Facts on Silver
For those who missed my piece of March 25, 2011, here is the link. I asked the question, "Is Silver Topping?" I may have been right about silver topping, only time will tell. For certain I was dead wrong about the timing and the price. Silver has rocketed from $38 and change when I wrote the piece to over $47 now.
But lots of people get lots of things wrong about silver. So here are some facts.
According to Jim Rogers all parabolic moves end badly. I have seen similar charts in all kinds of commodities and they always correct. Parabolic charts mark tops. So when silver bugs start suggesting, "This time it's different" I know better.
Study the chart below. Ignore the commodity. When charts go parabolic, it ends badly. I was an investor in the 1970s in both gold and silver. I started buying gold at $35 and silver around $5 an ounce. I sold out all my silver in January of 1980 a week too early at $35 as it rocketed to $50.25 an ounce at the open on January 21, 1980. It went parabolic and basically that's all you need to know.
Those investors who want to buy at new all time highs almost always are the same investors who want to sell at all time lows. Naturally as a guy running a metals site, I think $46 silver is wonderful for all my readers that I was telling to buy at $4 and $6 and $10 and $20. Is silver a good buy today? No, it's a good sale... to those who insist on buying at tops.
It's more like between 20 or 26 or 64 to one. This is not an absolute fact, these are opinions from experts but no experts conclude the ratio is 16-1. Go to Wikipedia and do the math for yourself.
What happens on the web is that one guy starts a rumor saying there are tens of thousands of gold-plated tungsten bars out there. Some other fool adds a few "facts" to the rumor and all of a sudden hundreds of sites are writing about fake gold bars.
Alas, years later not a single tungsten bar has showed up. It was rubbish and anyone who understood anything about metalworking would understand that technically it would be very hard to do. All 400 ounce gold bars are tracked and if by some strange process someone managed to counterfeit one, he would be caught at once. But you can sell a lot of subscriptions to those who pay to have their fantasies catered to.
It doesn't matter how many people claim
the ratio of silver to gold is 16-1, it simply isn't true.
The first person I ever read that claimed there was a shortage of silver was Ted Butler. He claimed in May that according to his figures the world was going to totally run out of silver by December. This was on the Kitco forum. I wrote and told him he was dead wrong, there were billions of ounces of silver above ground. His response was that according to his numbers, we would be out of silver bullion and that would drive the price of silver all by itself to between $50 and $100 an ounce. In a vacuum. Without gold going up or oil or anything else going up because of inflation. Silver was that rare.
My retort was that with billions of ounces around, prices would soon turn Grannie's silver service into silver bullion. He insisted I didn't know what I was talking about; he was the silver "GURU." The exchange took place in May of 2001 and by December of 2001 I had correctly called the bottom in silver while he was insisting that it would be $50 an ounce. One of us was dead right.
But then he was also the guy claiming that silver was the most critical war material and if we ever go into a war, that would drive silver prices to between $50 and $100 an ounce and it was so rare that you should, "never, never, ever sell silver." With the US engaged in three different wars at the same time, you would think that silver would be $300 an ounce. It's not.
My question is, "If you were smart enough to buy 100 ounces of silver at $4 an ounce, a 5000-year low in real terms, how much profit have you made if silver goes to $50 or $100 or $300 and you never, never, ever sell? The answer, of course, and ignored by all the silver "GURUS" is that if you buy low and don't sell ever, you don't make any profit. That may be the dumbest investment advice I have ever heard.
Silver is a commodity like any other. If you are smart enough to buy it cheap and you are smart enough to sell it when it gets expensive, you will profit. If you want to buy at all time highs, good luck with that.
There are 19 billion ounces of silver above ground today. People talking about silver "bullion" inventories are being misleading. Silver is silver is silver and it only takes a day to turn a few 200 year-old-tea pots into a boring 1000 ounce "bullion" bar.
Just how accurate is the 19 billion ounce figure? We can figure that out with simple logic. I think the figure accepted by more people for total silver production ever would be about 45 billion ounces. A favorite argument of the permabulls is that silver is consumed, not recycled. Let's think about that. Silver is used in computers, iPhones, aircraft, and lots of commercial purposes where it isn't recycled. But that use of silver wasn't common until perhaps 1960. Silver before that time was recycled. Yes, silver coins did wear but they didn't wear out, they might lose 20% of their original weight.
If 45 billion ounces were produced, it's more logical that a good percentage of it is still around. I was in my coin dealer's shop a week ago. He bought 2800 ounces of silver on Saturday. Not a bar of bullion in the bunch but 2800 ounces of real silver in other forms. The numbers on silver are not hard numbers; we simply don't know how much silver is around. But we do know there is a lot of silver and with the exception of a short period between the end of November of 1979 and January 21 of 1980, a mere six weeks later, silver has been well under $10 an ounce on average for the last 40 years. How rational is $46 silver? Not very.
I'd guess most silver mines have cash costs between $3 and $10. A market price of $46 an ounce will suck silver out of grannies' closets and out of the ground at the same time. Every silver refinery in the world is running at capacity right now, if you want silver, there is a lot of it around.
Someone just posted the most incredible theory on the validity of SLV. That's the silver ETF that has been trashed for years by a small group of uberbulls with an agenda. One of their supporters came up with a brilliant argument. Since we don't really know and can't prove that SLV actually has all the physical silver, the proof that it is a scam is when they deny it being a scam. Read that carefully. The proof that it is a scam is when they deny it.
So, apparently, if you ask the people behind SLV if it is a scam and they admit it, that means we know it's a scam since they admitted it. And if you ask the people behind the SLV if it is a scam and they deny it, that also means it is a scam because the proof is when they deny it.
I think that's circular logic. No matter what the people behind SLV say, it's a scam.
