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The Silver Series: Making The Case For Silver (Part 4 of 4)

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Making the Case for Silver as an Asset

Part 1: The Many Phases of SilverPart 2: Who Controls The World's Silver Supply?Part 3: The World's Growing Demand For SilverPart 4: Making The Case For Silver

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.

1. Diversification.

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!

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Green

The New Energy Era: The Lithium-Ion Supply Chain

Is the U.S. positioned to win the battery arms race, or will China remain in control of the world’s transition to renewable energy?

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The world is rapidly shifting to renewable energy technologies.

Battery minerals are set to become the new oil, with lithium-ion battery supply chains becoming the new pipelines.

China is currently leading this lithium-ion battery revolution—leaving the U.S. dependent on its economic rival. However, the harsh lessons of the 1970-80s oil crises have increased pressure on the U.S. to develop its own domestic energy supply chain and gain access to key battery metals.

Introducing the New Energy Era

Today’s infographic from Standard Lithium explores the current energy landscape and America’s position in the new energy era.

lithium ion supply chain us china

An Energy Dependence Problem

Energy dependence is the degree of a nation’s reliance on imported energy, resulting from an insufficient domestic supply. Oil crises in the 1970-80s revealed America’s reliance on foreign produced oil, especially from the Middle East.

The U.S. economy ground to a halt when gas prices soared during the 1973 oil crisis—altering consumer behavior and energy policy for generations. In the aftermath of the crisis, the government imposed national speed limits to conserve oil, and also demanded cheaper, smaller, and more fuel-efficient cars.

U.S. administrations set an objective to wean America off foreign oil through “energy independence”—the ability to meet the country’s fuel needs using domestic resources.

Lessons Learned?

Spurred by technological breakthroughs such as hydraulic fracking, the U.S. now has the capacity to respond to high oil prices by ramping up domestic production.

By the end of 2019, total U.S. oil production could rise to 17.4 million barrels a day. At that level, American net imports of petroleum could fall in December 2019 to 320,000 barrels a day, the lowest since 1949.

In fact, the successful development of America’s shale fields is a key reason why the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has lost the majority of its influence over the supply and price of oil.

A Renewable Future: Turning the Ship

The increasing scarcity of economic oil and gas fields, combined with the negative environmental impacts of oil and the declining costs of renewable power, are creating a new energy supply and demand dynamic.

Oil demand could drop by 16.5 million barrels per day. Oil producers could face significant losses, with $380 billion of above-ground investments becoming worthless if the oil industry and oil-rich nations are not prepared for a surge in green energy by 2030.

Energy companies are hedging their risk with increased investment in renewables. The world’s top 24 publicly-listed oil companies spent on average 1.3% of their total budgets on low carbon technology in 2018, amounting to $260 billion. That is double the 0.68% the same group had invested on average through the period of 2010 and 2017.

The New Geopolitics of Energy: Battery Minerals

Low carbon technologies for the new energy era are also creating a demand for specific materials and new supply chains that can procure them.

Renewable and low carbon technology will be mineral intensive, requiring many metals such as lithium, cobalt, graphite and nickel. These are key raw materials, and demand will only grow.

Material201820282018-2028 % Growth
Graphite anode in Batteries170,000 tonnes2.05M tonnes1,106%
Lithium in batteries150,000 tonnes1.89M tonnes1,160%
Nickel in batteries82,000 tonnes1.09M tonnes1,229%
Cobalt in batteries58,000 tonnes320,000 tonnes452%
(Source: Benchmark Minerals)

The cost of these materials is the largest factor in battery technology, and will determine whether battery supply chains succeed or fail.

China currently dominates the lithium-ion battery supply chain, and could continue to do so. This leaves the U.S. dependent on China as we venture into this new era.

Could history repeat itself?

The Battery Metals Race

There are five stages in a lithium-ion battery supply chain—and the U.S. holds a smaller percentage of the global supply chain than China at nearly every stage.

Lithium-Ion Supply Chain

China’s dominance of the global battery supply chain creates a competitive advantage that the U.S. has no choice but to rely on.

However, this can still be prevented if the United States moves fast. From natural resources, human capital and the technology, the U.S. can build its own domestic supply.

Building the U.S. Battery Supply Chain

The U.S. relies heavily on imports of several keys materials necessary for a lithium-ion battery supply chain.

