August has in recent history been a strong month for silver prices, though coming off a weak July and held back by speculator activity, it is having a slow start to the month.
But silver prices are rising today. New York spot silver, which trades continuously from 6 p.m. Sunday to 5:15 p.m. EDT Friday, pushed up over $20 an ounce at around 9:30 a.m. EDT after slipping below that point yesterday. Tuesday marked the first time that silver was trading below $20 since mid-June.
Silver futures contracts for September delivery opened down 2.8% on the week at $19.79, but pushed back up above $20 and hovered around that level in the afternoon.
The iShares Silver Trust (NYSE: SLV), an ETF linked closely with the price of silver that holds physical bullion in JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) vaults in New York and London, was down 1.6% at the time markets opened this morning, but traded up later in the day. The case was similar with the SLV alternative, ETFS Physical Silver Shares (NYSE: SIVR), which also opened the day down 1.6% but climbed as the day went on.
Reasons for silver prices to rise today stem from foreign tensions between Ukraine and Russia.
Last week, the United States and the European Union leveled sanctions against President Vladimir Putin's Russia for supporting pro-Russian rebels in Ukrainian territory and acting as a destabilizing force. Putin has since launched his own trade restrictions on agricultural products as a retaliatory measure.
What has further worried international observers is the fear that Russia will invade Ukraine, using humanitarian intervention as a pretext. Tensions have escalated in Donetsk, an industrial Ukrainian city that lies on the border of Russia, as pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces renewed clashes last night that claimed the lives of 18 Ukrainian servicemen, Voice of America reported.
On this conflict, gold saw a huge surge and moved back above the $1,300 level on the day. Precious metals tend to get a boost in times of fear, as it is sought out as a safe-haven investment vehicle. Silver tends to also get a boost as it receives residual precious metal investor interest.
As for what tomorrow and the next few days will bring, expect silver to flatten out before picking up again.
"August does tend to be a strong month, but given the action we've had for the past few days and where prices are right now I think we could see this [slow price movement] for the first half," said Money Morning Resource Specialist Peter Krauth. Expect prices picking up in the second half of the month.