the past 10 years but is still super cheap as a competing currency to fiat money.  With virtually every major central bank in the world flooding the markets with newly created paper currencies, the value of money based only on  the “full faith and credit” of the issuer is guaranteed to decline against the value of real assets – especially gold and silver.

Silver as an Investment - The Silver Series Part 3

Precious Metals Storage – Everything You Need To Know But Probably Don’t

By Nick Barisheff:

Worldwide economic uncertainty has created a growing interest in precious metals as a way to preserve wealth. Today, global risks for investors include currency devaluation, sovereign debt defaults, bond market collapses and stock market losses, all underpinned by ever-increasing government debt.

For protection from impending economic Armageddon, investors are turning in increasing numbers to the traditional safe haven of precious metals. Unfortunately, many today don’t know how to purchase or store bullion, and consequently may find themselves as vulnerable to financial collapse as those who didn’t purchase any bullion at all.

This increased interest in precious metals as portfolio insurance has spawned a new generation of precious metals-based financial products, many of which are paper proxies or derivatives of bullion. There are even unregulated markets for the exchange of “digital gold.”

A clear case for transparency

In 2007, former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge gave a speech entitled “A Clear Case for Transparency”  to the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce. “…[I]investors will have to take on more responsibility for diligent research,” he said, “so that they can better understand the nature of their investments and demand greater transparency where it is now lacking … they must do their own homework and make a concerted effort to understand what they are buying.”

Most investors do not read the fine print of the agreements they sign with respect to financial investments; they make assumptions, but do not definitively know if they own actual bullion. Some are attracted to certain bullion investments because of low premiums and low storage fees, but when was the last time Wall Street and the major banks gave the investing public a deal?

Investors who don’t do their homework may be dismayed to find that their safe haven asset has proved to be anything but. These same people perform rigorous due diligence when purchasing a home, car or boat, demanding that they have clear legal title to the asset in question. The same attention to detail must be paid when investing in bullion.

The most important concept to understand is that a financial institution CAN sell an investor’s bullion if the agreement states that it can. Banks are not raiding allocated accounts; rather, they are following the provisions of the contract, in which the bullion is not allocated despite an investor’s assumptions.

There does appear to be cause for concern regarding the transparency of bullion products. As reported by the economic news website ZeroHedge, financial services giant Morgan Stanley paid out $4.4 million in June 2007 to settle a class action lawsuit brought by clients after the firm charged them to “buy and store” precious metals, but did neither .

Similarly, a class action lawsuit filed in New York’s federal court accuses UBS Financial Services of misleading silver investors, and charging them storage fees for metals that were never purchased, let alone allocated or stored for them.

A larger problem has been brewing for several years now, that of exchange-traded funds (ETFs). These are generally viewed as a low-cost panacea that replaces almost any investment strategy, including the purchase of gold bullion, and they are giving investors a false sense of security.

False sense of security for ETF investors

ETFs started as equity index vehicles, in which brokers acting as Authorized Participants borrowed shares from institutions, hedge funds, mutual funds or their clients’ margin accounts to contribute to the Origination Basket of shares. They received ETF shares at Net Asset Value (NAV) in exchange, and sold them to investors at NAV – keeping all of the money. This is standard practice, as brokers have always been able to borrow shares from clients’ margin accounts for the purpose of shorting or for lending to other brokers.

Essentially, many ETFs hold assets that have been borrowed. Because there are no specific prohibitions to prevent the same practice from being used in precious metals ETFs, the same methodology is likely being used. Many investors are attracted by the low management fees offered by precious metals ETFs, but few understand the problems that may arise when more than one person has claim to the same asset.

ETF-based financial crisis could make 2008 look like child’s play

This ETF structure will work during normal market conditions. However, it may result in losses and disputes if the Authorized Participants, acting as market makers, become insolvent or step aside during a precipitous decline. If a bank or brokerage firm becomes an insolvent Authorized Participant, either the lender of the assets or the ETF shareholders will suffer losses. During a market crash, existing holders may be unable to sell their ETF shares.  Although this possibility was considered remote when ETFs were created, the recent and recurring failures of banks and brokerage firms make these concerns far more real .

