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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Silver to outperform gold

Eric Sprott believes that silver is likely to be the investment of the decade and could easily get to $50 per ounce by the end of the 2011. Eric Sprott is the founder of the Toronto-based investment firm, Sprott Asset Management LP. His renowned hedge fund, Sprott Hedge Fund LP, is heavily weighted in precious metals and has generated an estimated 23% annualized return over the past decade.

Silver promises to become the next big buzzword among investors in 2011 and beyond, according to one of the investment industry’s most prescient and successful experts on precious metals. “I think that silver could easily get to $50 this year,” Sprott tells BNWnews.ca.

Meanwhile, Sprott says the big catalyst for surging silver prices in the coming years will be exponentially increasing investment demand, which is already beginning to overwhelm existing silver supplies. The mining industry only produces around 800 tonnes of silver per annum. This is a relatively inelastic supply, regardless of silver prices, he adds.

As household investors are becoming increasingly jittery about the debasement of the U.S. dollar and other major currencies, they are loading up in record numbers on silver bars, coins and silver-denominated exchange traded funds, Sprott says.

However, there’s also a quantum shift in investment demand taking place among big players in the precious metals market, including India (which is aiming to increase its imports by about 77 million ounces per annum), and of course China.

“China’s net imports of silver were 112 million ounces last year. In 2005, they were net exporters of 100 million ounces,” he says. “That’s a 200 million ounce shift in an 800 million ounce annual market that seldom ever grows because production hardly ever goes up. So where’s it all going to come from? We don’t know.”

In fact, silver promises to outshine gold over the coming years, Sprott says. “Silver is the poor man’s gold. Gold has had a great run for the past 11 years. But I absolutely believe that silver will outperform gold this year. Currently, there’s more investment dollars going into silver than into gold.”

Such a game-changing scenario should recalibrate the gold to silver pricing ratio in silver’s favor, thereby eventually restoring it to its traditional level of about 16 to 1, he says. “It’s the easiest call of all time.”

“Silver as a currency always traded in a ratio of around 16 to 1 compared to gold, when it was a currency in the U.S. and the U.K. The current ratio is 48 to 1. If we go back to a 16 to 1 ratio, the implied price for silver would be $85.62 (per ounce).” he adds.

“On that basis, if gold goes to $1,600, then that would value silver at $100. And we certainly think that gold is going to $1,600. In fact, I’m willing to bet that this ratio will overshoot on the downside. It might even get to 10 to one.”

The only reason why silver is still trading at a 48 to 1 ratio to bullion’s spot price is that its price is being “manipulated” by big banks, Sprott says. That’s because they don’t want precious metals to become a popular alternative currency to Fiat money (currencies that are not backed by hard assets).

“Then there’s also a huge short position out there on silver,” he adds.

But time is on silver’s side, he says, as the sovereignty debt crisis deepens in Europe and a continued policy of qquantitative easing in the U.S. continues to undermine the value of the greenback.

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China Will Continue to Dominate the Rare Earths Market in 2011

Editor’s Note: Prices for many precious and base metals hit record highs in 2010, as economic uncertainty rattled around the globe. What does 2011 hold for gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper and other metals? Kitco News reporters have prepared a series of stories which examine what is in store for 2011, not only for metals but for currencies, stocks and the overall economy. These stories will be posted on Kitco.com during the holiday period and also will be featured in a special section. Stay tuned for video highlights as well.

(Kitco News) – China’s dominance of global rare earths output will continue in 2011, yet at the same time other nations are starting to make preparations to pull more metal from the ground and reduce China’s stranglehold on the market in future years.

Until the last few months, the mention of rare earth metals likely would elicit a blank stare unless the conversation involved someone in a specific sector that uses the elements.

Rare earth metals, known as REEs, burst into the mainstream media limelight during the past several months, with articles in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, on major wire services and televised segments on CNBC. The big exposure came with a flap that developed when China, which controls 95% to 97% of the current REE global output, stopped exporting to the Japanese.

Fears continue over the supply of rare earth metals, which consist of 17 elements used in creating a variety of consumer, environmental and industrial-driven technological products. Despite some movement expected in 2011 and beyond to develop greater supply from other global sources, the Chinese still hold the shovel.

“They have the ability to dictate the market if they want to,” said Charl Malan, senior metals and mining analyst at Van Eck Global. The company offers a number of metals-related investments and this fall started the first U.S.-listed exchange-traded fund for equities of companies involved with producing, refining and recycling rare earth/strategic metals.

“With rare earths growth in the next five years about 225,000 tons, that’s about 9% (year-on-year) growth number,” Malan said. “Currently, supply is about 125,000 tons, out of which China produces about 120,000 tons.”

Major importers have come to depend on China due to its ability to manufacture REEs at a reasonable cost. The embargo China placed on exports to Japan has been devastating to the Japanese and shows the strength of the REE demand China commands. Japan was the leading importer of REEs.

“News out of China is a big part of it,” said The Mercenary Geologist Mickey Fulp. “It is a purely speculative sector. As news comes out of China about export quotas, relaxing export quotas or news of any kind on that regard supply and demand fundamentals of the rare earth elements sector is going to affect prices.”

Fulp said China controls well over 90% of the current supply. The dominance is mainly because the Chinese have developed the ability to manufacture these minerals in such a way that the rest of the world could be falling behind quickly, not because rare earth metals are really that rare.

“For me, if I look at the bigger picture for rare earths, this is what’s essential,” Malan of Van Eck said. “There’s an abundance of rare earths around the world. It’s not so much the mining, it’s the fact we don’t have the manufacturing capacity and we don’t have the skill sets or the equipment. That’s my biggest concern.”

