Will a strong silver market be further supported by increasing demand for electronics and solar?
''For investors, silver and gold have much of the same allure. The combination of a weak dollar, low interest rates and economic uncertainty that has convinced some to buy gold and pushed its price up to around $1,300 an ounce has also encouraged them to put their money into other likely-looking stores of value. Silver not only offers investors diversity but it is also supported by real industrial demand.
Whereas around 25-30% of gold is bought by investors, only about a tenth of global silver production goes the same way. Roughly half the world’s silver goes to industrial users (the balance is accounted for by jewellery and other silverware), although their identity has undergone a huge shift over the past decade.
Old-fashioned film for cameras required mountains of silver. According to Merrill Lynch, an investment bank, photographic demand for silver has fallen by more than 60% in the past decade. Even in 2004, when the popularity of digital cameras was already well established, the photographic industry consumed 5,600 tonnes of silver, a fifth of total production. That compares with just 9% in 2009.
New uses for the metal plugged the gap left by film. Silver is widely used in electronics, whether in buttons for TVs, in membrane switches in computer keyboards or as a coating for CDs and DVDs. But the great hope for silver is the solar-power industry. Photovoltaic cells, the technology used in 70% of solar panels, contain silver. Although other technologies that do not use silver are on the rise, heavy government subsidies are forecast to help keep the solar industry growing.''