2015 Silver Series Part 4: Making The Case For Silver
In the previous parts of The Silver Series, we’ve shown that silver has a rich and multi-faceted history with applications in money, health, and technology. We’ve covered the metal’s supply and geological origins, as well as the growing demand stemming from industry, investment, and other areas.
However, the real question for investors boils down to this: is it worth it to hold silver bullion or equities in a portfolio?
Silver and Gold
The two major precious metals are alike in many ways. They’ve both been used as money for thousands of years, and both are considered a store of wealth today. However, to understand the nuances of silver as an asset, it is important to keep in mind a couple of key differences that it holds from the yellow metal.
The most obvious difference is that silver is used much more widespread in industry than gold. Approximately 50% of all demand stems from technological applications like photovoltaics, automobiles, batteries, and other such uses. This gives silver a potentially wider range of demand triggers.
The other major difference is that in comparison to the gold market, silver trades thinly and with much higher volatility. In 2014, there was $20.4 billion of demand for physical silver and $159.7 billion demand for physical gold. Even more interesting, these physical markets are less than 1% the size of the total markets when factoring paper trades like derivatives, futures contracts, and options.
Silver typically hits higher highs and lower lows than gold. To the savvy investor, this creates great opportunity.
Why Own Silver?
The reasons an investor should consider exposure to silver can be summed up with three key points.
Silver has little or no correlation with most asset classes such as bonds, stocks, or real estate. This is because silver prices move based on supply and demand, but also because of other factors such as the global economic environment, futures market speculators, currency markets, the level of inflation or deflation, and central bank policy decisions. Even though silver itself is more volatile than many other asset classes, it does help reduce the overall risk of a portfolio by having less correlation to other asset classes. Over the last eight years, silver’s correlation to treasuries and bonds have been basically zero (-0.07 and 0.08 respectively). It has slightly higher correlation with US equities (0.23) and real estate (0.13).
2. Safe Haven
When the times get tough, silver is your friend. Even in the most challenging environments it holds its value or bucks the negative global trends.
How did silver do in the four years surrounding the Financial Crisis? Over a period where US equities, emerging markets, and REITs were down, silver more than doubled in value from 2007-2011.
3. Fundamentals and Value
The fundamental numbers around silver make it quite clear that silver could provide extreme value as an investment. Here are some key numbers:
- In the earth’s crust, there is 1 gram of silver for every 12.5 tonnes of rock.
- For centuries since ancient times, the gold-to-silver ratio was 15 to 1. That means 1 oz of gold could buy 15 oz of silver.
- In the earth’s crust, there is 19x more silver than gold by mass.
- The “modern” gold-to-silver ratio is closer to 50 to 1.
- Yet, in mid-2015 the ratio is 75 to 1, which means silver could be very undervalued relative to gold.
- The silver price, in terms of USD, is also at its lowest point in five years.
- Silver miners are even cheaper, trading at their lowest valuation in years.
Silver, the metal itself, continues to have the same impressive properties, supply and demand fundamentals, and a rich history as money. What has changed is what people are willing to pay for it at a given time.
Right now it seems that silver is being sold for half price.
That’s the end of our Silver Series. Thanks for reading!
Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita
Wealthy countries consume large amounts of natural resources per capita, and the U.S. is no exception. See how much is used per person.
Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita
Wealthy countries consume massive amounts of natural resources per capita, and the United States is no exception.
According to data from the National Mining Association, each American needs more than 39,000 pounds (17,700 kg) of minerals and fossil fuels annually to maintain their standard of living.
Materials We Need to Build
Every building around us and every sidewalk we walk on is made of sand, steel, and cement.
As a result, these materials lead consumption per capita in the United States. On average, each person in America drives the demand of over 10,000 lbs of stone and around 7,000 lbs of sand and gravel per year.
|Material/Fossil Fuel||Pounds Per Person|
The construction industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy.
Crushed stone, sand, gravel, and other construction aggregates represent half of the industrial minerals produced in the country, resulting in $29 billion in revenue per year.
Also on the list are crucial hard metals such as copper, aluminum, iron ore, and of course many rarer metals used in smaller quantities each year. These rarer metals can make a big economic difference even when their uses are more concentrated and isolated—for example, palladium (primarily used in catalytic converters) costs $54 million per tonne.
Fuels Powering our Lives
Despite ongoing efforts to fight climate change and reduce carbon emissions, each person in the U.S. uses over 19,000 lbs of fossil fuels per year.
Gasoline is the most consumed petroleum product in the United States.
In 2021, finished motor gasoline consumption averaged about 369 million gallons per day, equal to about 44% of total U.S. petroleum use. Distillate fuel oil (20%), hydrocarbon gas liquids (17%), and jet fuel (7%) were the next most important uses.
Reliance on Other Countries
Over the past three decades, the United States has become reliant on foreign sources to meet domestic demand for minerals and fossil fuels. Today, the country is 100% import-reliant for 17 mineral commodities and at least 50% for 30 others.
In order to reduce the dependency on other countries, namely China, the Biden administration has been working to diversify supply chains in critical minerals. This includes strengthening alliances with other countries such as Australia, India, and Japan.
However, questions still remain about how soon these policies can make an impact, and the degree to which they can ultimately help localize and diversify supply chains.
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