Silver

The Global Precious MMI joined most of the other sub-indexes this month in experiencing a 6% loss as a broad metals correction hit most markets.

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Unlike the base metals, however, our precious metals are not facing bifurcated markets where U.S. tariffs are keeping domestic prices high. As almost always with precious, this month’s fall was a global phenomenon.

Global-Precious-Metals_Chart_June-2016_FNL

Johnson Matthey is weathering the storm as best as it can this year as platinum group metals prices are starting to lose the momentum the first half of the year promised.

Production Surplus Stubbornly Lingers

According to Thomson Reuters‘ “GFMS Platinum Group Metals Survey,” a rebound in mine production last year pushed the platinum market back into a marginal physical surplus, despite improved demand.

Macroeconomics have continued gold’s roller coaster ride this month. Before Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen dialed back expectations of an interest rate hike this week — after a bad jobs report — a strengthening U.S. dollar dragged gold prices down for much of May. Now, though, with a dovish Fed, gold is strengthening again. Silver has taken a similar ride.

Perfect Storm

The investment and industrial metals, globally, saw prices fall this month as a storm of both bad economic data for the investment metals and oversupply for the industrial metals came together. Yet, even as I write this gold and silver are strengthening again as the dollar weakens in light of that horrid jobs report. But it might just be that neither industrial demand nor monetary policy will be the story of the last six months of 2016 in precious metals.

Compare Prices With The May 2016 MMI Report

Jessica Fung, a metals strategist at BMO Capital Markets, said in the Wall Street Journal that slowing global growth should help push gold higher and likely bring silver with it.

“We believe focusing on the Fed alone is simplistic and only drives very near-term sentiment and volatility,” Ms. Fung wrote in a note. “The potential impact of sluggish global growth on the U.S. economy should not be ignored.”

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The Silver Institute released its “World Silver Survey 2016” Thursday, reporting both tightening supply and increaing demand for the precious/industrial metal.

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According to the report, the silver market saw record demand in 2015, with the jewelry, coin and bar, and photovoltaic sectors posting new highs, helping to boost total silver demand to 1.17 billion ounces last year. Overall silver supply to the market was lower, led by the continued weakness in silver scrap sales. Last year’s supply and demand scenario led to the third successive annual silver market deficit, reaching 129.8 million ounces, more than 60% larger than 2014 and the third largest deficit on record.

You can install PV panels on our roof, collect a tax credit and bring down your own electricity bill. A wind turbine? Not so much. Source: Adobe Stock/rob245.

More silver panels this year, but less silver per panel. Source: Adobe Stock/rob245.

“We expect the silver price to average $15.90 this year and that’s going to be defined by an overall upward trend,” said Erica Rannestad, precious metals demand senior analyst for Thomson Reuters GFMS, who contributed to the report. “We’ve seen prices reach highs last week and we expect that trajectory to continue through the 4th quarter of this year.”

Rannestad said in an interview that the bargain buying of the last two to five years, in the silver market, has largely given-way to more sophisticated investing as a weak dollar has heightened the white metal’s demand. Read more

Gold prices extended their best start to a year in more than 30 years this month, jumping 5.1% to 82 amid a broad precious metals rally.

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Silver has mostly caught up to its investment metal cousin, too, thanks to its dual use as an industrial and precious metal. Silver miners are seeing their stock prices increase as supply has been constrained by recent mine shutdowns.

Global-Precious-Metals_Chart_May-2016_FNLAs with most of the metals we track, China is the biggest consumer and biggest producer of gold. So, the news that China’s central bank and customs service will allow companies that have “frequent imports and exports” of gold and gold products to apply for a single permit that can be used in as many as 12 shipments was welcome for both producers and consumers. The trial to simplify the rules takes effect June 1 and applies to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Nanjing and Shenzhen, the bank said in a statement.

Aside from loosened regulations, the investment metals are sitting in a good, fundamental place. The safe haven status of both gold and silver continues to help their prices as the Federal Reserve again showed no stomach for interest rate increases this month.

As my colleague, Raul de Frutos, recently wrote, this has led to the weakest U.S. dollar in 15 months and sent investors flocking to silver, gold and even the platinum group metals. That’s right, 15-month high for gold, 15-month low for the U.S. dollar index. The correlation, gold-to-dollar, is way more reliable that any physical demand indicator of gold.

It seems as if the Fed’s dovishness is catching on globally, too. Japan was expected to implement a fresh round of stimulus to weaken the yen to combat low inflation. However The Bank of Japan kept interest rates unchanged this month.

