Why the Silver Trade Shouldn’t Be Lumped In With GameStop Stock and AMC
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Why the Silver Trade Shouldn’t Be Lumped In With GameStop Stock and AMC

By JACOB SONENSHINE
Wed, Feb 3, 2021 4:24amGrey Clock 3 min

Silver soared, then dropped. Whatever happens now, the metal’s price movements will look nothing like what happened with the stocks that faced a spectacular short squeeze and are now falling.

Monday, the price of actual silver rose as much as 9% to $29.52 per ounce. “Retail traders who drove the short squeezes in stocks like GME last week were banding together to try and trigger a squeeze in silver,” wrote Tom Essaye, founder of Seven’s Report Research, in a note.

It all revolves around the practice of short selling, where people borrow a stock and sell it, hoping the price will fall, making it possible to buy shares at a lower price and return them. A short squeeze happens when the price of the stock rises, rather than falls, forcing short sellers to buy. If a lot of the stock available for trading has been sold short, there can be a scramble to buy that triggers spectacular price gains.

That is what happened with GameStop (ticker: GME) last month. Other stocks that had been aggressively sold short surged as well.

But the iShares Silver Trust (SLV), after rising 11% to $27.76 a share Monday, is now down 11% from that level. There are key differences between companies like GameStop and AMC Entertainment (AMC) and silver.

First off, GameStop rose as much as 1,800% in a few weeks in January. AMC rose as much as 890% in roughly the same period. The iShares Silver exchange-traded fund, which buys futures contracts linked to the direction of the metal’s price, rose to roughly its all-time high of $27, set in August, and failed to break past it.

With the price down Tuesday, fundamentals, rather than the possibility of a short squeeze, are returning to the fore. While silver is an asset that can take part in a “reflation rally,” or one that occurs when economic stimulus jolts an economy out of recession and spurs inflation, that possibility doesn’t seem to have been enough to send the silver ETF to a new high.

Importantly, options trading was an important factor in the gains for GameStop and AMC. Retail traders were buying calls, or the right to buy shares at a specified strike price on a later date. The hope is that an option’s strike price will be lower than the stock’s price when that day comes, making it possible to buy at the strike price and make a profit by immediately selling on the open market.

That possibility forces the brokers who wrote the options contracts to hedge by buying the shares. It adds to demand for a stock and can contribute to a short squeeze, as appears to have happened with GameStop and AMC. Retail traders posting on Reddit were able to move the stock without much capital because they could buy call options at a far lower price per underlying share than the cost of the actual stock.

For silver, the overarching theme is that retail traders can’t summon up the large pool of capital needed to create huge demand for silver.

Traders aren’t buying calls on silver right now, Andrew Smith, chief investment strategist at Delos Capital Advisors, told Barron’s, citing the activity he saw Tuesday. That’s partly because buying calls on commodity ETFs, which reflect a blended forward expected price—based on the prices forecast for several different dates—is a complex process.

Buying silver outright, which is what retail traders did, requires much more money. There are no call options and no need for brokers to hedge against them.

“Squeezing the market isn’t likely” from here, wrote Jeff Currie, global head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs, in a note. In order for the WallStreetBets crowd to send silver prices up the 700% they rose in 1980, when the wealthy Hunt brothers gobbled up almost one-third of the global supply, they would have to own 4,600 tons of silver each.

Silver could certainly charge ahead, just not so fast so soon.

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Mortgage holders are bracing themselves for more pain ahead of this afternoon’s board meeting of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Westpac, ANZ and NAB are all predicting a rise of 25 basis points to the cash rate. The Commonwealth Bank has also said a rate rise is the most likely outcome, but that there is a small chance that the RBA may decide to leave the cash rate unchanged.

Another rate rise today would make it the eighth consecutive rise since April, when it was at a record low of 0.1 percent. At present, the cash rate is at 2.85 percent.

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