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De trade voor de komende jaren...

The Silver Lining, (June 2010)

By: Eric Sprott & David Franklin

No matter how complex our financial system becomes, the economic axiom of supply and demandwill still apply. If the demand for an asset outstrips supply, the price of that asset will appreciate.The challenge in finding supply and demand imbalances in today’s market often lies in judging thequality of market data available – it frequently isn’t even close to being accurate. If the numbersdon’t show the imbalances, it’s tough for investors to determine if the market price accuratelyreflects the market dynamics. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the market for silver. Altijdzal de wet van vraag en aanbod domineren. Nergens is dit zo zeker als in de zilvermarkt...

While gold dominates the headlines, the silver market actually enjoys a superior fundamentalsupply/demand story than that for gold, although you’d never know it based on the silver demandstatistics from the major reporting services. As students of the precious metals markets we monitorthe numerous metals reporting services very closely. According to those services, the silver markethas enjoyed a stable supply/demand balance for almost ten years now. If that’s the case, why has theprice of silver appreciated from $5 to $19/oz over that same time period? Is the reporting services’data on the silver market truly reflective of silver’s underlying fundamentals? Iedereen spreekt overgoud terwijl zilver nog veel beter heeft gepresteerd...

Although there are several reporting services for silver market information, GFMS Ltd. and TheSilver Institute are the most often quoted sources for silver market data. While they providestatistics for both silver supply and demand, it is their neglect of the "investment" demand categorythat we find problematic. GFMS and The Silver Institute use a category called "implied netinvestment" to capture the demand for physical silver from institutional and retail investors. Thedefinition for "net investment" as defined by GFMS is "the residual from combining all otherGFMS data on silver supply/demand...As such, it captures the net physical impact of alltransactions not covered by the other supply/demand variables."1 In other words, it is not anobserved figure. GFMS’s "implied net investment" number doesn’t include any observable demandfor silver by ETF’s and other reporting entities such as hedge funds - it is merely a plug used tobalance the supply data for GFMS’s and the Silver Institute’s reporting purposes.2 As we delveddeeper into the silver market, this realization prompted us to calculate our own investment demandstatistic. De cijfers die het Zilverinstituut levert zijn niet accuraat...

We present our findings in Table A. While GFMS and The Silver Institute use an implied number,we calculated a real investment demand number using a handful of ETF’s and two other largeprivate investors, one of which is our own firm. Our demand metric is by no means complete orexhaustive - we only used seven sources of reported investment demand, and yet from our informaland incomplete survey we found that GFMS and The Silver Institute had underreported silverinvestment demand by at least 225 million ounces! This shortfall doesn’t consider any otherinvestors that may have bought silver over the past year, so real demand for silver could be multipletimes higher. Die cijfers zijn 225 miljoen ounces te laag...

Given its seemingly evident market imbalances, you might wonder why silver hasn’t performedbetter over the last year. The answer, we believe, lies in the way silver is priced. The silver spotprice is dictated by paper contracts that trade on the COMEX exchange in New York. Papercontracts can be purchased "long" or sold "short". If more participants sell "short" than purchase"long", the paper market price for silver will decline. Often these contracts have little to norelationship with actual physical silver, and yet they are the most influential contract in determiningsilver’s physical spot price. Go figure. De handel in papieren zilver houdt de prijs lager dan hij zoumoeten zijn...

In studying the silver market we owe a great debt to the work of silver analyst, Ted Butler. Mr.Butler has been writing about the silver market for fifteen years and has done much to informinvestors about the reality of silver’s physical fundamentals. Butler provides some insight into the"short" positions that exist in silver today, highlighting the fact that the eight largest silver traderscurrently hold a net short position of over 66,000 contracts, representing more than 330 millionounces of silver.11 This means that the eight largest COMEX traders are net short the equivalent of48.5% of the world’s total annual silver mine production of 680.9 million ounces. None of thesetraders are in the silver business by the way – they’re all financial institutions. In addition, theCOMEX silver short position held by the eight largest traders on May 3, 2010, represented 33% oftotal world silver bullion inventory, estimated by Butler to be approximately one billion ounces.There is no real comparison with gold, as the 24.5 million ounce concentrated net short positionheld by the eight largest traders represents a mere 1.2% of the 2 billion+ ounces of world goldbullion inventory as reported by the World Gold Council.12 So in comparison to total world bullioninventories, the concentrated short position in silver is 27 times larger than that for gold. In everycomparison possible, the short position in COMEX silver contracts is off the charts, and if you thinkthe short positions sound potentially disruptive, you’re not alone. In September 2008 the CFTCconfirmed that its Division of Enforcement has been investigating complaints of misconduct in thesilver market. This investigation is ongoing and we look forward to its resolution. De acht grootstehandelaars houden een shortpositie aan van 330 miljoen ounces, bijna de helft van de totalejaarproductie...

Because we believe the demand for precious metals will continue to increase in this environment,we’re always interested to know the total supply available in today’s physical bullion market.According to the best estimates from the USGS and current mining statistics, approximately 46billion ounces of silver have been mined since the dawn of civilization.14 In comparison,approximately 5 billion ounces of gold have been mined throughout history.15 Reading this, acasual observer might conclude that gold is currently justified in being worth more than silver basedon its relative scarcity. But the current price discrepancy ($1,250/oz gold vs $19/oz silver) ismisleading. Wij geloven dat de vraag naar edelmetalen zal blijven stijgen...