Compare Prices With The April 2016 MMI Report

There is little sign that investors will stop flocking to safe havens and with strong consumer demand in automotive and electronics it’s difficult to see an end to this bull run.

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Silver prices skyrocketed on Monday, hitting an 11-month high.

Silver price hits 11-month high

The silver price hits 11-month high. Source: MetalMiner analysis of @StockCharts.com data.

It is difficult to find a fundamental reason for such a price increase. It seems like silver is simply catching up with gold. Gold surged to a one-year high back in February and, ever since, the yellow metal hasn’t moved much, as if it was waiting for silver to close the gap.

Gold to silver ratio falls

The gold-to-silver price ratio falls. Source: MetalMiner analysis of @StockCharts.com data.

And the gray metal has done so. The gold-to-silver ratio has come down to more normal levels after rising to multiyear highs in February when gold prices surged.

Gold Gets Company

The truth is that gold is not moving up alone anymore, since this is not just about investors looking for safe haven. Commodity markets are showing the first signs of recovery.

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A weaker dollar and rising oil prices in Q1 lured investors into commodity markets this year. Not only gold but the rest of the precious metals, as dollar-denominated commodities are getting a boost over the past few months.

Platinum and Palladium Join the Party

Platinum (in red) and Palladium (in blue) recovering

Platinum (in red) and Palladium (in blue) are also recovering. Source: @StockCharts.com.

Will the Uptrend in Precious Metals Continue?

That will strongly depend on what the dollar and oil prices do from now on. The recovery in oil prices since February is encouraging, especially since prices are managing to hold their value this week despite bearish news after major oil producers supplying nearly half of global output ended their meeting in Doha, Qatar, over the weekend without reaching an agreement to cap production.

If oil prices continue to climb despite the bearish news, that would be a bullish development, suggesting that underlying supply/demand fundamentals might, indeed, be improving.

Dollar weakens in 2016

The U.S. dollar weakens in 2016. Source: MetalMiner analysis of @StockCharts.com data.

Another key factor to watch is the U.S. dollar, which will likely move in the opposite direction to oil prices. The interest rate stimulus policies that major world banks take through the year will be decisive in the value of the dollar and the rest of wold currencies.

Free Download: The April 2016 MMI Report

The U.S. dollar index is approaching new key support levels that if broken, would be another indication that commodity markets are set to continue improving.

Mitchell J. Krebs. Source: Coeur Mining.

Source: Coeur Mining.

Mitchell J. Krebs has been the President and CEO of Coeur Mining, Inc., the world’s ninth-largest silver producer, since 2011. Coeur is also a major player in gold mining and has some 2,005 employees in the U.S., Mexico and Bolivia. Coeur markets its silver and gold concentrates to third-party refiners and smelters in the U.S., China, and Japan. From 2013 to 2015 Krebs oversaw a 22% year-over-year all-in sustaining cost reduction that significantly lowered the Chicago-based company’s bottom line. Those moves are being credited with helping Coeur stock take off since the Q1 2016 surge in silver prices. He recently spoke with MetalMiner’s Jeff Yoders on the phone about the silver market and what is impacting prices on both the supply and demand sides.

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Jeff Yoders: It’s been a good quarter for Coeur, how have the recent price increases impacted the company?

Mitch Krebs: We have seen strong returns. Our business and our financial results are very tightly wound with the prices of silver and gold. In the first quarter, we saw silver go up about 11% and gold up about 17%, that goes right down to our bottom line. We have been really successful at reducing our costs over the last three years, so our revenue line is going up as our cost line is going down, our cash flow has gone up in multiples as a result our stock price climbing 120% on the year-to-date. That leverage in the change in the silver price is significant. Read more

In the first two months of 2016, gold was the market’s MVP but, as we noticed in March, the silver price has started to play catch up.

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The gray metal recently hit a 10-month high after closing above $16 per ounce, while gold has traded flat over the past two months.

Silver hits 10-month high

Silver hits a 10-month high. Source @StockCharts.com.

Silver keeps outshining gold thanks to the same factor we pointed out in March: Oil prices making a comeback have boosted demand for silver’s industrial uses. Gold is not used nearly as much in cars, solar panels and gadgets as silver is.

Oil Holds Near $40 a Barrel

Oil manages to hold above $40-barrel

Oil is managing to hold above $40 a barrel. Source: @StockCharts.com.

