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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Is the Stock Market Near Its Top?

Don’t let the hum of the bull tune out signs warning that a bear may be lurking.

By ANDY KESSLER
Mon, Jul 15, 2024 3 min

The third season of the terrific show “The Bear” blends family dysfunction with the ups and downs of high-end restaurants. With markets chasing new highs—get out those Dow 40000 hats—this column is about a different kind of dysfunctional beast. Is the market bear dead, or is it about to sneak up on us?

A U.S. equity strategist told me the story of a Japanese portfolio manager who sat in his office in July 1987 asking for stock ideas. The strategist’s model was based on a proprietary survey of investor sentiment, though it never really worked. Nonetheless, he read off a list of dozens of stocks. The portfolio manager then asked if he would kindly put in an order for 20,000 shares of each. The Dow Jones Industrial Average peaked at 2722 in late August and crashed 22.6% on Oct. 19.

A friend was a portfolio manager of a massive growth-stock fund in 1999. He told me he bought shares of Yahoo, Cisco, F5 Networks, Infosys and others every day because money flowed into his fund every day. The tech-heavy Nasdaq index peaked on March 10, 2000. As money began to flow out, he had to sell every day. By year’s end, Nasdaq had fallen by more than half.

I met Cathie Wood as she was filing papers for her “disruptive innovation” funds—to “change the way the world works.” Her ARK Innovation exchange-traded fund, ARKK, launched in October 2014 and charges 0.75% management fees. In 2020 it was up 153% as stimulus money flew in, driving more buying. ARKK peaked in February 2021 with $28 billion in assets. Since then, its net asset value is down 70%, even amid a roaring bull market, especially in tech. Morningstar recently calculated that Ms. Wood’s Ark Invest funds have destroyed more than $14 billion in wealth. One of my favorite Wall Street sayings is, “Don’t mistake a bull market for brains.”

In almost every bull run, stock momentum lures in investors at the worst moment, I call them momos, ensuring they get burned when the buying stops. Since 2009, excepting a few brief sell-offs, cash has been trash. That made some sense during the era of zero interest rates. But now with higher inflation and short rates above 5%? Confusing. Maybe investors are already anticipating another Donald Trump antiregulation pro-growth presidency, forgetting that he is married to a growth-killing pro-tariff agenda. Is the bear dead, or does it have a long fuse?

Predicting stock markets is a fool’s errand. My Series 7 test for General Securities Representative Qualification lapsed long ago, so you won’t get investment advice from me. But there are warning signs.

Have we run out of buyers? Sometimes there are triggers that scare them away: oil shocks, viruses, bank failures. But sometimes they simply collapse from exhaustion. More than 40% of households reportedly own stocks—a higher percentage than in 2000. It was 20% in 2010. Some market indicators also point to asset managers being fully invested. Who’s left to buy?

Market breadth is concerning. The 1973 market peak was driven by stretched valuations of the Nifty Fifty, which included IBM , Coca-Cola and GE but also Polaroid and Xerox . Fifty? Now it’s the Magnificent Seven: Alphabet , Amazon , Apple , Meta , Microsoft , Nvidia and Tesla . Seven? Artificial-intelligence hype, way ahead of even the rosiest of realities, drove Nvidia to make up almost a third of the S&P 500’s first half gains. Another quarter came from Amazon, Meta, Microsoft and Eli Lilly . Maybe fat bulls need Mounjaro.

Stock values feel divorced from reality. The so-called Warren Buffett indicator—the ratio between total stock-market value and gross domestic product—was 138% in March 2000. It’s now 196%. Certainly not a buy signal. And Bitcoin, my go-to bubblicious bat signal, is down about 20% since March. A dead canary?

“Don’t worry, be happy,” the bulls sing. Inflation is slain, and the Fed will cut rates. But investors won’t like the reason for those cuts. We’re already seeing earnings disasters—Nike, Walgreens , Lululemon , Delta and Wells Fargo . If the economy slows, earnings glitches and stock implosions become contagious. Plus, banks’ exposure to commercial real estate is scary, with buildings being dumped at huge haircuts almost weekly. This is now infecting rental buildings, and there are signs of a private housing glut. Inventory in Denver is up nearly 37%. Sure, markets climb a “wall of worry,” and bull markets tend to last longer than people expect, but sometimes the nightmares are real. Recessions are like honey to bears.

Even writing about the bear is bullish. Bull runs end when everyone is a believer. Still, another favorite saying of mine is, “No one’s ever lost money taking a profit.” Someday, cash will be king again. I prefer to buy stocks when everyone hates them.

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