Silver Is Quietly Flashing a Buy Signal, But Buyer Beware

Mar.30.09 | About: iShares Silver (SLV)

Anyone who follows the silver market knows that the fundamentals of silver are incredibly strong, long term. Since most silver is mined as a byproduct of base metal mining, and base metal prices are currently depressed by the global recession, inventories of base metals are high, and silver supply is shrinking. Many less profitable mines are closing down. Silver recently went into backwardation, which could indicate delivery problems are imminent in the physical silver market.

The US government currently holds no silver bullion at all, down from five billion ounces immediately after WWII. Above ground silver supplies are currently estimated to be one billion ounces, compared to five billion ounces of gold. This includes silver in tableware, jewelry, and other sources that will never be available on the open market.

For the purposes of this analysis, I will use SLV, the silver ETF, because it is convenient and easy to chart, but keep in mind, this is paper silver, not bullion, and its investment characteristics are completely different. It is supposed to be backed by silver bullion, but if you read the fine print, it may also hold futures, cash, and is allocated to custodians and sub-custodians which cannot be audited. It is designed to track the spot price of silver, but when the spot price of silver falls significantly below the mean, you will find that physical silver dealers will increase their premium over spot rather than drop the price. Holders of SLV cannot demand delivery of the underlying physical silver bullion bars.

On August 25th, 2008 the 50 day moving average of SLV crossed and fell below the 200 day moving average. This is known by technical analysts as the “death cross” and signifies a coming fall in price. SLV closed that day at $13.33

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On October 27th, the price of SLV closed at $8.85 during the panic selling of autumn 2008, a 33.6% drop in two months.

Last Friday, March 27th, 2009, for the first time since August 25th, the 50 day moving average of SLV crossed back above the 200 day MA, which could signal a coming runup in price. SLV closed at $13.15

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I don’t know what term the technical analysts use for that, so I will call it the “life cross” until someone tells me the correct term.

If SLV’s 50 day MA stays above the 200 day MA, rather than bouncing off it, this is an extremely bullish sign for SLV, and astute investors should be keeping a close eye on it for the next week. But here’s the rub.

Silver is the most highly manipulated market in existence, bar none, and the price of silver has been suppressed for many years. Gold is second to silver. The reason that silver is first apparently is that it is a much smaller market than gold, and can be manipulated using a much smaller number of silver futures contracts. Gold prices can be suppressed both by shorting gold futures, and by actual bullion sales by central banks, but these sales are becoming fewer and smaller as central bank gold reserves are reportedly running low, and even those nations with ample supplies of bullion won’t be willing to part with it at the suppressed price, now that governments worldwide are printing money like it’s going out of style.

The best body of work on silver manipulation by far is the writings of Ted Butler, available here.

Check out his articles on February 8, 2009 and March 16, 2009.

Short term traders like to follow the 12 day EMA and 26 day EMA.

On July 29th, 2008 the 12 day EMA of SLV crossed below the 26 day EMA, signaling a coming drop in price. SLV closed that day at $17.19 Three months later, SLV hit its bottom of $8.85 on October 27th , a drop of 48.4% in three months.

On December 12th, 2008 the 12 day EMA of SLV crossed back above the 26 day EMA, signaling a coming runup in price, and has been above it ever since. SLV closed that day at $10.14

On February 23rd, 2009 SLV peaked out at $14.34, an increase of 41.4% in 2 ½ months.

On March 17th, 2009 the 12 day EMA of SLV bounced off the 26 day EMA, and has remained above it ever since, a bullish sign. SLV closed that day at $12.60, and its most recent close on March 27th was $13.15

If the 12 day EMA can stay above the 26 day EMA, look out above!

The following chart shows the long and short positions of various commodities on the Comex as reported by the CFTC for the week of March 16, 2009. Thanks to Mark J Lundeen for the chart. It shows that the net long/short position in silver is 100% short, compared to gold at 63%. I would consider this as prima facie evidence that the CFTC is not doing their job in preventing manipulation of the commercial silver market.

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Disclosure: No positions.