I have said in the past I have reservations about ETFs and I think investors should be aware of those reservations. If we have a total economic collapse and the financial system freezes, all ETFs could be frozen or worse for months. That includes Sprott's paper silver, the CEF and SLV and all ETFs of all sorts. What happened in Argentina could happen in the US, it could happen all over the world. It's entirely possible that all banks close for a good period of time, after all they are insolvent now and have been since September of 2008. But a financial freeze would affect all forms of paper silver including Sprott's silver trust.
The CEF fund and the SLV have done more to improve the price of silver and gold than any other single action in the last 50 years. Silver bugs should be grateful SLV holds 366 million ounces of silver instead they are whining and posting simply absurd articles totally lacking in either facts or logic.
When someone posts something that ridiculous and lacking in logic, you may safely presume they don't know what they are talking about. That's real common when people write about silver and it's going to cost investors a whole lot of money.
The daily bullish consensus on silver is 96% as of Wednesday the 20th of April. On January 21st of 1980, the very day of the top, the bullish consensus was 94%. How many of the silver uberbulls are suggesting that maybe the record high bullish consensus is suggesting a very dangerous time to start buying? The answer is damned few because they have an agenda and their agenda doesn't involve them knowing what they are talking about. As long as they tell investors what they want to hear, they will be very popular.
For years I have watched as each time silver runs up, certain people start spreading rumors that silver is in such shortage that there will be a run on Comex. The only problem with the rumor is that it can't possibly happen. There cannot be a run on Comex. I repeat, there cannot be a run on Comex.
Part of the reason for the rumor is that most investors confuse the purpose of the exchanges. The purpose of the exchanges is not to exchange commodities. The purpose of the exchanges is to determine price. But certainly the possibility of a run on an exchange is possible so early on the exchanges adopted rules that called for cash settlement if necessary.
Most people don't know this because they don't read the small print but if you have a savings account, the bank has the right to withhold payment for up to 90 days. And all mortgages are essentially 90 notes at their heart. That's right, the bank can demand full payment within 90 days if they wish and during the 1930s that's how thousands of Americans lost their homes even when they were paying their mortgage.
I don't write the rules and you don't write the rules and they are what they are if you like it or not. There cannot be a run on silver, it's impossible. So anyone writing about it is spreading disinformation. Of course anyone who ever passed a Series 7 exam know this but you will never hear the silver uberbulls mention it. I wonder why.
There are three guys in the mining business that are so smart and have such great track records that for 70% of investors in metals, they should buy into their mutual funds and stop trying to outsmart the market by picking stocks. The top three guys in the industry are Ken Gerbino, Eric Sprott and Frank Holmes. If you like metals and shares in resource stocks, stop trying to be so smart yourself, it's difficult work. Hand your money to them to invest in one of their funds and you will do just fine.
That said, Eric Sprott seems to have done something that hasn't happened to the market since the days of Johnny Carson. You have to be getting on in age to remember it but back in 1973 Johnny Carson started a toilet paper shortage that lasted a month. He was making a joke. He said that there was a toilet paper shortage. The next day, millions of rolls of toilet paper flew off the shelves of every store in the US and by noon there was no toilet paper to be had. It was nothing but a joke.
Don't let anyone convince you that supply and demand doesn't work. They do work and that's far more important for you to know than belief in some mysterious manipulation conspiracy theory. I've heard all the stories and know all the arguments. No one in history has made a cent from a belief in market manipulation.
If gold has gone up 4100% since 1950, higher than any other commodity, anyone manipulating it down has done a piss poor job. And who cares if 4 guys have sold more silver short than exists in the known universe? Those are all interesting theories but that's all they are. If you don't buy low and sell high, you can't make money. End of story.
Eric Sprott started his own paper silver fund called the Sprott Physical Silver Trust. It's still paper silver like SLV or the CEF fund. It has some unique features, not benefits but features. He has done a brilliant job of promoting it.
Recently he purchased $300 million dollars more physical silver to put in the closed fund. As a result of his excellent promotion, as of last Wednesday, silver was selling for $46. If you bought the CEF silver fund, you paid $47.88 for silver. If you bought SLV, you paid $46 with no premium but if you bought PSLV, the Sprott Silver Trust, you paid an incredible $57.73 an ounce for silver.
I'd say that Eric Sprott buying $300 million dollars more silver lately was incredible timing. He pocketed probably $60 million in profit. Is Eric Sprott bullish on silver? I'd say so. He has 60 million reasons to be bullish. He can buy at the exact top of silver and watch a 25% decline and still make money.
How wise was it for investors to pay a 25% premium for silver? I'd like to believe my readers are smart enough to figure that out for themselves. Eric Sprott is both brilliant and rich but paying 25% over spot is not wise investing.
The Hunt Brothers investing in silver drove silver to $50.25 an ounce for a few minutes on January 21, 1980. I think it would be fair to credit the silver boom of 2011 to Eric Sprott. He's not really saying anything new about silver, though, Ted Butler was claiming that we were about to run out of silver 10 years ago and claiming that silver was the most manipulated of all metals long before Eric Sprott bought his first ounce of silver for a fund. But Eric Sprott adds credibility. But we weren't running out of silver ten years ago. We aren't running out of silver now.
One of two things is going to happen. Either we are at a top and silver is about to crash both hard and long, or the world's financial system is about to fall apart. I have been an advocate of a total financial crash for a lot longer than most writers. I was writing about the dangers of derivatives in 2002 when they were 15% of what they are now.
But I don't believe the world's financial system is going to crash next week. As in January of 1980, the silver bulls are going to be the ones losing money. You can't profit if you don't sell and all the permabulls are screaming "Buy, buy, buy." As they will at every top. Buying at record high prices is rarely profitable. But perhaps this time it really is different.
Here's what all potential investors in silver need to know.