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Silver Shines in 2016 – and May Shine Even Brighter in 2017
(October 18, 2016 update)

Silver has quietly out-performed gold and the other precious metals in 2016. It has also out-performed most other commodities so far in 2016. Among the 30 most widely-traded commodity futures contracts, 18 of them are up so far in 2016 and 12 are down. Silver and gold are among the top five commodities so far in 2016:

Year-to-date Performance (through October18)

Top-Performing Commodities Worst-Performing Commodities
Sugar +52.45% Oats -22.92%
Orange Juice +31.09% Rough Rice -20.78%
SILVER +26.48% Wheat -20.54%
GOLD +18.68% Feeder Cattle -17.01%
Palladium +19.77% Lean Hogs -15.43%
Lumber +16.08% Live Cattle -13.56%
Natural Gas +24.66% Corn -12.01%
Platinum +13.84% Cocoa -11.86%
Source: Barchart.com  

Most of the worst-performing commodities so far in 2016 are found in agriculture, led by hogs (-32.8%), cattle (-22.5%) and wheat (-16.6%). Despite a generally slow-rising inflation landscape, silver rose 50% in the first seven months of 2016, rising from $13.82 at the end of 2015 to a peak of $20.71 on August 2. Silver traded over $20 per ounce for most of July and August before falling below $20 in mid-August and trading around $17 to $18 was we write.

Silver rose 50% in the first seven months of 2016, rising from $13.82 at the end of 2015 to a peak of $20.71 on August 2.  Silver traded over $20 for most of July and August but has since dipped below $19. Silver tends to vacillate in much wider swings than gold due to its smaller market volume (vs. gold). That means that any small increase in silver investment demand can generate large percentage gains in silver.

The industrial applications for silver have changed over the years. The photography market used to be the main industrial driver in the silver market, but the advent of telephones doubling as cameras has changed the demand for film processing. Modern applications are promising in several spheres, including high-capacity batteries. Silver iodide is used for producing artificial rain, a valuable application in the drought-ridden parts of the world, and silver is also used in traditional applications like mirrors and coatings.  

Silver industrial fabrication has grown by well over 50% in the last six years, from barely 400 million ounces in 2009 to over 650 million ounces in 2015.  The growth in industrial silver applications is fairly steady over time, but the most dynamic component of the silver price equation is investment demand. 

Silver is a narrowly traded market. The total world investment holdings in silver amount to $51 billion vs. $3.04 trillion in investment gold.  That’s a 60-to-1 ratio. If only a small portion of the money from stocks, bonds and currencies turns to silver for greater profit potential, that could push silver prices up sharply.

Silver’s Long-Term Gains and Future Prospects

On July 23, 1965, the U.S. government began to eliminate silver from newly-minted dimes and quarter. It also reduced the silver content of circulating half dollars from 90% to 40%. Then, silver in the circulating half-dollar was fully eliminated by 1970. Silver didn’t rise sharply at first. In 1966, silver traded at $1.29.

Since then, silver has risen to around $18, a gain of 1,295% in the last 50 years.  At the same time, the dollar has collapsed in terms of gold and silver.  Fifty years ago, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) stood at 32.75.  The latest CPI reading is 241.43. This means the CPI is up 637% in the last 50 years. Since silver has gained 1,295% in the same 50 years, silver has risen at twice the pace of inflation.

Silver hit its all-time high of $50 per ounce in January of 1980, but it came close to topping that level five years ago, when silver closed at $48.70 in London on April 28, 2011.  Since then, silver’s low was set on January 28, 2016 at $13.58 per ounce. If we see just a small percentage of rising investment demand in the silver market, the leverage in the thinly-traded silver market could send prices above $20 fairly fast.

How to Buy Silver for Maximum Capital Gains

There are various ways to purchase silver bullion. You can buy bars of one ounce and up. The bigger the bar you buy, the less the premium you’ll pay over the spot silver price, but when it comes time to sell, some dealers insist on having the bigger bars assayed for purity and authenticity when you sell them, which incurs time and costs. 

A preferable means of silver accumulation is to buy legal tender bullion coins that come in 1-ounce and 5-ounce sizes that trade at $2 or higher over spot value. These do not typically require assaying, but there are some counterfeits out there, so you must buy or sell with true experts. There are also one-ounce coin-sized silver bullion rounds that are typically .999 pure that trade closer to spot value than coins. The buy-sell spread on rounds are typically less, so they are a convenient way to buy and sell typically at the least cost.  However, there are counterfeits. The most important caution is to “know your dealer” when you buy and sell all of these silver products.

About First Fidelity Reserve® & AMAC Money Columnist Dr. Mike Fuljenz
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Dr. Mike Fuljenz, First Fidelity Reserve® Chief Numismatic Consultant

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Meet America's Gold Expert® Dr. Mike Fuljenz

Known as America's Gold Expert®, First Fidelity Reserve® Numismatic Consultant, Dr. Michael Fuljenz has won more than 50 prestigious national and regional awards for his consumer education and protection work in rare coins and precious metals.

His books, media appearances and newsletters about gold and rare coins have won Best of the Year awards from the Numismatic Literary Guild and the Press Club of Southeast Texas, and he received the NLG's coveted top honor in 2013, "The Clemy Award." Dr. Mike Fuljenz is a frequent expert guest on local and national business and personal finance programs, such as Fox Business Network and CNBC, and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger's, Los Angeles Times and other broadcast, print and online news media.

A respected community leader in his hometown of Beaumont, Texas, Fuljenz is a Past President of the Diocese of Beaumont Catholic School Board and received the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Award. He has served with distinction as a consultant to the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Postal Service, General Services Administration, United States Mint and Royal Canadian Mint, and is on the Boards of Directors of both Crime Stoppers of Beaumont and the influential Industry Council For Tangible Assets.

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