After an extended period of consolidation, the price of silver launched from $17 in August 2010 to just under $50 in April 2011. The fuel behind this move was not speculative buying, but instead short covering by large commercial short traders including JP Morgan.
As short covering buyers pushed the silver price up to its all time historic high of $50, several factors led to the large selloff in May. A breakout of $50 would remove technical resistance and attract fast money speculative traders that could quickly spike the price of silver to $100. Knowing this, JP Morgan likely hit the panic button. Readers can fill in the blanks, but what is public knowledge is that the CME embarked on an unprecedented series of increases in margin hikes which forced a liquidation of leveraged traders positions before they had the chance to put up more capital. One round of margin hikes was actually made on a Sunday.
Smart money investors who had purchased the majority of their long silver positions below $10 anticipated this move and aggressively sold into the short term peak. The $50 level is a key pivot point in silver because it represents a 10x gain in price for early investors who purchased below $5 prior to 2005. Silver was also 70 percent above its 200 dma which has defined silver spike peaks historically. Even most silver analysts who have been long term bullish on the metal sold large tranches of their positions. This profit taking was natural and healthy.
These paper silver contracts that were sold went directly into the hands of the commercial shorts. The resulting consequence is that the open interest in silver has collapsed from a peak of 158,000 on October 2010 to 114,000. Meanwhile the banks that were trapped in their large commercial short positions have been able to successfully cover more than half of their short positions at an average price of less than $40. As of last Tuesday, the net commercial short position in silver stood at a mere 29,166 in the fundamental vicinity of silver's major low in 2008 when it was in the $8-$9 range. If the trend continues at this pace, the commercial shorts will be able to successfully cover their positions and go net long by the end of the year.
We expect this likely scenario to occur, mostly due to the fact that even smart money investors are afraid to stand and take delivery. The implication is that the commercial banks will indeed profit more than any other group from the rise in silver. This is extremely bullish for the long term price of silver because once the commercial banks are net long, there will no longer be a financial incentive to cap the price. A similar, but not as powerful, pattern occurred in oil before its run from $50 to $150 during 2007 and 2008.
Silver will likely remain week for the remainder of the summer while it consolidates down to a major support level at $30, and its 200 dma near $31. Clearly, the selloff in positions from smart money investors to institutions shows that silver is in the mid to later stage of the second phase in the silver bull market. The next push to and above $50 will not see the same resistance, and will likely be launched with the next round of quantitative easing as the US fends off its own bankruptcy.