Silver Falls Most Since 1979 as ‘Risk-Off Mentality’ Spurs Rout

Silver futures plunged the most since at least 1979 on investor sales to cover losses from the rout in equities and raw materials.

More than $3.4 trillion has been erased from equity values this week, sending global stocks into a bear market, as the Federal Reserve’s U.S. stimulus plan and a pledge by Group of 20 nations fails to ease concern that the global economy is on the brink of a recession. The Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 raw materials fell to the lowest since November.

“We’re in a ‘risk-off’ mentality,” Bill O’Neill, a co-founder of Logic Advisors in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, said in a telephone interview. “Some of it certainly is a case of sell the winning assets to meet the margin calls for the losing assets. We’re seeing massive selling across the spectrum in commodities.”

Silver futures for December delivery fell $6.477, or 18 percent, to $30.101 an ounce at 1:25 p.m. on the Comex in New York, the biggest drop since at least October 1979. Yesterday, the price dropped 9.6 percent. This week, the commodity tumbled 26 percent, the most since early May.

In April, the metal surged to $49.845, a 31-year high. The price has climbed 42 percent in the past 12 months as Europe’s debt crisis boosted the appeal of silver and gold as havens.

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