Oil prices have, so far, successfully fought off bears when they were attacked earlier this month. Oil has a huge role in the world’s economy. Higher oil prices are giving relief to market participants who were worried by its continuous fall. That helped metal prices rise in Q1. Silver’s price strength is clearly coming from its economically-sensitive role as an industrial metal.

Stock Market Rally Remains Intact

S&P 500 rising non-stop. Will it overcome last year's levels?

The S&P 500 rising non-stop. Will it overcome last year’s levels? Source: @StockCharts.com.

Thanks, in part, to healthier oil prices global markets have been gaining since mid-February and while this rally lasts, money keeps rotating out of safe-haven assets such as gold and bonds. Silver is less impacted than gold in this way, and that also helps silver outperform it.

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Stock markets in the U.S. are acting particularly strong and, so far, they have avoided any price pullback. We will keep a close eye on stock markets and see if they can continue to go up from here as sellers could come into the market soon as prices approach last year’s levels.

Is Silver Set to Continue Gaining Against Gold?

The gold-to-silver ratio falling since March amid global stock market and industrial metals recovery

The gold-to-silver ratio has been falling since March amid a global stock market and industrial metals recovery.  Source: @StockCharts.com.

Not necessarily. But while the factors explained above keep moving in a positive direction, silver will continue to benefit. We’ll see if the rally in the base metals complex and the accompanying one in stock markets extends into Q2.

This week we saw oil prices climb back above $40 a barrel and that triggered higher prices for most of our metals, too.

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There’s a big meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries this weekend and all signs point to a continued freeze in production, at least among major producers Russia and Saudi Arabia so many speculators and market watchers are becoming bullish on oil. Oh, how quickly they turn!

Oil and Inflation

A direct knock-off of this oil mini surge is price inflation of everything that oil is used to produce, whether as a base material or for transport and production costs. What’s our favorite industrial metal that also has investment potential and is still considered so downright precious?

That’s right, silver! Despite being mined with just about every other metal in the world silver is still a precious metal and its industrial uses combined this week with investors grabbing it up to create a sweet spot for the gray metal. As of this writing it’s riding a 10-month high and looking to gain even more.

Aluminum Still Lags

However, not all metals are enjoying a healthy rebound. Alcoa, Inc. reported first quarter results this week and things weren’t so good for the aluminum smelter. How bad was it? Profits fell 92%. So, yeah, pretty bad.

Our own Stuart Burns put virtual pen to paper and explained that, thanks to Chinese overproduction and stockpiling, smelting aluminum simply isn’t a good business to be in right now. He even called it “an industry on the cusp of shooting itself in the foot.”

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If there’s a better example of why Alcoa will soon split itself into two and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld will join the new aerospace, titanium and value-added products half, I haven’t seen it.

Copper Loses All its Gains

My colleague Raul de Frutos also examined why copper has underachieved this year, even amidst the Q1 base metals rally. Dr. Copper is apparently only starting on the back nine and didn’t do any real work in Q1. We’ll monitor the situation with the rest of the base metals in Q2.

In March and February, gold prices — whether U.S., Indian or Chinese — were the standout performers, with some even nearly doubling in value as investors stocked up on the hard currency as a haven from a falling U.S. dollar and other global economic turmoil.

Compare Prices With The March 2016 MMI Report

But that’s not the case this month. Gold lost value in all the markets we track, a predictable pullback from its runaway performance during most of the first quarter. The precious metal that’s pacing the globe and keeping our sub-index positive is silver, helping the sub-index achieve a 1.2% increase.

Global-Precious-Metals_Chart_April-2016_FNL

Sure, the platinum group metals were predictably positive, too, but silver’s unique position as both an investment and industrial metal allowed it to gain in all the markets we track and its future potential is stronger as safe haven status doesn’t make up such a huge part of its value as with its cousin, gold.

Secondary Mining, Primary Industrial Usage

Silver is mined alongside just about every industrial metal in the world and selling it has been padding the profits of base metal miners during the first quarter. U.S.-based primary silver producer Coeur Mining reported Q1 production of 3.4 million ounces of silver and slightly more than 78,000 ounces of gold. That was in line with expectations, as the company transitions to lower-tonnage, higher-grade, higher-margin underground operations from two ore sources, Guadalupe and Independencia in Mexico.

The electronics uses of silver are pushing miners to bet their future on the metal as its still the world’s best conductor of electrical current and heat. Electronics in automobiles such as Tesla Motorsnew Model 3 “affordable” electric car will require more silver than any automobile on the road today. And electronics are already invading the comfort of our conveyances more than ever before.

