Precious metals have a silver lining

This article is part of
Commodities - November 2013

However, the message for potential buyers is not to lose too much sleep over which of the two precious metals to opt for.

Historically gold has tended to trade at 50 to 60 times the price of silver and experts stress that, although there have been times when the gap has narrowed to only 15 to 16 times, this has happened for reasons unlikely to be repeated.

Adrian Ash, head of research at online gold and silver exchange BullionVault, says: “The bottom line is that silver follows gold, although there has been the very odd period, like in early 2011, when silver took off by itself because there was a lot of talk about silver shortages. But silver gives you bells and whistles because its market is much smaller, making it more volatile. Typically, for every 1 per cent gold moves up or down silver might move 2 per cent to 3 per cent.”

Those who are hoping silver will outperform gold highlight its industrial use, which could benefit from economic recovery. It is, for example, becoming an increasingly important component of hospital linen, wood preservatives, radio frequency ID tags and solar panels.

“But all these uses only need tiny quantities and the higher the silver price goes the more people work to reduce the volume of silver use,” continues Mr Ash. “The main reason the silver price is likely to rise is simply because investors think it should.”

Edmund Tirbutt is a freelance journalist


Discounting gold-specific and commodity funds, there are some managers that still believe in the long-term value in gold.

Data supplied by Morningstar shows the portfolio exposure to the gold industry (ie, not necessarily physical gold) as at September 30, 2013.

L&G UK Special Situations fund

Managed by Guy Rushton, this fund has a 7.39 per cent weighting.

CF Ruffer Pacific

Mary McBain, manager of this £165.5m fund, has a 5.02 per cent weighting.

Investec GSF Africa Opportunities

With a 5 per cent exposure to the gold industry, Malcolm Gray also remains confident.