The US Mint has reportedly sold out of 2013 Silver Eagles and has temporarily suspended sales until its inventory is rebuilt.
Strong Silver Eagle sales were part of the buzz last week, but market participants really paid attention on Friday, when news broke that the US Mint had sold out of 2013 Silver Eagles and emailed authorized purchasers to inform them that sales would be temporarily suspended.
With about half of the month still ahead, last week the Mint had already reported sales of 6,007,000 1-ounce silver coins, according to The Wall Street Journal. A Bloomberg article notes that a day earlier, the iShares Silver Trust (ARCA:SLV) confirmed a 572-metric ton increase in holdings, the largest in five years. For some, these events are a clear sign of strong investment interest — and more specifically, surging safe haven demand.
“While it is typical for collectors to snap up newly stamped coins, interest this year has ballooned due to investors seeking refuge from U.S. economic uncertainty,” a Reuters article states.
News about the Mint’s suspension of Silver Eagle sales was one of Friday’s market drivers. March silver on the COMEX hit its highest level in a month intraday, and silver on the New York spot market closed with gains next to gold, which ended the day in the red.
But some market participants warn against reading too much into January’s Silver Eagle sales. They believe the demand is likely seasonal and therefore unlikely to hold up.
In 2011 and 2012, the US Mint also sold over 6 million coins in January. In fact, there was no better month for the Silver Eagle in either year. And in both years, sales fell off after that first month and did not return anywhere close to January levels throughout the year.
Reuters reported that coin dealers are cautious and skeptical that demand in upcoming months will be comparable to what has been seen over the past couple weeks.
“There is always a big boom in the new year when the new issue comes out, and you will see a drop in the next month,”said Miguel Perez-Santalla, vice president of online precious metals exchange Bullion Vault.
“With the U.S. Mint reporting notable sales volumes last November – when the U.S. held elections – and again this month when U.S. fiscal issues are at the forefront, it is easy to infer that some element of the fear trade may be at play. But we do not see much indication that this is indeed the case, and we view the chunky sales of American Eagle coins more a function of seasonality than anything else,” said UBS.
The firm is putting the sales and the theory of strong safe haven demand to the test of time.
“It is important to keep an eye on U.S. coin sales in the coming months to see if volumes remain elevated as the debt ceiling showdown plays out,” UBS added.
Authorized purchasers were advised that the Mint expects Silver Eagle sales to resume on or about the week of January 28,2013.
Securities Disclosure: I, Michelle Smith, do not hold equity interests in any companies mentioned in this article.