The bottom line on ETFs is that they are tracking vehicles with multiple claims/counterparty risks on their assets as well as their shares. As debt-based stress on the global financial system continues to build, the flash-crash of 2010 may well have foreshadowed an ETF-based financial crisis that will make the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 look like child’s play.

Own bullion with clear title

When we at Bullion Management Group sit down with clients seeking to own bullion, we present them with our Precious Metals Pyramid Chart. Moving up the pyramid increases risk; moving down the pyramid increases safety. A portfolio’s foundation should consist of physical bullion owned outright. Farther up the pyramid are proxies of bullion in one form or another that are more risky and often less liquid; in other words, the opposite of a safe haven asset you can count on in times of financial stress. Bullion should always meet two criteria: It should not be someone else’s liability, and it should not be someone else’s promise of performance.

To establish a physical bullion portfolio foundation with metals that are stored on an allocated and insured basis, one that will protect against what could be called ethical mayhem in today’s financial sector, investors must, as Governor Dodge advised, make a concerted effort to understand what they are buying. While reading legal documents and prospectuses is tedious, the truth is in the fine print and investors must do their own due diligence, and beware of complex investment structures.

Demand documentation that transfers title directly to the purchaser

For a bullion product, be it a fund or actual bullion bars, to earn its place as the foundation of a portfolio, the bullion purchaser must demand documentation that legally transfers title of specific, physical bars directly to them. Do not accept IOUs, paper proxies or derivatives. It is important to read the purchase documents carefully to ensure they convey legal title. Only after the purchaser has legal title can they enter into a binding custody agreement for bullion storage on an allocated, insured basis. In that agreement, the purchaser must be able to identify all terms and rights concerning insurance and secure, allocated storage.

Proper insurance and allocated storage in a credible, guarded vault costs money, so steer clear of bullion products promising low fees. If the deal appears too good to be true, the physical bullion may not exist. What the investor may have is paper bullion that will not offer protection when it is most needed; they may simply be an unsecured creditor of the dealer. It is hardly prudent to be tempted by low storage fees that will save a fraction of a percentage point while risking an entire bullion holding. Short cuts and penny pinching are inadvisable strategies for any asset intended as an ultimate safe haven of wealth protection.

Home storage not worth the risk of invasion or physical assault

Many people think that storing their bullion at home is a good way to economize on physical bullion storage fees, but be aware that any sizeable amount of home-stored bullion will not be covered by a household insurance policy.

Keeping a modest—and secret—stash of small-denomination gold or silver for barter purposes is recommended in the event that ATM machines aren’t working, or a ‘bank holiday’ is announced. This may seem like an excess of caution until you consider that, earlier this year, the Bank of Italy authorized the suspension of payments by Bank Network Investments Spa (BNI) without first advising depositors .

Unless absolute secrecy is maintained, home storage means putting yourself and your family at risk of a home invasion. There has been an increase of home invasions in England during Asian wedding season, when gold gifts are stored in homes, and street gangs and professional thieves are only too happy to relieve people of their precious metals .

Even in peace-loving Canada, a British Columbia man lost his life savings of $750,000 in silver bars to knife-and-gun wielding thugs who arrived at his door disguised as police officers. When he let them in, the ‘officers’ forced him to open his vault and stole the silver . For any sizeable amount of bullion, home storage is clearly not worth the risk.

Many precious metals dealers do not trust banks for storage, and prefer private vault facilities. They may rethink this approach on reviewing a British case where authorities raided three private safe deposit box centres, and opened 6,717 private boxes . The owners of the boxes were required to provide proof of the contents of their box before their possessions were returned. Most could not do so, and much of the cash involved went missing while other items are in dispute. The ensuing litigation will likely last for decades; in the meantime, those who stored bullion in their boxes have been relieved of their metal, and may only receive compensation in the amount of the value of the bullion at the time of the raid.

Another consideration is that safe deposit box contents cannot be insured, and there is no proof that anything is actually in the box. Investors who are still interested in private vaults or safe deposit box centres should perform due diligence on the financial condition of the operator and the owner of the vault, since stored assets may be at risk in the case of a private vault’s insolvency.

Storing bullion at home, in a safe deposit box or in a private vault is another form of false economy, wherein investors put their safe haven asset at risk to save a small amount in storage fees.