As mentioned above, there are only 1 billion ounces of silver left above ground in bullion formtoday. That is a surprisingly small number in relation to the 46 billion ounces mined throughouthistory. The reason is due to silver’s consumption in manufacturing. Just like other industrialminerals, silver has been consumed in various processes over the course of history. Silver’ssuperiority in heat transfer, conductivity and light reflectivity make it unique, and it boastsantimicrobial properties that make it ideal for surgical instruments, clothing materials and certainmedical applications. The key point to remember with all these applications is that once the silver isconsumed it is typically never recycled. Many of its industrial applications require such smallamounts in each surgical tool, electronic device or clothing item that it isn’t economic to recoverfrom garbage dumps. For comparison, there are currently approximately two billion ounces of goldabove ground in bullion form compared with the 5 billion ounces of gold mined throughouthistory.16 So despite being more heavily mined over time, silver bullion is now the more scarce"precious" metal than gold bullion is from an investment supply perspective. Er is volgens onzeberekeningen slechts 1 miljard ounces zilver over op de hele wereld...

This is where the silver story gets interesting for us. At today’s prices you have $19 billion dollarsof silver ($19 x 1 billion ounces) and $2.5 trillion dollars of gold ($1250 x 2 billion ounces) aboveground in bullion form. The size of the investment market for gold is therefore 131 times larger thanthat for silver. And yet, on a market relative dollar basis, investors are actually buying more silverthan they are gold today. At today’s metals prices, in dollar terms, the US mint has soldapproximately three times more value in gold than in silver thus far in 2010 coin sales. But thereshould be 131 times more gold sold than silver for the market to stay in balance. None of the largestgold and silver investment vehicles reflect the 131:1 ratio, suggesting that investors have adisproportionately large interest in owning physical silver. Beleggers zouden er beter aan doen omfysiek zilver te kopen...

For example, the largest gold ETF today, the SPDR Gold Trust ("GLD"), is currently ten times thedollar value of the largest silver ETF, the iShares Silver Trust (SLV). Since the SLV began tradingin April 2006, the GLD has increased by $8 for every $1 increase in SLV’s NAV. Again, given thechoice, investors are voting with their dollars and putting disproportionately more dollars into silverthan gold from a relative market size perspective. It appears that no investors are anywhere close tobuying 131 times more gold than silver, which market metrics would suggest if the demand for goldand silver were relatively equal – all of which brings us to silver’s ‘supply conundrum’: If on thesupply side, as Ted Butler calculates, there are only one billion ounces of silver left in bullion formavailable for investment; and if, on the demand side, we were able to identify the holders of 500million ounces spread across a mere seven investors - it implies that there is only 500 millionounces of silver left for everyone else to invest in! As large holders of silver bullion ourselves, wecan tell you that 500 million ounces is not that much from a global perspective, and certainly won’tbe enough to satiate the world’s investment demand for silver going forward. Also let us not forgetthe large silver short position on the COMEX that will almost undoubtedly require the purchase of330 million ounces of silver to eventually cover. Assuming that happens, most of the silveravailable for investment will essentially already have been spoken for. Er is slechts 500 miljoenounces over om in te investeren, zeker niet genoeg om aan de vraag te voldoen gezien de 330miljoen ounces short die vroeg of laat moeten teruggekocht worden...

It also serves to mention that there will be no government silver stocks capable of covering thisimpending supply shortfall. According to the latest audit, the US treasury currently has 7,075,171 ozof silver in storage, which is about enough to handle two months of silver eagle coin production. Ifthe COMEX silver short sellers are ever forced to cover, they won’t be able to lean on thegovernment for a physical bailout.

Judging by the numbers above, if hedge funds or any other large investor ever decided to invest inthe physical silver market with the same voracity as they did with gold, the silver price couldpotentially explode. The existing silver inventory at COMEX is currently worth a little more than$2 billion at today’s silver price. We already know that high-profile hedge fund managers likeSoros, Paulson and Einhorn have gold holdings with a total value of over $5 billion.18 If that samepurchasing power was ever applied to the silver market, we could potentially witness a dramatic risein the silver price and an effective clearing of all the physical silver in the COMEX inventory. Itdeserves mention that the SPDR Gold Trust ("GLD") added almost $5 billion dollars worth of goldin the last month alone, and it would take less than half of that GLD gold investment to wipe out theentire silver COMEX inventory. Wanneer hedgefondsen of een grote investeerder ooit zoudenbeslissen om voor zilver te gaan, zal de prijs exploderen...

The bottom line for us is that silver appears to be a fantastic investment today. Limited supply,strong demand and a potential buyer of almost half of one year’s global mining silver output make agreat case for owning silver in physical form. Based on our calculations, it appears that the silverinvestment demand statistics published by GFMS and The Silver Institute are highly misleading atbest. We believe the investment demand for silver is multiple times higher than that published, andgiven the outrageous short position in silver on the COMEX, coupled with the unsustainable buyingratios relative to gold, the case for physical silver is simply outstanding. As the expression goes,"every cloud has a silver lining". Notice it isn’t a gold lining or a platinum lining. In the silvermarket, the cloud has been duly represented by poor estimations of investment demand coupledwith large outstanding short positions. That cloud will soon lift, revealing a "silver lining" that is farmore valuable than it is today. Samengevat lijkt zilver een fantastische belegging dezer dagen :beperkt aanbod, sterke vraag en het potentieel wanneer een grote koper de halfjaar productie ervanzou opkopen...

Eric Sprott van Sprott Asset Management

Wanneer ik dit stuk titel met “de trade voor de komende jaren” bedoel ik dat ik denk dat we hiermeeal zeker voor die tijd gerust zitten, dat de prijs fel zal toenemen en...we er nog héél veel geld meegaan verdienen... Deze stelling impliceert ook dat u het bedrag dat u in goud hebt zitten of zoumoeten hebben zitten (!) zeker moet evenaren met eenzelfde investering in zilver, op een of anderemanier.