Malan believes that China has invested its resources in such a way that it is now properly positioned for the future in terms of manufacturing capacity, but more importantly, well placed from a knowledge standpoint.

“To have the refined product really work, you obviously need very highly educated, highly skilled people specifically within an industry,” Malan said. “There’s something like 800 people with Ph.D.s specifically linked to rare earths. They don’t just focus on the equipment, the processing and the manufacturing side of it but also the manpower and the knowledge base behind it.”

A half century ago China was not among the leading producers of REEs. Between 1950 and 1980, the U.S., India, South Africa and Brazil were considered to be the front-runners in production. During the 1980s, China began underselling competitors, leading to consumers purchasing cheap supply from the Chinese.

This had a negative effect on REE mines in several countries, leading to most being shut down. Molycorp Minerals mine in California was once the largest REE producer in the world but was forced to close in 2002. The mine is set to reopen in 2011 and should begin contributing production by 2012.
“In 2012, there will be additional supply from Molycorp which will be 20,000 (metric) tons,” said Marino G. Pieterse, publisher and editor of Gold Letter International, Uranium Letter International and Rare Earths Elements International.
Molycorp is not the only rare earths company beginning REE production in the next few years.
“In 2013 you’ll have three other companies that will begin producing REEs,” Pieterse said. “Frontier Rare Earths will produce 10-20,000 (metric) tons, Greenland Minerals and Earths LTD will have 40,000 (metric) tons and then there’s Rare Elements Resources LTD, which will have 20,000 (metric) tons.”
Lynas Corporation in Australia is also slated to begin REE production, with tonnage reaching over 20,000.
Analysts said that the move towards wider production could mean there will be an over-supply of REEs by 2014-2015, which will bring stability to prices.
Despite the title of being rare, REEs are in abundance. With countries other than China developing the means to manufacture these metals coupled with the need to introduce and maintain greener technologies, REEs are expected to perform well in the coming years.
“I see bigger and better things for the entire sector,” Fulp said.
——
Scandium
Aluminum alloy: aerospace
Yttrium
Phosphors, ceramics, lasers
Lanthanum
Re-chargeable batteries
Cerium
Batteries, catalysts, glass polishing
Praseodymium
Magnets, glass colorant
Neodymium
Magnets, lasers, glass
Promethium
Nuclear batteries
Samarium
Magnets, lasers, lighting
Europium
TV color phosphors: red
Gadolinium
Superconductors, magnets
Terbium
Phosphors: green, fluorescent lights
Dysprosium
Magnets, lasers
Holmium
Lasers
Erbium
Lasers, vanadium steel
Thulium
X-ray source, ceramics
Yterrbium
Infrared lasers, high reactive glass
Lutetium
Catalyst, PET scanners

Silver Will Reach An Unbelievable Price and Outperform Gold

By Mark O’Byrne | February 2, 2011 7:13 AM EST

Hopes of economic recovery swept stocks higher in New York yesterday and this confidence spread to Asian equity markets. European stocks are tentatively higher as concerns about Egypt and geopolitical risk may be hampering gains. Oil prices remain near recent record highs (brent rose above $102 a barrel) and there are hopes that geopolitical tensions will subside, markets will remain calm and there will not be panic buying of oil and a new oil crisis.

Silver is marginally lower today in all currencies, but recent action suggests we may have seen capitulation and are in the process of bottoming out. Physical demand remains robust and both jewelers and investors are using the sell off as an opportunity to buy on the dip.

Demand for US Silver Eagles exceeded the record of monthly sales in 1986 by nearly 50% with 6,422,000 one ounce silver bullion coins sold. Yesterday alone saw another 50,000 Silver Eagles sold showing that physical demand for silver remains very robust. Reports of shortages of 100 ounce silver bars are overstated at this stage but there is certainly a degree of tightness developing in the market that we have heretofore not experienced.

Premiums for gold bars in Hong Kong and Singapore remain at the highest level since 2004. While Chinese New Year demand has ebbed, wedding season in India is next month and Indians will accumulate on the dip as they always do. Gold imports in India, the world’s largest consumer of the precious metal, already rose 18 percent in January to 40 tons. Indians buy gold, and increasingly silver, jewelry at religious celebrations and weddings and use it as a store of value.

Legendary investor Jim Rogers speaking to investors in Amsterdam this morning, said that gold is still far from being a bubble and investors should sell bonds and buy precious metals. The chairman of Rogers Holdings, who predicted the start of the global commodities rally in 1999, said that “gold should have a rest but it’s far from being a bubble yet.”

“Gold will have reached an unbelievable price before it starts falling,” Rogers said, who owns gold but prefers silver due to it remaining cheap relative to gold and cheap on a historical basis.

Rogers recently said “silver is going up, but silver is 40% below its all time [nominal] high. Yes, commodities have been going up recently, but they are still extremely depressed on a historic basis.”

(Zero Hedge) — US Mint Sells Absolute Record 6.4 Million Ounces Of Silver In January, 50% More Than Previous Highest Month

As the topic of US Mint silver sales is not new to our readers, after we first brought attention to the record January sales by the Mint, we will not dwell much on it, suffice to say that the final January tally is in. And at 6,472,000 ounces, this is nearly 50% higher than any prior month in the Mint’s 26 years of published sales history. This has occurred, despite supposed profit taking in the paper silver market in January. And just today, another 50k, were sold. It seems that physical buyers continue to enjoy the dip in paper silver that is providing them with an attractive entry point.