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.
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Our Money Morning resources expert Peter Krauth explained the reasons behind gold's fall, so we went back to him to find out the deal with silver prices. Will silver keep falling? Is it a buy at the lower levels?
Here's what Krauth offered for investors.
Money Morning Staff: Peter, are silver prices falling because gold fell, or are there other factors at play here?
Peter Krauth: There are two factors.The first is that silver follows gold rather closely, and usually amplifies its behavior, both up and down. However, it can and does sometimes detach from gold and behave independently, but this is more of a rarity.
The second is silver's industrial demand.
It's one of the biggest mysteries in finance right now. I mean, it's a real head-scratcher...
On one hand, demand for silver coins is off the charts. In fact, it is so strong even the U.S. Mint is having trouble keeping up with demand.
So how is it possible for silver prices to be falling?
Here’s an insider’s take on this conundrum...
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For the past few weeks, silver prices have been trading sideways. Kitco notes this tight trading range "could be "basing' action that can put in market lows and occurs just before an uptrend begins."
For those investing in silver, that's great news.
And if you don't think silver prices will go higher this year, here are three charts showing otherwise.
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.
Lately there has been quite a divergence in the behavior of those investing in silver compared to those holding gold.
One group is running scared, while the other is calmly stocking up.
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.
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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."
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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.
He confided to me that many of his clients had been asking for gold and gold-related investments over the past few years. I can't say that I was surprised.
But what he told me next simply shocked me.
"Gold's much too volatile, it's too risky", he said. "Sure it's up, but I try to discourage my clients from investing in it."
It simply floored me that he thought gold was too volatile. Gold is only up 580% since it bottomed in 2001, without a single losing year to date.
That's not something you can say about the stock market or any other type of investment.
I can hardly imagine what he must think of silver, as silver prices are up by 725% since 2001.
Today, silver is trading around $34, but our 2013 silver price forecast now has the shiny metal going much, much higher.
What will power that rise?
Since it's slaved to its richer cousin, all the fundamentals for higher gold would apply.
I wrote about them yesterday in my 2013 gold price forecast.
As history has shown, silver moves almost in sync with gold, but exaggerates its movements, both on the up and down sides. That's why I like to think of silver as "gold on steroids".
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.
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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.
Silver futures prices ended the week with a 5.7% gain. Silver for December delivery rose 36 cents, or 1.1%, on Friday to settle at $32.60 an ounce.
With the fiscal cliff the next major topic for Washington to tackle, investors are pushing into safe havens like silver and gold to balance market uncertainty.
Also with President Obama in office, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his easy money policies will hurt U.S. dollar value for at least another year.
"Since Obama was elected in 2008, gold is up 116% and silver us up a whopping 198%," saidMoney MorningGlobal Resources Specialist Peter Krauth. "Honestly, I expect a similar performance could well be enjoyed over the next four years."
With that in mind, here are three ways to invest in silver with prices on the rise.