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Global Silver Demand Edged Higher in 2019,
Investment Demand Up 12%. Outlook for 2020

Global silver demand pushed higher in 2019, with a 12 percent increase in investment demand as retail and institutional investors focused their attention on the long-term investment appeal of the metal. Highlights include:

Total global silver demand in 2019 grew by 0.4 percent despite an ongoing global trade war affecting many industries. Silver industrial demand was resilient, slipping by 0.1 percent last year, with several key segments of silver industrial fabrication expanding, primarily silver’s use in photovoltaics, which grew by 7 percent to its second highest annual level.

For the fourth consecutive year, silver mine supply declined 1 percent in 2019, according to the World Silver Survey 2020, produced for the Silver Institute by Metals Focus, a London-based independent precious metals consultancy.

Download World Silver Survey 2020

Investment and Price

Global silver investment jumped 12 percent to 186.1 million ounces, making it the largest annual growth since 2015. Notable gains in Europe (+25 percent), the US (+9 percent) and India (+5 percent) led to the increase. Institutional investment fared even better than retail demand. Last year, exchange-traded product (ETP) holdings stood at 728.9 million ounces at year-end, up by 13%, achieving the largest annual rise since 2010.

Demand

Global silver demand edged higher in 2019 to 991.8 million ounces, up 0.4 percent, as higher net-physical investment was offset by lower jewelry and silverware demand. Industrial fabrication was nearly unchanged from 2018 at 510.9 Moz. Photovoltaic demand registered a 7 percent increase in offtake, rising to its second highest annual level, while silver’s use in brazing alloys rose 1 percent. Jewelry posted a

1 percent decrease to 201.3 million ounces, primarily due to soft demand in India and China. In contrast, Thailand achieved a 13 percent increase last year and growth was also registered in Indonesia, Japan and Italy.

Supply

Global mine production fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2019 by 1.3 percent to 836.5 million ounces. This was a result of declining grades at several large primary silver mines and disruption-related losses at some major silver producers. Primary silver production declined by 3.8 percent in 2019 to 240 Moz.

2020 Silver Outlook

With regards to this year, the extreme volatility that we have seen at times this year is in some ways reminiscent of the 2008 global financial crisis and the recession that followed. The impact of such a crisis on the silver market is already stark.

In mid-March, at the height of the panic in global markets the price fell to its lowest in more than a decade. Silver also under performed relative to gold, with the gold:silver ratio touching an all-time high of 127. A number of factors contributed to this, including professional investors’ need to raise funds, and the drag from silver’s link to base metals, which suffered as the economic outlook deteriorated.

Supply/Demand

From a supply/demand standpoint, the COVID-19 crisis will undoubtedly weigh on the 2020 forecast. “While growth in physical investment is expected to accelerate as a result of bargain hunting,” noted Philip Newman, founding partner of Metals Focus, “all other areas of demand are forecast to weaken this year”.

In particular, the consultancy expects to see a 7% decline in industrial fabrication, while jewellery and silverware are also expected to decline, due to lower store visitors and as the appetite for discretionary spending takes a hit.

Metals Focus also envisages a 5% decline for silver mine supply in 2020, with global output falling below 800Moz for the first time since 2012, entirely the result of disruptions to operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, “our projections see another structural surplus for silver in 2020, although this is considerably smaller than those seen during 2016 to 2019” Philip added.

In spite of this and the recently negative stance adopted by some institutional investors towards the metal, Metals Focus maintains a positive view for the silver price over much of 2020. Key to this will be exceptionally low policy rates and unprecedented liquidity injections by central banks. A slowing global economy should also ultimately encourage a further rotation from stocks and bonds into defensive assets, including precious metals. The consultancy also believe that silver will benefit from bargain hunting, on the back of its historically low value compared to gold.

“All this should ultimately drive strong inflows into silver ETPs, as well as net buying by institutional investors on both futures and OTC markets.” commented Philip, “During this move, we expect silver to gradually outperform gold. By year-end, even though the gold:silver ratio will still remain historically high, we expect silver to test the $19 mark.”

About Metals Focus: Metals Focus is one of the world’s leading precious metals consultancies. The firm specializes in research into the global gold, silver, platinum and palladium markets, producing regular reports, mine cost and dore services, short/long-dated forecasts and bespoke consultancy. For more information visit www.metalsfocus.com.

About The World Silver Survey 2020: The World Silver Survey 2020 is produced by Metals Focus on behalf of the Silver Institute. It contains comprehensive historical statistics on silver supply and demand and a forecast for the current year. The report also features detailed analysis of all aspects of the metal’s fundamentals, including mine production, recycling and demand for industrial applications, jewellery, silverware as well as other sectors.

The World Silver Survey 2020 also provides an exhaustive coverage of bullion movements, including retail investment demand for bars and coins and institutional investor activity. Finally, it includes appendices featuring a wealth of data on silver mine production and costs, prices, exchange activity and trade flows. The World Silver Survey 2020 is available in hard copy and as a PDF.

Download The World Silver Survey 2020

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