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Silver’s Smoking Guns, Part II: Investment Paradox

Articles & Blogs - Silver Commentary

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The world of investing is ruled by a single principle: “buy low, sell high” – or at least it should be. In order to squeeze as much money as possible out of the Chumps (i.e. small retail investors); the predatory Corporate Media has turned these “investors” into momentum-chasing traders, and the principles of investing have been thrown out the window.

Nowhere is this more apparent than through an examination of the silver market, and the perverse parameters of investment in this sector. In order to put the Golden Rule of buy low/sell high into action, we need to know how to determine when we are buying low – because once we have bought low, selling high is simply a matter of patience.

This presumes (of course) that as an investor we have done our “due diligence” in researching companies/sectors; and identified an investment opportunity with strong (future) fundamentals. We would not have been following the Golden Rule had we bought shares in Kodak as the world was in the process of switching from camera film to digital photography. We would have been buying low and (eventually) selling lower; or in relative terms buying high and selling low.

Conversely, referring back to Part I of this series; we have already ascertained that silver has large/growing demand, and it was conclusively demonstrated that silver is priced well below its fair-market value. On this basis alone, the silver sector would seem like a good destination for one’s investment dollars, but we have not completed our due diligence.

That still only covers demand and price parameters of this market. To get a more clear/complete picture of fundamentals we also need to focus on supply. Again referring to the first installment, we learned that silver is alone among major commercial/industrial metals in that the majority of supply is produced not via “primary mining” but as a byproduct of other metals mining.

As I also explained in that previous piece, that fact alone provides a near-conclusive argument that silver is under-produced. Unequivocal empirical evidence that silver is grossly under-produced can be found merely by looking at the total collapse in inventories. As I have frequently pointed out in previous commentaries, between 1990 – 2005 alone; silver inventories plummeted by 90%. Since 2005, inventory numbers have been falsified through a transparent, record-keeping sham, presumably to cover-up even further erosion of inventories.

Those who have any understanding of markets will realize that this alone is further proof of the long-term/severe under-pricing of silver, since price is the only mechanism which can restore equilibrium between supply and demand.

We have a second way of demonstrating that silver is under-produced apart from the collapse in inventories. Also mentioned in the first part of this series is the fact that gold and silver exist in the Earth’s crust in roughly a 17:1 ratio to each other. This suggests we should also see these metals mined in similar ratios.

However, if we obtain supply numbers for silver (from the Silver Institute) and for gold (from the World Gold Council), we see that over the past decade silver has only been mined at roughly a 7:1 ratio versus gold. This would indicate that silver is currently being mined at less than half the rate it would be mined if the metal was priced at its fair-market value.

 

But this presupposes that gold itself is being mined at the level we would expect if it was priced at its own fair-market value. In fact, we have abundant evidence that gold is also serially undervalued (and thus under-produced), again by examining mine-supply data.

Despite a decade-plus bull market for gold and silver (the result of the extreme price-suppression of the 1980’s and 1990’s); both gold and silver mine production have limped higher at an anemic rate of about 2% per year. This is more, conclusive evidence of price-manipulation.

Companies exist to make money. Obviously, with a decade-plus bull market for gold and silver (and no end in sight); had gold and silver prices been allowed to move freely we would have seen prices rise to a level sufficient to generate large incremental increases in mine-supply (as companies sought to cash-in on this market opportunity).

Not immediately. Mining by its very nature requires a significant lag-time to adjust to changes in market parameters. It generally takes a minimum of five years to find/explore/develop a new mineral deposit, and usually closer to a decade. As noted in Part I however, vast numbers of gold- and silver-miners were bankrupted through the price-suppression of the 1980’s and 1990’s (in excess of 90% of the world’s mines); so re-opening these old mines is a somewhat quicker process.

This means we have had more than enough time for the gold and silver sectors to fully adjust to (supposed) bull-market conditions. Clearly expansion in mine-supply is still being severely constrained by metals prices.  In terms of market psychology, all bull-markets are characterized by exuberant behavior, and (if anything) excessive gains in prices. Indeed to talk about “constrained prices in a bull market” is an obvious non sequitur.