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When you add electrical transmission and use in renewables to silver’s demand side equation it’s easy to understand why its global prices could easily keep rising independently of its performance as an investment.

What This Means for Metal Buyers

Continue to expect silver and PGMs to experience strong demand independent of investment potential. Gold could still gain back its losses but its prospects, long-term, are not as strong.

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The price rally we’ve been cautiously documenting continued this week as cold-rolled coil took off and gained separation from its sister steel product, hot-rolled coil.

Free Download: The March 2016 MMI Report

CRC is feeling the burn from massive 265% import duties on Chinese imports. You think we got our point across with those tariffs? You listening, China?

Cold-rolled coil is gaining some separation from hot-rolled coil.

Cold-rolled coil is gaining some separation from hot-rolled coil. Source: MetalMiner.

CRC may have been the big winner in industrial metals this week, but it’s not the only winner. Silver is making strides and catching up to gold. Unlike with gold, it’s not investors buoying it, either, it’s good ol’ industrial usage.

Hi-Ho, Silver!

Silver’s in your cell phone, your car and lots of other manufacturing applications. Forget to turn off your plasma television? Just push a button and silver’s there to get that job done for you.

Reuters_silver_971_032316

Silver’s rocky road is finally pointing up. Source: Reuters.

Silver and gold both have strong investor appeal right now and look like they’ll keep rising so long as that sentiment exists.

DUC, DUC Goosing Oil Prices

Okay, sure, higher oil prices helped silver gain some traction this week, too, but that doesn’t make silver any less of a workhorse. Higher oil prices helped all the metals this week. With prices now above the $40 per barrel psychological threshold, U.S. drillers have opened their drilled but uncomplete (DUC) wells and are starting to see profits from these dormant assets.

With DUCs pumping out oil here in the U.S., oil prices likely won’t be able to rise much further, but could still keep their recent gains. As we’ve said before, global oil supply and demand is a complicated game with many levers of power, but U.S. production is a big one.

Chinese Steel Overproduction Continues

Despite the good sentiment from rising prices, the overproduction of steel still looms over suppliers and manufacturers. We visited Steel Markets North America last week, and witnessed a talk by Terance Ko, of Hatch Associates.

Free Sample Report: Our March Metal Buying Outlook

There’s not much hope of China decreasing steel overproduction any time soon. The 100-150 million planned reduction, Ko said, likely won’t make enough of a dent in current overproduction to be felt anytime soon. Maybe tariffs will have to work where economics doesn’t.

During the first six weeks of 2016, gold was the market’s rock star. The yellow metal rose more than 20% from its lows, hitting a 1-year high.

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Such a surge was caused by the weakening U.S. dollar, a selloff in oil prices and yet another in global stock markets. Over that period, gold significantly outperformed silver thanks to its safe-haven appeal.

Gold-Silver ratio peaks in March amid global markets and industrial metals recovery

The gold-to-silver ratio peaks in March amid global stock market and industrial metals recovery. Source: MetalMiner analysis of @StockCharts.com data.

But since mid-February there were some factors that made silver outshine gold.

Oil Price and Base Metals Rebound

Oil Prices recovery since mid- February_opt

Source: MetalMiner analysis of @StockCharts.com data.

Oil prices made a nice comeback over the past five weeks. This recovery in oil prices gave some relief to market participants who were worried by their continuous fall.

Industrial metals ETF (DBB) rising

Industrial metals ETF (DBB) rising. Source: MetalMiner analysis of @StockCharts.com data.

These developments also helped push industrial metals prices higher. Unlike gold, silver has industrial applications, so the recent strength in the base metal complex helped silver outperform gold over the past few weeks.

Stock Markets Recover (For Now)

S&P 500 index bouncing off lows since February

S&P 500 index has been bouncing off its lows since February. Source: MetalMiner analysis of @StockCharts.com data.

Thanks, in part, to healthier oil prices, global markets have been gaining since mid-February. That allowed money to rotate out of safe-haven assets like gold and bonds. Silver was less impacted than gold in this way, also causing silver to outperform it.

Will Silver Continue to Gain Against Gold?

That will likely depend on how far can the recent rally in the base metal complex and stock markets extends. However, both markets seem prone to a pull back which will likely cause silver prices to come down.

Free Sample Report: Our March Metal Buying Outlook

Also, buyers should watch the dollar’s movements. A stronger dollar would hurt both precious metals.