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Silver: High Prices ‘Cure’ Depleted Inventories

Articles & Blogs - Silver Commentary

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In my recent review of the bankster assault on the silver market, I alluded to the fact that we knew there was no “bubble” in the silver market, since there had not been the build-up of inventories which must take place before any commodity could ever achieve the status of an asset-bubble. However, the concept is so important, and it is not being forcefully articulated by others within the sector, and so I am devoting an entire commentary to this totally elementary concept.

As the title of this piece states, “high prices cure depleted inventories”. However, brevity prevented me from stating this in more absolute terms: high prices are the only way to restore equilibrium to any market where there are depleted inventories (i.e. inadequate supplies). This obvious corrective mechanism functions in two manners.

High prices not only stimulate greater supply/production, they also dampen demand/consumption. Similarly, low prices are the only way to restore equilibrium to a market where there is too much inventory (i.e. excess supply). In this respect, the U.S. housing market is the mirror image of the silver market.

In the fraud-saturated U.S. housing market, the government has tried everything in its power to prevent U.S. residential housing prices from falling to their true value (a long way below prevailing prices). They have tried countless bogus gimmicks, half-hearted government initiatives and an enormous amount of lying to try to “pretend” their way to a “bottom” in the U.S. housing market.

The problem is that as soon as we factor in the massive “shadow inventory” of this market, we still see a housing market with (much) more inventory than at any time in history. And as we are seeing as this market resumes its descent, the laws of supply and demand function very similarly to the laws of physics (i.e. gravity) – with the exception that in economics it is possible to temporarily delay the inevitable consequences of these parameters.

Just as the laws of supply and demand dictate that U.S. housing prices must go much lower, equally those laws dictate that the price of silver must go much higher. Note that when the CME Group launched its illegitimate manipulation of the silver market with five rapid-fire increases in margin requirements (the last four of them undertaken while the price of silver was falling) that inventories have still been falling.

Thus, not only do we know that $50/oz can’t possibly represent a “bubble” price for silver, we know that it can’t even represent an “equilibrium price”, since it is obviously not high enough to prevent further inventory-destruction. We will know when we begin to approach that equilibrium price because the silver market will give us a very obvious signal: inventories will start to grow again. Until the process of restoring inventories begins, this market must continue to become even more unstable: plunging downward in response to ruthless manipulation, followed by immediately rocketing upward when the tortured laws of supply and demand inevitably reassert themselves.

It is here that I must repeat another previous discussion, since this is another argument which must be made as often and as assertively as possible, and yet to the best of my knowledge I’m alone in doing so: “shorting” destroys markets, while “hoarding” preserves/conserves them. How did the silver market ever get to such a position of totally (and dangerously) depleted global inventories? The simple application of supply and demand.

Decades of ruthless price-manipulation by the banking cabal resulted in silver plunging to a 600-year low in price (in real dollars). Spurred on by these absurd prices, demand exploded – or to be more precise: industrial demand exploded. At the same time, such ridiculously low prices for silver made most recycling economically impractical, since silver is so precious that most of its applications require it in only modest (or even “trace”) amounts.

The laws of supply and demand do what they must do in such a situation: they destroyed global stockpiles, as ultra-low prices stimulated ravenous demand, while silver being so grossly under-priced forced the closure of 90% of the world’s silver mines. This is why market-manipulation such as what has been undertaken by the banksters can never be permanently effective.

One of the reasons that the decades-long manipulation by the bullion-banks is so reprehensible is that the further prices are pushed below their real (equilibrium) value, and the longer they are held down there, the more violent the upward pressure when manipulation fails. The 600-year low in silver prices  has led to a 600-year low in inventories. It will take decades to rebuild them, as somewhere around 75% of previous global stockpiles are now strewn around junkyards and landfills all over the world, and (as stated earlier) much of that silver is in such tiny concentrations that it would/could never be recovered or recycled.