With gold itself being under-produced, and silver being under-produced (versus gold) by more than a factor of two, we now have the complete picture we need as investors. Silver has been (and is) serially under-priced, resulting in severe under-production (still); despite strong-and-growing demand.

With price, supply, and demand parameters all optimal in the silver market, we see investors stampeding into this sector, right? Wrong. Typically, throughout history investors have held an average of between 5% and 10% of their wealth in precious metals – with that ratio soaring in times of extreme uncertainty/crisis.

Yet as we see Western economies disintegrating (and literally self-destructing in Europe); instead of seeing investors with somewhere in excess of 10% of their wealth in gold and silver, the actual ratio is only about 1%. At a time when we would expect silver (and gold) to be over-represented in investor portfolios; it has never been so under-owned.

We now get to the point where we see how/why the silver market today represents perhaps a totally unique opportunity in the history of investment. Any/every bull market for a commodity (as a matter of arithmetic) should progress in an identical manner. Rapid gains in prices cause a strong surge (if not an exponential increase) in supply.

The combination of surging prices and surging supply is an inevitable build-up of inventories. This is due to the fact that higher prices (eventually) constrict demand, while continuing to stimulate higher and higher levels of supply. This means that as investors we are always provided with a clear warning on when any bull market for a commodity is about to end: inventories swell well above historical averages.

The length of time that any such bull-market will last is based on a combination of the commodity’s “supply elasticity” and “demand elasticity”. Don’t be intimidated by the jargon. All this refers to is how quickly supply and demand for the commodity adjusts to changes in price.

What makes silver unique as an investment opportunity is that it has both highly inelastic supply and highly inelastic demand – something perhaps never before seen in the world of commodities. In terms of supply, because most silver comes onto the market as a byproduct of other mining; it was (and is) impossible for the supply of silver to respond quickly to price-increases.

Meanwhile, because silver is consumed in small quantities (even trace amounts) in many of its industrial applications; it also exhibits high inelasticity of demand – as even huge increases in the price of silver result in only small/moderate increases in the price of silver-based products.

Going back to the 1990’s; silver has never been so under-priced in all of history. Since silver was first discovered in the New World 600 years ago; it has never been so under-produced. Yet despite these literally unparalleled parameters, silver has never been so under-owned by investors in all of history.

To refer to this as an Investment Paradox is the epitome of understatement. In the conclusion of this series, readers will see how the (sinister) Market Paradox in the silver market is directly responsible for this incredible Investment Paradox.

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Comments (3)Add Comment
Jeff Nielson
...
written by Jeff Nielson, November 19, 2012
Jeff: I would assume that you will have a Part III that will explore true future scarcity of silver due to YOY incrementally declining ore grades mined, inflation-plus cost rises (diesel water and labor)and certainly the financing problems now evident in the PM sector which will preclude many projects from ever reaching production stage. SRSrocco (SilverDoctors)has done some very astute analysis on these issues; equally as good as you are on the macro issues.


Apberusdisvet, unfortunately there isn't any "room" in a series of this size to get into such detailed, technical arguments. In fact, I've been meaning to do precisely the sort of piece you describe for many months now.

The problem is that while I have SOME of the data I need to do an effective write-up which (more or less) covers this topic, it's hard to get enough (reliable) data on these areas to do a piece which is more conclusive than speculative.

Certainly, there IS a real issue with the declining quality of (undeveloped) silver deposits in the world, both in terms of grades AND tonnages. And as with gold (but not quite to the same extreme); the larger/better deposits which DO remain tend to be much less accessible -- due to geographic and/or political considerations.
apberusdisvet
...
written by apberusdisvet, November 19, 2012
Jeff: I would assume that you will have a Part III that will explore true future scarcity of silver due to YOY incrementally declining ore grades mined, inflation-plus cost rises (diesel water and labor)and certainly the financing problems now evident in the PM sector which will preclude many projects from ever reaching production stage. SRSrocco (SilverDoctors)has done some very astute analysis on these issues; equally as good as you are on the macro issues.
LarrytheLock
...
written by LarrytheLock, November 19, 2012
Very good piece, I totally agree and I am strongly invested in way way market undervalued companies like Arian Silver.

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