Jeff Clark

It’s no secret that the silver market is red hot. As I write, silver American Eagles and Canadian Maple Leafs are sold out at their respective mints. Buying in India has gone through the roof, especially noteworthy among a people with a strong historical preference for gold. Demand in China continues unabated. Silver stocks have screamed upward.

So, as an investor looking to maximize my profit, I have a natural question: is the silver trade getting too crowded, meaning we’re near the top? Have the masses finally joined the party such that we should consider exiting? After all, it’s not a profit until you take it, and you definitely want to sell near the top.

There are several ways to measure how crowded the silver market might be. I prefer to look strictly at the big picture and not get caught up in the weeds. This means I’m looking for signs of market exhaustion or the masses rushing in. Nothing says “peak” more than an investment everyone is buying.

So how crowded are silver investments right now? Let’s first look at the ETFs.

Silver ETF Investments

At $35 silver, all exchange-traded funds backed by the metal amount to $20.7 billion. You can see how this compares to some popular stocks. All silver ETFs combined are less than a quarter of the market cap of McDonald’s. They’re about 10% of GE, a company that still hasn’t recovered from the ’08 meltdown. Exxon Mobil is more than 20 times bigger. And this isn’t even apples-to-apples, as I’m comparing the entire silver ETF market to a few individual stocks.

This comparison is even more interesting when you consider that it’s the ETFs where most of the public – especially those that are new to the market – first invest in silver. So while the metal has doubled in the past seven months, total investment in the funds is still far beneath many popular blue-chip stocks.

Okay, maybe all this money is instead going into silver mining stocks. How does the market cap of the silver industry compare to other industries?

Silver Industry vs. Other Major Industries

While you fetch your magnifying glass, I’ll tell you that the market cap of the silver industry is $73.1 billion. It barely registers when compared to a number of other industries I picked mostly at random. The dying newspaper industry is over 26 times bigger. Drug manufacturers are 213 times larger. Heck, even the gold market is 19 times greater. And here’s the fun one: the market cap of the entire silver market, with all its record-setting prices and stock-screaming highs, represents just one-third of one percent of the oil and gas industry.

To be fair, there are a number of sectors that are smaller than silver. Radio broadcasters ($43.2B), video stores ($10.9B), and sporting goods stores ($2.5B) have puny market caps, too. But then again, who’s buying DVDs or baseball mitts to protect their wealth from a coming inflation?

Silver hardly resembles the picture of an investment that is too crowded.

I’m not saying one should rush to buy silver right now. After all, it has doubled in seven months. Unless this is the beginning of the mania, prudence would certainly be called for at this juncture. The price will always ebb and flow in a bull market, and an ebb is overdue.

The question, of course, is from what price level it occurs. What if a correction doesn’t ensue until, say, a month from now, and the price falls back to…where it is now? I remember some articles in January that insisted silver would fall to as low as $22, and, well, they’re still waiting and have in the meantime missed out on some huge gains. For silver to fall back to $22 now would require almost a 50% drop!…Not impossible, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Fixating on market timing takes your focus off the ultimate goal. In my opinion, instead of worrying about what will happen next week or even next month, focus on how many ounces you have, and then buy at regular intervals until you reach your desired allocation. This has the added benefit of smoothing out your cost basis. And don’t forget to buy more as your assets and income increase.

This is a market where you’ll want to be well ahead of the pack. Someday in the not-too-distant future, average investors will be tripping over themselves to join in. That will make the market caps of our silver investments look more like some of the others in the charts above. And that will do wonderful things to our portfolio.

Regards,

Jeff Clark
for The Daily Reckoning

Jeff Clark

Having worked on his family's gold claims in California and Arizona, as well as a mine in a place to remain nameless, Jeff's research and writing skills are utilized in his role as editor and one of the primary writers of Casey's Gold & Resource Report.

Whether it is researching new companies to recommend, analyzing the big trend in gold, or looking for other safe and profitable ways to capitalize on the bull market, Jeff is devoted to making Casey's Gold & Resource Report the best precious metals newsletter for the prudent investor. He coordinates the efforts among the research and writing team, ensuring that whatever is happening in the gold and silver market doesn't escape coverage.

  • Young buck

    So true. You know there’s a top when everyone is talking about it. Right now no one I know even mentions gold or silver – they are blissfully unaware of the destruction of the dollar and the flight to the safety of precious metals. Like the frog in the pot slowly rising to a boil, it will be too late when most of the sheeple understand what has been done to them.

  • http://monex.to/wiki/Louis_Carabini Louis Carabini

    ……………Originally published December 23rd 2010..You can consider this Silver Market update to be gift wrapped. these Gold and Silver Market updates are going to have to suffice which is. perfectly reasonable given how bullish they are..Many traders are starting to get edgy about silver because its steep uptrend.

Recent Articles

Can Money Printing Cause Deflation?

Marc Faber

"There has been an issue that has preoccupied my mind for a long time," writes Dr. Marc Faber. "In economics, it is generally accepted that if the quantity of money and credit is increased, prices will rise… However, since economics is so complex… I question whether the expansion of central banks' balance sheets and policies of zero interest rates could have a deflationary impact…" The good doctor wrestles with the question, in today's essay...


Forget the Oil Crash – Crush the Market With Biotech Stocks

Greg Guenthner

The Biotech iShares ETF is up 23% since the Oct. 15th bottom. No, that is not a typo. Biotechs have torched the S&P over the past two months--more than doubling the returns of the big index. And biotechs as a group are up more than 38% year-to-date. In fact, since we first highlighted the June comeback, the Biotech iShares have gone nowhere but up.


How Low Will Oil Go – And What Can You Do?

Matt Insley

The oil market has been under siege for six months. From service providers to producers this downturn has been painful. Of course, we’ve known all along that oil prices were a little toppy over the summer. In fact, when asked just how low oil prices could go I usually answered with a simple “lower than you’d expect…”


Cuba’s Berlin Wall Moment

Peter Coyne

Our forecast that Cuba would be open and integrated within 5-10 years is on track after yesterday's big announcement. Ahead of schedule, even. Click here to see how some investors have profited and what the island's likely future is...


The $4 LED Trend You Don’t Want to Miss

Chris Mayer

The opportunity to sell and install LEDs is enormous. We’re talking about over a billion lighting fixtures. And the areas with the largest potential -- like parking lots -- have barely begun to change. Banker to the presidents Chris Mayer says you could triple your money in this new tech trend. Here's what you need to know.


How to Make the Casinos Pay You for a Change

Greg Guenthner

It's a theme we've shared with you since April. And it's only gotten worse. The gaming industry has come under all sorts of pressure--a situation I first noticed in the charts. The powerful, multi-year uptrends started showing cracks. And it wasn't long before those cracks turned into gaping holes you could drive a friggin' truck through. That's where things stand today.