Similarly, the silver mining industry is still decades away from regaining its former health, even after a tenfold increase in price. Indeed, the most telling statistic that we are light-years away from any “equilibrium” in this sector is that the vast majority of mined silver is still produced as a “byproduct” (or accident) of other mining – most of it from base metals mining.

At $40+/oz, the price of silver was still not high enough to stimulate mine supply to the point where primary silver production can take over in driving global supply. This is an obvious aspect of economic fundamentals which has been brought to the attention of people as early as 2005, by silver commentator Rusty McDougal – and yet it is a concept which not only escapes the entire mainstream media, but even most of the experienced commentators within this sector.

We can never, possibly reach any intermediate “top” in the silver market (let alone a “bubble”) unless/until inventories are rebuilt to healthy, historical levels (somewhere between 3 billion and 6 billion ounces). Current, dangerously depleted inventories are considerably less than 10% of that equilibrium level. Obviously, producing a 1000% increase in silver inventories will require much, much higher prices.

As guidance, if silver were priced today at its historic ratio to gold (approximately 15:1) it would be at $100/oz, not $35/oz. Of course that ratio existed during eras when silver inventories/stockpiles were healthy. The inventory-destruction caused by decades of bankster “shorting” (and other forms of manipulation/fraud) will take decades to remedy – after silver approaches something close to an intermediate equilibrium (at a price ratio considerably below 15:1).

We will get some idea when we are approaching that medium-term equilibrium by watching the silver miners. Unless/until primary silver production once again accounts for a majority of new supply, it is impossible to ever reach that intermediate “top”. Tautologically, when most silver is still produced as a byproduct this means we have not even seen a “supply response” from high prices.

Readers must understand the implications of this dynamic. If we do not see both a market correction in terms of (radically) increased mine-supply and reduced demand, then this means that the “correction” toward equilibrium can only occur through demand-destruction.

Here is where things get “interesting” if you are a silver investor, and highly unpleasant if you’re JP Morgan (the largest silver “short” in the history of the world). As I mentioned previously, a large percentage of silver used industrially is used in very small quantities. In economic terms, this translates into the fact that silver demand is very “inelastic” with respect to price.

Putting this in every-day English, and applying this to the market, it means that relative to virtually any/every other commodity on the planet, the demand for silver changes very little in the face of rising prices. Indeed, we have already seen this proven: after a tenfold rise in the price of silver, demand is still increasing rapidly.

In other words, the combination of highly inelastic demand and totally depleted inventories guarantees that even if silver were priced at a semi-rational price today (i.e. $100/oz), this would still have only a minor impact on demand. In fact, because (distorted) markets tend to “over-shoot” when they snap back toward supply/demand fundamentals, it is uncertain if silver demand would even begin to decline at $100/oz.

Readers must also understand that hard commodities like silver require a very long supply process from discovering more ore to the point of more refined silver reaching the market. Typically, this is somewhere close to ten years. However that would be ten years from the time that prices are high enough to produce sufficient “stimulus” for more mine-supply.

Continued, relentless manipulation by the bullion banks (aided and abetted by corrupt regulators and administrators) has prevented this “ten-year countdown” from even beginning in the silver market (to any major degree). This has many implications for silver mining (and silver investors). Not only is this guaranteed to be a “growth sector” for many years to come, but those miners who have been first to get to market to meet the ravenous demand for silver must inevitably be rewarded by the market – as a lack of competition/alternatives squeezes investors into a tiny number of companies.

Indeed, the tiny silver mining sector doesn’t even equal the market-cap of one multinational oil company. In a world where $10’s of trillions in liquidity is sloshing-around, there is “room” for no more than $10’s of billions of that capital in this (at the moment) microscopic sector. This is yet another reason why we can only laugh at the “Chicken Littles” who keep clucking “bubble”, when we see less than 0.05% percent of global capital invested into one of the world’s most important commodity markets.

