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 INDEX  >   Gold's 'ugly sister' gets a second look
Published by Market Watch: May. 14, 2010 Myra P . Saefong


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TOKYO (MarketWatch) -- Investors are finally giving gold's "ugly sister" a second look.

Silver's gains in recent months have significantly outpaced gold's, with silver climbing around 30% since early February, compared with gold's nearly 17% price gain.

And some analysts say silver hasn't yet caught the attention it deserves.

Investors "are not taking notice yet it looks like the world is far more focusing on gold," said Gijsbert Groenewegen, a managing partner at Silver Arrow Capital Management.

That's fair to say given that silver's more than two-year high above $19 pales in comparison to gold's highest-ever settlement price of more than $1,243 an ounce in New York for its most-active futures contract. Groenewegen pointed out that the average gold-silver ratio is 52, but the ratio is currently around 63, "so silver has some catching up to do."

"While silver has outperformed gold in recent months, it has massively underperformed gold over the long term," said Mark O'Byrne, a director at GoldCore, an international bullion dealer.

Gold's nearly 50% above its nominal high in 1980 of $850, while silver remains at less than 60% of its 1980 high of around $50, he said.

"Investors continue to view silver as gold's ugly sister," he said.

There has been no talk of pension funds, high net worth individuals, or large hedge funds investing in silver as of yet, O'Byrne said. "This will change in the coming months, and this is when silver is likely to really move up in price."

Playing follow the leader

For now, in the world of precious metals, gold remains the king.

"Silver is 'poor man's gold' and will ride on the coattails of gold, but gold is the true hedge against the demise of fiat currency," said Mark Leibovit, chief market strategist for

Even so, it's silver that's poised to garner the attention in the months and years to come.

"Silver will continue to follow gold moves in the short term and medium term but in the long term, silver will move on its own," said Chintan Karnani, chief analyst at Insignia Consultants in New Delhi.

Silver's "quality as money" is already starting to move into the picture as investment demand in the iShares Silver Trust exchange-traded fund /quotes/comstock/13*!slv/quotes/nls/slv (SLV 18.04, +0.18, +1.01%) alone jumped 200 metric tons over the last seven days, said Julian Phillips, an editor at As of Thursday, silver in the trust totaled 9,191.37 metric tons and the trust's average one-year total returns, as of March 31, stands at 32.81%. See the ETF's latest data.

"Silver's price will be driven by physical demand, not by the futures market, so ETFs like the Silver Trust will be good indicators of that demand," Phillips said.

Meeting the need

Demand itself is certainly looking up.

"The U.S. Mint and Canadian Mint continue to experience very high demand for silver eagles and silver maple leafs and premiums for these coins are beginning to move up again," said O'Byrne.

And "even though silver production is rising, investment demand, alongside industrial demand, is growing quickly, eliminating what remains of lack of demand from photography," Phillips said.

He also pointed out that silver is consumed and not recovered from these sources.

So "until newly-mined silver grows in large volumes, we believe that silver demand will outpace production, thus pointing to a better future for silver than for gold," said Phillips.

Silver on the run

Many analysts also agree that silver's run is built to last.

Phillips said it's possible for silver to hit $29 "on this run alone."

There's also potential feedstock for the rally on the horizon.

Prosecutors' criminal investigation into J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!jpm/quotes/nls/jpm (JPM 37.57, +0.24, +0.64%) includes the company's activities in the silver market, "where commentators have for years been accusing them of market manipulation," said Phillips. J.P. Morgan has said that it hasn't received any notice of a criminal probe.

"If these commentators are right, then J.P. Morgan has a massive short position which will have to be closed," he said. "If that has to be done with physical silver, the silver price will leap to our target level if not higher and quickly."

Against that backdrop, the upside for silver could "ultimately be to $100, though short-term I would be grateful to see it above its $22 2008 high," said's Leibovit.

Either way, "the waiting may be over and silver's strength is likely to last for two or three years," O'Byrne said. But silver investors need to have patience because when silver prices fall, "it takes a few months to start a big and speedy bull run," said Insignia Consultants' Karnani, noting that whenever gold and silver prices fall together, silver has a tendency of falling more than gold.

"Silver has more uses than gold and is much more fundamentally bullish than gold," he said. However, gold has a safe haven appeal which silver does not have, he said.

Still, "silver is a highly undervalued commodity and whenever the valuation catches up with fundamentals, silver prices will zoom," he said.

Karnani voiced confidence that silver will test $24 in 2010 and $30 in 2011.

"For a long-term investor (3-4 years), silver is an attractive investment even at the current prices," he said.

Myra P. Saefong is MarketWatch's assistant global markets editor, based in Tokyo.

© 2010 MarketWatch .com  Article Source
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