By Michelle Smith — Exclusive to Silver Investing News
Silver hasn’t recovered from its leap day fall. Last week closed with the metal still on a low note and this week opened to a similar tune, but a “risk on” vibe has been gaining footing.
Renewed fears of slowing growth in China, prompted by the National People’s Congress (NPC), an annual legislative meeting that was held in Beijing at the beginning of the week, followed the sharp fall in silver prices last Wednesday.
Of note from the NPC was Premier Wen Jiabao’s announcement that China is aiming for economic growth of 7.5 percent this year, lower than the eight percent target of the past eight years, which China has consistently exceeded.
The NPC not only undermined silver and other markets, but also spurred the trend of profit-taking that appeared to be emerging in Asia last week.
US data hasn’t caused much movement in the market this week. On the day that is being dubbed “terrible Tuesday” by some US media sources, CME Group reported that silver dipped to its lowest trade since January 25.
Wednesday was a turning point as the market opened on a more positive note and appeared to be shaking off some of the “risk on” vibe seen earlier. There are some suggestions that silver was benefiting from the recovery of the euro and a rise in US equities. Physical buying in Asia has also been credited with supporting the white metal.
In the US, however, silver prices appear to have largely spoiled investors’ appetite for bullion – or at least bullion from the US Mint. Sales of silver American Eagles plummeted in February by 83 percent to 21,000 ounces compared to 127,000 ounces sold in January.
Wall Street Journal helps silver
An article published in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday reportedly gave silver a boost in some markets, most notably Asia.
According to the article, the Federal Reserve is considering a new option referred to as “sterilized” quantitative easing (QE). This approach would involve the Fed printing more money to buy long-term bonds. The difference between sterilized QE and the QE of the past is that the Fed would tie up the new money by borrowing it back for short periods at low interest rates.
The Fed’s primary motive for tying up the cash is to stamp out concerns that this money printing measure poses the risk of future inflation. However, the key takeaway from that article was the first sentence: “if they [the Fed] decide to take new steps.” As yet the Fed has not indicated that it will.
North American markets didn’t seem to be moved by this information.
Greek debt swap
Part of the optimism seen in markets that trade ahead of those in North America was linked to expectations of positive news about the Greek debt swap, and likely contributed to the push toward a “risk on” vibe in the US.
Today was a notable day in the Greek debt-crisis, as it marked the deadline for the nation to get support for its voluntary debt swap deal. Without at least 75 percent of bondholders agreeing to forgive nearly half the debt owed to them, the International Monetary Fund and EU will refuse to release the latest agreed upon bailout funds, resulting in what many refer to as a “messy default.”
The official results were not released at the time this article was published, but preliminary reports suggest that Greece received more than enough support.
The market will undoubtedly be watching what happens next. Investors should also be aware that monthly US jobs statistics come out tomorrow, and market activity may be linked to them.
The New York spot market closed with silver at $33.88, a $0.45 or 1.35 percent gain for the day, but far below the 30-day high of $37.23 seen on February 28.
The COMEX May silver contract remains down compared to a week ago, when it closed at $35.66. Today’s closing price was $33.90, following the contract’s opening price of $33.48.
Silver mining equities have also performed positively, with only a handful in the red as of market close.
Fresnillo Plc (LSE:FRES), the world’s largest primary silver producer, announced that 2011 was a year of very strong exploration results, with a 23 percent increase in silver resources. It also had an impressive year financially due to high metals prices and record gold production.
According to the preliminary announcement released Tuesday, Fresnillo’s 2011 profit before tax and interest was $1,038.6 million. The company said it declared a final dividend of $0.40 per share, bringing the total for the year to $1.03 per share.
“For 2012, the economic outlook may be uncertain, but our commitment to continuous investment in exploration, productivity improvements, bringing a new mine or expansion online every year for the next five years, cost controls and the enhanced safety culture remains unchanged, supporting long-term value creation for all stakeholders,” CEO Jaime Lomelin said.
Junior mining news
Prospero Silver (TSXV:PSL) announced the acquisition through staking of over 19,000 additional hectares in the Santa Maria del Oro gold/silver district. This addition boosts Prospero’s holdings to about 33,000 hectares surrounding the historic Magistral del Oro mines. Records indicate that oxide ore was mined there at an average grade exceeding 15 g/t Au through the mid-20th century.
Silver Mountain Mines (TSXV:SMM) announced the discovery of high-grade gold and silver zones that warrant follow-up work in 2012 at its British Columbian Ptarmigin property. According to the company’s press release, from 1958-59, approximately 520 tonnes with lead-silver-zinc ore grades averaging 77 oz/t Ag were produced from the Ptarmigin mine.
NSGold (TSXV:NSX) is set to complete the spin-out of NSX Silver. In August 2011, NSX Silver was incorporated with the intention that it would take over NSGold’s Mexican properties and silver exploration, allowing NSGold to devote itself to gold and other metals. The Board of Directors has approved distribution of 43,413,767 common shares of NSX Silver to NSGold shareholders. NSX Silver common shares are expected to being trading on the TSX Venture Exchange on March 14.
Securities Disclosure: I, Michelle Smith, hold no equity interests in the companies mentioned in this article.