Silver hoard near record as bulls recoil

Interest Rates

Industrial demand for silver may strengthen as economic growth accelerates. The International Monetary Fund said July 16 it expects the global economy to expand 3.9 percent next year, from 3.5 percent in 2012. The European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve are already holding interest rates at record lows and the People’s Bank of China cut rates in June and July, the first reductions since 2008.

They may need to do more to bolster growth because U.S. factory output contracted in July for a second month, the Institute for Supply Management said Aug. 1. Manufacturing in the euro area shrank for a 12th consecutive month, a Markit Economics report showed the same day. China’s industrial-output growth was the slowest in three years in July, according to government data released Aug. 9.

Silver imports by China, the second-biggest user after the U.S., declined for three consecutive months through June, customs data show. Global fabrication demand, a measure that includes coins, jewelry and photographic film, will be little changed in 2013, Barclays Plc estimates. The bank expects supply to beat consumption for a fifth year, leaving a glut of 4,148 tons as mine production expands to a record 25,835 tons.

‘The Gap’

“Industrial demand may remain weak at least for another six months,” said Jochen Hitzfeld from UniCredit SpA in Munich, the fourth most-accurate precious metals forecaster tracked by Bloomberg in the past two years. “This makes the gap that investors have to absorb even higher,” said the analyst, who anticipates a fourth-quarter average of $28.

Investors bought 797 tons through silver-backed ETPs this year and now hold 18,093 tons, equal to more than eight months of global mine output, data compiled by Bloomberg show. They sold a net 812 tons from ETPs last year. Total assets are now 2.9 percent below the record 18,639 tons reached in April 2011. Investors probably will buy another 500 tons in 2013, Barclays and Morgan Stanley predict.

There are also signs that industrial demand is improving. Stockpiles in warehouses monitored by Comex fell 6.5 percent since July 3, reaching a four-month low on Aug. 8, bourse data show. Inventories had expanded every month since November to 147.1 million ounces (4,575 tons), the most since 1997.

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