Silver has entered a downward spiral and the rest of the year looks bleak

Silver has given back all of its gains for the year.

Since peaking near $US18.60 an ounce mid-April, the precious metal has slumped 13%.

The precious metal is losing its allure with miners, commercial users, and consumers at a pace that’s likely to keep prices under pressure through 2017, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“We believe a price range between $US15/oz and $US20/oz is sustainable in 2017,” said Michael Widmer and other strategists in a recent note.

“In our view, the lack of upside can be fully explained by fundamentals” of demand and supply, they added.

Silver producers have trimmed their spending on finding new mines, they noted. And because it takes several years to move from discovery to production, the slowdown in mining investment is not likely to raise production in a meaningful way.

On the demand side, silver’s use in photography has fallen as most of the industry has transitioned from print to digital. Also, electronics producers are using less of the metal in their appliances. The decline has steepened as devices get smaller.

Widmer further notes that uptake in the jewellery industry, specifically from China, dropped last year, although it’s starting to stabilise.

Investors are taking notice and shunning assets that are benchmarked off silver. Demand for silver exchange-traded funds jumped from 2006 through 2012 amid expectations that solar panels and appliances would help lift prices. However, inflows have slowed since then.

“Silver can average $US20/oz if investors increased their purchases slightly,” Widmer said. “The benign trading environment seen in recent years may start to change, a point we made in a recent Metals Weekly. This may make silver as a portfolio hedge more interesting.”
What’s more unlikely in their view is a drop to $US15, they said, which would happen if demand from non-commercial buyers falls even more.

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Get the latest Silver price here.

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