Silver Hits 31-Year High as Mints Ration Silver Coins

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Intense investor demand for bullion pushed silver to a new record today, touching a 31-year high of $31.77 an ounce before settling at $3.57, up 94.1 cents (+3.07%) on the day.

Mints in several countries, including Austria, Canada and the USA, sold record numbers of silver coins in January, and selling has reached such a fever pitch that these mints have had to ration their selling. In a Financial Times interview, Royal Canadian Mint head of bullion sales David Madge said, “We have sold everything we can produce in silver, and have demand for at least twice that volume.”

The price of silver increased by an impressive 84 percent in 2010 (outperformed only by palladium’s 96 percent rise), and with the fundamentals that drove silver up last year still in place, many analysts see silver growing substantially in 2011, although a repeat of last year’s 84 percent rise is unlikely.

Silver continues to out-perform gold, as illustrated by the silver-gold ratio (the number of ounces of silver that buys an ounce of gold) falling under 44, its lowest point in almost five years. Gold is currently down 2.5 percent from its 2010 close, although its price appears to be back on the upswing.

Silver, like gold, is currently reaping the benefits of investor anxiety over the heightening turmoil in the Middle East, as well as a declining U.S. dollar, which is taking a hard hit from rising U.S. unemployment, rising inflation, and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s ongoing quantitative easing program, which is printing $75 billion in new greenbacks each month.

Silver’s headline-grabbing performance today rubbed off on silver producers. Silvercorp Metals Inc. (SVM:TSX) advanced 43 cents (+3.57%) to $12.48; Silver Wheaton Corp. (SLW:TSX) rose 79 cents (+2.23%) to $36.22; and Pan American Silver Corp. (PSS:TSX) gathered 58 cents (+1.69%) to $34.95.

Goldcorp Inc. (G:TSX), which in addition to its gold mining is a leading silver producer, added 46 cents (+1.05%) to $44.10.

Silver-backed ETFs (exchange-traded funds) also saw healthy gains today. The Sprott Physical Silver Trust (PSLV:NYSE) advanced 54 cents (+4%) to $14.04; the iShares Silver Trust ETF (SLV:NYSE) gained $1.07 (+3.57%) to $31.03; the Powershares DB Silver Fund (DBS:NYSE) added $1.89 (+3.52%) to $55.64, and the Silver Miners ETF (SIL:NYSE) was up 65 cents (+2.68%) to $24.91.

The ETFS White Metals Basket Trust (WITE:NYSE), which combines silver with platinum and palladium, gathered $1.24 (+2.23%) to $56.91.

Source: Gold Investor & Jay Taylor

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