LBMA bullion in LBMA member vaults

Another important aspect of due diligence for a proper foundation of wealth preservation is the assurance that your bullion is in the form of Good Delivery bars, and stored in the vault of a London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) member.

The LBMA is a wholesale, over-the-counter market for trading gold and silver. Its members include the majority of the bullion banks that hold gold, plus producers, refiners, fabricators and other traders throughout the world.

The reason for insisting on LBMA bullion is that it assures the purchaser of the quality and fineness of the bars. Once gold is outside a chain of integrity such as that of the LBMA, it may need to be re-assayed before it can be sold. This prevents gold-plated Tungsten bars from entering the chain of integrity. Re-assaying is time consuming, engenders extra cost and once again defeats the purpose of a safe haven store of wealth that offers efficient liquidity.

We constantly hear stories of discount bullion, or bullion sold at no premium to the spot price. The likelihood that this is pure bullion from an ethical source is slight to none.

In case of fire, you need an extinguisher, not a picture of one

Bullion demand is clearly growing as both sovereign nations and the world’s largest financial institutions buckle under the burden of unserviceable debt, leaving helicopter-loads of new money printing and associated currency devaluation as the only way out.

Investors can protect their portfolios by purchasing physical bullion. Just as with any large asset purchase, demand documentation that confers legal title to the bullion you are purchasing, review a written custodial agreement that specifies insured, allocated storage without giving the custodian the right to deal with the bullion in any way, and insist on Good Delivery bars.

When the next financial firestorm erupts, you need real, physical bullion and not a paper proxy; just as in a fire you need a real fire extinguisher, not a picture of one.

Nick Barisheff is President and CEO of Bullion Management Group Inc., a bullion investment company that provides investors with a cost-effective, convenient way to purchase and store physical bullion. Widely recognized in North America as a bullion expert, Barisheff is an author, speaker and financial commentator on bullion and current market trends.  His first book, $10,000 Gold: Why Gold’s Inevitable Rise is the Investors Safe Haven, will be published in the fall of 2012. For more information on Bullion Management Group Inc. visit: www.bmgbullion.com.

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 yahoo.com

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.

Demand For Silver Bullion Coins Hits Record High On Bargain Prices

Sales of American Silver Eagle bullion coins hit an all time record high during 2011 according to production figures from the U.S. Mint.

Sales of the Silver Eagle bullion coins increased by 13.3% in December to 2,009,000 compared to last year’s sales of 1,772,000.  For all of 2011, total Silver Eagle sales came in at an all time record high of 39,868,500 ounces, up 15.0% from the prior year’s total of 34,662,500 ounces.

In addition to the silver bullion coins, the U.S. Mint also produces proof and uncirculated American Eagle silver coins which can be purchased by the public directly from the U.S. Mint.  Commencing in 2010, the U.S. Mint began producing the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion 5oz coin.  During 2011, the U.S. Mint sold 397,700 of the 5oz coins, which represents almost another 2 million ounces of physical silver demand during 2011.

The U.S. Mint does not sell the American Silver Eagle bullion coins directly to the public.  The bullion coins are purchased from the U.S. Mint by a network of authorized purchasers who in turn resell them to secondary retailers for public sale.

Monthly sales of the Silver Eagle bullion coins during 2011 are shown below.

Silver had a volatile year during 2011, reaching a high of $48.70 in April and then dropping to a low of $32.50 in May after the COMEX repeatedly raised margin requirements on silver futures (see How the COMEX Crashed The Silver Market).  After recovering to $43.49 in August, silver declined to end the year at $28.18, off 8.1% for the year.

Despite the volatility in silver prices during 2011, investor demand for physical silver remained exceptionally strong.  After the significant price pullback from the April high, many analysts and armchair commentators who never owned an ounce of silver in their life were predicting a plunge in demand for silver.  The exact opposite occurred as long term investors took advantage of what is another historic buying opportunity comparable to 2008.

The case for buying silver remains rock solid and patient long term investors have been well rewarded.  As opposed to buyers of paper silver products such as the iShares Silver Trust ETF (SLV), holders of physical silver are invested in precious metals as part of a long term wealth preservation and appreciation strategy.  While speculators in paper silver products trade in and out, usually winding up with losses from my observations, long term holders of physical silver have seen the value of their holdings rise significantly.