The Chicken Littles call silver a “crowded trade”, and in a sense they are right. But the silver sector is not “crowded” because there are too many investors already here. Rather, the tiny silver sector is “crowded” because virtually no one can get in. Of course when the business media (and its world of “high finance”) talk about a sector being crowded, they are referring to institutions and investors controlling $billions.

This means that for us small investors, there is still no problem “squeezing into” this market. Indeed, the latest bankster operation can be thought of as nothing less than “rolling out the red carpet” for people just entering the silver sector today. Handing new investors a “sale price” which they will never see again for the rest of their lives is a pretty good inducement to draw yet more people into the silver sector – and yet more “bad news” for the silver-shorts.

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Jeff Nielson
...
written by Jeff Nielson, May 24, 2011
Very good point Dubbelito! Yes, when I wrote about "90% of the world's silver mines being shut-down", then OBVIOUSLY that translates into LOTS of old mines which CAN be put back into production in much less than 10 years.

However you can only add so much complexity/detail within one piece without it either getting too long, or wandering off on "tangents".

The problem here is that we lack enough data to make any INFORMED estimates on how fast these old mines can be recommissioned, and how much silver they can produce when (if) they are back in production.

Another factor which complicates such an analysis is that MANY of those old mines (especially those in Latin America) were mined with low-grade technology and were under-capitalized. Thus many of these mines were both very SMALL and certainly not compatible with modern mining technology.

Thus many of these mines will require EXTENSIVE renovations, and a large percentage of the total number of these mines are SMALL operations. This means that rather than some mining "seniors" walking in here with a big wad of cash and RAPIDLY ramping-up silver production that instead we have a much different dynamic.

What we see are the silver JUNIORS slowly CONSOLIDATING these old mines and districts, and gradually amalgamating them into their operations. While this is the most cost-effective means of bringing these old mine sites back into production, it is NOT a time-effective means of raising silver production.

BECAUSE this sector is still UNDER-CAPITALIZED (and silver is still UNDER-PRICED), we see miners focusing on maximizing EFFICIENCY rather than maximizing PRODUCTION.

Put all of these parameters together, and suddenly the 10-year time horizon for a MEANINGFUL increase in global silver production suddenly looks much more accurate.
Dubbelito
...
written by Dubbelito, May 24, 2011
Ahh,
itchy trigger finger... :-)
Those mines does not take ten years to re-activate, perhaps one-two years depending on the state of the mine and surrounding infrastructure.
Another source would of course also be available mines with lower grade tonnage that previously have been deemed sub-grade from a financial perspective, so that the total amount of ore are increasing, but to a higher cash cost. A lot of miners have silver grades around 50g/t or thereabouts that soon will be profitable if the supply/demand mechanism will be allowed to function. It's like with oil; there IS alot of oil left to be pumped up, it is simply not profitable at certain price levels.

/Dubbelito
Dubbelito
...
written by Dubbelito, May 24, 2011
I would add that the main new supplies to come in the next years will probably be the re-activated mines that have been dormant for some time now, e.g. Avino Silver down in Mexico.
Jeff Nielson
...
written by Jeff Nielson, May 22, 2011
Yes Redpill, sorry if that wasn't as clear as it should be. High prices WILL dampen demand, but at a slower rate than for almost any other commodity BECAUSE of the high inelasticity of demand with respect to price.
redpill
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written by redpill, May 22, 2011
Thanks Jeff,

very good article - two little points I would like to mention:
1. In the beginning you wrote that high prices dampen demand/consumption (the one side of the corrective mechanism) and you also said, that in the case of silver the price is inelastic. Because of the second point, which is main one, it could be, that we won't see any recovery of the inventories...
2. You wrote, that it needs nearly ten years to build up a new mine (when we also considder the exploration process). But what is with the abandoned mines ? Do we need nearly ten years to reactivate them, when the prices are much higher?

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