Feb 3, 2021 - Economy & Business

The real reason behind the silver rally

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

The price of silver remains largely within the same range it has been in since June, as prices on futures markets tumbled by nearly 8% on Tuesday.

Driving the news: Media outlets have devoted a lot of ink to the "silver rally," even though the precious metal's price has held between $22 and $30 since August.

Reality check: Markets have not yet seen a sustained upside move in prices, but silver has been seeing extraordinary physical sales for some time, with dealers and even the U.S. Mint saying they're struggling to keep up with demand.

Driving the news: The U.S. Mint said on Tuesday that it had been unable to meet demand for gold and silver bullion coins in 2020 and through January, blaming pandemic-driven demand and plant capacity issues, Reuters' Devika Krishna Kumar reported.

  • Gold is still seeing much higher demand, with sales of U.S. gold bullion coins up 258% last year and silver coin demand up 28%, according to the Mint.
  • That heavy buying has continued in 2021, squeezing already-tight supplies.

The intrigue: U.S. bullion brokers like Apmex, JM Bullion and SD Bullion are warning of delays in processing silver transactions because of surging volumes, Reuters' Arpan Varghese reported.

Yes, but: The shortages are expected to be temporary, as dealers say that it's been shipping rather than supply constraints that have caused the shortages.

  • Every year the world consumes and produces about 1 billion ounces of silver, and supply has been in surplus for most of the last decade, precious metals research consultancy Metals Focus told Reuters.
  • "There are no signs yet of a broader physical squeeze across silver and we would not expect any at this stage," Frederic Panizzutti, managing director at dealer MKS, said in the article.

The bottom line: Much of the demand for silver and gold has come from increased worries about the rapidly rising U.S. money supply and fears of fiat currency destruction at the hands of central banks and government policymakers.

  • That has pushed physical sales through the roof over the past year, but whether there is still room to run on precious metals prices remains to be seen.
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