Silver - courtesy kitco.com

As central banks of the world continue to print money at an accelerated rate, 2012 should be a year of strong gains for both gold and silver.  A steady plan of silver and gold bullion accumulation remains a no-brainer decision.  Since 2008, sales of silver eagle bullion coins have soared.  Last year, extremely heavy demand for silver resulted in periodic product allocations by the U.S. Mint.

In an excellent article by Steve Angelo, it was shown that massive physical demand for both the American Silver Eagles and Canadian Maple Leaf coins resulted in official coin sales surpassing the total silver production of both the United States and Canada.

Expect demand for silver bullion products during 2012 to surpass the record year of 2011.  Shown below are the yearly sales figures since 2000 for the American Silver Eagle bullion coins.

American Silver Eagle Bullion Coins
YEAR OUNCES SOLD
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

 

Why Have SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) Holdings Dropped As Gold Soars?

The SPDR Gold Shares Trust (GLD) reported that holdings of gold bullion remained unchanged from the previous week, after dropping by 39.67 tonnes for the week ending August 24th.

On a year to date basis, GLD gold holdings have declined by 48.41 tonnes as the price of gold has increased by $425 (30.6%) from the first of the year.  Why would the GLD show a decline in gold holdings as the price of gold has soared?   Even more interesting, the GLD reached a record high of gold holdings on June 29, 2010 when it held 1,320.47 tonnes and gold was selling at $1,234.50.  From June 29, 2010, while gold has soared by $579 per ounce, the GLD has actually seen a decline in gold holdings of 88.16 tonnes.

The decline of gold holdings by the GLD as the price of gold bullion has skyrocketed indicates that investor preference for gold investment has diversified.  The demand for physical gold has soared as the world financial system becomes more precarious with each passing day.  Confidence in paper assets is becoming more fragile as hapless central banks desperately print money and drive rates to zero in a futile attempt to restore economic growth.  Investors looking for the ultimate safe haven feel more comfortable  holding physical gold.

There have been questions raised about  the safe keeping and even the existence of the gold held by the GLD.  Although these concerns appear to be unwarranted, the financial panic of 2008 blatantly exposed the fact that even institutions considered to be rock solid wound up failing.  (Also see GATA dispatch – How exchange traded fund GLD lets you pretend to own gold).

The SPDR website stresses that the gold with the SPDR Trust is deposited in an allocated account.  According to the SPDR Gold Trust,  “An allocated account is an account with a bullion dealer, which may also be a bank, to which individually identified gold bars owned by the account holder are credited.  The account holder has full ownership of the gold bars and, except as instructed by the account holder, the bullion dealer may not trade, lease or lend the bars.”

Another reason why the GLD gold holdings have not expanded is competition from numerous other gold trusts such as the Sprott Physical Gold Trust which has advantages over the SPDR Gold Trust.

In addition, the shares of many gold mining companies are selling at extreme discounts and investors may be moving funds from gold trusts such as the GLD into mining shares (see Gold Shares Are Positioned For Explosive Move Up).

The GLD currently holds 39.6 million ounces of gold valued at $71.8 billion.

Meanwhile, the case for holding gold grows stronger as concerns about the stability of the world financial system continue to increase.

The Wall Street Journal disclosed today that Goldman Sachs, in a confidential report, estimates that European banks will need as much as $1 trillion in additional capital and that the current situation in world markets is similar to those that preceded the 2008 financial panic.

According to the Wall Street Journal, strategist Alan Brazil of Goldman told clients “Here we go again.  Solving a debt problem with more debt has not solved the underlying problem. In the US, Treasury debt growth financed the US consumer but has not had enough of an impact on job growth. Can the US continue to depreciate the world’s base currency?”

GLD and SLV Holdings (metric tonnes)

August 31-2011 Weekly Change YTD Change
GLD 1,232.31 00.00 -48.41
SLV 9,836.18 -89.38 -1,174.77

Holdings of the iShares Silver Trust (SLV) dropped by 89.38 tonnes this week after increasing by 109.08 tonnes for the week ending August 24th.  The SLV currently holds 313.4 million ounces of silver valued at $13 billion.