Silver prices in 2013 have slumped, but don’t get discouraged. To understand the price outlook in metals, you have to look at these driving forces.
Silver Prices in 2013
As we've explained before, manipulation of gold and silver prices is happening right here in the United States.
Our Global Resources Specialist Peter Krauth interviewed silver market analyst Ted Butler last year, who explained how big financial institutions were using high-frequency trading to depress silver prices.
Good news for those investing in silver: The price slump is ending, making now a good time to buy.
Silver prices have slid since the start of 2013, and the white metal's down nearly 9% so far this year. Silver, which had hit a record high of $49.79 an ounce in April 2011, was trading for $29.36 Tuesday afternoon.
So far in 2013, buying silver coins has been one of investors' favorite ways to profit from a climb in the white metal's price.
The demand for physical silver from small investors in the form of coins is really remarkable. A record 7.5 million ounces of silver coins were sold in January.
The world's most respected precious metals consultancy, Thompson Reuters GFMS, came out last month with its 2013 forecast for silver prices.
After being bearish on silver prices over the past few years, GFMS has come around and predicted a good year for silver investors in 2013, with gains as high as 38%.
While gold, with its sky-high prices, gets most of the media attention, investors should be just as interested in how to buy silver.
Silver turned in a solid performance in the second half of 2012, rising from a June 28 low of $26.13 an ounce to its recent reading above $33.00. And, to steal a line from poet Robert Browning (or, if you prefer, Frank Sinatra), "the best is yet to come."
Money Morning Global Resources Specialist Peter Krauth said in his 2013 silver price forecast that the white metal, which closed at nearly $33 an ounce Wednesday, could hit $54 an ounce next year.
In fact, Krauth said he likes to think of silver as "gold on steroids."
But investors have largely overlooked another key factor that will contribute to higher silver prices over the next couple of years.
That's global industrial demand for silver, which will start to take off in 2013.
On Tuesday, spot silver increased to $34.26 an ounce, its greatest level since the middle of October, before it dropped to $33.76.
Silver traders have hit the sidelines as economic news such as fiscal cliff discussions, the Greek bailout and an appreciating U.S. dollar have been a drag on the white metal.
James Steel, HSBC metal analyst said to Reuters of the current prices, "We believe gold and silver prices will tend towards consolidation, as investors await further developments on the U.S. fiscal cliff negotiations."
But don't worry silver bulls, there's still enough good news to keep you happy.
Recent economic data and concerning news from abroad have hit precious metals this week, leading to their declines.
Gold has been stealing headlines as fear surrounding the fiscal cliff drives investors to seek safer assets. Should Congress and the president not reach an agreement by early next year, this will provide an opportunity for gold to shine.
But the white metal, with its volatility and recent high prices, can hold its own and also has the potential to increase in the short-term due to a few reasons.
Yet, according to Lloyds TSB, silver prices have delivered the best gains since 2002.
Lloyds data shows that the shiny metal soared 572% over the past decade, beating gold's rise of 428%, which was second best among commodities.
Lloyds said silver beat gold because "[I]n addition to being perceived as a safe haven investment, high demand for industrial uses has also contributed to the strong rise in the price of silver."
The key question for precious metals investors is whether silver will continue to be a good performer in 2013.
Money Morning's Global Resource Specialist Peter Krauth thinks so. He forecasts that silver prices will hit "north of $60 per ounce" by spring.
If his forecast is on target, it bodes well for both holders of silver bullion and coins as well as for holders of ETFs such as the iShares Silver Trust (NYSE Arca: SLV).
Here are five key factors that show why Krauth's forecast for silver prices in 2013 could be right on the money.
Silver Prices in 2013: New Industrial UsesOne positive for silver has to be the aforementioned industrial uses.
At last month's Denver Gold Forum, the CEO of silver producer Hecla Mining (NYSE: HL) Phil Baker made an interesting observation.
He said there was a parallel to what happened to silver usage at the turn of the 20th century to what is happening today. At that time, photography became a major driver of demand of the silver market.
This time though Baker believes it will not be one industry solely driving demand, but a myriad of new users of silver looking to take advantage of the metal's unique properties (such as electrical conductivity) in the electronics and medical fields among others.
Silver's expanding usage in a large number of industries may help to offset the general weakness in the global economy.
Investment Demand for SilverAnother factor favoring silver prices is the continued investment demand for the precious metal from the average person around the world, due in large part to central bank policies.
According to the company, analysts forecast China's silver demand to increase as much as 10% in 2013 from investors looking to preserve their wealth.
In an Oct. 22 Bloomberg News interview, Shi Heqing, an analyst at Beijing Antaike, said silver's demand could increase to 7,700 metric tons next year after incurring a 6% to 8% rise in 2012.
Where's the demand for silver coming from? Around 33% is from jewelry and coins, with the remainder in industrial use for photography, solar and electrical appliances, said Antaike analysts.
This is a record level for Chinese silver demand - and good news for silver investors since China is the world's second-biggest user of the metal.
Sure, gold remains the favorite of most precious metal investors, but THIS is the metal you really want to double down on right now. Three catalysts will propel the price much, much higher over the coming months and years.