16 June 2009

Silver Smoking Guns

This recent post (well delayed for those not subscribing to Tom Szabo's Metal Augmentor) is the sort of quality analysis that I wish many of the so-called silver experts would do. Worth reading.

For those pressed for time, some excerpts:

What if, instead, we studied the Bank Participation Report under the assumption that it is NOT a smoking gun? Can we then find some use in it? I humbly offer one hypothesis.

Let’s go out on a limb and suppose that the increase in the COMEX silver short futures positions by the U.S. banks did not directly cause the price of silver to fall. This is actually pretty easy to do since the short futures positions were put on before the price of silver actually fell.

If the short futures position of the U.S. banks didn’t cause the price of silver to fall, which is obviously true, perhaps the same market conditions that did cause the price of silver to fall also resulted in the banks establishing the large short futures position. How would that work?

To answer the question, we obviously need to look at the market conditions that prevailed during the relevant time frame. And because we have hypothetically eliminated the “smoking gun thesis”, we must now substitute bona fide market forces for the price manipulation that is alleged to have caused the price of silver to decline precipitously.

... if the banks are still holding their COMEX short positions as hedges against loan collateral in the form of physical silver and gold, that could represent a dangerous overhang to the market. It is especially troubling that the loans have not been paid back in almost a year. Another squeeze in liquidity could cause more defaults that would force the banks to sell the silver and gold collateral. One possible early manifestation of this would be a sudden jump in the contango especially as measured by the LBMA silver forward rates.

... I’ll just note that while we’ve had quite a climb in the silver forward rates since the mild backwardation in the shorter maturities earlier this year, we haven’t reached the critical point. In my estimation, the critical point would be reached if the normalized forward rate (after removing the effect of interest) climbs above the historical average. This is something to watch closely while the bank participation in COMEX silver futures remains so large and so short, and I intend to do just that.

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