Silver Shipments From China, Biggest Exporter, May Plunge by 40% This Year

Silver exports from China, the world’s largest, may drop about 40 percent this year as domestic demand from industry and investors climbs, according to Beijing Antaike Information Development Co.

Shipments may decline from about 3,500 metric tons in 2009, said Feng Juncong, chief analyst at the state-owned Antaike, without providing a specific forecast. Customs data show exports plunged almost 60 percent to 970 tons in the first eight months. Cancellation of an export rebate in 2008 is also hurting shipments, she said.

Reduced exports may bolster prices that are trading near a 30-year high on speculation that governments worldwide will take further steps to stimulate their economies, weakening currencies and increasing demand for assets that are a store of value. China, the third-largest producer after Peru and Mexico, revoked export rebates in August 2008 to curb use of natural resources.

“There is huge demand in China this year and that has affected exports, which were already hurt after the tax rebate was abolished,” said Ng Cheng Thye, head of bullion at Standard Bank Asia. “The demand is coming from all areas, including jewelry, investment and fabrication and this has resulted in a physical market shortage in the Far East.”

The metal for immediate delivery touched $24.92 an ounce on Oct. 14, the highest price since September 1980, and traded at $24.2750 at 2:28 p.m. in Singapore. Industrial applications for silver, including electrical conductors and batteries, represent about half global demand.

Silver Rally

“China may sharply reduce its silver exports this year following the scrapping of the rebate and as domestic demand picked up amid expectations for higher inflation,” Feng said. This year’s 5,100-ton quota is unlikely to be fully used, she said.

Silver has rallied 44 percent this year, outperforming gold and copper. In the short term, prices will be between $20.50 and $25.50, GFMS Chairman Philip Klapwijk said on Oct. 16. “Silver is likely nearing a top now, and that it has more downside in the short term than upside,” he said. “But we remain bullish in the long term.”

China’s silver production, including mined, by-product output and recycled material, grew by an average 14.9 percent every year in the 20 years since 1990 to 10,348 tons in 2009, Feng said. Growth was mainly because of the fast-growing production of lead, zinc and copper, which generates silver as a by-product, Feng said.

Output Drops

The country’s silver output dropped 1.9 percent in the first eight months to 7,445 tons, she said. About 60 percent of China’s silver mined output is in the form of by-product of base metals, according to Antaike estimates.

An expected drop in lead and zinc concentrate supplies will affect domestic smelter production, weighing on China’s silver output growth, she added.

“There are Chinese investors now hoarding silver, along with other resources, amid anticipation of higher inflation,” Feng said. “China is short of resources so these investors believe the metals will be more valuable in the future.”

--Feiwen Rong. With reporting by Glenys Sim in Singapore and Xiao Yu in Xiamen. Editors: Richard Dobson, Jake Lloyd-Smith.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Feiwen Rong in Beijing at +86-10-6649-7563 or frong2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jim Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net

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