Silver: "The Devil's Metal—Like Gold on Crack"

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"Continuing financial fear in the markets bodes well for silver."

In opening his presentation to the FT's Silver Conference, HSBC Managing Director of Global Metals and Trading, John Levin, apologized for being just a trader—not an analyst—and gave fascinating insights of views on silver trading from the sharp end. He started by describing silver as "the Devil's metal" as far as a trader is concerned based on how difficult it is to trade poor man's gold in normal market conditions. But later, answering a question at the end, he described silver as "like gold on crack," which was primarily a reference to the volatility seen in the silver price, and a reflection on the attitudes of many silver investors.

When he started trading silver, Levin said it was referred to as the $5 commodity in the markets—when it fell to $4 it was too cheap; when it reached $6 was too expensive—and it sat at around $5 level for many years, before starting to take off alongside the rising gold price around 10 years ago. Since then, Levin has had a love-hate relationship with the metal due to the difficulty in trading it; but, recently, HSBC has been taking big investment positions in precious metals.

Levin reckons the silver ETFs have been a savior of the metal price over the past year and a large contributor to growth; what's more, he feels that the ETF holdings are "sticky money." The holdings have been tested in some pretty severe price regimes but have held up well. In Europe, his conversations with asset managers in Switzerland and Germany suggest continuing worries about wealth preservation. . ."People are really worried about their money" he said.

Overall, Levin believes the number of people interested in silver is continuing to grow despite its perceived, and actual, volatility; and big investment positions are being taken in both gold and silver. Continuing financial fear in the markets bodes well for silver.

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