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March 24 (Bloomberg) -- JPMorgan Chase & Co., which accepts physical gold as collateral for trading securities, has become a custodian of Comex silver inventories, according to the owner of the New York exchange.

JPMorgan became a depository on March 17, according to Chris Grams, a spokesman for Comex owner CME Group Inc. The bank had 30,844 ounces of silver eligible for delivery as of March 22, exchange data show. Total holdings in Comex-monitored warehouses were 104.27 million ounces.

Silver prices have more than doubled in the past year and gold reached a record today as investors bought precious metals as a hedge against inflation and turmoil in financial markets. New York-based JPMorgan said last month it expects to accept additional precious metals and commodities as collateral later this year.

“This is further indication that gold and silver are being treated more like a currency,” said Matt Zeman, a market strategist at Kingsview Financial in Chicago.

Silver futures for May delivery rose 17.7 cents, or 0.5 percent, to settle at $37.375 an ounce at 1:51 p.m. on the Comex, after touching a 31-year high of $38.18. The price reached a record $50.35 in 1980.

JPMorgan has also been authorized to hold gold, platinum and palladium for delivery against precious metals contracts traded on the Comex and Nymex, according to Grams, the exchange spokesman.

Jennifer Zuccarelli, a JPMorgan spokeswoman, declined to comment on the inventories.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pham-Duy Nguyen in Seattle at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at

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