Forget gold, silver is on fire and could hit $25 an ounce by the end of 2016

By Myra P. Saefong | July 7, 2016 3:02

Silver has seen double the percentage gain of gold since Brexit

Silver has outshined its sister metal since the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union sparked turmoil in global equities markets, and the rally could lift the white metal to a three-year high.

Gold and silver futures recently reached their highest levels in about 2 years. On Wednesday, gold futures GCQ6, -0.31% settled at $1,367.10 an ounce, marking their highest finish since March 2014, while silver futures SIU6, +0.85% hit a 23-month high of $20.203 an ounce. Prices for both eased back a bit Thursday, with silver booking its first decline in seven sessions.

But silver prices are still set to surpass some analysts’ $21 to $22 predictions from earlier this year and talk of $25, $27, and even $32 an ounce have emerged. Those levels would take prices to their highest since at least 2013.

Like gold, silver’s climb isn’t just about Brexit, or the U.K.’s EU exit.

Most analysts agree that the vote provided the spark for the precious-metal rally, but it isn’t the genuine impetus.

Brexit is a “symptom” of the European Central Bank’s “failure to stimulate” the EU’s economy via money printing,” said Michael Armbruster, principal and co-founder at Altavest. The bull market in gold and silver is really “all about negative real interest rates, currency market volatility and failed central-bank policy world-wide.”

“Gold and silver are beholden to no central bank and that is why they are both rallying in a new bull market,” he said.

But silver’s climb is particularly impressive.

Since the Brexit vote was held on June 23, silver futures have gained more 14%, compared with a climb of around 7.8% for gold futures.

“Silver typically tracks gold prices, with bells on,” said Adrian Ash, head of research at BullionVault, in a recent email. “For every 1% move in gold over the last 40 years, silver has averaged [a move of] 1.75% both up and down.”

Outsize moves
A big part of the reason for silver’s outsize moves is well-known: silver’s traded on a much smaller volume than gold, so it’s much more volatile and moves tend to be exaggerated.

Open interest for the most-active gold futures contract on Comex Wednesday was around 441,000, while silver’s stood at about 156,000.

“Historically, silver tends to trade with 2 or 3 times the volatility of gold, partly because it trades with much less volume day to day,” said Tyler Richey, co-editor of The 7:00’s Report.

He pointed out that after gold prices broke higher in late 2009, it “rallied just shy of 100% to the all-time highs reached in 2011, while over the same time frame, silver rallied more than 200%.”

But also, unlike gold, silver is widely used in industrial capacities and “therefore can both trade alongside gold in scenarios like the ‘risk-on/risk-off’ price action that we are experiencing right now,
or with other industrials like copper HGU6, +2.12% in times of high physical demand,” Richey said.

Still, Richey said silver’s “precious, safe-haven qualities trump its industrial uses in the long run so in the turbulent wake of the Brexit vote, silver should continue to outperform with gold, while strictly industrial metals like copper underperform.”

Supply and demand
And with prices for gold on the rise, investors are looking for a cheaper alternative.

“Silver is the poor man’s [gold] and the average Chinese man in the street is still relatively poor,” said Christopher Ecclestone, a mining strategist at investment bank and research firm Hallgarten & Co.

Demand in China has been particularly strong, analysts said. On Monday, the most actively traded silver futures contract hit its 6% daily maximum at the open, The Wall Street Journal reported.

chart1“The Chinese silver futures market is heating up quite a bit,” said Sean Brodrick, a resource specialist for the Oxford Club, suggesting that part of the reason for that may be due to the slide in the Chinese yuan.

Central-bank buying of silver could heat up too.

Andrew Chanin, chief executive officer of PureFunds, which runs the PureFunds ISE Junior Silver exchange-traded fund SILJ, +1.01% pointed out that central banks have very few silver on their balance sheets, while many more have gold. “This could potentially be a positioning strategy thinking that central banks being underweight silver may almost force them into the position of needing to buy silver,” he said. World Silver Survey 2016

Silver supply having been relatively flat for the last several years and any increase in investment demand has the ability to put silver “in risk of a shortage,” said Chanin.

Gold and silver’s relationship has changed as well and as it eventually moves back in line with the historical norm, prices for silver may rise even more.

The gold-to-silver ratio currently stands at about 1 to 67. In other words, a single ounce of gold is worth about 67 ounces of silver. The ratio can serve as an indicator to determine when to buy or sell the precious metals.

The ratio has averaged about 45, said Matthew Tuttle, chief investment officer at Tuttle Wealth Management LLC. “If we look at $1,400 gold, which is my current target, we can see silver get to $28-$32 as the ratio moves toward the 45 area.”

That is “most likely” to occur in mid-November after the U.S. presidential election, he said. “Historically, these [high] ratios occur around market panics. After the election some of the uncertainty should come down.”

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