Precious Metals

Worldwide silver-bar demand reached record level in 2013

Silver bar investment in India, triggered by government-imposed import restrictions and taxes in the gold market, pushed worldwide demand to a record level in 2013.

According to World Silver Survey 2014, Indian bar investment surged to 80.7 million ounces, the highest level ever recorded and eight times the investment demand for 2012.

The survey was published by The Silver Institute in conjunction with Thomson Reuters GFMS.

Overall worldwide investment silver bar demand reached 127.2 million ounces in 2013, more than double the previous year.

Bar demand in Europe in 2013 was mixed, affected primarily by the first full year of the 19 percent value added tax in Germany. For silver coins, VAT remained at 7 percent during 2013, but jumped to the 19 percent rate on Jan. 1, 2014.

Although Europe’s bar investment demand is estimated to have increased by 11 percent in 2013, this level is still 20 percent lower than levels seen as recent as 2010, according to World Silver Survey 2014.

Elsewhere, Chinese bar investment in 2013 grew just 1 percent over the previous year, to 12.8 million ounces.

North American investors, according to the survey, are more interested in investing in silver bullion coins than they are in bars, with bar investment targeted at 100-ounce sizes and smaller.

The United States remains the world’s top fabricator of mined silver and scrap into coins and medals.

The 2013 level in the United States of 44.2 million ounces of silver used to strike bullion and numismatic coins, combined, is 38 percent higher than 2012, but nearly triple the level recorded for 2004.

Investor and industrial consumption of silver has advanced at a healthy pace in 2014, reflected in the silver price increasing 5 percent as of July 15, from Jan. 1, according to The Silver Institute.

Demand for silver in the photovoltaic industry has been driven by a global increase in renewable energy over the past decade, leading to a proliferation of solar module production, according to The Silver Institute.

Metals Focus, a precious metals consultancy, forecasts that silver demand in photovoltaics will rise by close to 10 percent in 2014, according to The Silver Institute.

Global sales of semiconductors using silver are also growing.

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, semiconductor sales were up 8.8 percent in May from a year ago.

“This increase is encouraging for silver demand because silver is used extensively in electronic products that contain semiconductors,” according to The Silver Institute. “Semiconductor sales in the first quarter of the year totaled $78.5 million globally, the highest first quarter total on record.

“These two categories, investment and industrial demand, are important to the strength of the silver market and last year accounted for a combined 77 percent of total silver demand.” 

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