Neil Hume and Henry Sanderson
Shares in silver miners and exchange-traded funds backed by the precious metal ripped higher on Thursday as the Reddit army of day traders turned their attention to producers of the volatile precious metal.
Fresnillo, the Mexico-focused miner that was hammered a day earlier following a disappointing trading update, rallied as much as 10 per cent to secure the top spot in the FTSE 100 performance chart.
Meanwhile, shares in Hochschild Mining, which has operations in Peru and Argentina, climbed 7 per cent to become the biggest riser in the FTSE 250 index. Those in Canada-based First Majestic Silver, which operates in Mexico, rose by 29 per cent on the New York Stock Exchange.
The price rise was not limited to miners. Shares in the world’s largest silver-backed ETF, the iShares Silver Trust, rose by 6 per cent after a user in Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum urged people to buy shares and call options.
The user u/TheHappyHawaiian said buying shares in the ETF would “force physical delivery of silver” into its vaults, thereby causing a “short squeeze” on the market. That pushed up the silver price. That would present problems for traders who were short silver on the futures markets, they said.
“The people naked shorting silver via the futures markets are a couple of large banks and making them pay dearly for their over leveraged naked shorts would be incredible,” the user said.
Still, Ross Norman, a veteran precious metals trader, said the large banks used futures contracts to hedge their physical holdings of silver, so they were not “naked shorts”.
“There is a misnomer here that banks are constantly running short positions, but from a price perspective they are neutral, they have a long and a short that cancels each other out,” he said. “It’s a fools’ errand, it’s financial anarchy, somebody is going to get hurt.”
The iShares Silver Trust is backed by physical holdings of silver with current holdings of 17,787.58 ounces, according to its website.
Silver prices rose by 5 per cent on Thursday to $27 an ounce.