U.S. Net Import Dependence
Lithum50%
Cobalt72%
Graphite100%
(Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management)

But the U.S. is making strides to secure its place in the new energy era. The American Minerals Security Act seeks to identify the resources necessary to secure America’s mineral independence.

The government has also released a list of 35 minerals it deems critical to the national interest.

Declaring U.S. Battery Independence

A supply chain starts with raw materials, and the U.S. has the resources necessary to build its own battery supply chain. This would help the country avoid supply disruptions like those seen during the oil crises in the 1970s.

Battery metals are becoming the new oil and supply chains the new pipelines. It is still early in this new energy era, and the victors are yet to be determined in the battery arms race.

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Base Metals

Prove Your Metal: Top 10 Strongest Metals on Earth

There are 91 elements that are defined as metals but not all are the same. Here is a breakdown of the top 10 strongest metals and their applications.

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Prove Your Metal: Top 10 Strongest Metals on Earth

The use of metals and the advancement of human civilization have gone hand in hand — and throughout the ages, each metal has proved its worth based on its properties and applications.

Today’s visualization from Viking Steel Structures outlines the 10 strongest metals on Earth and their applications.

What are Metals?

Metals are solid materials that are typically hard, shiny, malleable, and ductile, with good electrical and thermal conductivity. But not all metal is equal, which makes their uses as varied as their individual properties and benefits.

The periodic table below presents a simple view of the relationship between metals, nonmetals, and metalloids, which you can easily identify by color.

The Periodic Table

While 91 of the 118 elements of the periodic table are considered to be metals, only a few of them stand out as the strongest.

What Makes a Metal Strong?

The strength of a metal depends on four properties:

  1. Tensile Strength: How well a metal resists being pulled apart
  2. Compressive Strength: How well a material resists being squashed together
  3. Yield Strength: How well a rod or beam of a particular metal resists bending and permanent damage
  4. Impact Strength: The ability to resist shattering upon impact with another object or surface

Here are the top 10 metals based on these properties.

The Top 10 Strongest Metals

RankType of MetalExample UseAtomic WeightMelting Point
#1TungstenMaking bullets and missiles183.84 u3422°C / 6192 °F
#2 SteelConstruction of railroads, roads, other infrastructure and appliancesn/a1371°C / 2500°F
#3ChromiumManufacturing stainless steel51.96 u1907°C / 3465°F,
#4TitaniumIn the aerospace Industry, as a lightweight material with strength47.87 u1668°C / 3032°F
#5IronUsed to make bridges, electricity, pylons, bicycle chains, cutting tools and rifle barrels55.85 u1536°C / 2800°F
#6Vanadium80% of vanadium is alloyed with iron to make steel shock and corrosion resistance50.942 u1910°C / 3470°F
#7LutetiumUsed as catalysts in petroleum production.174.96 u1663 °C / 3025°F
#8ZirconiumUsed in nuclear power stations.91.22 u1850°C / 3.362°F
#9OsmiumAdded to platinum or indium to make them harder.190.2 u3000°C / 5,400°F
#10TantalumUsed as an alloy due to its high melting point and anti-corrosion.180.94 u3,017°C / 5462°F

Out of the Forge and into Tech: Metals for the Future

While these metals help to forge the modern world, there is a new class of metals that are set to create a new future.

Rare Earth elements (REEs) are a group of metals do not rely on their strength, but instead their importance in applications in new technologies, including those used for green energy.

MetalUses
NeodymiumMagnets containing neodymium are used in green technologies such as the manufacture of wind turbines and hybrid cars.
LanthanumUsed in catalytic converters in cars, enabling them to run at high temperatures
CeriumThis element is used in camera and telescope lenses.
PraseodymiumUsed to create strong metals for use in aircraft engines.
GadoliniumUsed in X-ray and MRI scanning systems, and also in television screens.
Yttrium, terbium, europiumMaking televisions and computer screens and other devices that have visual displays.

If the world is going to move towards a more sustainable and efficient future, metals—both tough and smart—are going to be critical. Each one will serve a particular purpose to build the infrastructure and technology for the next generation.

Our ability to deploy technology with the right materials will test the world’s mettle to meet the challenges of tomorrow—so choose wisely.

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