Silver plummets as US economy strengthens

The price of silver has plunged quicker than that of gold since Federal Reserve boss Bernard Bernanke's positive comments on the United States economy three weeks ago.

In that time, silver's price has plunged 13 per cent to about US$18.80 ($24.30) an ounce currently - and 35 per cent for the year - compared to a fall of less than 12 per cent for gold.

That's a far cry from the record high prices close to US$50 in 2011, which many predicted would return in 2013 until Bernanke's comments.

His flagging of a cutting back on economic stimulus in the US has seen traders pour money back into the US dollar in anticipation of less cheap cash and higher interest rates, while taking money out of commodities including silver and gold.

Analysts and traders are trying to work out if the price of silver has fallen too far and it is time to buy back.

The "yes" argument points out that silver's price is at near three-year lows. However if the US economy keeps improving, the printing of money slows and the US dollar strengthens, then the safety of silver and gold is less attractive.

In its favour is that silver is underperforming gold despite the latter's own heavy falls: an ounce of gold at US$1212 would buy 66 ounces of silver now, compared to 33 ounces when it was at its 2011 record high.

MineLife senior resources analyst Gavin Wendt said he thought silver was cheap.

"I think it's a good buy, I would be buying gold and silver around current levels for sure," he said.

Wendt pointed out that silver can still perform well if the US economy improves since it has strong industrial applications and is not as much of a defensive, value-hedging asset as gold.

That doesn't translate to good news for silver miners in Australia however, where BHP Billiton's Cannington project in Queensland is the world's largest silver mine.

On the ASX, exchange-traded fund silver was trading at A$20.03 on Monday, representing a 33 per cent fall for the year.

- AAP

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